It’s deer show season again. I’ve been going to these things since the 1980’s when the concept was fresh as an October scrape. In the beginning, I went just to commune with fellow deer nuts. In later years I’ve been a seminar speaker and manned the occasional booth. And I keep coming back to deer shows, despite the too-expensive beer, the hawkers selling trinkets that have nothing to do with deer hunting, and the “Chippy, the Water-Skiing Squirrel” sideshows.

Why, do I love them so, you ask? I’ll tell you why:
1. The seminars: Most seminar speakers are respected deer hunters willing to share their knowledge. I enjoy the chance to listen to deer hunters, and I figure if I come away with at least one new idea to add to my own hunting, I’ve spent my time wisely. I’ve never been disappointed.

2. The heroes: I met Gene and Barry Wensel at the Wisconsin Deer Expo. I tried not to gush, but I failed.

3. The toys: I go to the Archery Trade Association (ATA) show every year, and I always think I know about the cool new gear for the season. Deer shows prove me wrong almost every time.

4. The bucks: I never get tired of looking at big antlers, and deer shows are full of them; from the freshest trophies to some monster shot decades ago and recently found in someone’s barn. In addition to simply gawking, I like to estimate a buck’s score, then look at the accompanying sheet and see if I’m close to the actual gross. It’s a great way to practice field-judging.

5.The kid stuff: Deer expos have become increasingly family-friendly, and the best have all kinds of activities for kids, from shooting to catching trout in a swimming pool. I love being around all that energy.

6. The Wall of Shame: These DNR exhibits remind me of the incredible amount of resources wasted by criminals, and the fact that there are new bucks on the exhibits every year is sobering. And since The Wall is always manned by wardens, I get to thank them for the amazing job they do.

7. The jerky and nuts: You can’t walk down three aisles without someone sticking a plastic glove full of butter toffee pecans or a sample of teriyaki ostrich in your face. Not only are they delicious, they make me thirsty for the too-expensive beer.

So that’s my working list. What’s yours?