About the time the deer come out of the woodwork each fall, so, too, does the deer craziness.
For two solid months, deer and deer hunters will be in the spotlight in the Upper Midwest — Wisconsin and Minnesota in particular.
It starts with bow hunting in both states, then youth hunts, and hunts for disabled veterans, then the firearms and muzzleloader seasons. Even out of the field, deer are in the spotlight. Or headlights: For many weeks now, state wildlife agencies have constantly been warning drivers to be on the lookout for deer on the roads.
And recently, in Wisconsin, there was The Great Deer Hoax.
Consider this story that has making the rounds in several Forum Communications publications in the last week or so:
Wisconsin wildlife officials have taken to social media to refute a hoax letter that suggested they had mistakenly added deer lawn ornaments to the last two annual statewide deer tallies.
“This letter is a fake. It was not crafted, nor distributed by (the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources),” the post said.
It was not immediately clear who wrote the letter, which directs residents to “Act NOW!” But the culprit used the department’s letterhead and signed it as the department’s deputy secretary, Kurt Thiede.
The department said that deer and other lawn ornaments could stay.
Dozens of people responded in jest to the Facebook posting, with one saying: “However, the pink flamingos are another story.”
So thank goodness for a fast-growing Minnesota tradition that lends some sanity to this time of year.
The fourth Big Buck Challenge embodies the fun competition that can be the annual rite of fall — the Minnesota rifle season, which runs Nov. 7-15.
The event, sponsored by Mills Fleet Farm, offers prizes in five weight divisions, youth buck and doe divisions and a new Last Chance division. Entry fee is $20, and every hunter entering and weighing a deer will be eligible to win a Polaris ATV, a Huldra rifle and other Last Chance prizes.
The youth division — ages 10 to 15 — has been hugely popular. All youths need to do is get their deer to a weigh station — there is no entry fee and no pre-registration. The top 25 doe and bucks by weight win $50 Mills Fleet Farm gift cards, and youths also are eligible to purchase a ticket and enter the main competition.
The top weight division is the Central Boiler bucks 200 pounds and over. First prize is a Central Boiler stove valued at $7,990. Second is a Huldra 5.56 x 45 Mark IV rifle and third is a Vortex Viper HS 4-16×44 scope, and the top three bucks will be mounted free of charge by Spring Creek Taxidermy. In all, 20 prizes will be awarded to hunters harvesting the heaviest bucks.
The Hunter’s Specialties division for bucks below 200 pounds features a Polaris ATV valued at $6,000 for the winner. Second through 10th places win rifles, scopes, stands and more, as do the 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th and 35th places by weight.
The Vortex Optics division for bucks below 180 pounds features a Huldra Mark IV 5.45 x 39 rifle valued at more than $1,000 to the winner, and rewards the top five places, plus 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th. The same places are paid in the Hornady American Whitetail division for bucks below 160 pounds. That winner will receive a Korstog 5.56 x 45 rifle valued at $1,449.
The Muddy biggest doe division recognizes the top 10 doe by weight, with first place receiving a Muddy box blind valued at $3,000.
The heaviest buck harvested last year was by Brainerd area hunter Dan Kanera. He shot his trophy in northern Minnesota, and it weighed 237.49 pounds. The largest buck weighed was shot by a 16-year-old Aitkin student who didn’t purchase a ticket. His buck weighed 251.96 pounds on the Big Buck scales at the Baxter Fleet Farm store, where friends and family typically show up for the celebratory weigh-ins.
Big Buck Challenge tickets must be purchased between now and midnight prior to the first day of the Minnesota rifle season. Tickets are available at all Minnesota Mills Fleet Farm stores (except Mankato) or at usbigbuck.com.
Entrants and anyone interested in the competition can follow along as deer are weighed and results (and photos) are posted at usbigbuck.com.