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Sportsmen show off skills, wares at expo

August 10, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

FREDERICK, Md. - Ian Beal stepped onto the 10-inch- thick pine log. His Australian steel ax caught a glint from the sun.

"How long will it take him to cut through the log?" asked John Gephard, another chopper sharing the stage with Beal.

"One minute," shouted one onlooker.

"Forty-five seconds," said another.

"Thirty seconds," offered another in the crowd of about 100 ringing the stage.

Beal took the "three-two-one-go" count-down and the ax struck deep into the wood. It came down again and an 8-inch chip flew out.


Again and again his powerful arms drove the ax. Halfway through, he swung to the other side and struck again.

The log split in two in 29 seconds.

Beal, of Perry County, Pa., and Gephard, of Lebanon, Pa., competitive woodchoppers, cut more logs, sawed through them with a one-man buck saw and a souped-up chain saw and showed their skill at ax-throwing.

Their show was one of several exhibitions and features at the 13th annual Sports Expo this weekend at the Frederick Fairgrounds, said organizer Harry Free.

In addition, nearly 200 dealers, mostly catering to hunters, offered guns, ammunition, hunting bows, knives and other wares. Their booths filled several of the fairgrounds' big exhibit halls.

Booth operators offered big-game hunting trips in remote parts of Canada, from northern Manitoba to Newfoundland. Others tried to recruit waterfowl hunters on the Chesapeake Bay.

Taxidermists offered their services for those who bring home trophies.

Outside patrons walked by displays of boats, pickups, all-terrain vehicles, waterfowl hunting gear, a scuba diving exhibition, remote control auto racing, a fly-fishing demonstration and an archery competition in which archers tested their skills shooting at plastic foam deer, bear, turkey, caribou and even an African hyena.

A big draw for the younger crowd was the fish tank stocked with sunfish and a few small bass. Kids lined up around it with little plastic rods and reels. They mashed bread onto their hooks for bait and dropped them into the water.

Todd McAlister, 6, of Spring Ridge in Frederick County, caught his first fish Saturday. He liked the catching part, but had no desire for the rest of it.

"Put some more bread on my hook, Daddy," he said every time the hook came up empty.

Another popular feature Saturday was the camel rides on animals from the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont.

Maria, a 6-year-old dromedary, and Adair, a Tulee hybrid with 11/2 humps, provided the transportation. His mother had one hump and his father had two, so Adair ended up with 11/2, Laurie Hahn, their handler, said.

A sonorous baying was wafting across another corner of the fairgrounds as owners were getting their coon hounds ready for the bench and treeing competitions. There was a mix of breeds - walker, redbone, blue tick, black and tan, among others.

Michelle Brown came up from North Carolina to judge the bench competition. She travels with Porthos, an aging redbone, and Adonis, a top-10 show walker.

Johnny Lyles brought Rocket, his prize stud walker, a few other walkers and a crate full of 11-week-old puppies. He competes with his dogs at home in Montgomery County and on the coon trial trail.

"Last week I was in Mississippi," he said.

The tree trials involve dragging a scent or live raccoon across a trail then hanging it in a tree. The dogs are let loose to follow the scent and find the raccoon.

In real hunts, the raccoon is shot out of the tree. At trials it just sits while the dogs run around the tree and howl.

The first dog to howl on the trail, called the first strike, wins. The hound that finds the tree holding the coon first also wins.

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