Some months just seem to go by faster than others. As soon as we wrapped the March issue, I headed to the Indianapolis Deer Turkey and Waterfowl Expo that was held on February 25-27 at Indiana State Fairgrounds. I have to give credit to the management company Renfro Productions and Management for putting together a spectacular show. After spending seventeen years in the show business myself, I know the times have changed and putting on a well-attended event can be a challenge when it’s held post-pandemic. I really didn’t know what to expect. I have been hearing from other vendors for over a month about how slow sales have been at other shows. After a year off, it’s not easy getting all of your vendors to come back. When sales are down, it really puts a lot of pressure on management to make sure they are providing their clients with the best experience. For many vendors this is their lively hood. Without these events to showcase their products, they have to search for another job. They spend countless days, weeks, and months away from their family trying to make their living following the different shows. The number of small businesses that depend on these shows to survive are staggering. Unfortunately, the amount of shows that are still around are getting fewer and fewer. This means they have less opportunity to live the American Dream and work for themselves. I can’t stress enough to our outdoorsman out there the importance of attending these shows and showing support for small business. Now I know some of you digitally savvy folks are saying “I do all my shopping on-line,” and “Why don’t they build a website or sell with Amazon?” Some of these vendors can and do, but the amount of money they would have to pay to show up in an organic search over the larger companies would be astronomical, and not a good business plan ultimately.
The show opened on Thursday, and to my surprise there were several people waiting to enter the show. Thursday and Friday are never going to be blockbuster days, but this is the time for the vendors to start recouping the cost of the show. As the day progressed, it was a nice crowd for a Thursday, and Friday attendance was the same. As Saturday rolled around, I was actually running late. I should have been at my booth with about ten minutes to spare but the line of cars to get in was something I have never experience! They had four lanes of admission lines and I was two blocks from the entrance. After about 30 minutes, I was finally parking and I was four parking lots over from the entrance. I have never seen a Saturday morning like this in all my years! The place was packed shoulder to shoulder for the first six hours of the show.
I was starting to run low on magazines, but I figured if I don’t have to take any home it will be an easy moveout. As the crowd dwindled, I starting talking to some of the vendors expecting to hear how well they all did and how great it was to have a day like that. Sadly, I really didn’t hear that. I was surprised that a few of them directly around my booth said they were still down from two years ago. I was astonished at how that was even possible.
Sunday morning of the show was the same, but I decided to do some more surveillance and see if people were buying. I watched people walk by booth after booth and not even give them much look. There was a record book deer beside me, and it was getting all the attention, but even with the crowds in front of the booths, they weren’t buying. I started thinking, “Has our society changed so much that instead of buying something at a show and carrying it around, they will just go home and order online?” It seemed like if anyone was carrying something it was beef jerky, beer, or popcorn. Not really any merchandise.
I felt like management did a great job of providing the outdoorsman with great booth spaces and really brought a lot of people through the door. As an outdoorsman, I just wish we would all support the small businesses that attend these shows so we can still enjoy them in the future. It is still a great place to see new products, test deer stands, hear new calls, and spend some time with fellow outdoorsman. So at the next show you attend, please think about making your purchases in person instead of going home and purchasing from Amazon or Big Box stores. Too many of us will buy these items from big companies when we could be supporting people living life just like us.
This is even true with this magazine. Without our readers supporting businesses in this magazine, we wouldn’t be able to provide this service. Not only would it be great if all of our faithful readers purchased their products from our advertisers, but please tell them you saw their ad in this publication. It really is what makes this magazine one of the best in the Midwest.
We are truly living in a different world now. I knew covid would be a challenge and we faced it head on and came out on top. Now we have a totally different problem. The supply has dried up on many companies. It really is unfortunate, but boat dealers don’t have many boats, RV companies don’t have inventory, car dealers have very few cars and the real estate market is light on inventory. I hope that all of this will turn around for everyone soon. It’s hard for any company to survive if you don’t have anything to sell. Keep supporting all of your community’s small businesses and we will all get through it together.
