DEER TRAILS: Ethical hunter award recognizes those who do good

DEER TRAILS: Ethical hunter award recognizes those who do good

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Ethical hunter award

DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller, left, presented Fred Casper, of Westby, the 2018 DNR Ethical Hunter Award at Vortex Optics in Barneveld last May.

More than two decades ago, in 1997, Jim Olson and Mike Kasten, of La Crosse County, were selected and then awarded the first Department of Natural Resources annual ethical hunter award by then DNR warden Steve Dewald, and then La Crosse Tribune outdoors editor Bob Lamb, along with myself, a Tribune writer and retired biology professor at UW-La Crosse.

While many award winners were deer hunters, the award can and has been given to people who were hunting other species in Wisconsin, too. Sometimes the winners are out-of-state hunters visiting Wisconsin as a destination location for their favorite game.

Last May, Fred Casper, of Westby, was awarded the 2018 ethical hunter award. The 2019 winner will be selected and awarded in May 2020, at a ceremony at Vortex Optics in Barneveld. Vortex has been a corporate sponsor of the award for the past four years.

Prior to this year’s deer season, Casper reached out to his neighbors to reaffirm permission to go onto their land should a wounded deer cross a property line.

“We continued our tradition of grilling hamburgers on the truck tailgate at noon,” Casper said. “Gun season, for me, is more about having fun with the kids and others. That’s what gun season is about, family and traditions.”

Casper was selected for working to find an archer who shot, but could not retrieve a large white-tailed buck. Rather than take the decomposed animal’s antlers for himself, he searched and found the hunter and helped convince the landowner to legally pass the antlers to the hunter.

Olson and Kasten, hunters from Onalaska, found a deer carcass that had fallen off a truck opening day in 1996 and tracked down the hunter.

Generally the award goes to an individual, of any age, who does something for a hunter, often taking time away from their own hunting opportunity.

Several other examples of past winners include a hunter going to great lengths to return lost hunting equipment; a hunter who stopped his hunt to help a woman who had shot and wounded a deer; and a hunter who rendered aid to a field warden who was being assaulted by an intoxicated person.

The nominator need not be a licensed hunter, and often has not been.

For more information, or to nominate an individual, contact any committee member or WDNR warden or DNR office personnel. DNR chief warden Todd Schaller is also a committee member, in addition to Dewald, Lamb and Davis.

Jerry Davis writes daily Deer Trails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the tenth column. Reach out to him at or 608-924-1112.

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