Television shows like “Swamp People” and “Duck Dynasty” have helped introduce city-dwelling Americans to the giving, friendly nature of hunters, but the good people of Montgomery, Ala. have know that little secret for years.
When 25,000 camouflage-clad sportsmen and their families converged on Montgomery’s Renaissance Hotel & Convention center over the weekend for the 20th annual Buckmasters Expo, locals just smiled and said, “Oh, it must be the Buckmasters Expo.”
It didn’t take them 20 years to learn how the Expo visitors bring in thousands of pounds of food for folks in need, and they also know the long restaurant lines, slow traffic and filled parking spaces translate to a big boost for the local economy.
Despite the effects of tropical weather throughout much of the state, hunters turned out for another great Expo crowd. With the support of Presenting sponsor Yamaha and many other national sponsors, Buckmasters is able to avoid charging consumers to attend the show. Instead they collect food to benefit the local community. Altogether, about 60,000 pounds of canned goods – the price of admission is just one can of food – were collected during the event, Aug. 16-18, 2013.
“This was the 20th Expo, and it makes me proud to be a hunter every time,” said Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman. “No matter what the economy is doing, the folks come out with their food cans, smiling as they drop them in the bins at the entrance.
“It’s easy to see it means something to them to be helping others,” he continued. “The can of food admission also means entire families can come to the Expo. Just as hunting is a sport best enjoyed with the whole family, coming to the Expo is a family event.”
The Salvation Army has been helping families since 1865, making them the perfect partner to distribute the food gathered at the Expo.
“The Salvation Army is grateful to Buckmasters for allowing us to collect the canned goods that will go a long way in helping those in need in the River Region,” said Capt. Mark Gilliam. “We thank the Church of the Highlands for helping us collect the food. This food will be given out of our Food Pantry and at Christmas when we help many families and individuals.”
Of course the heart of the Expo is the stuff! While they might not admit they like shopping, even the men can’t wait to browse the more than 300 merchant booths in search of just the right gear or clothing to make this fall’s hunt successful.
And nobody comes to the Expo without stepping into the archery range to watch some of the best shooters in the world compete in the Buckmasters Top Bow Indoor World Championship.
The Top Bow competition, which is filmed for the Buckmasters television show, took place throughout the weekend. Skipper Booth of Northport, Ala., won the 2013 title, taking away $15,000, competitive archery shooting’s top prize.
Other Expo attractions included the Young Bucks game-filled kids’ area and the Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records wall of whitetails.
Hunters from throughout Alabama and nearby states like Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi and Illinois brought their mounts to be displayed and measured by BTR master scorers. Of the 60 racks taped, 12 scored high enough for inclusion in “Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records.”
“Everyone here dreams of taking a big buck, and deer hunters never get tired of seeing the mounts their fellow hunters bring to the show,” Bushman said. “They’re not all giants, but each one is a trophy to the guy or gal who got it.”
Another big attraction was the BTR Golden Laurel Citation display. The Golden Laurel award is given to the most significant buck entered into the record book for a given year, and the winner traditionally brings the mount to the Expo. Thad Cartwright was no exception, and his giant Kentucky buck is the new BTR world record in its category, with an official score of 273 2/8 inches (excluding spread).
“Even with the great vendors, the show attractions and our hard work, we couldn’t pull off this event without the support of the City of Montgomery, the Montgomery County Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and national and local sponsors,” Bushman said. “Everyone involved goes above and beyond to make the Expo happen, and want them to know how much we appreciate their support.”
This year’s Expo will be Aug. 15, 16 and 17. Vendors interested in participating in the 2014 event can call Donna Gross, director of Expo Sales, at (334) 387-2619, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 Buckmasters Expo Quick Facts
- Admission price was one can of food per person, which is expected to generate more than 120,000 meals for the Salvation Army’s Montgomery-area shelter and the River Region.
- The Convention Center was filled to capacity with 300-plus exhibitor booths and approximately 25,000 visitors.
- Hunters spent 24.4 billion dollars on equipment and travel-related expenses in 2011*, making a significant contribution to the nation’s economy. *Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 2011.
- Country music legend John Anderson entertained more than 1,800 Buckmasters members at a free concert Saturday night.
- National and local sponsors: Yamaha, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Barnett Crossbows, Buck Knives, Easton, Federal Premium Ammunition, Field Logic, GAMO, Hodgdon Powder, Hunter Safety System, Hunter’s Specialties, Mathews, Millennium Treestands, Muzzy Broadheads, NAPA, Nationwide Insurance, Outdoor Channel, Realtree, Scent-Lok, Streamlight, ThermaCELL, Thompson/Center Arms, Tink’s, Creek Casino Montgomery & Windcreek Wetumpka, Hardee’s, Stivers Ford Lincoln Mazda, Miller Lite, WLWI and WSFA.