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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

The Last Deer Hunt

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Ed called up Charley and said the two of them owed it to themselves to go on one last Wisconsin deer hunt. They weren’t getting any younger and everybody else in their old deer hunting party was long gone.

Boy, those were some great memories, if only they could remember them. Young people today didn’t have what it took to drink and play cards all night and then get up at dawn to kill stuff.

Not that everything was perfect in the old days. Ed and Charley always used to say DNR stood for Damn Near Russia.

But Ed heard there was a whole new attitude now toward deer hunting in the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Scott Walker. The leaders were no longer namby-pamby academics with highfalutin’ scientific theories about wildlife and conservation.

Garter snakes and butterflies were no longer calling the shots.

It was men with guns who had civilized this land in the first place. Wisconsin once again had leadership that admired how men with guns could improve upon nature once and for all.

Real estate developers had taken over the DNR. When men got tired of shooting stuff or snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere, they could clear out all that scruffy wild stuff, pave over it and build some buildings that would sell for a pretty penny.

So one last time, Ed and Charley found themselves driving up north for the hunt. You’d think a lot of memories would come flooding back, but Wisconsin looked strangely different.

The small towns they passed through didn’t look anything like what they remembered. The main streets looked like bad teeth with lots of dark diners and vacant video stores.

The countryside looked different, too. There weren’t any neat, whitewashed farmhouses or barns with “Mail Pouch” painted on the side. Across enormous expanses, sometimes you would see sprawling, anonymous buildings in the distance enclosing acres of God-knows-what.

For old time’s sake, Ed and Charley stopped in Hurley and tried to look up a lady they remembered. But the teenagers working the drive-thru of the Wendy’s, where one of the most famous houses in the state once stood, didn’t know anything about their own town’s colorful history.

When Ed and Charley got to what had once been their favorite hunting camp, their jaws fell open. The trees in which they had sat for hours in silence waiting for deer to wander down overgrown forest paths were all gone.

Gone too was the rustic lodge in the woods owned by a retired Chicago cop they’d always suspected had bought it with his illegal payoffs. Huffy loved to tend bar and tell war stories from the big city.

Oh, and the woods were gone, too. So were the wetlands. So was the little stream where deer would stop to drink.

Now it was all one immense parking lot surrounding a gigantic Cabela’s, a cavernous emporium selling every known variety of expensive outdoor gear to triumph over the vast outdoors that no longer existed.

 

Where’s the Wilderness?

Ed and Charley had no choice but to drive on further north where they knew they could hike into pristine wilderness, hoping once again to be surrounded by that exquisite solitude that sometimes made hunting seem almost spiritual.

They knew the Wisconsin they remembered was gone forever when they were surrounded by a small army of men wearing paramilitary uniforms, prodding them with semi-automatic military rifles.

The men began interrogating Ed and Charley, asking what they were doing in Penokee Hills and what eco-terrorist organization they represented.

Ed and Charley said they’d always remembered this land as public property. The men said the rules had changed in Wisconsin. They were private security flown in to protect an out-of-state mining company while it conducted environmental tests.

As soon as the DNR approved the test results, which was a mere formality, the mining company would start blowing these hills to smithereens and hauling them away.

Where Ed and Charley were standing was going to be a mammoth pit extending for miles in every direction, including down.

Then one of the men going through Charley’s wallet found his Sierra Club membership and things really started getting ugly.

Waterboarding was suggested. One guy said Ed and Charley looked like some of those wild Indians who lived nearby. Maybe if they fired their rifles at their feet, the two of them would do an environmental rain dance.

The men settled for just shooting over their heads to run Ed and Charley off.

Driving home, Ed and Charley didn’t say anything for a long time. Their state was supposed to protect them from people like that.

They used to worry about the DNR being overzealous in protecting Wisconsin’s wildlife and land. Now, Ed and Charley were worried who would protect all those things and everyone else from the DNR.

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