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Hunting changes, love of sport hasn't

Bennie Matthys (left) and Bob Goodlad have been admiring a Remington .22 since Matthys sold it to Goodlad in the 1950s. "It's a good gun," Matthys said. "It never quits." Photo by Jackie Grumish

Bob Goodlad and Bennie Matthys haven't missed a hunting season since they first picked up their rifles more than 50 years ago.

The two Star Prairie men have been hunting since the 1940s and said each year brings new challenges and adjustments.

In the 1940s, hunters had to travel north of U.S. Highway 8 to find deer, Matthys said.

Now, the deer population has dramatically increased, changing where hunters hunt and the season in which they can hunt.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the deer season lasted only nine days, Goodlad said.

A group of hunters would travel to camp and would hunt the entire time, he said.

Now, hunters have the freedom to hunt whenever they want during the several month long hunting season, he said.

For example, Goodlad went deer hunting Saturday with one of his friends. They left Star Prairie in the morning, hunted all day and returned that night.

"It was a much bigger event then," Goodlad said. "When you went deer hunting you only had nine days to do it. It isn't that marathon anymore."

While both Matthys and Goodlad enjoy the sport, they've never hunted deer together and have had very different experiences, they said.

For example, Matthys hunted at a camp without indoor plumbing, electricity and housing, he said.

"I've been hunting for all these years and have never hunted at a camp with indoor plumbing," he said.

In contrast, Goodlad experienced resort hunting.

"By today's standards it would be considered rustic, but then it was a resort," he said.

That's because hunters could rent cabins at the resort for roughly $25 a week. They had to provide their own heat, but the buildings had indoor plumbing, he said, and that was considered a luxury.

Like everything in life, the cost of hunting has increased -- including the cost of hunting equipment.

In the 1950s, Goodlad bought a used Remington .22 rifle from Matthys for $48. Now, Matthys wants to buy it back from Goodlad and he's offering to pay what it was worth new -- $24.

"He won't sell it to me," Matthys said with a laugh.

Other changes include where people can hunt, how deer meat is harvested and the types of regulations hunters have to follow, Matthys said.

In the 1950s, it was rare to stumble upon wooded land that didn't allow hunting, Goodlad said. Now, much of the wooded land is posted with "No Trespassing" signs.

When hunters do find land to hunt on, the way a downed deer is treated has also changed, he said

"In the '50s, you'd shoot the deer and it would hang from the closest tree until you came home," Goodlad said. "Then you'd load it on the fender and went up and down Main Street so people could see the deer. Then in another week -- sometimes it was two weeks before it was processed."

Now, when a deer is shot it's considered meat, he said.

"We try to get the hide off and the meat cooled down the same day it's down," he said. "We reduce the carcass to meat the same day."

The type of huntable deer has changed too, they said.

Hunting laws used to restrict hunters to antlered deer and now antlerless deer are also hunted.

That means hunters have a bigger selection.

"I don't go hunting, I go shopping," Goodlad said.

That's because he's always looking for the perfect deer.

"I'm shopping for one that's not too big, too small, too young or too old," he said. "One that will taste good."

Deer stands and hunting blinds are also something that has changed over the years, they said.

In the 1940s and '50s, the only elevated hunting was done from trees that were downed by "natural windfall." Now, almost all deer hunting is done from deer stands, they said.

The rules and regulations of deer hunting are almost overwhelming now, Matthys said.

State hunting regulations were summed up into one pamphlet, he said. Now, there's a thick stack of regulations for hunters to memorize.

"(And they) used to start with thou shall," said Goodlad. "Now it starts thou shall not."

Other changes, including the introduction of blaze orange, were adjustments the two had to make.

"Back then it was red plaid," Matthys said. "Which looked black from far away."

While it might seem like a lot, not everything has changed, Goodlad said.

"What hasn't changed is the look of anticipation on the faces of the kids," he said. "It's still a magical time for them."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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