Larry Bergman, now 79, no longer hunts deer near his home in northwest Wisconsin.
“I remember being in school in Drummond,” he said. “Back then it was an excused absence if someone wanted to go deer hunting instead of attend school during the deer season. “
As strange as that may seem, Bergman also remembers the young hunters, mostly boys then, bringing their guns to school to show them off to students and teachers.
“We always had a shotgun in the car trunk for small game hunting, too,” he said.
Larry’s father came to northern Wisconsin from Sweden and homesteaded in Wisconsin in what was then a dairy farm. Today the 12 cows they had may not be called a farm at all. The crop seasons were so short, corn never matured into ears, so it was all made into silage and fermented for cattle feed. Flax and barley were common crops, too.
“Back then there were two holidays that were special,” Bergman said. “Christmas and deer season. Everybody looked forward to the deer season. They planned. They were as excited as though it was Christmas.”
Instead of today’s sit-and-wait hunting from a tree stand, ground blind or just a bucket to sit on, it was drive hunting. No, not road hunting from a car, but putting on drives to move the deer to standers waiting for a shot, usually at a running deer.
“The first instructions to new hunters, even before they were old enough to carry a gun, was safety,” Larry explained. “That first year or so, we just tagged along on a drive and didn’t get to carry a gun.”
Two or three years ago Larry hung up his Model 94, 30-30 rifle.
“Today the areas are too big to put on drives,” he said. “Back then we all hunted wherever. There was no need to post land.”
Larry’s son, Jim, used to have a bait shop near Barnes and registered deer, but with electronic registration, there’s less need for that kind of a business.
“Everything is electronic. I think you can even buy a license on- line,” he said. “And you can buy the license during the season, too.”
Today, Larry drives around some just to see what’s going on, stops at a few hunting camps, spends some time playing cards, drinking coffee and playing cribbage with some of the old-timers who still come up to say they hunted one more time.
“It seems to be a fading thing in some areas, that and big Thanksgiving meals in the deer camps. Some restaurants even had a free Thanksgiving meal. The food and lunches were as much of a tradition as the actual hunt,” he said.
The deer used to hang the entire season and they didn’t taste that good. Now people cut them up right away and they’re much better eating. They’re a tasty piece of meat, this former hunter says of modern day venison.
Some of what was Larry’s hunting time is now spent working on a Board at a museum in the Town of Barnes (Town, not township, is the name for rural municipalities in Wisconsin).
A portion of the museum is devoted to the Gordon MacQuarrie exhibit, a famous hunting and fishing writer from the area, who culminated his career in Milwaukee. MacQuarrie, born in Superior in 1900, died in Milwaukee in 1956.
The museum board continues to add deer hunting items to their museum, too, Bergman said.