Returning to Dixie

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It used to be one of my favorite events of the year. Not that my feelings about it have changed; it is just I haven’t been able to attend the past few years.

I’m talking about the grand spectacle that is the Dixie Deer Classic. The DDC, held in Raleigh, is one of the largest hunting shows in the nation and it never disappoints. Exhibitors, special guests and personalities, an archery competition and multitudes of deer taken within the state over the past season are the highlights.

I personally spent several years as a scorer of the deer while serving with the North Carolina Bowhunters Association officially measuring the vast amount of deer antlers for both the NCBA and Pope & Young. We were hidden behind the curtains where the deer mounts are displayed in what seems from the outside as a huge FBI interrogation room. It is far from that, though.

We would measure both by ourselves and partner up with others at times, especially when one of the big bucks came in for scoring. The camaraderie displayed in the room cannot be topped.

But there is a lot more than just that room.

The various exhibitors have wares and services for offer that makes the novice hunter become hardcore and the hardcore hunter want more. From hand made turkey and duck calls, to special coastal fishing rigs, an outdoorsman will find something to hand some cash over in exchange for new toys to add his toybox.

Then there is the section where one begins to dream of the grand adventures, some of which are right here at home. Hunting for antelope in Wyoming from horses, or great African safaris in search of wildebeests, warthogs, and maybe even one of the Big Five gets the adrenaline flowing. Or maybe since deer season just ended, pursuit of the turkey slam starts to build momentum in the hunter’s mind as Eastern wild turkey, Merriam, Osceola, and Rio mounts are shown to the prospective hunter.

Of course, with all these great once-in-a-lifetime quests, it becomes hard not to notice that North Carolina savors some of the best and biggest black bear hunting in the world. Photos of 600- and 700-pounders, both in hero shots with the lucky hunter and caught on trail cams after the season ended helps local guides book their remaining openings for the coming year.

After walking through the exhibition a couple of times — once isn’t enough — you may head over to one of the classrooms and realize that the person you were carrying a casual conversation with at one of the booths is actually a speaker and expert in a certain field of outdoors wisdom.

Yes, the past several years has kept me away from the Dixie Deer Classic.

But it will certainly feel good to make it there once again.