Illinois hunting and fishing

Trophy deer mounts draw a crowd at the Field & Stream Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic when it was held in Peoria. Photos by Chris Young.

Deer & Turkey Expo returns to Springfield

September 03, 2012 at 06:41 PM

The Field & Stream Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo will return to Springfield this winter after a 20-year absence.

An earlier incarnation was held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in the early 1990s. For the past two years, the show has been held in Peoria. Before that, it was in Bloomington.

This time, the show’s organizers couldn’t get the dates they wanted in Peoria, so it is moving to the Prairie Capital Convention Center Feb. 1-3.

Finding dates for the show during the winter, when cabin fever grips those who prefer to be outdoors, is crucial to the show’s success, organizers say.

The show was held in March the past two years.

But with temperatures growing warmer at that time of year, many hunters and anglers opted to be outside rather than attend an outdoors sports show.

“There are too many things to do in Illinois at that time of the spring,” said Glenn Helgeland of Target Communications, a publisher of outdoors-related books that also operates deer and turkey expos in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

Target Communications sold its deer and turkey expos to Bonnier Corp. in 2011, but Helgeland and his staff still coordinate the shows.

Bonnier publishes a number of magazines, including Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.

“We contacted the Prairie Capital Convention Center and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and things worked out just fine,” Helgeland said. “We won’t have as much space as we had in Peoria, but we will have enough.”

Gina Gemberling, director of convention sales for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the capital city never gave up on getting the show back.

Another group had a tentative hold on the early February dates, she said, but the deal never went to the contract stage.

“We were fortunate to have the dates open at the Prairie Capital Convention Center so we could slide in the Deer & Turkey Expo,” Gemberling said. “From mid-January to late spring, the convention center is very busy.

“We’re excited to have them back in Springfield.”

Illinois hunting and fishing
A mount of “Ginormica,” a 39-point non-typical buck, attracted a lot of attention during the Field & Stream Deer & Turkey Classic in Peoria last March. The show returns to Springfield after a two-decade absence Feb. 1 - 3.

The Deer & Turkey Expo includes 300-400 exhibitor booths, hunting and fishing seminars plus contests like the Trophy Deer Contest and State Turkey Calling and Owl Hooting Contest.

The Trophy Deer Contest drew about 300 mounted deer heads last March.

“Springfield is an excellent location in the central part of the state, and we know because of that, our attendance from (the Metro East area including, Madison and St. Clair Counties) will increase,” Helgeland said.

“Deer hunters and turkey hunters can never get too much information about their favorite sport and they will travel a long distance for it,” he said. “We have a good chance to draw hunters from every county in Illinois.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.


Show comes full circle

The Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo got its start at the Decatur Holiday Inn in 1990.

“We blew it out of the water,” said show founder Tim Walmsley of Fowler. “(The Holiday Inn) was just too small.”

Glenn Helgeland was an unpaid consultant to Walmsley in those days.

Walmsley, an official Boone & Crockett scorer, eventually sold his interest in the show to Helgeland, but he still measures trophy deer at the show each year.

Helgeland’s company, Target Communications, sold the Deer & Turkey Expos (there are expos in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) to Bonnier Corp. in 2011.

The show saw explosive growth right out of the starting gate.

“The show was immediately too big for the Holiday Inn,” Helgeland said. “They had aisles that weren’t more than four feet wide. It was gridlock.”

So the hunt was on for a more suitable location.

“So, I went to the Prairie Capital Convention Center, but we couldn’t get it for the dates we wanted and it ended up at the Illinois State Fairgrounds,” Walmsley said. “But that had its own problems.”

“Every year, we moved up to a bigger building,” Helgeland said. “By the third year, we had outgrown everything there that had (an adequate heating system for) that time of the year.”

The show moved up the road to Peoria, then to Bloomington, and finally it moved back to Peoria again before its planned return to Springfield in 2013.

“We know, too, that Springfiel d will be a good home for the show because we were there the second, third and fourth years of our existence,” Helgeland said. “It’s kind of like we are coming back home.”