Do camaraderie and tradition help drive Wisconsin gun deer hunting interests?

What brings these Alaska men back to Wisconsin to hunt deer? They say they like the taste of our venison.

There are two fundamental interests that seem to be at odds with one another in gun deer hunting discussions. And there are dozens more, but these two seem to be in the hot zone at the moment.

Deer biologists and a host of other groups and individuals are concerned about the deer population, which in some areas of Wisconsin are too great for the social and animal carrying capacities. In a few areas the numbers are still low.

There is also concern regarding the loss of gun deer hunters from the nearly 700,000 who purchased licenses in the relatively recent past.

Yet other recreational activities, i.e. sturgeon spearing, are alive and well. The base is considerably smaller and the season more of a local flavor, in spite of licenses being sold to residents in every Wisconsin county and to spearers in 34 states.

Given those differences, isn’t there something gun deer hunting can take from sturgeon spearing to at least attempt to hold interest, anticipation, camaraderie, excitement, and traditions?

And wouldn’t that also help in one of the principle purposes of gun deer season and that is to help manage the herd?

Sturgeon spearers seem to be driven by tradition, camaraderie, and the unique aspect of the fish itself.

One fisheries biologist explained it this way: The activity is passed down from generation to generation.  The equipment is homemade or handed down, too.  The DNR’s “marketing” of the spearing season is done in a timely manner.  The public is engaged in the management program, in decision making.  The animal is unique.  The general public and media can get involved at many levels.

The expectation is different with some spearers going 20 to 30 years before getting a fish or between fish in some cases. If someone in the group gets a fish, there is not a jealousy toward that individual.  Everyone is happy for them.

What has changed in the deer world in the last decade or so? The entire registration system has been turned upside down. Chronic wasting disease was discovered in Wisconsin.  There have been fights about seasons and the hunting implements used.  The backbone of many of these came from an entirely different culture of hunting (Texas).  The animal has been degraded, and the hunter, too, by eliminating consideration of hunter age.  Trophy consideration has risen to new levels.  Changes have, to a large extent, changed the season to something almost against camaraderie, nearly totally online-based, and somewhat competitive.

Look before you leap this time. Eat venison for Thanksgiving.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608.924.1112.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Whitetail Deer, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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