Though there might have been less rubbernecking around the big-ticket items at the event, the Hunting, Fishing and Camping show was alive and kicking this year. Between all of the firearms, dogs, imaginative recreational vehicles, product floggers and lovers of the outdoors, excitement would not have been a challenge anyway.

Sure the economy is in the dumps but in times like these getting back to nature for sport or for food is a great and far less expensive way to kick back and take in what Mother Nature has to offer.

Kicking things off with a bang, the whole first section of the show featured a wide variety of the latest in firearms.

Vincent Sardella, from Browning Canada Sports, was delighted to show off the company’s latest pride and glory, the Browning X-Bolt, winner of the 2009 Rifle of the Year from American Rifleman.

Available in wood, synthetics or stainless-steel finishes, and available in 10 different calibres, the 2009 X-Bolt has been completely redesigned.

“What we have here is a lower receiver where we have removed the weight on the firearm. By removing the weight, it becomes more stable and more directly in line with the shoulder to give an easier recoil,” said Sardella.

For waterfowl, Sardella suggested the BPS model which, he said, could be dismantled down to the firing pin in about five seconds with enough practice. He then proceeded to do so but in a much slower manner to display all the bells and whistles. Available in black synthetic and synthetic shadow-grass and featuring a soft, gel-injected pad, the BPS is also designed for smoother recoil.

“On the inside of the barrel, we have elongated the forcing column where, once the explosion happens, the bullet opens up and then is propelled forward. Instead of just being pushed, where it creates gasses and recoil, we have opened up the inside so that the wad is propelled much easier, smoothing out the recoil and giving you a better shot pattern on your bird,” said Sardella.

Both guns cost around $1400-$1600, depending on the retailer.

Over at the Remington booth, their latest offering was the 105- CTI 2 shotgun. According to the Remington rep, this is the second generation for the CTI model and “part of the future of guns.” This semi-automatic features a bottom ejection and is the first on the market with a carbon-fibre receiver on it. Its lightweight design uses less steel and the best quality polymer available. It too retails for about $1500.

Mike Sarris, from Eastern Outdoor Sales, was the man to talk to at the Savage Arms table and he was happy to show off what new items the firearm retailer had for the season. According to Sarris, though Savage Arms may not be any better than other gun-makers, they do offer features that the others don’t.

“We have the Accu-stock, which has an aluminum bedding. An aluminum bedding pretty much creates a three-dimensional stock setting and that will create more strength in the barrel so it gives you more accuracy. We also have the accu-trigger which is adjustable from 1.5 pounds to six pounds,” said Sarris.

For moose and caribou hunting, Sarris recommended the 300 WSN, because when you fire it, it has one of the flattest shooting bullets out there at 150 grains. He also recommended the Weather Warrior model as it was designed to be resistant to harsh weather which would be ideal for the north.

When holding the gun, Nation editor-in-chief Will Nicholls said it had a good weight, it fit nicely in his hands and the grasp wasn’t too bad.

The rubber/foam-like cushioning on the butt of the gun was particularly soft which Sarris said was due to the fact that it was designed for absorbing big shocks. Savage Arms does not use gel padding for their products because this could lead to uneven firing after the first shot, Sarris explained.

In the main exhibition hall, outfitters used a glossy brown Labrador retriever to attract new clients to their booths, kids played duck-hunting video games and a man dressed up like a butcher tried to hawk child-proof fish gutters and DVDs.

Though the nameless fish-gutting utensil did have its appeal, Marc Mercier and his DVD series on how to butcher your own meat was far more intriguing. Available in French only, Mercier said that his DVD series on how to carve up your pork, poultry, lamb, or game could save a family $2000-$3000 annually.

Mercier said he travels the province and gives courses on how to butcher meat and would be willing to venture north should he be invited. His DVD series can be purchased off his website:

One item that really piqued our interests was the Bushnell Back Track GPS system that a Bushnell rep was showing off to passersby. Designed to be world’s easiest-to-use personal location finder, what made this handy item so appealing was its affordability and idiot-proof concept. This digital, self-calibrating system is one of Bushnell’s best sellers, according to the rep, because it only costs $69.99. It also comes with a two-page instruction booklet rather than the usual small phonebook that accompanies most GPS systems.

At one of Le Baron’s two large kiosks, we had the opportunity to check out some interesting looking one-man blinds. Though most of them were designed for horizontal positioning, the one that Nicholls favoured most was a single-person set-up that a chair could be fitted nicely into and that Le Baron was offering for $76.94.

As we progressed into the main hall, the initial scene was that of boats, ATVs and a number of other hybrid-type vehicles. Of them, the most peculiar looking had to be the amphibious Argo ATV with its tank-type wheels. It is capable of floating to the point that it had a boat motor attached to the rear of it. Apparently this vehicle was designed for year-round mobility just about everywhere and over anything but the roads. Whether the perplexing vehicle itself is actually functional in all-weather, all-terrain travel is a whole other question as it seemed like the only thing it was missing was a propeller for air travel. For more info:

Being a camping show, the latest in tent technology was on display throughout the show room. Our favourite pick was a spacious Eureka tent that weighed about 25 pounds which was designed to be carried on your back. This particular model retails for $627 and what we really liked about it was that it had an exterior passageway that could be closed off from the tent’s interior making it ideal for storing items you would not necessarily want to sleep beside. For more info:

Somewhere in the show we met Dwayne Pfenninger from McKinney, Texas who was spouting the many virtues of his Caddis dumbwaiters from his booth. Of the items he had on display, we were particularly surprised to see a pair of pink-and-purple women’s hip waders which he said were his best-selling model.

“I find the acceptance of the pink ones very interesting,” said Pfenniger, who explained that this type of item has only become popular recently as women seem to no longer feel it necessary to dress down and dirty with the boys just for acceptance when fishing. The Caddis hip waders, in a number of different colours, are all available at Le Barron stores across Quebec.

Without a doubt, the absolute strangest item we encountered at the show was the TravelJohn disposable urinal pouch. This little oddity – described as an easy-to-use portable urinal for men, women and children – is biodegradable, spill proof and its anti-bacterial. Instantly transforming liquid into gel, this product has its merits and might be ideal for truck drivers. For some, this item might seem excessive as mankind has always used the bush as its washroom, long before the invention of the outhouse. For more info:

Strolling down the aisle where the many outfitters had set up their kiosks, we were delighted, as always, to see some smiling Cree faces manning the Cree Nation of Mistissini Tourism Department booth.

“The show has been great so far, there are a lot of people. It is busier than the last one I think; we even had people from our community come by to see the booth. We have had a lot of people pass by who were interested but not really any Americans,” said Kevin Neeposh from the Mistissini Tourism Department.

Neeposh explained that though they had been getting a lot of positive response at the show, they would paring down the exposition circuit tour for 2009, attending only Quebec shows and one in Toronto due to the poor economy. Normally they would also be hitting one or two shows in the States as well.

One aisle over, the Municipality of Baie-James had their own kiosk in an attempt to attract tourism to “their” region.

“It has been going pretty well,” said Daniel Caron from MBJ. “We gave out a lot of information to people who did not know about the James Bay hydroelectric plants. We are giving out a lot of information about caribou hunting because there are not a lot of places where you can do that,” he said with a smile.

If the Hunting, Fishing and Camping show was any kind of an indicator, from the looks of it, many Quebecers might just be going local for their down time this year as many do during a recession. The 2009 show came off without a hitch and hopefully it will lead to another bountiful year of hunting, fishing and camping.