SPRINGFIELD — Sure, there were big ones at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Expo at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.
But it was more than big bucks and big stories, though some of the non-typical racks scoring more than 200 inches already were brought in during the early hours on opening day Friday.
The bigger news was a few miles away in Springfield, where the Illinois Whitetail Alliance, an influential deer-advocacy group, finally got an audience with Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller.
The meeting was requested because of the historic drop in deer harvest in the 2013-14 seasons and because of the IDNR’s lackluster response this month. The IWA includes a top lobbyist and Brent Manning, a former IDNR director and a member of the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.
The IWA has a Facebook page and is closing in on 2,000 joined.
It is just the beginning of a tough conversation.
The coolest booth was where Mark McDaniel of Metamora worked on primitive tools. His stone knives are just righteous.
‘‘My dad took me out looking for artifacts [in Woodford County],’’ he said. ‘‘I was always curious how they did it.’’
At the show, he was working Avon chert with bust billets.
‘‘There is no flint in the Americas,’’ he said.
The billets are antlers (the biggest are moose antlers, the smaller ones are from whitetail deer) that whack the chert into usable pieces.
‘‘There is not a farm in Illinois where a primitive has not left his tools,’’ said McDaniel, who continues to collect primitive tools, as well as making his own.
His booth drew a small crowd.
‘‘I do enjoy things primitive,’’ he said in reference to his passion, though he could have been talking about deer hunting in general.
To give you an idea about where deer hunting is going, Total Concealment Game Blinds had a show special of $2,042 on a 6-by-6 blind. That’s what deer hunting means economically. Blinds and stands were the most common booths.
Smokeless tobacco had a plethora of folks there, too. For obvious reasons, deer hunters go smokeless.
At the other end of the moral spectrum, a couple of guys were handing out free camouflage Bibles from a booth. They didn’t have a shtick; they just were giving out the Bibles they bought themselves.
And segueing from soul food to deer food, there were so many types of food at Kester’s Wild Game Food Nurseries that Paul Kester couldn’t even count them. The top item is an alfalfa/white clover mix, though what is right obviously depends on the soil type.
‘‘The last 10 years, it has really taken off,’’ Kester said. ‘‘People figured out if you have food, you will actually get deer.’’
My favorite quote of the day came from a passerby at Long Beard Taxidermy: ‘‘That one there looks pretty nice.’’
There was a lot of that kind of ogling going on, and there will be even more as more deer heads come in during the weekend.
For more information about the expo, go to deerinfo.com/illinois.