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Legendary shooters take aim at annual outdoors celebration

Two legendary exhibition shooters will headline next weekend's National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration at Stonewall Resort State Park.

Shotgun specialist Tom Knapp and longbow archer Byron Ferguson are scheduled to make appearances at the Sept. 22-23 event. Both have been featured on The Outdoor Channel's popular TV show, "Impossible Shots."

Knapp is best known for his ability to grab up to 10 clay targets at a time, toss them high into the air and shoot them all before they return to the ground. Ferguson is also renowned for being able to shoot airborne targets, some no larger than a nickel.

Knapp will make two appearances, one each afternoon of the two-day celebration. Ferguson will shoot four exhibitions - one each morning and one each afternoon. Knapp's shows are scheduled for 4-5 p.m. Saturday and 3-4 p.m. Sunday; Ferguson's shows are scheduled for 11 a.m.-noon and 3-4 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-noon and 2-3 p.m. Sunday.

Event coordinator Krista Snodgrass believes the two legendary shooters will attract larger-than-normal crowds.

"We're anticipating 18,000 to 20,000 people to show up this year," she said. "Last year we had a relatively small crowd. This year, with Tom and Byron both here, we think people will really want to come. We're really excited."

A crowd that size might break the all-time attendance record for the event, which Snodgrass said was close to 18,000.

Other headliners scheduled to strut their expertise at the celebration include bass pro Jeremy Starks, a two-time winner on the Bassmaster Elite circuit; waterfowl hunter Joe Austin; fly-fishing gurus Jack Bell and Joe Messinger; snake authority Jim Fregonara; bird dog trainer Rodger Lundell; tree-stand safety teacher Glenn Jones; and bird-of-prey experts Howard and Jason Caldwell.

Aside from the exhibitions, some of the celebration's more popular features include "The Hawg Trough," a giant aquarium filled with trophy fish; the Division of Natural Resources' game-cooking tent; the DNR's squirrel-skinning and deer field-dressing demonstrations; the DNR's Big Buck and Big Fish exhibits; and the DNR's fish-filleting demonstration.

One of the celebration's great appeals is that it gives folks a chance not only to see the outdoors "up close and personal," but also to get hands-on experience at some activities.

Some of the hands-on opportunities at next weekend's event include fly casting, archery, muzzleloader shooting, .22-caliber rifle shooting and skeet shooting. Children are allowed to shoot, but only if accompanied by responsible adults.

All the firearm action takes place at the DNR shooting range a couple of miles from the park, and shuttle buses will be on hand to whisk people from the show grounds to the range and back.

One unique feature during the two-day event will be the annual Outdoor Youth Challenge, which Snodgrass calls "a youth expo and competition relating to wildlife, hunting, fishing, firearms safety and outdoor recreation."

The challenge is open to youngsters age 6-18, who will get a checklist of activities to complete during the day. All participants become eligible to win hunting- and fishing-related prizes, including two lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.

In addition, youngsters age 11-18 can take part in a five-stage competition that includes casting for accuracy, archery, .22 rifle shooting, muzzleloader shooting and skeet shooting. Top finishers in the 11-14 and 15-18 age groups will win scholarships to the state Conservation Camp.

Stonewall Jackson Park is about 3 miles from the Roanoke exit off Interstate 79. Admission to the celebration is $5 for adults and $1 for children age 4-15. Children age 3 and under get in free.


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