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Deer Classic hosts exceptional displays

Photos by Garry Brandenburg Exceptional displays of whitetail deer are ready for your admiration this weekend in Des Moines at the Iowa Deer Classic 2021 show held at the Iowa Events Center downtown Des Moines. It is truly one of the greatest shows in the country to see trophy whitetails. The Big Buck Contest is always a feature that draws many folks to admire and view in one location what our Iowa landscapes are capable of producing. Other vendors, such as Antlers by Klaus showcase other deer from across the Midwest that have superbly outstanding and unique antler configurations. The individual non-typical deer in today’s photo was taken by Luke Brewster in Edgar County, IL on November 2, 2018. Brewster’s deer had a gross score of 337 1/8th and a net score of 327 7/8ths.`

IOWA’S 2021 DEER CLASSIC is happening right now, this weekend at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines. Show organizers are comfortable with hosting the show and understand that vendors and the general public have adapted to and will exercise due diligence regarding personal health. Last year’s Deer Classic had just wrapped up when it seemed that the entire nation went into lockdowns of one type or another. Well, one year later a lot of good has happened, a vaccine or two or three have been developed, and people have learned to adapt to changing times.

So what is offered this year, 2021, at the Iowa Deer Classic? For sure one can expect hundreds of vendors with products and services in all things related to deer and deer hunting. The entire show floor of Hy-Vee Hall plus the lower level of the adjacent Veterans Auditorium will be filled with booth spaces. There will be archery products, guns, crossbows, clothing or every type for men or women, boys or girls plus habitat related food plot items to help deer overwinter into 2022. In addition, there will be archery target tournaments, 3D shooting range, free kids bow range and a turkey calling contest. Door prizes will be announced periodically during the show to some random and very lucky attendees. And there will be seminar speakers and celebrities to chat with and get autographs.

One of the tasks this scribe has agreed to do for at least the last ten years of Deer Classics is make official photo documentation records. Those images are used by the show owners to archive the who, what, and where details so that all future shows can follow a successful path into future years. At the conclusion of each Deer Classic, the official leader board antler display for this year’s big buck contest has its award presentation. My images document all the categories of entries by youth, women and men for archery or firearm taken deer from Iowa. Special wooden laxer engraved plaques for each winner are proudly accepted.

Deer Classic show hours Saturday are 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday hours are 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission cost for an adult ticket is $12, youth ages 10 -15 get in for $5. If a youth is age 9 or less, free admission. Iowa’s winter thaw and great weather will be an addition incentive to get outside to enjoy warmer air. Take advantage of good weather while you can. Perhaps I will see you at the Deer Classic. Enjoy.

ANTLER MEASURING is one item a person can get accomplished at the Deer Classic. It could be your deer from last season, or your grandfather’s deer from many decades ago. If the deer has never had its antlers officially scored by either Pope and Young (archery) or Boone & Crockett (firearms and/or archery), here is your chance to find out how those antler sets compare to all other deer.

This past week I measured a very nice typical antler set from a Marshalltown resident. He took his big buck at the Iowa River Wildlife Area in November, 2020. His deer gross score was 142 and 6/8ths and had a net score of 140 and 2/8ths. This very symmetrical deer was a beautiful 4 x 4 for which the owner is very proud. Congrats to Ed Morrison.

LICENSES SALES DURING 2020 took an impressive upturn. Why? A primary reason throughout the nation was time people had on their hands due to business shutdowns and other items related to working from home. However this played out for individuals, being cooped up inside was not an option. Going fishing seemed like a great option to get fresh air and stay away from people. Iowa fishing license sales in 2020 for an resident annual license numbered 260,048. In addition, 9,166 folks purchased a lifetime fishing license. The trout fee endorsement option was purchased by 49, 350 people. Non residents also purchased fishing licenses for a total of 27,140.

On the hunting side of the ledger, 31,205 hunting licenses were sold. But a more popular option was the combination hunting and habitat fee by 66,572 people. And additional 2,982 people bought a lifetime hunting license. Those who pursue waterfowl or other migratory game birds had to buy the migratory bird fee.

When it comes to big game like deer, archery tags sold numbered 55,516 plus an additional antlerless only tags by 23, 944. First shotgun deer tag sales were 46,368 and second shotgun numbers were 48, 735. This is a pretty even split between season one and two for deer, a necessity to manage and spread the pressure by hunters into a workable mix. It works well in Iowa for our Iowa circumstances.

PHEASANTS AND WINTER WEATHER was a tough situation this year. More than the average amount of snow cover and a long period of severe cold air put survival of pheasants on a thin edge. Most made it and some did not. Wild game animals of all types, bird or mammal, have adapted to those thin times of the year when food is scarce and hard to find. Winter cover that is thick and offers protection from wind and predators is a major factor for pheasant survival. So as 2021 starts to offer a renewal for food plots and habitat work, just remember that the winter of 2021-22 us an unknown. Prepare now for the inevitable cold and snow. Give pheasants a chance to survive. One caution for everyone interested on upland game bird habitat is this: March weather right now might lure us into thinking spring has arrived. Don’t put all of our eggs in one basket just yet. Lots of snow and lots of cold weather is still possible before Spring weather arrives to stay.

Conservation work involves habitat on the ground, education of people to understand ecosystems, and the ability of people to manage landscapes to the best degree obtainable for wild critters big or small. So it is with this in mind I am reminded of this quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt. He said “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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