MINNESOTA DEER CLASSIC CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY
& SETS SIGHTS ON NEW BREED OF HUNTERS
2007 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Minnesota Deer Classic, one of the largest hunting shows in the Midwest. Held in the Coliseum Building at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds March 9 - 11, 2007, the upcoming family event features a “sportsman’s bonanza” of more than 250 exhibitor booths with new products and great bargains; hundreds of whitetail antlers on display; and a line-up of seminars, activities and entertainment targeting hunters and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
While the show will remain true to its traditionally male audience, this year’s show will also feature programming and a special section of exhibitors catering to a burgeoning new group of hunters: women. “Women have always been a part of our audience, because they come with their guys or the family,” says Hugh Price, founder of the Minnesota Deer Classic. “But in the last few years, the number of women who actually hunt has grown to the point that we want to recognize them by developing show content that will be interesting to them as well as our traditional male audience.” To this end, this year Price is testing a special “Women’s Corner,” with exhibitors catering to female visitors. “It’s in an area away from the guys’ stuff,” says Price. “If it goes over well, we’ll expand on it in the future.”
Long considered a “special interest” group, the numbers of women who are heading into the woods is on the rise. One recent study by the National Sporting Goods Association estimates that more than three million women now hunt, accounting for about 16 percent of the nearly 21 million active hunters in the United States. Another study, conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, estimates that Americans spend $2.1 billion on firearms and ammunition every year. The study, which covered 2001 to 2005, found that 2.4 million women hunted with firearms in 2005, up 72 percent from 2001. Fifty percent more are target shooting, while the number of women bow-hunters has grown 176 percent to 786,000. The fastest-growing age groups are women aged 18 to 24, followed by those aged 35 to 44.
While what draws women to the sport may be different than the guys, they are just as enthusiastic. Price believes a big factor is the increasing number of women who are embracing the stress-relieving benefits of the outdoor lifestyle in general. “This has really opened the door to hunting for many women,” Price says. “And there are a variety of programs making it easier for women to get involved,” he adds, citing those organized by the National Rifle Association, among others. For many, hunting is a valuable social outlet, because it provides an opportunity to spend quality time with a husband, boyfriend or other family member. And for others it’s a matter of continuing a family tradition.
Tradition is part of what draws many of the same visitors to the show year after year, with attendance numbers averaging at 20,000 over a three-day weekend. And it’s of utmost importance to Price, who has been a hunter since childhood. “Very early on I developed a consciousness of ethical hunting and the impact that man has on the natural world,” says Price, who has been active, throughout his adult life, in conservation groups and political organizations addressing issues that affect our land, soil, water, and the animal kingdom. An interest in preserving our nation’s hunting heritage is what originally inspired him to organize the show 25 years ago, and he is as passionate about it today as he was then.
“Originally, the show was a place for guys who were devoted hunters to come to learn about what was new to the sport, discover ways to improve their skills, and have some form of trophy recognition,” Price says. He contacted the Boone & Crockett Club, the official scoring system for North American big game trophies, and, with the help of several Minnesota-based members, trained a group of volunteer measurers (who would become part of the Minnesota Official Measurers group) in time for the first show in 1982. The show quickly became “the home of the big bucks”; drawing hunters from several hours away who would bring their trophy antlers to be officially measured and scored in an environment of friendly competition and camaraderie. That same year, Price published the first Minnesota Record Book. A new edition has been published every four years since. The sixth edition, which was published in November, will be available at the upcoming show.
“The book contains about 11,000 listings of outstanding specimens of Minnesota black bear, moose, elk and whitetail deer records collected over the past 24 years,” Price says. “The sixth edition contains more than 20 articles about Minnesota big game taken in the past four years that qualify to be listed in the book.” Records are organized first by species, followed by method taken, followed by county. Whitetail records are further broken down into typical and non-typical, and adult and youth categories. The Minnesota Record Book is treasured as a family heirloom, and passed to younger generations continuing the hunting tradition. “Many families have a copy of every edition, and we get frequent inquiries about when the next one’s being published,” Price says.
Now, as the Minnesota Deer Classic celebrates its 25th year, it’s important to Price that the show excites and interests a younger generation of hunters, as well as his established male audience and the aforementioned female faction. “This year we’re having a drawing to win a chance to hunt the Ted Nugent Porkslam,” Price says. Nugent, who is possibly the highest-profile bow-hunter in America, exemplifies the fiery passion Price hopes to instill in those who visit the Minnesota Deer Classic.
Although the Minnesota Deer Classic will continue to focus on its “whitetail roots,” this year’s show will feature demonstrations and seminars throughout the weekend, on various types of hunting and related subjects, given by national and regional experts. Following is a line-up of this year’s presenters and their topics:
Dick “Walkin’ Eagle” Alford was given his nickname by a friend, for his knack of being in the right place at the right time. Over the last 30 years, Alford has hunted wild turkeys from the cypress swamps of Florida to the boulder-strewn volcanic slopes of Hawaii and New Zealand, and across 17 mainland states. Credited with multiple gobblers from each of the four Grand Slam species, Alford has several record book birds to his credit. He has written six books, produced the video “Straturkegry,” is a sought-after speaker and has been featured on many radio and TV programs. Alford will share personal anecdotes and discuss the vast array of strategies and tactics he has used over the years to successfully hunt wild turkeys.
