Murder In The Deer Woods

Yesterday was one of the most bizarre days I can remember for a long time.   It was a day marked with tragedy and suspense during the 2nd day of the Wisconsin Deer Season.   Even though it occurred several hundred miles away from the woods where I hunt, I fear the effect will be forever felt in the hunting community everywhere throughout this country.

I’m not going to repeat the story in this blog, but if you don’t know what happened yesterday you can read it here.   In a nutshell, a hunter who was told to vacate private property in Northern Wisconsin turned into a mass murderer killing some of our hunting brethren, who by all accounts were innocently enjoying traditional deer hunting among family and friends.

Indeed, yesterday was a day when hunting lost some of its innocence, along with some of the pleasure and camaraderie we all expect from the solitude of deer camp.   I can’t help but think of the times I have found trespassing hunters sitting in my deer stands, as well as the heated discussions the ensued.   I suppose if you put enough time in with this sport, you are bound to have heated encounters with other hunters who just happen to be carrying a gun.

Fortunately, all of my past experiences evicting hunters from my private property have been peaceful.   In fact, until yesterday I would have thought it to be “unthinkable” to even fathom another hunter turning his gun on me, no matter how disgusted he might have been with my demands.   But no more…yesterday changed the psyche we all must deal with.   From now on we must never discount the fact that an adversarial hunter could turn the gun on us in a rage of anger.

I’m sure as the days and weeks go by we will learn more of the details so as to help us understand why this tragedy might have occurred.   Nevertheless, it will not change the fact that six hunters all from a single hunting party lay dead.   With this fact we all mourn, we all feel a sense of anger, and we all contemplate how we might have reacted had we been in that situation.

My biggest fear is this tragedy might somehow change the rules of engagement when two hunters disagree and happen to be carrying guns.   Until yesterday, the gun was only a tool hunters used to participate in the sport we all enjoy.   Now the ice has been broken and we’ve seen how those same guns can be used to “settle a score,” so to speak.

I think it needs to be emphasized that yesterday the person who committed this horrific crime might have been a hunter in Northern Wisconsin with intentions of killing a deer.   Instead, he became a murderer who went berserk by unleashing his anger in a very irrational way.   The alleged criminal transformed himself from a hunter to a cold-blooded killer seemingly at the flip of a switch.   What truly provoked him may never be fully known, but the outcome of his actions far exceeded the response one might expect under similar circumstances.   A criminal who is capable of killing a man as a hunter, would have been just as capable of killing a neighbor over a property dispute.   Unfortunately for the victims of this hunting camp, they were dealing with a ticking time bomb who was set to explode leaving a whole lot of carnage in the wake.

During times of such tragedy it is difficult to see any silver lining in this story.   The negative aspects are so pervasive and obvious that it seems almost hopeless to search for anything positive.   Yet, in the days and months to come I think it behooves each of us in the sportsmen community to more carefully evaluate how we deal with confrontations as we participate in our outdoor sports.

Surely the tragedy that played out in the Northern Wisconsin woods yesterday was a very isolated occurrence that hopefully will never be repeated.   Nevertheless, I believe it is wise and very prudent that the events remains indelibly etched in our memories.   Certainly our prayers go out for the families and victims of a horrible situation that has in some way affected our entire hunting family.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.