Virginia Deer Classic

Big bucks with non-typical antlers, such as this gnarly, drop-tined specimen, were displayed in abundance at the Virginia Deer Classic event.

THE 35th Annual Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show drew big crowds with the parking lot at the Richmond Raceway Complex jam-packed by 11 a.m. Saturday. The number of families taking in the show was particularly impressive and many exhibitors across the four display-filled halls had special attractions just for the kids.

Back again was the Virginia Waterfowlers Association’s booth where children could hand paint their own wooden duck decoy. Parents helped draw the lines and the kids filled in with the appropriate colors. The chairs there were filled for the duration of the show. Daisy had an indoor BB gun range and kids could shoot lightly-powered bows and nerf guns also.

One of the annual highlights is the Virginia Deer Classic, a trophy buck contest with hunters bringing in their most mature, striking specimens to be scored using the Boone & Crockett Club’s trophy deer system. Ten to 20 years ago, there were many more deer entered in this contest. In 2010, for example, 420 deer were entered. Numbers began significantly tailing off in 2013 when just 247 were entered compared to 325 the year prior. Last year saw the fewest entries ever, with 129. That rebounded this year to 184 deer.

While there might not be as many bucks entered, the quality of these mature animals is truly impressive. I didn’t physically count the number that sported “non-typical” antlers, but they seemed to represent a significant percentage. Non-typical antlers are ones that don’t grow in a matching, symmetrical set. Drop tines, sticker points, palmation and more accentuate these non-typicals.

Non-typical antlers seem to be more prevalent on deer that have grown to full maturity. Their prevalence in the contest could mean that hunters continue to practice a quality deer management philosophy seeking a balance of bucks and does and maintaining the right size herd for the habitat. Many hunters following these tenets look for big, mature bucks.

The biggest buck taken during general firearms season measured was a non-typical 12 points or better deer taken by Tom Saunders that scored 183.6. The biggest typical in that category was a 163.9-incher shot by Josh Dale. The overall biggest buck was a 194.4-inch deer taken by Joshua Collins with a muzzleloader.

Two deer that really stand out, though are a 150.6-inch deer taken by Chad Reed with a crossbow and a 151.3-inch buck taken during general firearms season by David Bratton. These two deer topped the 7-8 points typical division. Any Virginia buck scoring over 140 as an 8-pointer is remarkable. These two animals are incredible whitetail specimens.

Turkey Calling Contest

While the exhibit halls were packed downstairs, a few dozen people upstairs were making some kind of turkey racket. The state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation was staging its annual calling contest championships with the winners getting beautiful plaques, cash and other prizes, plus a berth in the Grand National competition at the NWTF National Convention in Nashville next February.

Competition categories included Jakes (youngsters); Intermediate, Friction Calling, Owl Hooting, Gobbling and the Senior Opens.

Most of the callers were from Virginia but some entrants had qualified from other states. The level of competition was incredible, and I was amazed when I left the show that the parking lot wasn’t covered with wild turkeys responding to callers.

You can see a YouTube video I put together featuring contest highlights at

Winners this year by category, include:


1st: Isaac Willow, Pennsylvania


1st Place: Matthew Presley, Front Royal, Virginia

Owl Hooting

1st Place: Dylan Bearden, North Carolina

2nd Place: Brandon “Tater” Rich, North Carolina


1st Place: Rodney Eckstine, Pennsylvania

2nd Place: Tyler Presley, Front Royal, Virginia

3rd Place: Brandon “Tater” Rich, North Carolina

Friction (Open)

1st Place: Carl LaRue, Leesburg, Virginia

2nd Place: Anthony Woods, Richlands, Virginia

Friction (Virginia Resident)

1st Place, Bobby Woods, Dante, Virginia

2nd Place: Anthony Woods, Richlands, Virginia

Senior Open

1st Place: Tyler Presley, Front Royal, Virginia

2nd Place: Bobby Woods, Dante, Virginia

State Resident Open

1st Place: Will Brizendine, King William, Virginia

2nd Place: Tyler Presley, Front Royal, Virginia

Combined Cabela’s

Bass Pro Store

The 100,000-square-foot Cabela’s retail store in Rogers, Ark., is currently undergoing a significant renovation to create the first combined Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Tracker Boats store.

Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela’s last fall.

The store’s new look will feature exterior signage highlighting each brand. Visits to any Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s store is a bit like visiting a natural history museum with beautiful dioramas, displays, taxidermy and more. A recent media release announcing the consolidated store said, “A team of talented artists and craftsmen are upgrading the store’s imagery to reinforce its immersive outdoor theme.”

Tariffs and

Fishing Tackle

It’s no secret that much of the fishing tackle Americans like to use is manufactured in China. The American Sportfishing Association recently sent a policy alert to its members warning that proposed tariffs of 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese good could possibly impact the tackle industry. According to ASA, the goods most likely to be impacted are apparel, accessories, inflatable boats, fishing baskets, plastic rain gear and cast nets.

Published reports recently spotlighted the troubles of one company that owns a multitude of high-profile fishing brands. Newell Brands, parent company of Pure Fishing, saw its share prices drop to a five year low recently. Pure Fishing is the parent company of Abu Garcia, Berkley, Fenwick, Hardy, Penn, Pflueger, Shakespeare, SpiderWire and Stren. The company, which owns dozens of other brands including Rubbermaid, Coleman, Yankee Candle and more, announced in May it was looking to sell Pure Fishing by 2019.

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