The following is Tomahawk Leader Co-Publisher Larry Tobin's column from the 12-5-06 issue. At the end he seeks your thoughts and experiences from this and recent gun deer hunts:
Maybe only complainers talk to me. That said, I suppose no one will speak to me anymore for fear of being labeled a whiner like me, but that’s probably another issue.
To date, I’ve only spoken to one person who had what would be called a really good gun deer hunting season. Everyone else either saw very few deer or, in quite a number of cases, none at all. A lot of guys told me they shot the only deer they saw, whereas in other years they’d pass up smaller bucks and see lots of deer. Heck, five or six years ago I passed up six different bucks during the gun season. For a number of years in either the gun or archery seasons I’ve only shot bucks with four points on one side or adult does.
For the second year in a row I saw just one deer during the gun season. This year the one deer came 10 minutes before the legal shooting on opening day. I hunt in Unit 25 in Brantwood and I’ve been saying for several years now that the deer population there has been declining to next to none.
Since the harvest was down this year in Price County, maybe the DNR will pay attention now but I doubt it. T-Zones and too many bears have destroyed what used to be good deer hunting there. It took me eight years to get a bear kill tag (only four years the first time) and I saw 10 different bears from one stand in eight days of hunting. That’s a lot for a small area. There are wolves not too distant from my place but I’ve only seen two sets of tracks in 14 years. I don’t think they are an immediate problem in my area, probably because they’d starve!
There were some interesting sidelines in this year’s hunt for me. I know there was a lot of illegal activity, for one thing. On the Thursday before gun season I bow hunted (the last legal day of the early season). Between 4:30 and the time I got back to my cabin at 5:05 I heard more shooting than virtually all opening day of gun season. People were sighting in rifles, obviously, but a good many of them (from the sound of the shots) at brown, moving targets. When you don’t have to register a deer for more than a week, who can tell whether it was shot on Saturday or the Thursday before, right?
The weather was dead calm on the opener and I could hear traffic on Hwy. 8 (a mile and a half away) like it was 100 feet from me. I could hear a long way. Between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. I counted the sound of gunshots – anything to keep awake. Fourteen! I’ve heard more shooting from grouse hunters earlier in the fall.
Again on Sunday morning it was dead calm. I could hear a vehicle moving slowly on the gravel road half a mile north of me. The property between there and mine is posted and not hunted as far as I know. There were two shots and a moment later the vehicle took off, in a hurry this time, speeding north onto County Road D.
My guess? Cynic that I am, someone shot a deer from the road, on private property, and planned on coming back after dark to retrieve it.
I’ve loved hunting nearly all of my adult life but it comes with the expectation that I might at least see a deer at any given time. That anticipation is part of the thrill of the hunt. At my Brantwood cabin I no longer have that expectation. So far in the pass two years, between archery and gun seasons, four of every five outings I’ve seen nothing at all (if you don’t count turkeys). I used to be confident that I’d see six or more deer at any sitting.
Speaking of turkeys, during the archery season, for the first time since I began bow hunting in 1973, I have only had two possible shots at a deer. Both were small bucks – a little five-pointer and a spike that would not have qualified as an antlered deer. It was early in the season and I passed on both. I was going to shoot a doe one evening, just to put some meat in the freezer, but a couple of dozen turkeys on the other side of me saw the movement and flew. The doe did everything but the same.
With the anticipation of seeing deer all but gone, the lure of the hunt in Wisconsin is waning for me also. I hunted only opening weekend a year ago and the same this year with the addition of Tuesday afternoon. It’s become a matter of not being worth the bother since I know there is little likelihood of seeing anything. Between checking after recent snows and rain before that, all the deer sign I’ve found could have been made by all of three animals.
I’ve decided to concentrate more on hunting in other states. I spend a lot of time in Montana hunting elk but now I’m going to start looking for more deer hunting opportunities as well.
Some friends of mine and I have also applied, without success, for archery licenses in Kansas. Now, however, we have enough preference points that we’re virtually guaranteed licenses in 2007. Guess where I expect to be at the height of the deer rut next fall? I’ll give the one or two bucks left in my corner of Brantwood a break to have fun with the three or four remaining does.
What do you think?
Anyway, I’d like to know what you think of the deer season. Send me your thoughts, keeping them as brief as possible. Include your name, address and telephone number and send them to: Larry Tobin, Tomahawk Leader, P.O. Box 345, Tomahawk, WI 54487 or e-mail to email@example.com
No guarantees that we’ll have room to print every one but I am willing to forward them all (along with my own) to the DNR. Maybe it will start a trend or, if I find out everyone’s having fun but me, I’ll shut up on the subject.