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Getting to know the gun-deer season: Warming to blaze orange

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Jerry Davis photo

The deer hunting season is quickly approaching. Blaze orange became a clothing requirement in Wisconsin in 1980.

Gun deer hunter, on board is Wisconsin’s annual, nine-day, gun deer season, opening about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.

Wisconsin’s 5.9 million people dwarf the 576,277 hunters who purchased a gun deer license last season. Nonresidents, too, arrive from every other state, as well as from several foreign countries.

For many deer hunters, Wisconsin is their white-tailed deer destination. The whitetail is a Wisconsin state symbol, our state wildlife animal.

Be aware, too, many people are deer watchers, photographers, and admirers. They will want to be out watching and doing, too, just not hunting.

Follow the money, or at least bring the money here, which is to be recycled several times and touch mostly non-hunters. Economists estimate the deer season is a $2 billion impact to Wisconsin’s economy.

There is no minimum age to purchase a hunting license, and while that brings up slurry of questions, even snickers and cartoons, most of these are minor situations never materialize.

Who is this person who hunts deer, often with a rifle or shotgun?

Some hunters speak with a different tongue, at least during the nine-day, gun deer season.

Antlers become horns to most hunters. A baldie is a deer without any head ornaments, which bucks have shed, and grow anew annually. A monster is a large buck with a fine set of antlers, which includes brow tines, G-2s, and more. The “Turdy-point buck” rendition of a Wisconsin hunter is total fiction, filled with many illegal behaviors.

While many terms are used for taking a deer into possession, many hunters dislike speaking of harvesting a deer and save that word for farming or gardening.

Some hunters are individuals who go against a flow not agreeing on regulations, purposes for attempting to take a deer, seriousness of participating, and even a fear, or not, of chronic wasting disease that always kills infected deer.

One might describe a Wisconsin deer hunter as a licensed person, dressed at least above the waist in a hunter orange jacket and cap since 1980, when blaze orange became a requirement. Red clothing was required beginning in 1945 and then was phased out and eliminated in 1980.

Even here there are outliers. Caps (a hunter’s headgear) are not required, but if worn, they must be at least 50 percent orange. Another color, florescent pink, has been approved as legal attire, too, but not everyone, even some women and girls, disagree that that option should be on the books.

In the past, all deer hunters displayed a back tag on the middle their coat’s back. Back tags were eliminated in 2015, scuttling a tradition started in 1942.

One or more deer seasons are open this year from Sept. 14 to Jan. 31, 2020, but the regular gun deer season has mostly been nine days straddling Thanksgiving.

Other recreationalists, and sometimes their pets, also wear warning colors because hiking, birding, riding and deer hunting may occur in the same location. While not required of non-hunters, orange or at least bright clothing is advised.

Deer hunters commonly speak of their deer stand, which can be a place in the woods to sit or stand, or an elevated device in a tree or a structure built solely for that purpose. Some stands are elaborate, being more like “man caves” or “shesheds,” with heat, food and even television.

Other times hunters walk through forests “driving” deer to positioned shooters.

Snow, if present, is thought of as sighting and safety snow more than tracking snow.

It is illegal to shoot from a road or vehicle. Hunters, in full hunting attire, must be 50 feet from a road’s center line to hunt.

Tagging, registration, and transport of deer carcasses rules have changed significantly of late. Presently, tags are now called deer authorizations, and need not be attached to the deer in most situations, therefore these slips of paper “can’t” be called tags, can they?

Deer shot can be registered (reported) using a computer or phone, and registration is still required. In-person registration stations used to be substantial gathering locations for hunters and non-hunters to share stories and experiences, and age and test deer.

Hunters may, and many do, donate extra deer to food pantries at no cost to the hunter.

Every season DNR field wardens receive 100s of complaints or tips of what they suspect may be an illegal actions. Unfortunately, the old backtags (human license plates) are no longer a part of the license, making reporting possible violations more difficult for public.

Deer hunting is in great part deer and habitat management, and for that reason deer biologists like to see hunters involved in voluntary actions including having deer sampled for disease and age, participating in decisions, and teaching others safe hunting.

A statewide ethical hunting award is given annually to a nominated hunter who is often a deer hunter but could be a bird hunter as well.

Many of the rules help to make gun deer season safer, but common sense plays a major role, too.

Deer hunting is a significant part of what makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin.

The River Valley Media Group Big Buck Contest is back, and you can start sharing your success photos. Just visit to enter a photo and some information about your big buck. The deadline for entries is Dec. 31, and then voting will begin.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or (608) 924-1112


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