On Friday at 3 p.m., the doors of the State Fairgrounds Coliseum will open for the Minnesota Deer Classic. The annual affair has attracted thousands of deer aficionados since its inception 30 years ago.
The three-day event will feature more than 200 exhibitors displaying a variety of hunting and outdoor goods. Seminars by hunting experts include subjects from how to train your dog to find shed antlers, to how to field dress and prepare your deer for the freezer.
But mostly the Deer Classic is about antlers. Big antlers. Last year, there were more than 600 trophy racks and shed antlers entered.
Antlers have intrigued people since deer were hunted using spearheads chiseled from stone. Centuries later, the fascination hasn't waned.
What is it about deer antlers that attracts hunters?
If you hunt deer, you probably hope someday to bag a buck with huge antlers -- a rack sporting 10 or 12 lofty points protruding from main beams that sweep high and wide.
Part of the antler addiction is linked to the rarity and wariness of bucks that carry large antlers.
"My dream buck would possess antlers with tall tines, a tight spread, and heavy main beams," said Tony Peterson of Andover.
Peterson is Equipment Editor for Bowhunter Magazine, and has hunted whitetails in a number of states, mostly with bow and arrow, but also with rifle, shotgun and muzzleloader.
"I love big antlers," said Peterson, "but I also love big-bodied mature bucks regardless of the size of their antlers."
For most of us, our antler addiction developed over time. We started out hunting any deer, and were happy when something with four legs and brown hair walked into our sights.
My first deer was a button buck fawn. Even though I bagged that deer more than 40 years ago, I can still see my arrow carving a path through the air on its way to my intended target.
A natural progression, though, is for humans to raise the bar in most of our undertakings. What golfer doesn't desire a hole-in-one, or at least a lower score than his or her previous best? What angler is completely and forever satisfied with the run-of-mill catch?
Antler addiction doesn't inflict everyone. That's fine, but for those with the disease, the Minnesota Deer Classic will provide at least some relief.