EVERY DEER SEASON is different. No matter how many years you hunt, anywhere from two to 102, you never see it all. Sure, if you have hunted for decades you will have seen the same weather patterns, same temperatures, the same amount of snow or lack thereof as in other seasons, but there is always something new for a deer season to bring you back opening day.

For me, there has been something different for several years and that has been the way I have approached the season. No longer am I that 12-year-old who thought the most important thing in the world was proving to be a true man among all woodsmen for having become a buck slayer of the first magnitude.

No longer do I approach deer season with nerves atwitter, anxiety over what to wear, how much to wear and even how much of my apparel to put on and how much to carry in a backpack until I reach my chosen stand.

No longer is it truly important, as it was in my first years of hunting, to put meat on the table for my family. Back in the ’50s and into the mid-’60s, my family, like many others in north Wisconsin, did not have a lot of cash to spare for such luxuries as meat for the supper table.

Each fall my dad, my brothers and I brought home as many partridges, ducks and even squirrels as we could, but such small critters weren’t what you needed to stock the larder for an entire winter. You needed venison for that.

So it was that while my first deer hunts were an exercise in awe and wonder, and fantastic, though unreal expectations, they also were hunts that saw me go forth with a grim determination to be a full-fledged contributor to the winter’s meat supply.

That aspect of the hunt stayed with me through my early years of marriage and young children, as I, like my parents and many others of our generations, continued to depend on bringing home venison for the table. Now, I no longer feel that urgency. Perhaps, with some sadness, I no longer approach the first day of deer season with childlike anticipation and dreams of huge bucks filling the scope of my rifle.

For years, even though I have had fairly regular success in finding a buck to shoot, I really head for the woods without a care in the world as to whether or not I do kill a buck. My wife and I enjoy pork, beef and chicken every bit as much as venison, don’t stone me for my heresy, so if I don’t fill a tag it has no effect on the enjoyment I get out of the hunt. 

For another thing, unlike the first 40 or so years of my hunting career, I do not feel the need to sit on a windswept deer stand from can-see to can’t-see waiting for a buck to come my way. Call me a sissy, but if it is 10 below or if it is 50 degrees and the landscape is being pelted with pouring rain, I am just as happy sitting in my recliner watching the Wisconsin Badgers play football as I would be sitting in the unforgiving elements, maybe even happier.

Though I still revere the deer season, eagerly join hundreds of thousands of other Wisconsin hunters who take to the woods each November and maybe even still daydream a little about shooting a wall hanger, I no longer feel pressure to bring home the bacon, if you will.

 I go to the woods now and get as much enjoyment from watching squirrels race round a tree trunk or listening to chickadees “chick-a-dee-deeing” or having a fawn visit me for several minutes as it grazes for acorns or other natural forage as I do from actually bagging a buck.

All that said, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this deer season, as short a time as it lasted for me. For the first 45 minutes of shooting time, I watched a black squirrel scamper around; I counted chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches and goldfinches as my companions and listened with no jealousy as a few other shots rang out from all directions around.

Then, at 7:15 opening morning I had my first deer pass by, a doe slowly meandering along the crest of a ridge on which I sat at the top. Minutes later, another doe came by, farther down the hill from the opposite direction. She approached to within 10 yards before moving on.

Behind her came her twin fawns. They also passed by. In the meantime, I had spotted a fourth deer following their tracks. Through the semi-open oak woods I could see it from 150 yards away coming along, stopping three or four times to hump up and pee in the doe’s tracks.

I let him come on until he stopped at the edge of a logging road 80 yards down the hill from me. I looked in puzzlement at what purported to be antlers for a full minute or more before pulling the trigger.

After a perfect shot from my .30-06 he made it to the opposite side of the grade and disappeared behind and below a clump of large oaks. I walked down the hill and found to my dismay that he chose, probably just to get even with me, to die in the middle of a large pile of 4-year-old logger’s slashing.

It was no picnic getting him up a steep, 10-foot bank to the grade, having to be careful with every step to not find a hole in the slashing where intertwined branches and old pieces of tree trunk could easily break a leg.

For my efforts I was rewarded with a buck rack, if you could call it that, that was the oddest and ugliest of any buck I have ever shot. The right 6-inch spike started upright, then began a corkscrew turn like that of an African antelope. The left spike went straight up for about an inch, then took almost a 90-degree horizontal bend to the left, sticking out about 4 inches beyond its ear. It was truly a buck that needed to be taken out of the gene pool.

When all was said and done, the short hunt brought with it similar snow amounts and a temperature much like many other opening days I’ve seen, and it brought with it a familiar supporting cast of small birds and squirrels. What made this one different was an oddball buck unlike any other I’ve ever seen. I’ll remember him for a long time.