Big bucks welcome: Dixie Deer Classic March 4-6
Published 9:34 am Friday, February 25, 2022
Every year, I circle the first weekend of March on my calendar – and not because it’s the last week of the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season.
Except for 2019, when COVID got in the way, I have made an annual pilgrimage to Raleigh the past 35 years for the Dixie Deer Classic, the biggest outdoor show in North Carolina. Held in four buildings on the N.C. State Fairgrounds, it celebrates deer-hunting like nothing else around. Plenty of vendors are there to tempt you with the latest in hunting equipment, or to book you a hunt, and the sponsoring Wake County Wildlife Club brings in some famous hunters and other experts to lead seminars on a variety of subjects.
But central to the show is the annual big-buck contest, which declares which whitetail was North Carolina’s biggest taken during the previous season.
Well, it’s time again.
The show runs Friday through Sunday, March 4-6. Show hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.
Scoring for the big-buck contest will begin when the show opens on Friday; for the contest, deer must be presented for scoring by 6 p.m. on Saturday. Additional deer can be scored on Sunday, but they aren’t eligible for the contest; winners are announced at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The first year I attended, in 1986, North Carolina’s first Boone & Crockett Club buck was scored: a huge, Granville County 10-pointer killed by Dudley Barnes. Since that breakthrough buck, officials at the Classic have scored 35 more deer that qualified for the B&C record book.
The top bucks on record are: Don Rockett’s 228 4/8-inch Person County buck taken in 1998, the biggest non-typical taken by gun; Tory Pegg’s 197 4/8-inch non-typical taken in Guilford County in 2019, the biggest by bow; Terry Daffron’s 181-inch Guilford County buck from 1987, the biggest typical taken by gun; and John Tuttle’s 171-inch Rockingham County buck, taken in 2013 and the biggest typical taken by bow.
Though it’s quite unscientific, a look at the Classic’s all-time list of trophy bucks shows exactly which North Carolina counties are the real trophy producers.
Rockingham County is far and away No. 1 with seven Boone & Crockett trophies, followed by Guilford and Stokes counties with three each. A handful of counties have produced two record-book bucks: Person, Caswell, Anson and Moore.
This year’s show features hunting TV show hosts Tom Miranda and Roger Raglin, seminars on turkey hunting, waterfowl hunting, hunting with a sling bow, filming your hunts and trapping coyotes, among others. There’s a Dock Dogs contest, a Chili Cook-Off and a turkey call-making contest.
Deer harvest slightly off
With the close of Urban Archery seasons in municipalities around North Carolina, the 2021-22 deer harvest figures are coming into better focus.
Hunters took 168,425 deer, the seventh-highest total on record, a drop of about 1,500 from 2020-21 levels but a slight increase over a 3-year trend. Antlered bucks comprised 52.9% of the harvest, comparable to previous harvests. Does comprised 42.5% of the harvest, with button bucks making up the rest. Statewide. hunters killed an average of 2.47 antlered bucks per square mile.
Piedmont counties again led the harvest, with 4,422 deer killed in Randolph County, 4,104 in Anson and 3,619 in Union. Montgomery, Moore and Rockingham also ranked in the Top 10.
The record North Carolina harvest was 188,130 deer in the 2013-14 season.