Each year around this time I endure an annual pilgrimage that takes me to all corners of the Earth. I encounter some of the most unique, revered, and feared beasts. One particular animal stands out amongst all others though.
If a deer hunter, and I mean a hardcore, thinks about hunting 25 hours per day 8 days a week, big buck down dreaming deer hunter were to die and go to Heaven, this place would still surpass anything he could envision. Whitetails by the hundreds surround you. The chatter in the air consists of voices telling story after story of deer taken by bow, crossbow, rifle, muzzleloader, and dogs.
There are also the sounds of the ones that got away. The big one that stepped out just after dark or left just before daylight. The monster that stared right into the eyes of the hunter as if to dare him to take the shot and consume the hunter with excitement, anxiety, and sheer madness to the point of either not taking the shot or fumbling altogether. The one that does not induce buck fever, but rather buck plague!
Yes, the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh is one of the premiere hunting exhibitions not only in the Southeast, but the whole country. Too big for just one roof, the DDC as it is commonly called fills up a good portion of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds for a three day extravaganza.
World class guides and outfitters stand at the ready to convince you the next trip of a lifetime is within reach. Break-out sessions offering instruction covering everything from quality game and land management to how to call turkeys in close are there to enhance your hunting experiences. Well known and well regarded outdoorsman personalities are there to offer encouragement and share their wisdom as well.
Last year I interviewed Steven Rinella, who is one of the featured guests this year. Rinella offered me an advance copy of his book Meateater before its national release. A great book that told the story of what hunting means to him. While he has done some things wrong in the past, his story mirrors most peoples. He understands the benefits of proper game management through the events in his life. He recently partnered with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and has become an advocate for proper management to maintain ongoing, sustainable land and wildlife resources.
Another guest will be Tom Miranda. Miranda is the first person to successfully take all 29 big game species in North America with archery equipment on film. In the annuls of history, Miranda will be mentioned with other great outdoorsmen of North America that include Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Teddy Roosevelt, Art Young, Fred Bear, and Chuck Adams. Think about it. Not only did he hunt each species, but he harvested the animal. He closed the distance enough to take it successfully with a bow. And he did it while being filmed. One other thing, they were all trophy sized animals as well.
Looking at both Rinella’s and Miranda’s youth, it seems they could have been brothers. Both grew up and spent time in the upper Michigan area. Both fueled their passion for nature through trapping. They both tried to make a career out of what has become a lost art in today’s world. Trapping was their entry. Hunting became their legacy.
Our world now encourages youth to stay inside and use computers for both play, study, and work. They grew up learning to be self reliant. Middle schoolers now receive iPads and are taught how to use a calculator, word processor, and spreadsheet. When I was in school we were taught how to do arithmetic, calculus, and physics with pencil, paper, and often, a very big eraser.
The world has changed. If we do not build the excitement in both youth and new hunters, the very things we enjoyed growing up and the things that Rinella now fights for will become a distant memory only to be studied in text books.
Shows such as the Dixie Deer Classic and later this summer the Southern Trophy Hunter show in Greensboro can help ignite the fire. Take someone who has never hunted, whether youth or adult, and look at their eyes as they enter. You will see the same awe and twinkle that Miranda had as he stalked another record book beast.
The Dixie Deer Classic runs March 1-3 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC.