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Outdoors in October

By Ernie Gammage

Pick up some hands-on outdoor skills at the Texas Wildlife Expo.

Next month, on Oct. 4 and 5, thousands of Texans will travel to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Austin headquarters to enjoy two full days of some of the best activities the Texas outdoors has to offer. From fishing and camping to shooting and wildlife watching, Texas Wildlife Expo provides visitors a hands-on opportunity to try it all for free.

Ride mountain bikes, test your hand at archery and other shooting sports, learn to cast, rock climb on a portable wall or paddle a kayak. Experts are on hand to instruct newcomers and share tips with seasoned pros. Historical reenactors from state parks escort you through history. There are even camels representing the 19th-century West Texas Camel Corps.

The Outdoor Marketplace offers a rich opportunity to sample the best outdoor products and trips, with more than 200 exhibitors displaying and selling their wares. Whether you’re looking for a new birding destination, that perfect fly rod, camouflage apparel or wildlife art, you’ll probably find it in the Outdoor Marketplace.

What else is a favorite with visitors? Expo’s title says it all: “wildlife.” Probably the most popular single presentation is the Last Chance Forever Birds of Prey Show. Masterfully weaving science, ethics, ecology and marvelous birds of prey, raptor rehabilitator John Karger entrances audiences with his view of the wild world and our place in it.

Shooting sports is another of the activities that Expo visitors enjoy. For first- timers, there’s “Shoot Where You Look,” a system for learning how to aim. From there, visitors can try out air guns, muzzle-loaders and shotguns in shooting ranges. Crossbow and archery ranges also are available, as well as the popular BowHunter’s Challenge. All equipment is provided.

Fishing is a perennial Expo favorite. From replicas of the largest fish caught off the Texas Coast to seminars on fishing the bays, visitors can learn more about saltwater angling. On the freshwater side, daily demonstrations atop a giant aquarium give anglers a fisheye view of successful ways to work lures and jigs.

One of the most interesting new activities takes place at the newly installed retention pond on site. Dubbed “Wetlands and Wildlife,” this area helps visitors understand the importance of wetlands to wildlife habitat and identify the plants and waterfowl that live in them.

More than 44,000 visitors attended Expo last year for an inexpensive and enjoyable family outing. Because on-site parking is limited, experienced attendees prefer to take the air-conditioned shuttle that departs Austin’s north side near Reagan High School. A map and directions, along with full descriptions of all Expo activities, is available at <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/expo>.

Texas Wildlife Expo remains a free public event because of the generous support of its sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Toyota, The Dow Chemical Company, Hewlett-Packard, Time Warner Cable and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas.

For more information, call (800) 792-1112.

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