On a lighter note, I was finally able to get a couple of days in the woods. When I go a month without being in the woods, I am just not feeling myself. I usually find a couple of sheds a year, but it is really not about finding sheds, its more about curing cabin fever. I headed out for my first walk and after about an hour of searching I finally found my first one. Of course, I started searching for the match even though it was only a small three point. As I decided to make one more pass, I look over and there laid the biggest shed I have ever found! Now we are not talking a giant, but it was a nice five point. This then triggered two more hours of search time for the other side which ended without a retrieval. I was happy with the two I found. I am really waiting for my trip to Missouri, which is coming after the April issue is sent to print.
I arrived home after my shed hunt, my buddy Tim calls and says he wants to go out on Saturday. Well, I wasn’t against it so I said lets meet up in the morning and give it another go. Tim has never found a shed and he has put in his fair share of time. As everyone knows it is sometimes just luck of the draw. I knew he was getting frustrated because for the last couple of years he has been going with me and inevitably I would be the one to find it.
Saturday morning arrived and I thought to myself if we cover enough of the land we should find a couple of more. We started at the front of the property and began working our way back. After an hour or so I decided to head a different direction to go meet up with Tim, and as I look down in the puddle there lays a shed. I thought to myself it’s a great year. I don’t use find this many and I still have plenty of area to search.
As Tim and I rallied back together he told me him and our buddy Al were out there the week before looking for sheds and found nothing. As a matter of fact, he asked where I found it so I showed him. Tim said they walked right by that same spot the last time they were there.
We decided to try one more area, and as I entered, I saw a big patch of grass which, on our property, usually means bedding area. I looked at Tim and alerted him to the big bedding area coming up. I gave him the signal to split up, and assured I would work myself going the other direction. A few steps later I hear, “Got one! Got a set!” I was like “What? I have never found a set!” and Tim on his first find locates a set. You could see he was excited, and I was excited for him. After about five minutes I hear him yell again, and boom! He has a third antler. We scoured the area for more, but to no avail. We decided to start heading back to the front to head for home. As we were about to get to our truck, I hear “I found another.” Tim broke the ice and ended with four sheds, which was a great day in our books. Now it’s time for my Missouri adventure. Let’s hope I find a pile of bone. If not, at least I am out enjoying god’s creation.
There is one other thing that has been on my mind for weeks. Twenty years ago during deer seasons, when we would harvest a deer, we would then head to the check in stations. When you arrived everyone was excited to show off their deer whether it was a giant buck, button buck, or doe, we would all congratulate each other on their harvest and then move on to the next deer that was laying in the back of a truck. Now I see people post on social media, and its inevitable there are several people who post negative comments. I don’t understand this. Not everyone is a horn hunter. Most hunters are out there put meat in their freezer, and they get shamed for doing so. We wonder why we are losing hunters as such an alarming rate, and this is just one of the many reasons. We all spend time in the woods to be successful. Success for each individual is different, and all of the harvests should be celebrated. We need to learn to lift each other up as hunters and not put them down. Most people only get to hunt the weekends, which limits their time to harvest a big buck. The rut doesn’t really last that long, so a couple of weekends go by, and you are post rut and it becomes harder to harvest a mature deer. To me every deer is a trophy no matter the size. Now I am not going to sit here and say I have fallen victim to doing some of this myself. Two years ago, I sat in a stand for countless hours waiting on a big buck. During the second season on Friday, I had a young eight point come out and I made the decision to harvest the animal. As soon as I took the shot, I started thinking, “Why did I shoot a small buck?” My friend come up to me and said, “Oh you shot a little one.” My first thought was I felt ashamed that I didn’t wait for a bigger deer. The more and more I thought about this the angrier I was. After that I really started to think about how we have changed as hunters. We need to be supportive of our fellow hunters and encourage the harvest of an animal no matter the size. Let’s face it we have all had Big Luey on camera and most of us never see that deer again, or see it during daylight hours. It’s time to step up and congratulate each hunter on their harvest no matter the size and stop comparing our harvests to others. We all need to look to the future of our sport and learn to make the experience a good one.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!