Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.
Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.
Odocoileus virginianus - commonly known as the whitetail deer - is native to Wisconsin. I freely admit to harboring a mild obsession over this creature. It goes beyond hunting. It extends to understanding its behaviors, preferred habitat, its place in nature and in our culture. Even the politicization of this wildlife species has captured my attention.
I was not raised in a hunting family so you might be wondering from where this obsession springs from.
My earliest memory of a whitetail deer goes back to approximately age five. My pal Joey's dad shot a deer and had it hanging in their back yard for a awhile. Joey and I had ample opportunity to examine the carcass up close and personal. Later, when it was butchered in the garage, I sat there riveted and fascinated by the entire process.
As a kid we played outdoors most of the the time. We would ride our bikes up to Good Hope Road which represented the edge of civilization back then. I remember finding the skeletal remains of a deer while out on one of of our jaunts. I brought most of the bones back home and was convinced I could reassemble them just like a paleontologist. That was until my horrified mother found them in the house and promptly pitched them in the trash.
This act did not stifle my interest. I would not be denied.
In 1967 Wisconsin instituted a hunter education program. It was purely voluntary back then. Since I had been target shooting for a few years already I asked if I could enroll. My dad looked at me like I had a screw loose.
If you signed-up for hunter safety what would you do with this knowledge? I certainly don't hunt. Neither does anybody else in the family.
In the end dad relented and routinely drove to Hubertus every week so I could attend my classes at Daniel Boone.
At our graduation the class was taken to the range for a trap competition. That was way cool. We also fired real deer rifles and pulled targets. That was more cool. But the pièce de résistance was having the opportunity to shoot at the running deer target. There was a contraption that ran a deer silhouette along a track and the challenge was to shoot - and hit it the moving target - with a modicum of accuracy. (In real life that practice is generally frowned-upon as it's a low percentage shot situation). Nevertheless, I knew there was hunting - maybe even deer hunting - in my future.
Involved in scouting until I went away to college I spent a considerable amount of time outdoors. Observing deer in the wild and studying their sign continued to draw my attention. There were merit badges to be earned for marksmanship and wildlife. And the obsession continued.
As a young man I shot a pile of pheasants, ducks, geese, woodcock and grouse. There was an occasional squirrel or rabbit added to the game bag. I had the good fortune to work with people that hunted and had dogs. But I never got an invitation to join any of their deer camps.
One day Jill returned from work and casually mentioned that a co-worker had some farm land for sale and might we be interested.
We took a drive to take a look-see.
While walking the property we jumped a big buck out of the willows.
It took all of two seconds to clinch the decision.
In the ensuing years I've had ample opportunity to scratch my deer itch. Bow hunting in particular has provided countless and memorable opportunities to interact with deer and other wildlife. It's hilarious to observe them clandestinely.
The obsession got spread around as others were introduced to hunting. Curiously, it never caught-on with my daughter. I never pushed the subject figuring the inspiration and fire has to come from within.
However, there is a grandson scheduled to arrive next year. I wonder if the obsession skips a generation?
Update - 5:30 PM
It is a brisk 22 degrees and very windy. The kind of cold that bites at your bare skin, makes your nose run and makes tears well-up in your eyes.
I took one look at how a couple of tree stands were swaying in the gusts and radioed Jill that I was heading north to try to find a spot to hide from the wind.
Here is my deer stand.
My buddy, The First Mate, built a couple of these cool Aldo Leopold benches following a cross country ski weekend here at the farm. His theory was that the trail system needed a couple of benches for skiers to set for a spell to catch their breath. If he is reading he will learn that not only did I position this bench at the furthest reach of the trail - I positioned the second bench next to a fire ring where we could actually have a campfire and sip hot cocoa and snack on trail mix. He will be impressed when he returns this coming winter.
My theory about sitting here was that it was primarily out of the wind. Second it afforded me a reasonably clear shot situation of 60 to 75 yards (give or take) to either the north or south of the bench. Third, any deer sneaking through the woods would have to cross the roughly 20 foot trail and they would be in the sights of my trusty Remington 870 slug gun. Lastly, it was a comfortable bench.
My theory proved to be true. But was of limited utility.
Two deer crossed the trail about 10 minutes apart - clearing it in a single leap.
They were there and gone just like that.
With the exception of pictures from the game camera those are the first deer I've seen since the guys left on Monday.
Cheeky buggers those deer.