Thousands of people packed into the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds last weekend to attend the Horns and Hooks Sportsman Show. People from all over Western Washington took advantage of the chance to shop, shoot and share stories with other sportsmen.
Horns and Hooks magazine and television took over the Grays Harbor Outdoor Expo this year and used their connections in the sportsman community to bring in more vendors and in turn drew a crowd that was an estimated 20 percent larger than ever before with a paid attendance of 2,500 and a total attendance of between 3,000 to 3,200 people including children and vendors, Grays Harbor County Events Center Director Mike Bruner said. The 2013 show had a paid attendance of around 2,100 people in paid attendees and a total of close to 2,800 people.
“I was extremely happy,” Horns and Hooks publisher and event organizer Rex Peterson said. “All the vendors were very happy. It was a great event overall. We are very pleased with how the show went and are looking forward to planning next years event and making it bigger and better.”
A steady stream of individuals made its way through the newest models of boats, booths selling everything from clothing to fishing rods to meat grinders and to meet celebrity hunters and two of the stars of the television show “Ax Men.”
“It is awesome,” Latt Durrance of the “Best of The West” television show said. “The best part about going to events like this is the people you get to meet.”
While many came with money almost burning a hole in their pocket as they starred at new gear and gadgets, some came just to play. The the Cowboy Fast Draw Competition was one of the most popular spots for those looking for a unique brand of fun. The Cowboy Fast Draw Association was formed in 2002 with individuals competing in an old West style contest to see who can pull their gun out of the holster and shoot a target the fastest.
After watching some of the fastest in the sport compete, including the world champion, those in attendance gave it a try. The cowboys shoot wax bullets so individuals of all ages could compete with friends or just have a chance to see what it would feel like to be a gunfighter.
For Cody Young of Adna the best part of the experience was getting to compete against his friends. The 14-year-old shot the target in a time of 1.062 seconds and said the key to the fast shot was “just taking it out real quick.”
“It brings a smile to everybody’s face,” said cowboy Craig Pittenger of Centralia. “It is a good thing to get kids comfortable with firearms and understanding that safety is of the uppermost importance and having some fun.”
Pittenger, who goes by the alias Kid Creggar during competitons, is the current world record holder for the fast draw with a time of .298 seconds. Many of the members of the fast draw association have been competing for years, but Pittenger just has about five years of experience.
“I got one of these guns and I found out about cowboy fast draw and I thought that would be interesting,” Pittenger said. “I got myself a little video and found a club and went and bought a holster and learned how to do it. This is a sport that you can practice in your garage and it is not super expensive. You can buy a target and a timer and once you have that it is very economical. You can shoot for about five cents a shot.”
Many of the volunteers, no matter how young or old, came back to try their hand at the shooting a second time. Alex Thompson of Aberdeen spent much of his day between the Cowboy Fast Draw where he worked his time down to .59 seconds and the 3-D archery competition where his best score was a 96.
“It is good people all around,” Thompson said. “We didn’t come to buy anything, we just came to play.”
Whether you were just out for a day of fun or a celebrity hunter, the best part of the show was spending time around people with similar interests. Durrance got the chance to meet many individuals at the Horns and Hooks booth and also taught a seminar about long range shooting.
“My favorite part is when I can tell someone is paying attention and they get it and then they start asking questions,” Durrance said. “That is why you like participation and for people to talk. I learn something every day. They come up with a new scenario that I’ve never thought of and I guess that is the cool part that it makes me think.”
Peterson said there were no issues in taking admission to the event or to moving the large groups of people through the facility, but there are a few aspects he hopes to improve on for next year’s show such as moving the seminars away from the noise of the beer garden and adding a sunday only event to boost attendance on the second day.
From gathering information during seminars and booths to a chance to tell about the perfect hunt the show was worth every penny of admission.
“We kept hearing about this archery club out in Aberdeen and we couldn’t find it, well we just found them,” Caty Barden of Aberdeen said. “It is getting to meet others that are out there and sharing the hunting stories.”