BARRONETT, WIS. – Near here Saturday morning, Wisconsin firearms deer hunting began with something less than the cacophonous fusillade typical of the season’s first day. Whether this was because relatively fewer deer inhabit the area than was generally believed or because fewer hunters were afield is unknown.
Or perhaps one or more of the many mysterious behaviors routinely assigned to whitetails prompted the animals to lie low on the season’s first day, providing hunters few visual confirmations of what the Department of Natural Resources here has said is a healthy statewide herd that is perhaps larger than last year’s.
Our group of 16 hunters scattered Saturday morning to stands whose names include FedEx, Shimmel’s, Four Wolves and Semi-Manly. And yes, as one might expect, Semi-Manly extends only fractionally as high into the air as its big brother, the appropriately named Manly.
Patriarch of our camp is Norb Berg of St. Paul, who with his brother, Dave, has hunted the area long enough to recall times when merely seeing a deer hereabout during Wisconsin’s nine-day firearms season was a highlight. And when a buck was shot, it was usually a yearling spike or fork.
Such was the lot of the not-so-good old days.
Now, thanks in part to proscribed timber cutting and other habitat work, and as evidenced by a 10-point buck killed Saturday morning by Tony Berg of Afton, one of Norb’s four sons, and a similarly festooned trophy felled by family friend Kent Harris of Mendota Heights, the camp’s meatpole boasts a considerably swankier cache.
“I saw a few does, then a bunch of does, and this guy was following them,’’ Kent said of the moments before he gathered the shape of the big animal in his scope and squeezed the trigger.
By legal shooting time Saturday — roughly 6:40 a.m. — I was in a ground blind hoping to replicate my fortunes here of the past two seasons. In 2016 from the same blind, I killed a nice buck. And last year, I saw another hot shot from the same blind but blew the opportunity.
Also at daybreak, Tony’s Berg’s brothers, Kevin, Mitch and Paul, were, like their campmates, including their dad and uncle, Norb and Dave, perched in trees ever alert for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Except for the two bucks hauled to camp at noon by Tony and Kent, that opportunity never came. I, in fact, by noon had not seen a single deer.
Which is why, as is commonly said, it’s called hunting, not shooting.
And why also Saturday afternoon after lunch 14 of our group scattered again to the hinterlands, opting this time for alternative stands called, among other descriptive monikers, Great Bear, Hawaii, Saskatoon and Schwartzy.