DEER CLASSIC still classy

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Iowa’s 2020 Deer Classic exhibition has been entered into the record books; for attendance, quality exhibitors, kids activities, seminars and of course a grand offering of Iowa buck deer from the past several years. More than 260 mounted heads were brought to the show by their owners and entered into the Iowa Big Buck Competition. It was an impressive display with top honors awarded Sunday afternoon to various categories. Each owner received a walnut plaque engraved with deer classic logos. Each March, usually the first weekend, Iowa Show Productions hosts the Deer Classic. And each March hunters and their families and friends look forward to an ‘end of winter’ journey to Des Moines’ Iowa Events Center to review a new set of mounted deer heads.

IOWA’S DEER CLASSIC has come and gone for 2020. Last weekend was the time when many thousands of enthusiasts came to Des Moines and descended upon the Events Center to see everything deer related.

They were not disappointed. More than 450 exhibitors had set up booth spaces to highlight their products and services. The aisles were full of gadgets and gear, clothing for the hunt, remote camera devices of every price level, bows and arrows, muzzle loader rifles, tree stand designs of every type and ground blinds that looked like a big tree trunk or a big round bale of hay. You could obtain special aerial photos of your farm, hunting property or region by consulting with vendors who have access to the data to produce full color 30 x 40 inch glossy prints of what matters to you. If you wanted to go on Safari in Africa, there were at least 15 representatives giving their services and price listings. Canada was well represented as was New Zealand and Spain.

That was on the vendor side of the show…which takes about a half day to do by a slow walk along every aisle. And next of course were deer displays. Many folks at the information booth, where I happened to work, decided to look at all 260 mounted deer heads brought to the show for the Big Buck Contest. In addition, about 50 Hall of Fame mounted deer were also on display. These are special deer from past historical records that were invited back to showcase the best of the best.

Next were antlers sets that some folks wanted to have scored by official measurers from the Boone & Crockett Club or the Pope and Young Club. Shed antlers, those antler singles or pairs that a deer had naturally lost and had been found were brought in for measuring. The shed antler exhibit was an impressive portion of the show to see.

A highlight for Big Buck Contest entries was held at 3 p.m. on Sunday. During the show, as each entry category and the deer’s score were noted, a leader board system ranked first, second or third place, or more, for young girls or boys, by bow or gun. Ladies made a grand bit history with their deer from use of all kinds of legal weapons. By the time the awards were completed, a few new records for Iowa were in the books. It proved once again how the land of Iowa can and does produce some impressive deer. As impressive as the show deer were, a reality was also stressed that nice trophy deer with impressive antlers are not found behind every tree. For each big buck, there are many small bucks that need to grow up.

More than one hunter interviewed during the contest awards ceremony commented on how the range of circumstances played out so each could harvest a deer. The details ranged from intensive long hours of observation to try and out smart the deer during its travels, to just being in the right place at the right time to look down and see a trophy quality animal approaching that they had never seen before. Luck matched with opportunity and skill came together to make a successful hunt. Next year the DEER CLASSIC will do it all over again.

A COUGAR, or MOUNTAIN LION, was confirmed in Manitoba. And another in Minnesota and one in north Texas, according to The Cougar Network. These are documented happenings so far in 2020.

Dr. Michelle LaRue (executive director) and many others within the Cougar Network are preparing to draft updated reports from their confirmation index, showcasing a further understanding of movement patterns for the Western population of mountain lions in North America.

When published, these data entries will expand upon the knowledge and phenomena of cougar dispersal. South Dakota’s Black Hills is the primary site for most dispersal animals in all directions. However, young males at age 18 months are evicted from their natal area by established males already in the territory.

A young male cougar has a choice…leave by striking out on its own to find a new place to live…or stay where it was raised and get killed by a resident male lion. Most chose to venture out into unknown, to them, lands away from certain death. That is how an occasional cougar will travel into or through Iowa or Minnesota or Manitoba or Texas. Check out the Cougar Network website to learn of all past confirmed cougar evidence from photos, hair, scat or prints.

SANDHILL CRANES are back in Marshall County. I saw a single bird this week near the wetland complex south of Albion and east of Timmons Grove. This site is always a good place to use binoculars and spotting scopes to make careful observations of wildlife. In the water of the little marsh, a good number of ring-necked ducks were feeding in the ice free open water. Canada geese were sparring for territorial nesting sites. Some very intense bird battles took place as one gander chased another. The loosing gander made a hasty retreat.

WILDLIFE FACTS: 75 percent of Americans approve of hunting as long as it is conducted with full use of the animal’s meat and taken within lawful means.

In 1937, an 11 percent excise tax on guns, ammunition, bow and arrows, was requested by hunters to help fund conservation, raising more than $10 billion. Sportsmen and women contribute nearly $8 million every day, adding more than $2.9 billion every year for conservation. Hunter-funded habitat, research and wildlife law enforcement work help countless game and non-game species.

Deer were estimated to be only 500,000 in America in the year 1900. Today they are more than 32,000,000. Wild Turkey in 1900 numbered about 100,000. Now their populations exceed 7,000,000. These increases came about primarily from science based conservation land management programs, research, youth and teacher education and public knowledge programs. Nice work so lets keep it up.

Quote: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96,

Albion, IA 50005.


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