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Fire wood

Cutting fire wood is one of the jobs needed to be done to get ready for the Red Brush Gang's deer camp.

Hello friends,

Due to the fact that my father, the late Robert Walters, created an annual fishing trip to the Flambeau Flowage, as well as annual trips to the Mississippi River for ducks and The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge for deer, all while attending UW-Madison back in the mid 50s, I love to revisit these places.

This week’s column is in honor of a great man, my father, as friends and family who call themselves the Red Brush Gang return to set up camp.

I also spent a significant amount of time at camp before the opener of Wisconsin’s nine-day deer gun season.

Saturday, Nov. 8

High 48, low 27

Sixteen of us met near Necedah, pulling empty trailers that would soon be loaded with what I honestly believe is at least a semi load of supplies that would soon make up an 18-foot by 36-foot pole barn, along with 10 sets of bunk beds, two wood stoves, propane tanks and tables to go down the middle of the shack.

Everyone knows that we have to focus until the job is done and we are fighting the sun clock the entire time.

We build camp on public land near Mather, and if for some reason you cannot make it to help out, you owe the camp three cases of beer.

Shortly after dark, camp was built. There was a dart tournament that everyone got into. Good food was cooked, there was a rather brutal wrestling match and the Red Brush Gang was home.

I have watched the sun come up for 48 gun season openers in this neck of the woods, and so far have not found a good enough reason to miss one.

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Saturday, Nov. 15

High 35, low 21

Today was the first day that you could walk in most parts of The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and scout for deer. In most sections, the refuge is closed, except for the seven days prior to the gun deer opener, and with no ATVs allowed during the hunt, this is truly wilderness hunting.

I have touched on two subjects that are basically out of the hands for man to change, and I really saw it on my 5-mile hike today. The water table is so high that for an old timer like me, that was walking in here in 1971, it is almost unbelievable. Dry marshes are lakes and forests are flooded.

The other reality, which I saw bear baiting this summer and fall, and today it really hit home, was the immense amount of wolf sign. The main sign of wolves was in the form of wolf scat with deer hair in it. Where I hunted with Selina today, it was snow covered, and there was almost zero deer sign. The whitetail deer in the areas of Wisconsin’s central forest are being eliminated.

No matter what side of the fence you are on for this conversation, can you imagine how depressing it must be for the remaining deer in dense wolf country? What if every hunting camp vanished and all that property was sold to become houses or farm fields?

Roughly 580,000 people hunt during the nine-day gun season. What if that number was cut in half due in part to a lack of deer in our wolf country, and the public land started getting sold because it wasn’t being used enough?

We have to manage our turkeys, deer, fish and ducks. Why is the wolf exempt when they are three times over the population goal?

If you think that I am some kind of wolf hater, I ask you to look back at the columns I wrote back in the early to mid 1990s while working with WDNR biologists. I was 100% behind the recovery program and the management goal of roughly 385 animals. I was given a ton of flack, but stuck to my guns. Now with roughly 1,200 wolves in Wisconsin, I say let biologists with the WDNR section off the state and pick management numbers to be harvested each year.

Sunset

(1) comment

Gary Feest

I'm glad your father appreciated the great Wisconsin natural forests and waterways, and that you follow in his footsteps. I'm not a hunter, but I can appreciate the tradition of hunting for food (not for trophies, however). I wish you would not spread misinformation about wolves. The statewide post-hunt deer populations were 1.09 million in 2014, 1.18 million in 2015, 1.34 million in 2016, 1.38 million in 2017 and between 1.5 and 1.8 million in 2018, according to DNR reports. Wolves are not decimating the deer population. The wolf population is far, far below its historic levels. Wolves can be found on only about 5% of their original range. Also, 40% of the diet of bears in Wisconsin is now made up of bait. Please stop baiting bears.

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