As a steady stream of visitors paid their entry fees and headed to the Bangor Auditorium floor Saturday, one long-time organizer of the Bangor Gun Show said things seemed a bit different this year in one small way.

“Maybe [it’s] a sign of the times and the economy, but there’s a lot of very old and very interesting firearms coming in the door that people are looking to capitalize on at this time,” said Charlie Rumsey of the Penobscot County Conservation Association. “There’s certainly a lot of very, very interesting firearms down there.”

Last weekend’s event was the 31st Bangor Gun Show, which has become an annual ritual for many collectors, gun enthusiasts and hunters.

Bangor Daily News Charities began the event, but the PCCA has run things since show No. 17, according to Rumsey.

Rumsey said the show is an important fundraiser for the club — second in profitability only to the popular Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show — and the proceeds are well-spent.

“We use the monies to maintain our scholarship funds for wildlife conservation and conservation law enforcement students at the University of Maine and Unity [College] and also the other conservation-related projects that we tend to run throughout the year.”

Over the years the PCCA has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars toward scholarships and has been an important player in local and state wild-life and conservation issues.

This year’s show was more of the same ol’ good thing, with visitors able to barter for modern guns as well as antiquities and accessories. Knives, ceremonial swords, books and art-work were also on hand.

In addition, those looking to channel their own inner Wyatt Earp could do so in the Bangor Auditorium’s back hallway, as a quick-draw instruction was available.

Don’t worry, though: Nobody got filled with lead. All shooting was done at targets, and the bullets were made of wax.

Rumsey said visitors to the show have come to expect a wide variety of items for sale or trade and are rarely disappointed.

Rumsey himself walked away with a 124-year-old rifle that he’d seen at an earlier gun show.

And while gun shows have received some bad publicity nationally in recent years, Rumsey said such concerns were unfounded.

“The ‘gun show loophole,’ as it is spoken of in some circles, does not exist here,” Rumsey said.

In fact, Rumsey said those who bought guns at the Bangor Show were under the same kind of scrutiny that they’d find at any local gun shop.

“Every dealer on the floor down here that is going to buy, sell or trade a modern firearm must be a federally licensed dealer,” Rumsey said. “So we have that covered. Every gun that is bought or sold is transferred that way on the legal federal paperwork. They’re all called through the national instant check system, cleared by FBI’s agents before the guns leave the building.”

More about bears …

On Saturday I shared a few thoughts from Randy Cross, the biologist who supervises the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s ongoing bear research project.

Cross and I chatted for several minutes, and he provided much more information than I could hope to include in a single column.

Therefore, instead of waiting for a rainy day, I thought I’d share a few more bear tales.

Cross said the state’s bear managers are concerned about a trend that has developed over recent years — ever since the resident price of a bear permit increased from $5 to $25 in 2002.

In 2003, the number of bear permits sold dropped from more than 15,000 to about 11,000, Cross said. And since then, that number has contin-ued to slide … slowly … and was at about the 10,000-hunter level in 2007, he said.

Biologists rely on hunters to help them reach their management goals, and about 3,000 bears are removed from the population by hunters each year.

A few more years of declining numbers and Cross wonders if the state’s expected goals will be able to be met by the hunters who do buy the permits.

“It will [have an impact] soon, I’m afraid, if it continues,” Cross said. “We’re happy with the harvest that we’ve been seeing, and we can live with the harvest that we have been seeing, but if it continues to decline, or stays low for a long period of time, we may have to rethink [our expectations] or we may have to make some adjustments to accommodate for it.”

There is good news on an-other front, however: Cross said a new research initiative should help biologists do their work in the coming years.

“Right now we’re on the cusp of finding out more about our bears,” Cross said. “We’re asking people to give us teeth from [bears shot] all over the state, so we may be able to look at different areas of the state individually and look at things a little different.”

The information garnered from those teeth could be very important, Cross said.

“Within a couple of years we anticipate having a whole new population estimate and better information to work with as far as trying to figure out if we’re really hitting that stabilization rate as far as removal goes or not,” he said.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...