Outdoor Notebook: History of the hunt
It has arrived! The time is now. The long days of waiting are over. For many of us who have been waiting for 51 weeks, the wait is over, and the 2011 Wisconsin Gun-Deer season opened Saturday at daybreak. If my math is accurate, this is the 56th time that I have participated in the Wisconsin Gun-Deer season.
There are approximately 600,000 persons who are participating in this activity. The deer season only lasts nine days, and some of us want to spend as much time in the woods as possible. For many of us, we have been thinking and talking about deer season throughout the entire year. As we drive the roads, we are constantly looking over fields hoping to see a deer.
During the years that I have been able to hunt for deer in our state, the sport has undergone many changes. During those early years, any deer hunter worth his or her salt would not shoot an antlerless deer. Good deer hunters simply would not think of shooting a deer that lacked antlers. Today, in some management zones, hunters are encouraged to shoot antlerless deer to help keep the deer herd in check.
At this point, I would like to recommend two excellent books that will give Wisconsin deer hunters a perspective on how deer hunting has developed to where it is today. The first of these is The Hunter, which traces the development of a hunter. This book was written by Rhinelander native Bob Norton. Bob researched hunters for many years when he was a psychology professor at UW-La Crosse. The other book, also written by a Rhinelander resident, is titled, On The Hunt, written by Robert Willging.Robert traces deer hunting in Wisconsin and all the regulations that have changed over the years.
When I started to hunt deer, we dressed in black and red plaid clothing, which blended in with the woods. In the early 1960s, blaze orange became accepted by the deer hunters. Our group began to wear blaze orange when we were forced to wear it on a western mule deer hunt. When hunters in Wisconsin wore blaze orange, visibility increased, and shooting accidents decreased. Today deer hunting is one of the safest of outdoor sports.
During those early days, tree stands were not in use. In fact, in Wisconsin hunters were not allowed to be more than four feet above the ground. We used brush piles to give us a better view. Guns also have changed. The lever action 32 special, or the 30-30, were in use when I first hunted. Very few hunters used scope-sighted guns.
During the ’60s and ’70s, the big deer drives were the primary method of hunting. Some groups started making drives opening morning, and continued until all the tags were filled or the season ended. Today, with the big emphasis on trophy antlers, most deer hunting is done from elevated platforms. Some of these elevated platforms are actually like small cabins, with sliding glass windows, a small heater and a roof.
When we started to hunt, we could pursue a wounded deer onto the neighbor’s property without special permission. Today it is understood that a hunter better stay off the neighbor’s property until permission is given.
Effective on Nov. 19, rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders no longer have to be in a case in order to place them in or on a vehicle or to transport them in a vehicle. It is important to be aware that it remains illegal to place a loaded rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader inside any motorized vehicle. As long as a vehicle remains stationary, it is legal for a person to sit on the exterior of a vehicle while holding a loaded firearm. These changes will alter the way some people hunt deer in Wisconsin. We will still use gun cases for transporting our rifles.
This deer season will be exciting for four of our grandchildren. Two of our grandsons and two of our granddaughters will be hunting. Only one grandson will be at our “deer shack,” but we will keep in touch with the others. My efforts will center on trying to push a deer in front of Jack.
While putting these thoughts on paper, my concentration was interrupted to watch a doe and fawn in our yard. They know where they are safe.
Have a great deer season, and hunt safely!
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.