North Carolina’s deer hunters are maturing, and so are the deer.
That was a theme at the 36th annual Dixie Deer Classic held March 4-6 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
“We used to do (measure) 600 deer, but the quality wasn’t what it is now. I think the people of North Carolina are a starting to realize they should just let the little deer go,” said Jerry Wagoner, president of the Wake County Wildlife Club, which conducts the hunting exposition as its only fundraiser in support of its education and conservation programs and scholarships.
The show drew more than 20,500 paid attendees, volunteer Jim Hudson said, and several thousand youths 12 and under were admitted for free. Volunteers measured 465 deer, part of the state’s whitetail herd that has grown to about 1 million.
One hunter who lets deer grow is timber and land buyer Patrick Williams, 33, of Belews Creek. He said he goes without a buck some years because he hunts only deer like the Rockingham County buck that scored a 195 7/8 and received best-in-show and best nontypical by gun honors at the March 6 awards ceremony.
“In the last five years, I’ve only killed two bucks, and both of those deer were over 150,” he said. “… If it’s not 140, 150 inches, I don’t even mess with it.”
Other select award winners:
▪ Managing for larger deer paid off for Calvin McCaskill, 42, of Thomasville. His 167 7/8 Moore County buck was the best N.C. typical by bow.
▪ Another Rockingham County buck spotted over several years proved a winner for Lance Gunn, 51, of Reidsville. The 164 6/8 buck was the best N.C. typical gun entry.
▪ Grayson Lister, 22, of Trinity shot a three-legged Randolph County buck that scored 184 4/8 and was the best N.C. muzzleloader nontypical entry.
▪ Garret Richardson, 14, of Ellerbe shot a 159 5/8 Richmond County buck and won best N.C. male youth typical by bow and one of two President’s Awards given out.
▪ On her 12th birthday, Kasey Roberts of Fuquay-Varina killed a 12-point Chatham County buck that measured 147 7/8 and was the best youth female gun category winner.
▪ Wayne L. Holland, 62, of Angier found a set of shed antlers in Harnett County that scored 167 7/8 to win the nonhunting category.
▪ The best Virginia nontypical deer taken by gun won a President’s Award for Gary Gilbert, 55, of Axton, Va. The Henry County buck scored 186 7/8.
▪ John Thomas Yarbrough of Lillington, 12, won a place in the Boone & Crocket Club’s all-time record book with a Dec. 22 black bear kill that also was the Classic’s best bear by gun and youth bear winner. The Beaufort County bear, which weighed 649.9 pounds, was scored at 22 1/16. Nine other entries were scored in the new bear category.