By Jessica Boehm
This year, Mike Harden of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, will partake in his 56th deer hunt. Though he’s battled pneumonia, nursed a broken arm and fallen out of trees through the years, he’s never let anything keep him from deer season.
“I haven’t missed an opening weekend yet and I hope not to,” Harden said.
He started hunting at 6 with his father and now takes his sons and grandson out for deer season. For Harden, it’s more about the tradition and camaraderie than the trophy buck.
In fact, Harden didn’t even shoot a deer in his favorite hunting story.
Several hunting seasons ago, Harden fell out of a tree at 9 a.m. Not knowing he broke his leg in the fall, he climbed back into the tree to continue hunting. That afternoon, it was raining and icy and he slipped and fell 18 feet from the tree again, this time landing on his back.
“I didn’t get a deer that day, but it kind of shows you how strange people can be,” Harden said. “You don’t want to leave the woods no matter what.”
Harden says he is the typical Wisconsinite. There were over 600,000 hunting licenses sold in the state last year.
“It’s an important part of our culture in Wisconsin,” Harden said. “It’s like Packer football. Everybody talks about it and it’s a shared experience for so many people.”
Although Harden owns multiple guns, he said that certain people should not have access to them. As a retired teacher, he was disturbed to see an uptick in school shootings.
“We live in a free society where everyone pretty much has a right to own guns unless they’re a felon,” Harden said. “With that right comes a lot of responsibility that not everyone subscribes to. So, yes, we have some problems in our society with guns.”
Coming up with a solution to that problem is another challenge. Harden said that he does not have faith that a compromise will be reached through political means. Harden used to be a member of the National Rifle Association, but said he no longer supports them because of their radicalized agenda.
“I think that they fail to yield at all, and I think that there is going to have to be some cooperation and compromise, and they fail to do that,” Harden said.
Jessica Boehm is a News21 Hearst Fellow.
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