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Chris Hardie shot this buck during the 2016 hunting season.

It was late Friday afternoon, and the service counter at Kohnert and Scheppke in Melrose, Wis., was a busy place.

Chris Hardie


That was not unusual on payday at the general mercantile store that sold everything from groceries to hardware, but this was no ordinary Friday. It was Nov. 19, 1976, the day before the annual gun deer hunt opener in Wisconsin.

I tried to be patient as I stood in line with my brother Kevin and my dad, but I was too excited. We were waiting to buy our licenses for the next day. It was my first deer hunt. I could hardly wait.

I was less than a month shy of my 13th birthday. Two of my cousins who filled out the trio known in the family circles as the Terrible Three of ’63 were born earlier that year and were able to hunt in 1975 because they were already 12. I was extremely jealous that I was forced to wait another year.

It would not be my first time in the woods. I had sat with my dad and my grandfather in their stands at times, and we all helped with deer drives. But it would be the first time that I could shoot my own deer.

Finally the line moved and we stepped to the counter. The three of us completed our license information. We were issued our back tags and the corresponding numbered metal tags used when registering.

Blaze-orange clothing wasn’t required in those days; that didn’t come until 1980. Dad had a red-and-black hunter-plaid coat that he wore. The requirement to wear red was instituted in 1945 in Wisconsin.

I didn’t get a buck my first year, but Dad did, joining the 69,510 hunters who were successful in killing an antlered deer in 1976. But I was hooked on hunting. The next year Dad, Kevin, Grandpa and I applied for a party permit so between the four of us we could harvest a doe. I felt privileged to be able to wear the special blue armband.

This weekend will be my 42nd season of deer hunting. I’m a novice compared with the 68th season for Dad. He was mentored by his father and started hunting in the days when deer were scarce on our farm. Most deer hunting was on public land in the eastern Jackson County.

Times have certainly changed. Deer are plentiful now. No more standing in line at the store. This past week I bought my deer license online, although you can still buy them from retailers.

Back tags and metal tags are history. So is the process of tagging and registration. Hunters no longer need to physically tag the deer. Instead they can go online to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after harvest. All hunters need to carry in the woods is a paper copy of the license, a driver’s license if used when buying the license or a digital copy. Yep, the license can be kept on a phone.

All of this would have been handy the year Dad couldn’t find his license and needed to go to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources office to get a duplicate. That didn’t sit well with Dad, who said: “No jury in Jackson County is going to convict a man for hunting on his own land” as he headed out the door.

He was probably right, but he got his duplicate license.

An enormous positive change in hunting is safety. In 1914 — when there were only 155,000 licenses sold for deer hunting — there were 24 hunters killed and 26 hunters injured during the gun season. In 2016 there were 598,867 licenses sold and five non-fatal injuries.

Thanks to requirements like gun hunter safety — which began in 1967 and became mandatory in 1973 — and blaze orange or fluorescent pink, fatalities and injuries are rare even with many more hunters in the woods.

What hasn’t changed is the tradition. While Grandpa and some other family members are no longer with us, they are remembered and join us in spirit.

And I’m still excited about opening day, just like that 12-year-old those many years ago.

Have a safe and memorable hunting season.

Photos: 2017 deer hunting season

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(6) comments


We're all still waiting for Chip DeNure (AKA Buggs Raplin) to provide a SINGLE shred of evidence, a SINGLE verifiable link to a website that supports his claims on ANYTHING, but particularly the ridiculous claims that the Vegas Strip was "raked by gunfire." Like his avatar, he keeps claiming "the truth is out there," but he simply refuses to provide any evidence to back up his ludicrous claims and steadfastly denies or ignores all proof to the contrary. What a sad, pathetic, paranoid little man.

Buggs Raplin

We're all waiting for 1) Cassandra to provide evidence her home is solar-powered, and 2) that Chris Hardie's wine review was missing today. The evidence for the latter is conclusive upon reading today's Tribune. There is no evidence for Cassie's claim she has a solar powered home. She's a liar, and therefore discredited in all other utterances. Cassie, you've been caught in a big lie. Only liars themselves will defend you-aka oldhomey


Show us the links, Chippy. I've already provided photos of my power inverter.
You lie daily about your paranoid conspiracy theories and refuse to provide evidence. It is plain for everyone to see that you are a liar and a lunatic.


I did not read this. Let "Bambi" (Disney) go! I did not read this story. I am just glad I can leave a comment. From prima dona to just don't do anything wrong to justify our downtown becoming an Orwellian participant to the do-good mentality of this writer and employer and authority, one has to endure to the end. Like this deer obviously did. On the silver lining: Here is the Bible verse: May the evil spirits spare our loved ones like our hunters of ducks, fish, and deer---now wanna elk and bear and wolf. What is the point when there is such hate for God's animals? Hunters say they respect the animals life or the taking of it, which we have to just believe. Well, elephants, tigers, and the other extant species are worth a hecatomb now. Why have deer farms when there should be a state law prohibiting them as chronic wasting disease breeding sights, but Wisconsin always has a circus tradition (thank God for that I guess). Now with plowing under wetlands and saving Blanding turtles (sometimes seem swimming under ice) and salamanders. Well, one can try to judge the point of going on this hunting "adventure" as just more filler. A man whose philosophy (philo=to attract) was unassailable, age has shown shown to falter and let us down. Same with the Orwellian rush to security. It is not really righteousness rather than do gooder---based on a what was once a strong, vital, astronaut-type man who looks like a chief justice chickens have now come home to roost: His strength philosophy has turned to weakness, his youth to age. Someone who had to get out of the newsroom to be happy and free from the antichrist who worked there.

Buggs Raplin

Chris Hardie. I am so angry with you. Where was your wine review this week? How am I supposed to pick a good wine without your guidance? I'm also a little peeved at Rusty cause there was no editorial column promoting human-caused global warming today. Doesn't he want to save the planet? Well, my Sunday is ruined. Thanks Tribune.


Rest easy Chip.

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