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Deer Season Good Time to Forget about CWD: Mad Deer Disease Spreads across Wisconsin

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Mad Cow Disease page.

The percentage of mature bucks with chronic wasting disease continues to rise throughout southern Wisconsin.

When Wisconsin's annual nine-day firearms season opens around dawn on Saturday, Nov. 22, I won't dwell on the state's slow- but ever-growing stain called chronic wasting disease.

No, I'll be much like the other 650,000 or so hunters hunkered in ground blinds and tree stands from Potosi to Pembine, and Patzau to Paddock Lake. I'll be scanning the woods for whitetails with my ears and eyes, happy to sit from dawn to dusk in hopes of shooting the buck of a lifetime. The odds of that happening are low, of course, but far higher than winning the lottery. I hunt deer far more than I play the lottery, after all.

I'll spend most of opening weekend in northeastern Richland County at my late uncle's farm to hunt with my cousins, and then drive five hours north to hunt central Ashland County with longtime friends through Tuesday in the Chequamegon National Forest.

I'll do lots of thinking, wishing and daydreaming while sitting, waiting and chilling. Deer hunting's great for that. When you're alone with your thoughts, it's easy to think you're still young and that deer hunting never changes.

As the Department of Natural Resources' new deer-season slogan reads, "The rules have changed, but the tradition remains." I like that. It conjures up images of red-plaid wool, .30-30 Winchesters and snow-crusted deer shacks at dusk.

Then again, the state's new deer rules aren't any more dramatic than most years, and certainly don't require late-night study. But just to be sure we notice its new drapes, the DNR put out a six-page fact sheet that leads with this question: "What will changes in 2014 mean for MY deer season?"

Well, we're now using county boundaries instead of roads and rivers to designate deer-management units. But so what? How many deer stories involve a DMU, and how many whitetails will notice the change?

And next year, of course, most of us will register our deer by telephone or computer instead of having a tavern-keep or convenience-store clerk do the honors. But will our hunting experience really improve when each antlerless tag is designated for public or private land?

The DNR also assures us we'll be happier because we'll never again argue about deer-herd estimates and population goals. Instead, we'll just chat about the herd in our county and whether it's too small, too large or just right.

Hmm. Let me guess: There's not enough deer. Anywhere.