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Back in the day


Andrea Zani

Vintage color photo of group of hunters sitting at campsite and preparing mealHunters at deer camp in the 1950s and '60s were sustained with plenty of good grub and, sometimes, a few words of inspiration before hitting the woods.

Advice to deer hunters may not have changed all that much in the past 50 years as the Wisconsin Conservation Department and the Department of Resource Development morphed into the Department of Natural Resources. The basics are the same: Be safe, follow the rules, good luck in the field.

Those sentiments are captured in a funny little half-page article titled "Bless You But Shape Up!" that appeared in the September/October 1968 Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin, the DNR publication that preceded Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Read this piece with its best intentions — and its history — in mind to keep it in proper context. No doubt it should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the era it was printed, its origins in a church setting and the inherent if now perhaps quaint assumption that all hunters were manly men who ate raw onions and left behind weeping "deer hunter widows" each season.

Here it is, word for word, straight from 50 years ago.

Bless You But Shape Up!

Father Richard Burzynski, Solon Springs, has a way with those sometimes rough characters, deer hunters.

That showed up during the 1967 season when Father Burzynski officiated at a 5:00 a.m. Hunters' Mass in Gordon. On the mimeographed program were these notes:

  • Ushers are empowered by the Conservation Commission to see that law and order prevails in the church at all times.
  • Hunters who encountered skunks around camp or slept in their hunting clothes, ate raw onions or slept on the bar room floor will have to sit in their own special pews.
  • Sermon: "Look before you shoot — if you can't see, don't shoot at all."
  • Effertory Collection: Although the state still has a one buck law, we will allow you to drop at least a couple of bucks inside the church itself. Those with party permits are allowed, in addition, to drop a little extra dough.
  • Best shooting and praying is done from a kneeling position – above all else, aim high!
  • Hymns: "Where art thou Deer?" No. 24; "Oh Lord that I May See (one)" No. 78; "Nearer My Deer to Thee" No. 99.
  • Special Prayers: Will be offered for the success of the campaign of the Red Coat Army and a word of condolence to all those nine day deer hunter widows who weep alone at home
  • Sunday is still God's Day, even in deer season — go to church. It should improve your odds.
  • Don't swear so much. Neither at the gun, the deer, nor at thy partner, nor at the log you stumble over, nor just for a "filler-in." Profanity flows from a head empty of ideas and a tongue short on vocabulary.
  • Don't mix drinking and hunting. The hazards of ducking bullets are bad enough even when you're stone sober.

GOOD LUCK, MEN. GOD BLESS YOU ALL: We've taken a real liking to you, so keep your cool and may you fill all your tags.

Andrea Zani is managing editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.