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Deer hunting has a long history
Random Thoughts - September 1, 2022
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - Don Shemak recently dropped off a DNR “Chronology of Wisconsin Deer Hunting” that he has had for many years. With the coming of Avoca celebrating 150 years of history, perhaps readers will find a few facts about the Wisconsin long tradition of deer hunting interesting.

It was in 1851 when the first closed season for deer hunting was instituted. Deer could not be hunted between February 1 and June 30. However, Indians were permitted to hunt any time.

In 1887 two game wardens were appointed by the governor. They each received a monthly salary of $50. Night-time hunting was prohibited statewide.

The first bag limit for deer was set in 1897 – two per season. A resident license cost $1.00, and non-residents paid $30 and an estimated 12,000 licenses were sold.

On the grim side of hunting, 12 hunters were killed by firearms during the 1900 season. By 1914, 24 hunters were killed and 26 injured. The following year the first bucks-only season was held and in 1917 shining deer while in possession of a firearm became illegal.

In 1921 wardens were instructed that “all deer found in possession with horns less than three inches in length should be confiscated.

Concerns about the size of the deer herd resulted in the legislature passing a law closing the deer season on alternate years with no open season in 1927. For the 1928 season hunters were required to wear an official conservation button when hunting. An estimated 17,000 deer were killed, 69,049 tags were sold.

There were no open seasons in 1931 and 1933. The first bow season was held in 1934 and there was no open season in 1935. 1937 experienced the shortest season on record – three days.

Starting in 1938, the use of .22 rifles and .410 shotguns were prohibited and in 1939 licensed children between the ages of 12 and 16 had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Buckshot was prohibited statewide.

Back tags were required for hunters, starting in 1942. Wearing red clothing when hunting deer was first required in 1945. By 1951 a deer hunting license and tag cost $2.50 and orange clothing was included under the red clothing law.

1953 brought the first season gun hunters were required to register their kill at checking stations.

1954 – Two-thirds of the bucks harvested were less than three years old.

1956 – 100th established gun deer season. Registered gun kill, 35,562.

1960 – Hunters not permitted to buy a deer license after the opening day of gun season. The following year the resident big game license price was increased to $5.00. Hunters became required to transport deer openly while driving to a registration station. The deer population was estimated above 400,000.

1963 – First year for quota party permits in eight management units. The assassination of President Kennedy lessened the hunting pressure.

1967 – Hunter Safety Education Program began.

During 1970 season 13 hunters were killed.

1980 – Blaze orange clothing required. First season of Hunter’s Choice permits.

1981 – Record-setting deer kill. That was followed by several record kill years.

It doesn’t take long for me to report my career deer- hunting total. Although I enjoyed other types of hunting, after just a few attempts my total deer kill stood at zero.

However, I had many opportunities to see impressive deer antler racks as old hunters, first-time hunters, etc., stopped at our newspaper office to have a photograph taken.

Among my most enjoyable deer events came this summer when Vi and I saw a doe nursing her twin fawns while she was standing in the middle of Indian Creek Road in Richland County. Unfortunately, they did not pose for a photograph and the trio quickly slipped into the woods.