Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 16th, 2007 Edition.
Deer Season, More than a Tradition, (Part One)
I doubt if I’ll get too many arguments by stating the statewide Wisconsin gun deer season that begins tomorrow is one of the most revered, cherished and anticipated “opening days” of the many different hunting and fishing seasons our state has to offer. Considering that generally 700,000 blaze orange venison seekers take to the fields and forests each season we’d have to assume the annual event is very popular.
But let me start by saying that “deer season” was not always an annual event. Back in the early 1900s, and up until about 1930 deer hunting was only legally permitted ever other year. It was only after the Northwood’s began to recover from the logging era, and deciduous trees began to replace the virgin pine forests did the numbers of deer begin to mushroom, which allowed the event to become an annual one.
But even then the only area of the state that contained large numbers of deer was the northern 1/3 of our state. This was true up until the late 1950s. Since then the herd has spread far and wide offering hunters an opportunity to fill their freezer with venison almost anywhere statewide.
Both branches of my family began their deer hunting tradition in Oconto County near the tiny farming community of Mountain. Dad moved to Minocqua in 1932 and fell in love with the north woods. He finally saved enough money to buy a 40-acre parcel in St. Germain in 1938, allowing he and three of his brothers-in-laws to move their deer hunting tradition “up north.”
Beginning in that year dad began jotting down a few notes about the hunt and was also able to produce a few photos for posterity. Those early documents have now grown to two very large scrapbooks covering the events that took place in what came to be known as the “Anderson-Jorgensen Deer Camp.”
Allow me to take you on a stroll down memory lane.
The original one room log building that was constructed on dads new 40 in 1938 served as the hunting camp for five eager deer hunters. One yellowed photograph indicates the group did OK in their new environment as it shows five bucks suspended from the meat pole.
By October of 1939 the interior of the log cabin was finished and the Anderson Family moved into their new home. We did not have electricity, running water or a phone, but the 20 X 24 building contained two bedrooms and a combination kitchen/dining/living room. Somehow we jammed in an additional four deer hunters and mom officially become the “camp cook” for the next 17 seasons!
By the season of 1940 a second one-room log cabin greeted nine hunters, by 1941 a third log cabin was added for the ever-growing popularity of the A-J Camp, as 13 hunters were present. From then until the season of 1955 numbers varied from 9 to 21 with the greatest number of hunters showing up during the doe seasons of 1943, ’49, ’50 and ’51.
Electricity finally arrived the day before deer season in 1946. Running water came next in 1949 along with the addition of our new lodge/residence. We would have to wait for a phone until 1950.
With the addition of our new lodge, summer vacationers as well as the deer hunters could now dine in a modern facility.
In 1947, at age 10, I was allowed to sit with dad in his “stand” on opening day and also accompany him while the gang was practicing “drives.” It was that year dad bagged a magnificent 8 point buck, which ignited my enthusiasm to join the hunt as an actual hunter. I got my wish in ’48.
I bagged my first deer in ’49, during the north’s 2nd doe season. Deer still roamed the forests of the north in herds numbering from a dozen to over twenty in a group! But after two more doe seasons in ’50 and ’51 the mighty herds were gone. In 1952 dad and I boycotted the season by refusing to buy a license as a silent protest to the slaughters of the past three seasons.
But gradually the numbers once again increased and hunting pressure eased off once does and fawns were no longer legal.
In the fall of ’55 mom announced she was retiring as camp cook, and that the deer season of ’55 would be the last year Kasomo Lodge would accept paying deer hunters. I shot my first antlered buck that season, and dad hung up his .30-30 for good. The following fall, after our resort closed for the season, dad and mom spent the winter of ’55-’56 in Chicago working to make a bit more money. An era had ended.
In 1956 the Wisconsin Conservation Department changed the rule of what constituted a “legal buck.” Previously a legal buck had to have a minimum of one tine at least one inch long on its antlers. Now it’s really difficult to tell if a fork is one inch or 7/8 of an inch at 50 yards and many illegal bucks were normally shot by mistake. So, the WCC made spike bucks legal, provided at least one spike was 3 inches or longer.
In 1957 another new rule provided that four hunters could apply for one antlerless tag, so designated as a “camp meat” tag. Also, mandatory registration of all harvested deer began. On Monday, the third day of deer season, the north was hit with a major blizzard that dumped over 20 inches of snow on the landscape. That was also the season one of my pals, Tom Dean, shot a 12 point, 207# piebald buck that was covered with large brown and white spots.
In January of 1960 I graduated from college with a teaching degree. Wifee poo, our newborn son and I moved to Florida for the next six school terms. I would not be a part of the annual Wisconsin deer hunt again until November of 1966!
(To be continued next week.)
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: email@example.com or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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