Hunter gathering

Exhibition brings together participants, families and enthusiasts of deer hunting
Sunday, March 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:56 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

With the deer hunting season officially over, hunters gathered at the 16th Annual Missouri Deer Classic to extend the season by comparing trophies and techniques.

Continuing today, it features seminars and more than 200 exhibits, including trophy and taxidermy displays, hunting equipment and apparel, a kid’s archery range and a pellet rifle range.

Hunters can bring own trophies to be scored

Hunters can also bring their own trophies to the classic to be officially scored. According to the Conservation Commission of Missouri’s Web site, head mounts, racks and hides are the most common deer hunting trophies.

Craig Meissen and his mother, Shelly, both of Howard County, attended this year for the first time. A hunter for four years, 15-year-old Craig said he has brought home bucks in the past, but they were “no claim to fame.” This year he earned his bragging rights with a trophy buck.

He brought his trophy to the classic to be scored. Points are awarded based on the size, width and the number of points on a rack.

Shelly Meissen said for their family, the classic is about the pride of showing off their trophy.

“As Craig carried it across the room, his chest inflated a little,” she said of Craig’s trophy buck. “Now, that’s pride for you.”

According to Millie Foster, a member of Missouri Bow Hunters and the classic’s support staff, between 10,000 and 12,000 people attend the event annually. Foster contributes the success of the event to the wide variety of exhibitors.

“We have a lot to offer,” she said. “It’s kind of like a flea market ... there are all varieties of food, candy, pictures and clothes.”

Many use the event as an opportunity to exchange stories and play show-and-tell. Others simply attend to catch up with people.

“We all come to see each other each year and renew friendships,” Foster said.

Tommy Thomas of Mokane and Robert Varnadore of Tebbetts agreed.

“We like to come and see how many people we know,” Varnadore said.

Thomas has attended almost every classic. This is Varnadore’s third time. Neither of the men had a trophy to show off this year, but they came to see the exhibits and exchange stories.

“When the event began, there wasn’t many women or kids,” Thomas said of the event’s evolution. “Now it’s a family event.”

Don and Claudette Roper of Farmington have coordinated every classic since it began in Kansas City.

Gathering has evolved over past 16 years

Foster said of the first classic: “We sat for 12 hours a day just listening to people; we were bored to tears and would fall asleep. After putting thoughts and ideas of different people together, we came up with this,” she said of the current format.

In addition to showing off trophies and catching up with people, Thomas said the event reflects the year’s hunting season, and gives hunters an idea of the year’s harvest.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Harvest Summary reports about 254,276 deer killed during the 2003 hunting season. That’s an increase of 6,484 deer from 2002.

The 16th Annual Missouri Deer Classic continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Boone Country Fairground. Admission is $6 for adults; children 10 and under get in free when accompanied by an adult.

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