COLUMBIA — Families were a common sight among the hundreds of deer hunting enthusiasts gathered at the 28th Missouri Deer Classic.
Missouri youth, ages 6 to 15, are allowed by law to hunt deer without antlers and turkey when in the presence of an adult.
Organizers tried to make this year’s Deer Classic a more family-friendly environment, event organizer Guy Robert said.
“There are a lot more kids than I expected,” Jody Graff, who has been coming to the Deer Classic since he was a child, said. “If we bring our children to these events, it is more likely to extend that hunting heritage."
A popular exhibit among parents and their children was the Missouri Department of Conservation’s fishing simulator, which featured a fishing rod and a virtual pond. More children's entertainment came in the form of an inflatable castle and the chance to take a picture with the "Sasquatch."
Also present at the event was the organization Kids Need A Place to Start, whose main goal is to help disabled children or children with single parents get involved in the outdoors. Since 2008, 40 children have gone on hunting trips with the organization, founder Dennis Jasper said. Parents are also welcome to participate in order to get the family together and help the children feel confident.
"When kids go hunting, they are on the top of the world that day," Jasper said.
While the event offered children's activities, many of the adults were enthusiastic about the Missouri Big Buck Contest. Hunters enter their antlers in the contest, which are then evaluated for various characteristics including size, symmetry and shape.
Official scorer Don Roper said this year’s competition was tough because many nice antlers were entered and some achieved national recognition.
Evan Foreman, of Kirksville, entered one of the nationally recognized pairs. He managed to harvest the antlers after taking a four-year hiatus from hunting. Foreman said he went out one day and shot the deer within an hour.
“The deer made a bad decision that day,” Foreman said.
Foremen said that the four-to-five-year-old antlers achieved national recognition because of the deer's genetics and the quality of its food environment in Saline County.
As of Saturday afternoon, attendance was up from last year, show director Joe Pendergrass said. Final numbers of attendance are not yet available.
The second and final day of the event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the the Central Missouri Event Center, 5212 North Oakland Gravel Road.
Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.