Are deer “classics” as big in other regions as they are in the Midwest? For those of you who’ve never been to one, a deer classic is basically a hunting show devoted solely (well, almost) to whitetail deer and the folks who hunt them. Like other sportsman’s shows, classics can host some decidedly non-hunting vendors, though most don’t dip into the realm of the “booth babe” (see Petzal’s SHOT show reports). Classics give whitetail nerds a mid-winter chance to rendezvous, gawk at big deer mounts and maintain sanity until the weather breaks and shed hunting begins.

I suppose I have been going to Deer Classics for twenty years now, and two stand out. One is the annual Wisconsin Deer & Turkey Expo (which I hope to cover in a couple weeks) one of the longest-running and well-attended deer shows around. The other is the Iowa Deer Classic, which is decidedly newer, but surely worth the trip.. There are dozens of vendors with quality gear, good seminars from respected whitetail hunters (on my first trip I sat in a session which featured four men who had shot world record whitetails in some category; Mel Johnson, Del Austin, Milo Hansen and Mike Beatty). And there are always friends to reunite with.

Oh, and the antlers. My goodness, the antlers. Now don’t get me wrong; trophy bucks are not the only measure of a healthy deer herd. But they are certainly one barometer. And if the crop of monsters at the Hawkeye Deer Classic is any indicator, the hunting forecast there is as good as it gets. And the thing that stood out to me among all those huge deer; towering typicals, massive non-typs, gun, bow and muzzleloader kills? The distribution. Sure there are hotspots in the Hawkeye State. Every place has ‘em. But from what I saw, hunt about any county there and you stand at least a chance of shooting a whitetail of which dreams are made. And that, my friends, is an indicator of a well-managed deer herd.