The moment was 20 years in the making. That's how long Earl Geoghegan of Pasadena had tried talking his wife, Michelle, into buying a crossbow. .
But there were the Geoghegans last Thursday morning waiting in line, like thousands of other local outdoors enthusiasts, turning their Christmas and holiday gift cards into guns, bows, fishing rods, camping equipment and other coveted necessities — and a few luxuries — to help them pursue their favorite activities.
Michelle Geoghegan still seemed a little bemused, if not utterly shocked, standing inside the cavernous Bass Pro Shops store at Arundel Mills, cradling her compound bow. A pretty pink one, at that.
Asked what it took for his wife to finally decide to join him in the woods to hunt, Earl Geoghegan nodded in the direction of their 13-year-son, Jeffrey. "Us being away every weekend," Earl Geoghegan said.
"I just wanted to learn it," his wife said. "Get involved in it."
Asked if she ever thought she'd be buying a compound bow, Michelle Geoghegan laughed.
"No," she said emphatically.
While Michelle Geoghegan will likely wait until fall to try out her new acquisition, Earl and Jeffrey were taking off that night for another father-son weekend of hunting down in Dorchester County. "Too cold" for his wife, Earl Geoghegan said.
Like those crowding the malls to buy clothes, electronic equipment and the newest set of golf clubs, outdoorsmen and women were making their own post-Christmas pilgrimage to local outdoors stores.
Joe Hopkins, who has managed the REI store in Timonium for 13 years, said that the pre-Christmas sales were "a little soft" in part because of the unseasonably warm temperatures, but the post-Christmas sales last week "were pretty robust".
Hopkins said that among the most popular items were a high-definition helmet camera used to shoot video for everything from biking and hiking trips to kayaking and rock climbing. Other big sellers, according to Hopkins, were a pocket solar charger, wrist watches endorsed by the Navy SEALs and knee-high women's boots.
"This time of year, it's clothing for the outdoors and footwear," Hopkins said. "During the spring and summer it's more of the hard items like bikes and [backpacks]."
At the REI stores in Timonium and College Park Saturday morning, business was brisk for a special members-only Attic Sale.
Parker Webb and Denise Jakobsberg came from their home near the College Park store. They eyed the helmet cam for a few seconds, and Jacobsberg said that she had some thought about buying a tent. But next summer's camping trips seemed so far away. Webb bought a couple of kits to make a home weather station and one to help grow plants with solar energy.
"It looked like a good buy, but we didn't go through with it," Jakobsberg said of the tent. "In July when I'm ready to buy a new tent, I'll regret not buying it."
Ray Case of Glen Burnie hadn't planned on making a stop at the Bass Pro Shops before going deer hunting Thursday night in Baltimore County. But after loading up his hunting gear and guns, Case couldn't find his ground blind.
"Right now it's a bad time of the season, everything is scattered all around the place," Case said as he lugged a new ground blind in a box over his shoulder. "It's like anything else; you never realize it's gone until you want to use it."
Not everyone is in the bind Case was for his blind.
Shawn Shorter picked up two .22-calibre Remington rifles with the gift cards he received for Christmas. Though he has three still serviceable hunting rifles that are about a decade old, the Howard County resident was making the purchase so that his teenage nieces and nephews could hunt with them on a nearby farm.
Shorter was planning on taking a few of them hunting for small game that night.
"I have more fun watching the kids do it," Shorter said. "One of my nephews got a 9-pointer his first time out."
Charles Chisley was scanning the rack of rifles used for his favorite pastime — skeet shooting. A devotee for the past 20 years, the La Plata resident walked away without making a purchase "because they didn't have the model I was looking for," but vowed to continue his search in order to add to his collection. He has three.
"One more would be nice," he said.