North Woods Hunting Heritage

Phil Anderson

Minnesota's rifle hunting season is open and Wisconsin's is two weeks away. Minnesota Public Radio had a fluff piece this week on the “tradition” of the hunting camp with all its camaraderie and wholesome family bonding. The nostalgia is nice but it seems like our outdoors heritage is being replaced by a virulent gun centered paranoia. Hunting is declining in popularity while gun sales are increasing. Most of the new gun ownership is being driven by a small minority of 2nd amendment nuts.

This change is illustrated by an encounter I had last year with several “sportsman.”  I was hiking a public trail on public land. Three men on four wheelers came by on their way into the woods. In a few minutes of conversation several disturbing assertions were made. 

One individual commented that he “never went anywhere without his gun.” He had a holstered pistol on his side and a high powered rifle in a scabbard on the vehicle. This was in August and no hunting seasons were open. Another person said it was a shame that the “best hay field” in the area was now a wildlife refuge and off the tax rolls.

What is a grown man so afraid of that he feels the need to carry a gun? Douglas County is not a high crime area. Terrorists and immigrants are not rampaging. We certainly do not have a problem with bear or wolf attacks. Why the paranoia? 

One would think that hunters would be in favor of setting aside land for wildlife. Efforts by the DNR and private organizations like Ducks Unlimited are a major reason we have wildlife to hunt. Why are these gun owners so opposed to environmental protection? It all makes no sense.

In contrast to the irrational fear of these individuals is the story of a friend of mine from Wausau. He writes  about growing up with a positive hunting tradition. His article below  reflects my experience growing up in a hunting family. I think this tradition represents our real Minnesota and Wisconsin outdoor values much better than the gun toting, open carry, concealed carry crowd. We can only hope that rational behavior will eventually win over paranoia.


The Rifle

By Dave Svetlik

January 27, 2015


Born in the late 40’s, I grew up in a family of hunters. Fair shots most of them, I remember standing next to my father when a spooked buck crossed our path at a dead run. Dad shot twice, hit twice, and the buck went down. It was near Hatfield, in central Wisconsin.

Dad’s rifle was an old, iron sight, pump action, 30 Remington. It has killed (we kill deer – corn and oats are harvested) a few deer since my father died in 94. My sons have used the rifle. It was never a popular caliber and bullets are no longer manufactured for it. I have about 35 left – should last me until I no longer hunt. The rifle is a treasure to me.

It is easy for an “elder” to wax eloquent about the “good old days.” Often as not, they weren’t. But there were values we were taught as young men back then that seem to have been lost.

We would have been severely reprimanded had we ever referred to our deer rifle as a “weapon.” We hunted around men who had fought in World War II. A few of the elders had seen World War I. They knew what a “weapon” was – prayed their sons would never carry one. They would have been appalled at the (now common) sight of a hunter entering the woods with something that looked like an assault rifle. There was no place for “Rambo” where they had been.

My father, my elders, would have been disgusted by the concealed carry legalization that has metastasized across America, embarrassed at the sight of a grown male strutting around in public with a firearm, thinking it made him a man. They would have been sickened by the toxic versions of masculinity that now permeate our society.

My elders would have viewed the current National Rifle Association as a near-terrorist organization, a mutilated version of its original good sportsman self, spreading fear and venomous hatred throughout America. They would have been saddened at how our young men, our youth, have been misled, at how responsible citizenship and caring for one’s neighbors and community have been replaced with some macho- driven fantasy of male adulthood.

I suspect my father and my elders would also have understood that the gun rights legislation sold to state legislatures by the corporately funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was never really about gun rights. That was the emotional bait. The real purpose of the ALEC sponsored gun “rights” legislation was to install fear and mistrust in average people. The real purpose was to turn friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor. The real purpose was to “divide and conquer” . . . and it has been very successful.

We are watching as our nation, our state, our communities, our freedom and our democracy itself are being taken over by the rich and corporations. They are being taken without the firing of a single shot. The very legislation supposedly enacted to give us the guns to “defend” ourselves, is but another Trojan horse tearing us apart and keeping us from understanding how the wealthy predator class is our only real enemy. Our democracy and our economically dependent freedom are already gone. They will never be regained with guns.

Reprinted with permission from the Middle Wisconsin News,, and Mr. David Svetlik, Wausau, WI.