The Orange Army: Nine Days in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, like most Midwestern states, deer season is a part of the culture. This guy doesn't even put up Christmas lights, but when deer season starts, out come the decorations.
This year 607,926 Badger State deer hunters took to the woods for the nine-day gun season. While Wisconsin is revered as one of the top trophy buck states in the country, the vast majority of these hunters are not out looking to break any Boone and Crockett records.
A lot of hunters are more concerned with filling their freezers than their trophy rooms.
Historically, Wisconsin's deer hunters kill far more antlerless deer than bucks. For most of the blaze orange army, the season is about spending time in the woods and continuing the hunting tradition. But still, trophy bucks are taken every year.
It seems like every bar, restaurant and gas station in the state waits for opening weekend of deer season to roll out the red carpet for hunters. Most establishments simply put out "Hunter's Welcome" signs, but this bar, located near where I hunt, goes the extra mile and hangs its patrons' deer.
A pickup full of frozen deer parked in front of a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign? Welcome to Wisconsin.
Meet my hunting party consisting of my dad, younger brother, uncle, cousin and grandpa (not pictured). What we lack in good looks we make up for in character. We hunt in north-central Wisconsin where there are plenty of deer, but not many bucks that make the record books.
Opening weekend was cool and overcast this year. It was perfect weather to get the deer moving and everyone saw plenty of does and small bucks on the first day.
Then early on Saturday morning this eight-point buck appeared out of the fog. I heard him crunching through the underbrush from a long ways away, and as soon as he stepped in the clear I calmly settled my crosshairs behind his shoulder. With ice in my veins, I squeezed the trigger as the deer stood broadside at 300 yards.
OK … what actually happened was I went into a brief state of panic when I saw the buck standing in thick cover. I breathed onto my scope, effectively fogging it over and brought my gun up with shaking hands. But luckily none of that really mattered because at this point the deer was only 65 yards away.
My short-range shooting proved itself once again and I hit him square in the chest.
Note: Since I'm now living in New York, I didn't have time to get home to hang my deer stand. My dad (pictured here) hung it for me, and according to him, that means that this is actually his buck.
During the second half of the season, the mercury dipped and we got a nice dusting of snow.
Over beers and Thanksgiving leftovers we discussed where to hunt.
Here's the view from my stand. To the left there's a stretch of hardwoods that edges up against a popple thicket where the deer like to run once the shooting starts.
To the right is a pine ridge that deer sneak through at first light.
During the second weekend of gun season almost all of the tracks you find will be headed for heavy cover.
After three more days of hunting, the only deer I saw was this chubby little doe.
Here's our rifle lineup. Is a .7mm Remington Mag. overkill for Midwest whitetails? Only if you're a pansy.
On Sunday, the last day of our hunt, I heard a boom come from the direction of my cousin Shawn's stand.
Shawn, a senior in college, was hungry. With only a few hours left to hunt, no doe tag and this young buck standing broadside, he had a decision to make: shoot and spend the rest of the school year feasting on venison steaks, or let the buck walk and go back to eating nothing but frozen pizza, peanut butter out of the jar and Ramen noodles. The decision made itself.
Unfortunately, I had to take photos for this gallery and wasn't able to help much dragging out Shawn's deer. Working for Outdoor Life is a difficult job.
Even though we had modest success, we only killed two deer between six hunters, the nine-day hunt was the highlight of my hunting season. I got to catch up with family, get back to my hunting roots and even tip over a buck. I'm already looking forward to next year.

In the Midwest, whitetail hunting isn't just a season, it's a way of life. OL takes an inside-look at deer hunting in the Heartland.