by Chris Larsen
With the bark of a .30-06, this hunt was over before it began. Foremost Outdoor Television field producers, Dan Larsen and Jesse Windmiller, barely had time to turn on their cameras before this Wisconsin whitetail materialized. The trio, led by FOTV’s Jason Oswald, just passed the cattle gate entering the woods and made the first turn on the cow path before freezing. A young doe fed on wild berries as they approached.
It was a scenario that played out thousands of times throughout the state. The Wisconsin DNR authorizes an early antlerless deer hunt in several management units. Their intent is to give hunters in Earn-A-Buck units an opportunity to earn their buck before the traditional gun deer season begins in late November. These units are designated as Chronic Wasting Disease units or herd management units. In other words, population densities are deemed too high for overall herd health.
Jason asked, “should I take her?” The group agreed this deer should not be passed up and the shot was made. The deer scampered into the surrounding woods as Jason approached the area she was standing in when he pulled the trigger. Blood sign was everywhere. The deer was discovered 10 yards into the woods and the hunt was complete in less than five minutes.
After handshakes, pats on the back, and a lot of “that’s the fastest deer hunt I’ve ever seen”, it was time to do the dirty work. The deer was field dressed and dragged a full 50 yards back to the cabin. The little doe would not have won any contests. There is no doubt she was young of the year. But venison is venison and a filled tag allows for a hunter to shoot a buck right away during the regular gun deer season.
Still, one has to ponder our roles as hunters. In this case, we are simply unpaid assassins of the Wisconsin DNR. We are management tools and no more. The kill was made and one deer was removed from a Southern Wisconsin herd that is bursting at the seams. On the other hand, our forefathers would have scoffed at the notion of killing that deer. The doe was too young to have given birth to fawn. The hunt was not especially challenging or exciting. It was the basketball equivalent of a lay-up.
If we look further back into our history as hunters, this hunt would be regarded as an incredible success. Just 175 years ago, Wisconsinites didn’t hunt deer for enjoyment or for a connection to the outdoors. Bringing home meat quickly would be considered heroic. Whitetail hunting was done for survival. The French fur traders who first settled in the area that I call home didn’t have cows or pigs. They didn’t stay in one place long enough to grow crops. Harvesting a deer was necessary for survival. There was no judgment, no Quality Deer Management, no Earn-A-Buck.
Maybe, I’m looking into this too deeply. This deer provided the camp with a tasty meal of backstraps and tenderloins. The rest of the meat will go into sausage along with the other deer we harvest later in the year. In the end, it’s counted just like a deer we waited days for. It nourishes our bodies and will make for a great campfire story in the decades to come. It was fun… like hunting should be. Let’s not make it any thing else.