Joella Bates, who claimed the ranking of #1 woman archer in the world on five separate occasions, can shoot the center of a Lifesaver candy from 100 feet. With a passion for the fresh-air lifestyle that goes back as far as she can remember, Bates was first a wildlife officer, fisheries manager, environmental scientist and a University of Tennessee Athletic Hall-of-Famer in the sport of Rifle prior to claiming the spot of #1 Archer in the World. She is also distinguished as the first woman to take Africa’s Cape buffalo with only a bow and arrow. Drawing on her own life experience, she developed the program Be a Winner, in which she uses her skill with a bow and arrow, along with words of wisdom and encouragement, to coach students and adults on matters of archery, and life. When she’s not taking groups of women out on hunts, Bates presents her Be a Winner program to schools, universities, children’s groups and wildlife and conservation organizations, among others. Bates will discuss her life in the great outdoors, give trick shooting demonstrations, and conduct free archery clinics for kids.
Jeff Bruns, professional waterfowler from Rochester Minnesota, owns and operates Broken Wing Hunt Club, Broken Wing Outfitters and Most Wanted Game Calls. Bruns guides and hunts in many states throughout the year, in addition to competing in and judging goose-calling contests nationwide. Frequently the subject of TV shows and magazine articles, Bruns will share stories, tips and tricks from his more than 30-year career as a hunter.
Walter Earl has been trapping predators for more than 50 years, working as a government trapper for several state and federal agencies in a half-dozen Western states. Worried about the diminishing number of experienced predator trappers, Earl formed the Walt Earl, Sr. Predator Control Association to support and teach the secrets of successful predator trapping. Earl will share his experience as a trapper and provide suggestions for those interested in supplementing an income, or even making a living, by trapping predators.
Dean Hanson and Alex Duvenage are experts on rifle- and bow-hunting big game in South Africa. Hanson, of Kudu Adventures in Minnesota, has made many safaris in Africa. Duvenage, a professional hunter and outfitter from South Africa, has more than 20 years of experience leading safaris in many countries for many types of big game. Together they will discuss how to have an amazing yet affordable hunt in South Africa: the animals, accommodations, necessary equipment and what you should expect to pay.
With almost 30 years of experience in bear baiting and hunting, Brad Hering, owner of Bear Scents in Wisconsin, works with bear biologists, researchers, guides, outfitters and trappers from across Canada and the U.S. Hering will present a program called Bear Baiting & Hunting: Tricks of the Trade, during which he will discuss all aspects of bear hunting -- from baiting to dressing, recovery and trophy preparation.
Joe Kupec and Eric Zaccardi of Antlers Plus Non-Typical in the heart of the Ozarks, will present seminars on all aspects of the majestic North American whitetail deer -- from breeding, feeding and communication to best times to hunt, as well as property enhancements and land management practice. Drawing on more than 40 years of combined experience, extensive knowledge of the outdoors and professional experience led them to formulating and manufacturing whitetail attractants ideally suited to the whitetail enthusiast.
Marlene Odahlen-Hinz is one of the Midwest’s premier women’s bow-hunters. She has hunted across North America and Africa, and placed several animals in the Pope and Young Record Book. A volunteer advanced hunter and bow-hunting instructor for the MN Department of Natural Resources, Becoming an Outdoors Woman and Women in the Outdoors, she also writes for several publications and is a Master Measurer for Safari Club International. Odahlen-Hinz will give seminars introducing women to bow-hunting.
Pat Reeve is a native of Southeastern Minnesota, who has had a passion for hunting since the age of six. After a long career in television production, in 2005 he launched his own national hunting and fishing show, “Driven 24/7,” which can be seen on the Men’s Channel. A nationally published outdoor writer, photographer and speaker, Reeve will give bow-hunting seminars, and discuss his personal hunting and filming methods – including how he took the largest whitetail ever bow-killed on-camera.
Ron Schara has been using colorful story telling to share the great outdoor experience with readers and viewers for almost 30 years. An avid and accomplished turkey hunter who grew up in Iowa’s rugged bluff country, Schara graduated with degrees in journalism and fish/wildlife biology and never veered from his original path. With two television programs and a radio show to his name (“Minnesota Bound,” “Backroads with Ron & Raven” and “Minnesota Outdoors” respectively), Schara is also a prolific book author and newspaper columnist. As a personality, he has become a beloved part of the fabric of the Midwest’s outdoor community, and is a sought-after speaker. Schara, accompanied by his faithful companion, Raven, will give seminars on turkey hunting.
Stu West, founder of the Pointing Labrador, and owner of Alma Bottom Pointing Labradors, breeds and trains dogs you can both hunt and live with on a 240-acre game farm in Elmwood, Wisconsin. West will demonstrate low-force methods for training dogs in order to maximize versatility on land and in water, and answer questions about the newest strain of Labrador. Their presentation will address the proper use of the slither cord, wing and rod, collar conditioning, birds, special upland techniques and e-collars.
In addition to these presentations, the show will offer a variety of activities, exhibits and entertainment such as an annual taxidermy display, trout pond, kids archery balloon shoot, and electronic skeet shooting. Featured artist Jim Hansel, who has received much recognition and numerous awards for his wildlife art, will give out small souvenir prints at the show, and sign those for anyone wishing to have a personalized copy.
Hours and admission are as follows:
Friday, March 9: Adults & Youths age 12-16, $10.00
3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Children age 11 & under free -- FRIDAY ONLY
Saturday, March 10:Adults & Youths age 12-16, $12.00 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Children age 11 & under $5.00 Children under age 5 free
Family Pass: $20.00 for husband, wife and their children age 11 & under
Sunday, March 11: Adults & Youths age 12-16, $12.00
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Children age 11 & under $5.00
Children under age 5 free
Family Pass: $20.00 for husband, wife & their children age 11 & under
Clearly, Price has done something right over the years. The success of the Minnesota Deer Classic led him to launch the Northern Wisconsin Deer Classic in 1984, and the St. Louis (MO) Deer Classic in 1998. “The more people know about the ethical and conservation aspects of hunting, the more accessible it becomes,” Price says. To learn more, visit: