Could they be right for a change? The forecast is for snow for Saturday's Wisconsin gun-deer season opener. That's good news for those of us who call ourselves deer hunters. "Sighting" and "tracking" snow make hunting much more enjoyable. I have hunted many years without snow, sitting in my stand and wondering how many deer sneaked past without me seeing them. Hopefully, we will get just enough snow, not too much like it was one year when a blizzard ruined our first day. If my memory is correct, the season was extended because many hunters were snowed out on opening weekend when the majority of deer are usually taken. We are forecast to receive anywhere from 1 to 5 inches, depending upon what news media or website you rely upon. The National Weather Service predicts 2-4 inches, adding: Friday night - Snow, mainly after 9 p.m.; Low around 25; North wind 5 to 9 mph; Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible. Saturday's forecast: A 40 percent chance of snow, mainly before 7 a.m.; Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 30. North wind 8 to 13 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected. We'll see! Have a safe, successful hunt.
'Deer Chronology in Wisconsin' a must-read every year
This is one of my favorite times of the year on our website. Each year about this time, the Wisconsin DNR sends me its deer hunting media package filled with everything from A-to-Z about deer hunting. However, I always skip to the "A Chronology of Deer Hunting in Wisconsin," right away. Don't get me wrong, I use many of the other stories, photos and breakouts supplied by the DNR, but the majority of the website views historically point to the lengthy deer hunting chronology as the favorite. Why? First, it dates all the way back to 1834. More important, we all relate to dates depending how old we are, especially to those of us who hunt deer. Born on Nov. 26, 1946, I began hunting in 1960, the first time hunters were not permitted to buy a license after the opening day of the gun season. It eliminated the illegal use of a hunter killing a deer, calling someone to go and buy a license, and then meet him or her near where the deer was shot. The hunter would then escort the newly-licensed hunter to the deer and he or she would tag it. That way, the "real" hunter could save his or her own tag for more hunting. The year 1963 also stands out. That was the year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. There were very few hunters in our heavily hunted territory as well as the rest of the state. I also remember 1980 when blaze orange clothing was first required. There were other key years, too, with key topics such as Earn-A-Buck rules, Zone T hunts, CWD, Mentored Hunting Program, electronic registration and harvest authorizations. Each year - from 1834 through 2018 - is unique. Every year I learn something new or recall another story from the past. I hope you do, too. Pour another cup of hot coffee or your favorite beverage, read and enjoy.
A chronology of Wisconsin deer hunting: Closed seasons to record harvests Wisconsin has a long and storied tradition of regulated gun deer hunting stretching all the way back to 1851. There have been many changes over the years, but few as notable as those experienced by hunters during the late 1990s and early 21st century. 1834 - Lafayette County, first reported crop damage by deer. 1851 - First closed season for deer Feb. 1-June 30; Indians permitted to hunt anytime. 1876 - Hunting with dogs prohibited statewide. 1887 - Two game wardens appointed by governor at a monthly salary of $50; night hunting prohibited statewide. 1888 - Game laws published in pamphlet form. 1890 - First chief warden appointed. 1892 - Lawful to kill any dog running or hunting deer. 1895 - Sheboygan first county closed to deer hunting; deer cannot be transported unless accompanied by hunter; last October deer season in state. 1897 - First bag limit for deer, two per season; resident license costs $1, nonresident license costs $30; estimated license sales total 12,000. 1900 - Twelve hunters killed by firearms. 1903 - Estimated 78,164 licenses sold. 1905 - Salt licks prohibited. 1909 - Season 20 days long, limit one deer; first civil service exam given on a competitive basis for prospective wardens. 1910 - Deer populations drop to record low numbers due to unregulated hunting and market shooting. 1914 - Twenty-four hunters killed, 26 injured; license sales at 155,000. 1915 - First buck only season. 1917 - Shining deer illegal while possessing a firearm; Conservation Commission delegated some powers related to deer season, but Legislature retains authority to set seasons; deer tags (paper) required for the first time...they cost 10 cents. 1919 - Estimated kill is 25,152. 1920 - First use of metal deer tags...they cost 10 cents. 1921 - Wardens are instructed that "all deer found in possession...with horns less than three inches in length, is a fawn and should be confiscated." 1924 - Estimated kill is 7,000. 1925 - Legislature passes law closing deer season in alternate years. 1927 - No open season. 1928 - Deer hunters required to wear official conservation button while hunting; Game Division formed with Conservation Department; estimated kill is 17,000 with 69,049 deer tags sold. 1929 - No open season. 1930 - Estimated kill is 23,000 with 70,284 deer tags sold; first deer killed by a bowhunter. 1931 - No open season. 1932 - Deer tag price is raised to $1; estimated kill is 36,009 with 70,245 deer tags sold. 1933 - No open season; Conservation Congress, an advisory group representing public opinion registered at annual county hearings, begins to assist the Conservation Commission in establishing a deer management policy. 1934 - First official archery deer season; estimated gun kill is 21,251 with 83,939 deer tags sold. 1935 - No open season. 1937 - Shortest deer season on record, three days. 1938 - Use of .22 rifle and .410 shotgun prohibited. 1939 - Licensed children between ages 12 and 16 must be ccompanied by parent or guardian; buckshot prohibited statewide. 1941 - Deer predators rare, timber wolves nearing extinction; estimated gun kill is 40,403 with 124,305 deer tags sold. 1942 - Back tags required while deer hunting. 1943 - First doe and fawn season in 24 years. The 1943 season was unique in Wisconsin, with a "split season" with forked (greater than 1" fork) bucks-only for 4 days followed by a 3-day closure and then 4 days of antlerless-only (128,000 harvest). 1945 - First year of 'shotgun only' counties; wearing red clothing required while hunting deer. 1949 - The 1949 season was an unusual any deer hunt; bucks with more than a two-inch fork were protected (159,000 harvest). 1950 - First 'any deer' season since 1919; estimated gun kill is 167,911 with 312,570 deer tags sold. 1951 - Deer hunting license and tag cost $2.50; orange clothing now included under red clothing law; Wisconsin leads nation in whitetail deer kill for third consecutive year. 1953 - First season gun deer hunters required to register deer at checking station. 1954 - Two-thirds of bucks harvested are less than three years old; portions of Walworth and Waukesha counties and all of Jefferson County open for the first time since 1906. 1956 - 100th established gun deer season; registered gun kill is 35,562 with 294,645 deer tags sold. 1957 - Legislature authorizes party permit. 1958 - Longest deer season since 1916, 16 days; Rock County open for the first time since 1906; first harvest by deer management unit (in northwest and northeast only); registered gun kill is 95,234, of which 44,987 taken by party permit; 335,866 deer tags and 58,348 party permits sold, respectively. 1959 - First statewide deer registration by unit; Game Management Division of Conservation Department assumes responsibility for coordinating the state's deer program; first open season in Kenosha County since 1906. 1960 - Hunters not permitted to buy a license after opening day of gun season; Green and Racine counties open for the first time since 1906; all counties now open except Milwaukee; registered gun kill is 61,005, of which 25,515 taken by party permit; 338,208 deer tags and 47,522 party permits sold, respectively. 1961 - Resident big game license increased from $4 to $5; first use of SAK - sex-age-kill population reconstruction technique for estimating deer numbers; hunters required to transport deer openly while driving to registration station; legislation authorizing unit specific quotas for antlerless harvest established. 1962 - Deer population above 400,000; deer management unit specific population goals established. 1963 - First year of quota party permits in eight management units; assassination of President Kennedy lessens hunting pressure. 1964 - Party permit quota extended to 32 management units. 1967 - Hunter Safety Education Program begins. 1970 - Registered gun kill is 72,844 with 501,799 licenses sold; 13 hunters killed. 1973 - No deer season fatalities. 1978 - Record registered gun kill is 150,845 with 644,594 licenses sold. 1980 - Blaze orange clothing required; first season of Hunter's Choice permit; new law prohibits shining wild animals from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 15-Dec. 31; coyote season closed in northern management units to protect nascent wolf population. 1981 - Record registered deer kill of 166,673 with 629,034 licenses sold. 1982 - Another record registered gun kill of 182,715 with 637,320 licenses sold; three deer season fatalities. 1983 - Harvest continues to rise with another record registered gun kill of 197,600 with 649,972 licenses sold; experimental antlerless deer shunt in six southern management units to relieve crop damage. 1984 - Big jump in registered kill, fourth record harvest in a row of 255,726 with license sales totaling 657,969; handgun deer hunting allowed in shotgun areas; group hunting legalized. 1985 - Fifth consecutive record kill of 274,302 with 670,329 licenses sold; deer season extended in 21 management units; Legislature further strengthens road hunting restrictions. 1986 - Gun deer season now nine days statewide; landowner preference program begins for Hunter's Choice permits. 1987 - First year of bonus antlerless permits; seven fatalities and 46 injuries. 1988 - Handguns permitted statewide. 1989 - Record registered gun harvest of 310,192 with 662,280 licenses sold; pre-hunt herd estimate of 1.15 million deer; two fatalities and 37 firearm injuries. 1990 - License sales peak at 699,275; another record gun kill of 350,040, including 209,005 antlerless deer; archers take 49,291 deer; pre-hunt herd estimate of 1.3 million; season extended for seven days in 67 management units. 1991 - First year of separate, seven-day muzzleloader season; third consecutive year of record gun harvest, 352,330; archery harvest jumps to 69,097; hunters allowed to buy more than one antlerless permit. 1992 - Natural Resources Board approves DNR secretary's recommendation to keep the gun season at nine days; new metro management units established around La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee; after three record-breaking harvests, gun harvest drops to 288,820, still the fourth highest on record. 1993 - Pre-hunt herd population at 1 million with many units below prescribed goals; 34 units, mainly in the north, designated as buck- only units; license sales dip to 652,491; gun harvest at 217,584; archers take 53,008 deer; one fatality, 17 firearm injuries. 1994 - Gun harvest back up, by more than 90,000, to 307,629. Hunters Choice permit widely available; six northwest management units remain buck only; herd beginning to build up in southern agricultural range. 1995 - For the first time hunters can use their bonus or Hunter's Choice permits in either the gun, bow or muzzleloader seasons; gun harvest totals 398,002, a new state record; archers kill a record 69,269 deer; 32 firearm incidents, one fatality. 1996 - First October gun deer hunt since 1897; "Earn-a-Buck" rules, requiring hunters to harvest a doe before taking a buck, established in 19 deer management units in agricultural range; special four-day, antlerless-only season in October in all 19 of these DMUs. October gun harvest is 24,954 deer. 1997 - The safest gun season ever with one fatality and 10 injuries; 'Earn a Buck' provision scuttled; early Zone T (October gun) season in seven management units and three state parks. 1998 - Gun harvest of 332,254 is fifth highest; bow hunters take a record 75,301 deer, 18.5 percent of total; 19 firearm incidents with two fatalities; after a mild winter, most DMUs estimated to be above population goals; early October season held in one management unit, 67A. 1999 - Record gun harvest of 402,204 deer; record archery harvest at 92,203; licensed hunters at 690,194, second highest to date; resident deer license costs $20; non-resident license $135; early archery season, traditionally closed a week before November gun hunt, is extended in all 7 Zone T units through the Thursday preceding the traditional gun opener. 2000 - The gun harvest jumps by more than 125,000 deer to an all-time record of 528,494. With 694,712 licensed gun hunters, their success rate is an astonishing 76 percent. By comparison, in the 43 years from 1966 to 2009, the average success rate for gun hunters is 37 percent. 2001 - Routine testing by DNR, weeks after the close of hunting, reveals that three deer harvested in the Town of Vermont in Dane County had CWD, or chronic wasting disease. The gun harvest drops to 361,264, still the fifth highest on record and higher than any harvest prior to 1995. Archery harvest remains high at 83,120, so the total harvest is fourth highest on record. October and December Zone T gun hunts in 67 DMUs. 2002 - The DNR and hunters begin looking for answers after CWD is found for the first time in wild deer east of the Mississippi River. For two decades, the always fatal, contagious disease had been largely confined, in the wild, to deer and elk in Colorado and Wyoming. DNR reacts aggressively, setting up a CWD management zone, with expanded hunting, and a smaller disease eradication zone, with a 14-week gun hunt. DNR samples 41,000 deer statewide for CWD. License sales drop 10 percent. 2003 - Bow hunters harvest a record 95,607 deer. Gun deer license sales up 14 percent over 2002, climbing to 644,818. Earn-a-buck rules in effect and no bag limit in the CWD management zone in southwest Wisconsin; 115 wild deer test positive for CWD with all but two positives from the disease eradication zone. 2004 - Hunters set a new record with venison donations by giving 10,938 deer yielding nearly 500,000 pounds of venison for food pantries across the state. Widespread use of earn-a-buck and Zone T hunts. Bow hunters set yet another record, harvesting 103,572 deer. License sales up slightly to 649,955. 2005 - Top five gun deer harvest counties - all located in central Wisconsin - are Marathon (15,871), Clark (13,918), Waupaca (12,260), Shawano (11,748) and Jackson (11,461). DNR tests 4,500 deer in the agency's northeast region and CWD not detected. 2006 - Gun deer license sales at 644,906. Demographics show a gradually declining number of hunters nationwide due to a variety of changing social conditions. DNR, wildlife organizations and hunting clubs across state are ramping up efforts to encourage young hunters. NRB has approved a special, 2-day youth hunt in early October. Total gun harvest is 393,306, fifth highest on record. 2007 - Wisconsin's 156th deer season; archery harvest peaks at 116,010 deer; gun hunt now lasts 23 days in the CWD Zones; 57 of Wisconsin's 130 DMU's have earn-a-buck rules. 2008 - Most of southern Wisconsin now lies within the new CWD-management zone; focus has shifted to managing rather than eliminating the disease; rifles can be used to hunt deer in previously shotgun-only areas of the CWD zone; more than 642,000 licensed hunters kill 352,601 deer during all gun seasons. 2009 - The new "Mentored Hunting Program" is introduced, allowing any licensed hunter aged 18 or older to take any new hunter age 10 or older on a hunt. The mentor does not carry a weapon and stays within arm's reach of the novice. Nine-day gun hunt opens with unseasonably warm temperatures and heavy fog throughout much of the state. Gun harvest drops to 241,862. 2010 - Hunters may now divide a deer into up to five parts (four quarters plus the head attached to the spinal column and rib cage) to facilitate removal from the field. Hunting regulations are available on DNR's web site; 18 DMUs in the north have buck-only hunting during both gun and bow seasons to allow herd to grow in the north. No earn-a-buck units except in CWD zone. 2011 - Archery season is permanently extended to run through the gun deer season. Hunters report higher deer numbers in north. There are no October herd control hunts outside the CWD Management Zone. Earn-a-buck rules are completely eliminated by legislation statewide and hunters in the CWD Management Zone may shoot a buck first. Earn a Buck is replaced with "bonus buck". CWD detected in a doe harvested outside of Shell Lake in Washburn County, prompting sampling and public outreach. State hires independent deer trustee to review Wisconsin deer management. DNR embarks on multi-million, multi-year study to quantify various causes of deer death (whether by hunter, disease, weather, vehicle collision or predation by wolf, bear or coyote). More than 400 hunters volunteer help make the first year of field research a success. 2012 - For the first time since 1995, there are no October herd-control gun hunts anywhere in the state. CWD zone hunters can take additional bucks under "bonus buck" rules. Anyone may now hunt with a crossbow during any gun deer season. Hunter participation in deer field research remains strong; $5 introductory licenses for various game species are introduced to help recruit new hunters and encourage past hunters to return. Bowhunters set an all-time record harvest of bucks. 2013 - Rifles allowed for hunting statewide after research shows they pose no greater risk than shotguns even in more populated counties. Hunting allowed in most state parks for the first time for about a month in the spring and a month in the fall, with archery hunting in parks running longer. Citizen "action teams" working on the Deer Trustee Report complete their recommendations, the DNR prepares proposed changes to deer management and 35 public hearings are held statewide. One proposal: reduce the number of deer management units, either by combining units or managing deer by county. CWD surveillance expanded in Adams, Juneau and Portage counties after four deer test positive outside the CWD management zone in southern Wisconsin. 2014 - A crossbow season for deer is established for the first time, and the sale of crossbow licenses is robust. The crossbow season runs concurrently with the archery season, from mid-September through the first weekend in January. Crossbow permits are no longer limited to handicapped hunters or those aged 65 or older. Deer management units now coincide with county lines and fall under "farmland" or "forest" zones. After a second consecutive severe winter, antlerless permits are eliminated in 19 forest zone counties. As a precursor to a major change scheduled for 2015, a pilot program for electronic deer registration is established. 2015 - First year of electronic registration for recording harvested deer, allowing hunter to use a telephone or a computer with internet access to record their deer harvest. Over 309,000 deer are registered, including a new buck harvest record for archery/crossbow hunters. County Deer Advisory Councils and citizen involvement through programs like the Deer Management Assistance Program continue to play a key role in decision making and resource and habitat management as we enter a new era of deer hunting in Wisconsin. 2016 - The requirement to wear a backtag is eliminated, and blaze pink is allowed as a legal hunting color. Deer are no longer required to be tagged immediately upon recovery. A new licensing system, Go Wild, is introduced and gives hunters added convenience to purchase licenses and tags. County Deer Advisory Councils continue to play a key role in deer management in Wisconsin and provide feedback to help shape the 2016 season structure. 2017 - Tagging requirements have changed, eliminating the requirement to tag a deer carcass, validate the tag and keeping the tag with the meat. Minimum hunting age removed to allow children of any age to participate under mentored hunting rules. All requirements to register deer using GameReg (gamereg.wi.gov) by 5 p.m. the day after harvest remain in effect, and hunters will continue to provide the tag number when registering. County Deer Advisory Councils will make recommendations on three-year population quotas and potential changes to Deer Management Unit boundaries in fall 2017. 2018 - After a 4th consecutive mild winter in most of the state, antlerless hunting opportunities are offered in every county except Iron County. Deer tags are now referred to as “harvest authorizations." Following a public review of deer management zone and unit boundaries, new boundary changes go into effect. Several counties offer a new extended archery/crossbow season that runs through Jan. 31. Baiting and feeding bans go into effect in several new counties.
This is one first I would like to forget
Life is full of firsts, right? Well, as I approach my 72nd year on this earth, I reached another milestone on Wednesday afternoon. I fell into a trout stream. It was my third... and last trout of the day, but it became entangled in thick weeds as I pulled it to shore. I could see the trout was hooked well, and I didn't want to cut the line, so I thought I could step less than four feet to dislodge it. Little did I realize the deep canary grass was camouflaging the stream bank. Don't get me wrong. This wasn't a deep creek, but one of my favorites. I'm a good swimmer so I knew I wasn't going to drown in the chest high cold, but swift water. Taking a deep breath, I said a quick prayer and thought about my cellphone, video recorder and billfold I had stashed in my fishing clothes. It took me more than 10 minutes to climb out of the stream and back onto shore. The muddy stream bank was STEEPER than I thought and EXTREMELY slippery. Thanks to the dense canary grass I held on to, I was able to inch my way back onto shore. Sitting there and looking at myself, I thought, "Bob, you look like a drowned rat." My knee boots were full of water. The bad news was my creel was full of water, I was soaking wet and had about a quarter of a mile to return to my Jeep. Not only that, I wrenched my right knee during the fall into the creek. The good news? I didn't lose the fish. Tossing my fly rod onto shore as I was falling into the stream helped. I freed the hooked fish from the weeds and tossed it onto shore before crawling out myself. Needless to say, my better half wasn't pleased with my latest escapade. I got THE LOOK! Then came the sermon. "That's why I text you to check on you when you go by yourself," she said. "One of these days..." No other words were needed. It was an accident... not my first in this life, but one I will remember forever, especially when our oldest son and two grandsons come this weekend to close out the inland trout fishing season. As for my equipment, the rugged "outdoors" cellphone works fine. However, the video recorder appears ruined. Oh, my knee? My doctor and I exchanged emails this morning. He said to continue icing it, elevating the knee and take extra strength acetaminophen. No problem. I want to take the grandkids trout fishing this weekend. I just hope they won't have to pull me out of the drink.
Ah, those were the days
Last Monday, when I went to Forest Hills Golf Course, I couldn't help but think back 60-some years ago. On Monday, I was sitting in a golf cart taking a couple of quick photos of the marked boundaries of the new practice range under construction. Looking north along the left side of the first hole, I remembered the times my dad and I would tip-toe onto the then first green near the far end of today's range. We waited until after dark and then with flashlight in one hand and a tin can in the other, we would shine the ground plucking one nightcrawler after another from the moist green. In less than a half hour, we had enough crawlers for another week's worth of fishing. Things have sure changed at the historic 118-year-old course. Back in the early 1950's, Forest Hills was the private La Crosse Country Club, by far the best 18-hole layout in western Wisconsin. In fact, the only other course in the area that I remember was Maple Grove Country Club in West Salem. That was nice, too. Today, there is a glut of courses in the Greater La Crosse Area. However, I still cherish those muggy summer nights when my dad parked his car near where the Boy Scouts office is located now, we crawled through the barbed wire fence and walked to the first green, eager to see what the night would behold. Ah, those were the days!
Martin Matchey was a favorite to all
If I told you that Martin Matchey died, you might say you were sorry to hear that, but you didn't think you knew him. If I told you "Marty The Meat Man" died, you would probably say, "Oh, no! Not Marty. He was everybody's favorite." And then you would probably bow your head in sadness, get a big lump in your throat, maybe shed a tear and say, "God rest his soul." Everybody knew "Marty The Meat Man" at Festival Foods in Onalaska. He was often waving to the crowd while riding in the Festival's big grocery cart in local parades. He was a mainstay behind the meat counter at the Onalaska Festival store. Marty was indeed "the face" of Festival Foods in Onalaska. Marty (pictured) died from pancreatic cancer last Friday. I knew of his illness because Festival founder and close friend Dave Skogen emailed me in early July to tell me Marty was retiring after learning he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Dave, knowing I have been battling pancreatic cancer since May 8, 2015, asked if I would phone Marty and chat with him. I called Marty at his home in Blair a day or so later. Marty was in good spirits, but very evasive about the treatment protocol. I attempted to comfort him the best I could. During our conversation, Marty asked if my wife, Kathy, and I wanted to attend his retirement party at Dash Park in Onalaska. I told Marty that Dave had already invited us when he emailed me. I assured Marty we would be there. "I don't know why Dave is doing this for me," Marty said. "He's putting up a tent, serving some food and everything I guess. He's going all out which is very nice, but I don't know why he is going to all this trouble for an old butcher like me." I'll always remember Monday, July 23, 2018. I had my regular labs and CT scan earlier that day. Then as promised, Kathy and I attended Marty's retirement party. It was a warm, sunny day with several people in attendance that we didn't know, although we knew all the butchers from the meat department in Onalaska as well as the store directors from other Festival stores. Dave spoke. So did Gary Skogen, Dave's brother. Onalaska Festival store director Keith Buswell also spoke. All three shared one story after another about "the face" of the Onalaska store. Marty and his wife, Joan, sat front and center before the speakers. Marty smiled from ear to ear, shaking his head in disbelief from the humorous stories Dave, Gary and Keith told. "Marty started with us in 1990, the year we opened our first Festival," Dave said early Tuesday. "Marty boomeranged more guests back to Festival than perhaps anyone, including myself. "Marty enjoyed serving and enriching lives of others," Dave added. "He taught the guest what to buy and how to cook it - a skill set that few meat associates have." Yet, Marty's greatest skill was bringing smiles to Festival's customers whom he served with joy and laughter for 28 years. Rest In Peace, Marty the Meat Man. Hopefully, we will meet up with you again some day.