Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
November 19, 1997, Page 12
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Good Old Days
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
A Teenager’s Deer Hunting Story of 1913
“The deer hunting fever is shared by many who live in Central Wisconsin, possibly one of the reasons they remain living here. The following story was taken from an article written by Ivan Fay which won third prize for its author in a 1913 Deer Hunting Story Contest. Manly Sharp, mentioned in the article, was a Neillsville High School agriculture teacher in the 1920s. Sharp’s sister, Esther Dodte, has resided in the Neillsville area for most of her life and shared a copy of the original article. “The first-time deer hunt” of the present day is probably similar to the 1913 experience, in many ways. D. Z.”
For an eighteen-year-old boy to go into the big woods for the first time with a firm resolve to out-do his dad, who had been deer hunting each fall for five years, is quite an undertaking. However, that is the job I tackled last fall.
I had entered school in September on the distinct understanding that when Nov. 11 came, I was to have a week’s vacation in the big woods of northern Wisconsin. Dad was acquainted with a family living on a homestead near Cable, and they had invited us up for deer hunting that fall. The night before the season opened, we sat around their table, eagerly discussing plans for the morning hunt.
The hunters in the party were Mr. Sharp and his son, Manly, who was my age, a visitor, Dad and myself. Darrel Sharp, a boy of twelve, also hunted with us part of the time, carrying a .25-20 gun. Somehow, Manly and I hit it off right away and became the best of friends.
The first day opened damp and very foggy, so we decided to hunt over some open country. Dad and Sharp took a circuit course through the woods and posted themselves at points of vantage, some distance ahead. We four of the younger generation started toward them abreast, about thirty-five rods apart. We hunted forward as silently as we could, more interested in getting a shot ourselves, than in driving on to the two older men. It was our freely expressed belief that they couldn’t shoot anyhow. I was at the extreme left of the line. The fog was very heavy and I could neither see nor hear any of the others, I seemed alone. What a strange feeling it was. I had never been within three hundred miles of deer country, yet here I was with a big rifle in my hands, stealthily creeping forward all by my lonesome, hoping and half expecting to see a big buck any moment. Would I get buck fever if I had a shot? On the train Dad had roasted me and prophesied I wouldn’t remember to shoot. Now…wouldn’t I? I grasped my gun tighter. By George, I’d show him. I had handled a rifle ever since I could carry one; I’d show him.
For a half mile, I crept slowly forward avoiding all possible twigs and rustling leaves, Then, as I came to the top of a little ridge, on a parallel ridge about thirty-five rods away, I saw a big deer leap over a fallen log. Something didn’t seem right. The deer’s appearance hadn’t been ushered in by any terrifying snorts or breaking of branches as I had heard tell about. I could dimly see him standing there, although the fog nearly hid him. I raised the rifle and as I took careful aim the thought of buck fever came to me and, I smiled to myself. I was very excited, yet my hands were as steady as a rock. Bang! I threw in another shell. A slight movement showed me he was still there. Again I fired. There was not the slightest movement. I lowered my rifle and waited. I took a step forward and away went my buck. He simply had failed to locate me. As he went, I had one good open shot and by some great fortune hit him.
As he went down the line the other boys each got in a flying shot, but he didn’t stop. Then we came together, found the blood trail and started following it.
For nearly a mile we trailed the deer. As the blood trail became less, we followed at times on our hands and knees, but to no avail. We lost the trail entirely and went back to the cabin for dinner. Not knowing it, I had killed my first deer. After I had gone home, Manly found the deer carcass about forty rods from where we lost the trail.
Right after dinner, within half a mile of camp I had an easy standing shot at a nice two-year-old buck. The deer went down at the first crack of my rifle. Delighted? Well! I had bagged a deer. Not only that, but I, the greenhorn – the 18-year-old kid – had skinned the other hunters – I had the first meat. I was a full fledged deer hunter.
The other boys helped with the deer, and were very generous with their compliments. Dad said the least of all but I could tell he was tickled all over.
Tuesday, Manly and Andrew each bagged young bucks. Dad had a shot, but much to his disgust, missed clean. Manly made a good shot at a 200 lb. buck and had his deer. That made four.
The following Thursday, Manly and I started off alone walking toward a cabin deep in the woods, where we expected to spend the night, and hunt walking towards home the next day.
We had gone about a mile when our trail led us through a long, dry swamp. Some of you know what that’s like. Soft and spongy; almost like walking on a featherbed! At every step you sink in up to your knees, but its dry clear to the bottom. As we walked along, we picked and ate the wild frost-bitten cranberries along the trail. Suddenly we saw a big deer running ahead of us about sixty rods. We both fired twice, but at that range didn’t touch her. The deer changed its course and ran into the underbrush at the edge of the swamp. We ran forward as fast as we could, stumbling and sliding to the place where we had seen it last.
Just as we came up puffing like two locomotives, she started back across the swamp about twenty rods ahead of us – a fine open running shot. I fired first, missed. Then Manly missed! We both fired again, not knowing who hit the deer as it went down. A warm discussion followed as to whom the deer belonged.
The odds were in Manly’s favor, for he was a good woodsman and had about 18 deer to his credit. I was only a greenhorn. When we dressed out the deer, we found the copper jacket had stripped off and remained in the wound. The jacket was from a .38-.55. Manly shot a .30-.30. The deer and the honor of the shot was mine.
Tickled? I whooped and howled with delight. I had not only filled my license but Dad’s too. Manly was very generous and really seemed more pleased than if he had killed the deer himself. That evening at the supper table we held a jubilee, and did we roast Dad! He had come up confidently expecting to get a deer for me. Instead I had gotten one for him.
Two deer was all we were entitled to, and besides my school was calling. Friday morning we brought all the deer in, photographing our take and that evening started home. Those four days of hunting were the happiest and most eventful days of my life.
Somewhere, up in the big north slashings, I claim there is a big buck fattening up for me. If I am well, a team of mules won’t keep me home when the 1914 deer season opens. How is it with the rest of you? Will you be there, too?
Best of luck to hose of you who enjoy and participate in the yearly “deer hunt,” whether it be bow and arrow, or rifle. D.Z.
If you cut your own firewood
It will warm you twice.
There is more satisfaction
In doing things yourself
Big Men Leave big tracks!
The bigger the person, the bigger the impression.
Ivan Fay, as a “greenhorn hunter” proudly held two of the deer he bagged on his first hunt. The successful experience initiated an enjoyable life long sport.
The Sharp and Fay hunting party stayed in a cabin which apparently had been a settler’s home at one time, near Cable, Wis.
Deer hunting camp as it was circa 1920. A tent set up in the woods, a portable wood heater and cots sufficed as temporary living accommodations. A pole with six deer recorded a successful hunt.
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