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Sportsmen’s and Outdoor Recreation Show is a first-ever for Inland Empire



It’s not that I don’t like the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach, quite the opposite, in fact, but I don’t like the drive in traffic and how crowded it has become. I have been saying for years that we need a sports show in the Inland Empire.

While I’ve been saying that for 30 years, it’s actually become a reality this fall.

The SoCal Fall Sportsmen’s and Outdoor Recreation Show is being held November 4-6 at the Lake Perris Fairgrounds and Event Center (adjacent to the Lake Perris State Recreation Area right off Ramona Expressway just east of I-215). This inaugural event is the first sportsman’s show ever held in the Inland Empire, and it is the first fall sportsman’s show ever held in Southern California.

Sponsored by Les Schwab Tire Centers, the show will feature a broad slate exhibitors representing a broad range of fishing, hunting, camping and other outdoor recreation products, resorts and guides, recreational and off-road vehicles and services, and outdoor groups and agencies, all focusing on the great outdoors. Best of all, the entire seminar slate is designed around Inland Empire activities, and it’s immensely kid friendly (for actual kids or those of us who refuse to grow up).

Anchoring the show will be Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife’s wild bear exhibition. This a unique opportunity to meet Tag, the huge Kodiak bear who’s trainer and best buddy Keith Bauer says will be stealing the hearts of everyone attending the show.

“This bear’s personality is Marmaduke in an 800-pound bear suit,” said Bauer. Tag is part of an incredible troop of animals that make up Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife, located in Frazier Park. With a staff of 10 trainers, Martin provides the wildlife under his care to movies and television shows, commercials, and educational groups around the country.

Bauer and Martin will be at the sportsmen’s show all three days of the event showing off the relationship the young Kodiak bear has with Bauer and instilling an appreciation for wildlife that zoos can’t match. Each “show” is really play time for the bear with Bauer, and they will wrestle and play games as Bauer demonstrates how he trains the bear. Martin announces and takes questions from the audience the whole time.

“The relationship he and I have is like most people have with their dog. It is pretty incredible,” said Bauer. “I’ve had Tag since he was three months old and for the first four months he lived in my house, played with my dogs and my kids, and became a part of my family.

“My dog won’t play with him any longer, since he’s gotten so big,” Bauer laughs. “But my kids still come into his pen and play with him. He’s really good; he knows what “easy” means and can be very gentle.”

Bauer said the young bear will put on another 200 to 300 pounds as he ages, topping out at 1,200 pounds or so. Bauer said the show will be “the closest you’ll ever get to a Kodiak bear.”

In addition to the Kodiak bear shows, there will be hourly teaching seminars on the 40-foot freshwater fishing fish tank stocked with bass, panfish, and catfish. These include local experts who will cover fishing small jigs for trout and panfish on area waters, local bass guides who will talk about and demonstrate their tactics for local lakes like Diamond Valley, Perris, and Silverwood, and striped bass experts who will discuss fishing big swimbaits and trolling at Skinner, DVL, and Silverwood. For fly-fishermen, Ernie Gulley, a well-known Crowley Lake guide, will demonstrate how to use the Crowley midge-fishing tactic for panfish, bass, and carp on local waters.

The seminar stage will feature experts on hunting the Wister and San Jacinto wildlife areas for waterfowl, calling predators in the local mountains and deserts, and how to find chukar in Southern California.

Show promoter Tony Trafton has gone out of his way to make this a “local” show with most exhibitors and events related to Inland Empire and local desert activities.

There will be over 50 exhibitors in this innagural show, the complete slate of fishing and hunting seminars, and a free kid’s fishing pond (only for real kids, not those of us who remain young at heart). Trafton has also promised that Santa Claus is planning on being at the show all three days to take Christmas lists from kids attending the event.

Show hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids under 12, and free for kids under six and active duty military. Parking is $5 per vehicle. You can get $2-off admission coupons at all five Inland Empire Les Schwab Tire Centers (Norco, Fontana, Perris, Temecula, and Moreno Valley).

To find out the latest on what will be happening at this year’s event, you can visit or “like” the SoCal Sportmen’s Show Facebook page or visit the website at


[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.]

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