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Outdoor Trails and Tails: Annual deer hunt all about tradition

The banners are flying. You'll see them this time of year. They sort of remind me of flags flying before a great ancient battle. A family's coat of arms. The family colors. They are out blowing in the breeze.

It's a purification right -- blowing off the old smells and replacing it with the new fall freshness. You'll see them hanging from porches. Some will be dangling from clotheslines. The uniforms of a modern day army dressed in blaze orange. It's all about tradition.

I saw the first hunting clothes hanging from a back porch on my way to church the Sunday before Saturday's opener. Guns were sighted in. Stands were set. Lunches were being packed. Scopes were being looked through and barrels were being cleaned.

It's all about tradition. Wisconsin's annual Thanksgiving week hunt is based solely on tradition, so much so that hunters are set in their ways and generally unwilling to change anything about the nine-day annual hunt. The deer hunting season is the framework we have all grown up with and most hunters I know don't really want to change a thing. It's all about tradition.

When you look at the old deer pictures from the old deer camps you can see the traditions. Men standing with guns in hand in front of a meat pole with a variety of big and small bucks with a few doe thrown in. Those pictures will be recreated digitally this week. From the traditional muzzleloaders to the 12 gauge shotguns to the western style lever action 30/30s and 30-06s -- they are all there in the deer woods again this week. It's all about tradition.

And the deer camps? Old log cabins where mice are kicked out as card playing, beer drinking friends meet up for the annual hunt in the far north. Or where the entire family all comes back to the family farm from the city.

Jobs and new spouses took most of the kids off the farm that today holds only a few head of beef and old buildings that are falling down.

There are those who hit the big swamps like Empire, Moose Junction or the Blue Hills while living in tents and sleeping on bales of straw covered with horse blankets. Wood heat stoves and blackberry snake bite: They're all about tradition.

Digging out old woolen coats and pants that have been packed away for a year, to digging through a closet to find that extra box of shells; sharpening a knife that was once used by your great Uncle Bud to breaking down and buying a new hat because the old one has finally lost all of its luck.

Getting out the whistle for only a quick look because this year we have a new GPS with built in two way radios: It's all about tradition.

To the big kettle of chili your nephew brings to deer camp.

To the sandwiches your son makes.

To the pies mom packed.

To the hot cider after the hunt.

To the naps after the big noon meal as the Packers beat up on Carolina back at camp, in the cabin or on the family farm floor.

To the guys who bring guns and hunting clothes and never takes them out of the trunk. They just want to get away and relax for a few days: It's all about tradition.

To the drivers and the standers.

To the guys who forgets his gun at home or leaves his ammo in the garage.

To the guy who misses the big buck every year and to the person who never sees a buck.

To the one who always gets lost.

To the gals who outshoot the guys.

To the daughter who guts out her own deer: It's all about tradition.

To the still hunters who can't sit for more than an hour.

To the person who plants their fanny for the day and never moves.

To the person who wanders around all day and chases deer to you.

To the one who plans the drives, sets the standers and gets permission from the neighbors. To the fella who guts out the deer and always gets the bladder out intact.

To the boy in the tree stand.

To the girl in the ground blind.

To the woman who knows more about being quiet than the guys.

To the young guy in scent lock with his new climber: It's all about tradition.

And the squirrels that always sound like deer coming up from your blind side that fool you. To the bucks who sound like squirrels that come in from behind that always fool you.

To the missed shots and to the great shots.

To the few who never seem to miss.

To the one who shoots the most shells and never hits a thing.

To the fresh tracking snow and little drops of blood you can only see when you are on your hands and knees.

To the great trackers and the ones that get away.

To the big bucks and the fat does and the little fawns that run in the woods: It's all about tradition.

Deer hunting in Wisconsin has a rich history. 2007 will be no different than the past, yet very different from all of the previous hunts.

From the days when hunters were all clad in red to the current days hunters wrapped in Gore-Tex, down, wool, fleece or scent lock.

To the hunters who will sit back and watch chickadees and blue jays and catch a few ZZZZs in the deer woods.

To the same red sunrise that our grandfathers watched that we watch again.

To that patch of brown that disappeared in the thicket.

To the deer that seemingly popped out of the ground and then vanished over the hill before you could get off a shot.

To the youngster who bags the first deer and the old timer who gets his last: It's still all about tradition.


WILDLIFE QUIZ -- Other than man what has been the greatest predator of deer historically?

Answer: The wolf.