Outdoor Blast Reflections With Duncan Dobie
For three glorious days in August all the world was good again. For many of us, the past year-and-a-half has been a huge void—a blip on the map—a time like no other in American history. Continuous cancelations (including the 2020 Outdoor Blast), school closings, working from home, limited travel and in many cases, living like hermits has really made us hanker to get out and start living life again. And with the 2021-2022 hunting season here at last, timing couldn’t have been better for the Aug. 20 -22 Ag-Pro GON Outdoor Blast held at the LakePoint Sports Center near Cartersville.
Georgia hunters were more than ready to celebrate the new season and they seemed to come out of the woodwork for the show. For many of us, it was a breath of fresh air, and the new location turned out to be a real gem of a place to hold the Blast.
I met a lot of great vendors, spent more money than I should have and saw a lot of old friends who I had not seen in several years. When I first walked in to set up my booth, I’m not sure Daryl Kirby and Brad Gill even recognized me! That’s what the time bubble has done to us over the past two years (although I did admit to Daryl that I might have aged just a tiny bit over the past two years, and I might have one or two more gray hairs than I did the last time he saw me.)
Remember the story about Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving? Ol’ Rip, who wasn’t much good at anything except hunting and fishing, went out on a hunting trip with his rifle and dog in the “Kaatskills” (Catskill Mountains of New York), to get away from his nagging wife. He met up with some questionable souls who gave him a little too much to drink and fell asleep under a tree for 20 years. When he woke up and went home, the world had changed significantly.
That’s sort of the way I felt when I first walked into the Blast, but seeing so many familiar faces quickly canceled out the time warp. One of those faces belonged to my old buddy Daryl Gay, who always keeps me in stitches with his back-page column in GON. When it comes to portraying “good ol’ boys,” no one can do it as well as Daryl!
Lots of people gave me positive comments about the big buck display. Since the show was almost in Floyd Benson’s back yard (he lives in the Dallas area), a number of people asked me why we didn’t have his great deer on display. If the Good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, maybe next year we can. But it really made me feel good when so many people came by and said, “This is a great show. Man, I got my $10 worth for sure!”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a typical Blast if you didn’t have at least one misguided soul who will come by the booth, stare up at the 191 4/8-inch Buck Ashe state-record typical or the 184-inch Gene Almand buck and say, “I got two deer on my place in Pike County that are bigger than that.” Or, someone else will invariably say, “I saw one in the back of a pickup last year bigger than anything you have hanging on the wall here.” It’s nice to know so many state-record bucks are running around in the Georgia woods. That means it’s going to be a great season for some future Truck-Buck contestant in 2022!
I missed my friend Steve Scruggs who retired after so many great years of putting on incredible snake shows at the Blast in years past, but the new snake man, Jason Clark with Southeastern Reptile Rescue, was outstanding. He really knows his stuff and he’s a natural performer in front of a crowd. I loved watching him.
And the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out was also a blast! (Pun intended.) Congratulations to Logan Crosson, of Tifton, for driving away with the grand prize and congratulations to sharpshooter Holden Hines, of Macon, who won the Youth Shoot-Out. I got to meet most of the hunters in the Shoot-Out along with their families, and it made me proud to be a Georgia deer hunter to see all of these great folks.
The kids’ Shoot-Out was especially inspiring. Seeing the joy and excitement on those young hunter’s faces was special, and seeing some of the bucks they shot last year made me green with envy. In fact, all of the bucks entered in the Truck-Buck contest were impressive to say the least.
The hard-working folks at GON who put on the show and kept it running for three days did an amazing job. And all of the volunteers were outstanding.
When I first drove up to unload my deer heads, I was accosted by no less than three very courteous volunteers who wouldn’t let me carry a single thing inside the building. Those volunteers worked tirelessly all weekend long to help out wherever needed and to make sure the show was running smoothly. Master taxidermist Scott Hodges, of Byron, made sure all of the deer heads were secure on the wall, and he did a great job keeping track of all the deer heads being brought in to be scored, as well as those entered in the Shoot-Out. And speaking of scoring deer heads, I never even got a chance to talk to my friend Bill Cooper because he was scoring deer racks non-stop. I’m not sure how many came in, but all of the measurers had their work cut out for them.
People came from many parts of Georgia to be at the show. I talked to a number of people who drove up from south Georgia and one small group who flew up to Cartersville in a small airplane. That’s the way to travel!
The Blast is over, fall is just around the corner and deer season is at hand. Thank you GON for lighting the old candle again! Covid or no Covid, it was just what the doctor ordered!
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