Outdoor Notebook: Changes in hunting and fishing gear
Times are a-changing! We constantly hear how things are changing and when we step back and think about the changes we see, it is very apparent that many changes have taken place. I have had the good fortune to participate in almost 60 deer seasons in the state of Wisconsin and a few more fishing seasons. It is no surprise to our regular readers that my two favorite outdoor activities are deer hunting and musky fishing.
Thinking back over the many years of deer hunting, many changes come to mind. When I was introduced to deer hunting by two of my uncles, the garments worn by most deer hunters were black and red plaid wool coats. Wool pants were the garment of choice and usually had pieces of red fabric sewn to them. The hunters in our group still prefer to wear heavy wool pants, but our coats are now wind-and waterproof. For the most part, the deer hunting coats we wear are quiet in the brush.
Today, all deer hunters in Wisconsin must wear outer garments that are blaze orange in color. The blaze orange stands out in the woods, even in the poor light of early morning and late afternoon.
I mentioned that two of my uncles started me in the sport of deer hunting. In many cases, young deer hunters are introduced to the sport of deer hunting by their fathers. My dad was not a deer hunter, nor did he want me to be one. Dad had a scare as a young man when he stepped out of some heavy cover and saw a gun pointed at his head.
During those early years, it was a challenge to keep a hunter’s feet dry and warm. With the exception of boots called Mickey Mouse boots, rubber boots were cold. The choice of many deer hunters during the 1950s and ’60s was to wear felt shoes and overshoes. That combination eventually gave way to rubber bottom and leather top boots with a felt liner called Sorel.
During those years, many deer hunters hunted with army surplus rifles that were heavy guns. Those rifles were bolt action guns. Generally, the rifle of choice was the lever action carbine in the 30-30 caliber or .32 special. Although some hunters still use the lever action rifles to hunt deer, many hunters use bolt action or semi-automatic rifles in a variety of calibers.
The method of deer hunting has also changed over the years. When my uncles introduced me to deer hunting, most of the hunting was done by groups of hunters who would make drives. Today, many hunters sit in elevated structures and wait for a deer to walk by their location. Hunters in many areas fear that a drive may push deer in front of neighboring stands; thus, the tendency is to take a stand and stay in that location for the entire day. To a degree, the emphasis on trophy antlers has pushed this type of hunting.
Fishing, like deer hunting, has gone through many changes. Thinking back to the days when my father and I began to fish together, we used a three-horsepower outboard motor that was clamped to the transom of a 14-foot, leaky, wooden resort boat. Perhaps in 1960 or thereabouts, we bought a 7-1/2 horsepower outboard. That motor had a pump that was attached to a hose and would bail the water from the floor of the boat.
When we started to fish for muskies, we had an inventory of four or five musky baits that were red and white or black. Today if you walk into a store that sells baits, you will see a large variety of baits in a rainbow of colors.
To move the boat along a shoreline, we would switch off and take half-hour shifts on the oars. Today, very few fishing boats even have a pair of oars but are moved along shorelines by an electric motor.
As of this date, trolling is outlawed on most of the lakes in our area. There is a proposal that will be considered by those who attend the Spring Conservation Congress Hearings that will legalize motor trolling on all lakes in the state with as many as three lines per angler. I object to this proposal, but could back it if the number of rods was lowered to two lines per angler. I feel that our lakes are too small to go to three lines per angler.
A huge change in rods and reels has taken place in the past 20 years. If you are using rods that are 20 years old, you are missing a lot of fun. Today’s rods are extremely sensitive and lightweight. I am using rods manufactured by the St. Croix Company in Park Falls.
The list could go on about many more changes; however, you are most likely aware of what is happening.
There has been a lot of new equipment and gadgets developed for hunting and fishing, but my longtime hunting and fishing partner, “The Osseo Jinx,” always says that “some of those gadgets are for poor hunters and anglers.”
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.