Volumes of rules, regulations and requirements do not spontaneously guarantee an enjoyable, sensible and rewarding hunting and gathering autumn.
Common sense, forethought and doing what is right play a big role. So, too does helping others to enjoy the outdoors.
Twenty years ago, three men from the La Crosse area helped the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and a local newspaper form a statewide annual ethical hunter recognition award.
The idea stemmed from similar recognition in neighboring Minnesota and a happenstance of a hunting team finding a registered deer carcass that had apparently fallen off a vehicle on a county road.
The boy and his old-enough-to-be-his-grandfather spent the better part of their opening gun deer season tracking down the rightful owner of the deer he shot that morning, providing perfect winners for the first ethical hunter award.
Since 1997, this annual award has been presented to an adult Wisconsin hunter, and sometimes a youth, too. The main thrust was, and still is, to provide some publicity that the vast majority of hunters are good, ethical and regulation-conscious people.
Nearly weekly, however, we can read and hear about hunters gone bad. But those guys should not dominate the impressions of the public regarding how hunters conduct themselves.
Last weekend, at Vortex Optics headquarters in Middleton, Captain April Dombrowski of the WDNR law enforcement bureau,presented Dan Burns of Madison with a certificate recognizing him as the 2016 DNR Ethical Hunter.
Vortex Optics, this year’s corporate sponsor, gifted Burns a pair of binoculars, a rifle scope and a range finder, as symbols of items that help hunters see the outdoors more clearly.
Burns relinquished his favored hunting location on public land to Kevin Halverson and his son Alec, when the two parties arrived simultaneously on opening morning last November. For this, the four-member selection committee unanimously picked Burns to receive the award.
Written public nominations for the 2017 award can be sent to any DNR field warden or a selection committee member by February 2018.
Sulphur fungi (chicken-of-the-woods), hen-of-the-wood (maitake) and a few other edibles are coming into season. This (sulphur fungus) exquisite wood fungus is brightly-colored, as tasty as a morel, and a marvelous photographic subject. Look for it on dead or living oaks, cherries and a few other hardwoods. Logs and stumps are common locations, too.
Elderberries, while tiny, can be picked by the fruit bunch, frozen and then taken out to shake off the BB-sized fruit. Pie, jelly and wine are a few of the ways to enjoy Sambucus, as botanists know this shrub.
Ginseng diggers (purchase a license first, please) will find prices being paid for fresh roots in the $150-165 per pound range. Plant conditions are varied, from very healthy to somewhat decimated by critters and unusual weather this summer.
Sturgeon action was slow opening weekend of the month-long season, but it usually is until the water cools. Cooling waters have the same impact on walleyes, too. Trout fishing should pick up during the last weeks of the season, which closes Oct. 15.
One Madison man landed a 56-inch sturgeon, four inches short of the 60-inch minimum, however.
Doves and teal move out quickly. Time waits for no hunter.
Savor that turkey carcass card that comes in the mail, or purchase an over-the-counter permit.
Access the DNR wildlife forecast packet on the department’s web page.
Remember to be safe, careful and ethical during the early gathering seasons and if you see someone do something good, report it.