Wisconsin Hunters Take to the Woods for Deer Opener

Hunters reach milestones with family, meat processors see spikes in business.

POPLAR, Wis.- Hunters across Wisconsin took to the millions of acres of public hunting lands for the firearm deer hunting opener.

“It’s one of the best states in the nation for both quality of deer and quantity of deer historically,” said Greg Kessler, Wildlife Biologist with the Wisconsin DNR.

It’s that time of year again, and hunters aren’t wasting a minute.

“Got out about 5:30, started sitting,” said Brendan Fouts.

But before they get out in their tree stands, Kessler advises to be careful not to slip.

“With the snow comes ice and slippery conditions and we did have freezing rain in some areas before the snow came,” he said, “so hunters should use a little extra caution especially getting into their tree stands.”

But that didn’t stop the Fouts family from reaching a big hunting milestone.

“When first light came there was a deer out in the field and we had about 10 minutes to wait until first shot, and ended up being Caleb’s first buck,” Brendan said.

“I was like: ‘Are we gonna be tracking this thing for a while cause I was kinda shaky cause I didn’t know how I was gonna miss or something,” said his son, Caleb.

Caleb got over his nerves and bagged his own two-point buck on the first shot.

“I was really excited,” he said, “I was just like: ‘ok, now it’s dead, I don’t have to worry about anything now.'”

His brother Justin shot a doe just an hour later. He understands how stressful the moments before pulling the trigger can be.

“You don’t wanna miss cause you feel down on yourself,” said Justin. “You’re just thinking: ‘I gotta hit this, I gotta hit this, I gotta calm down and hit it.'”

That rush is what drives many hunters. While others are in it for the taste of the game.

“And others are purely after the meat,” Kessler said. “They’re just after nice, clean, harvestable meat that they know where it was from.”

That’s where meat processors come in.

“This is the business. We rely on hunters,” said Robert Hursh, owner operator and butcher at Hursh Meat Processing.

The meat shop is already seeing plenty of deer come in, and plenty of orders go out.

“Actually the orders have been phenomenal,” Hursh said. “We do anything from regular cuts to sausage cuts, whatever they like. Our venison bacon is phenomenal.”

This year is Northern Wisconsin’s turn to submit deer heads for the DNR’s CWD, or Chronic Waste Disease, testing. And you can do so right at Hursh Meat Processing.

“They can actually do that now without giving the head up, cause we can do it here and they can make sure they get their antlers and their skulls back,” said Hursh.

“A lot of people wouldn’t do the testing because they wanted their heads back, right?”

But there are signs of CWD to look for even before you shoot.

“If deer meet the criteria of being very thin, emaciated, if they’re standing around drooping head, drooling is another key sign that they could have it,” Kessler said.

More than meat, or refining skill, people hunt to enjoy nature, and time with others.

“I enjoy like the family time especially hunting together with my siblings it’s, it helps you get closer to them,” said Justin.

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