20 years ago, hunting traffic brought business to small towns up north

By  | 

LENA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Friday night tradition is something hunters look forward to all year as the gun deer hunt goes off with a bang early Saturday morning, but routes traveling north and even laws have changed for hunters, making this year different than years past.

“Definitely a family tradition,” Jeremy Sherman told Action 2 News as he worked to fill up his truck and ATV on his way up north. “Been doing this since I was a little kid. I'm 35 now, I'm headed north now to meet up with my brother, uncle and cousin up at the deer camp up by Pembine and ready for the nine-day!"

Raised up north, Sherman remembers packed highways and getting off school to go hunting. ”We got off early on Friday so the buses could get out before the traffic got really bad and then off for the whole week,” he recalled.

Since 141 was re-routed in 2004 to bypass Lena and Coleman, things have changed. We dug up the Action 2 News archive to find a report by Jeff Alexander about 20 years ago, and it, Jeff describes an intersection in Lena: “There is so much traffic on this day ever year, Lena Police manually control the town's only stoplight so it doesn't get any worse.”

We went back to that same intersection in downtown Lena and there’s no longer a stop light, or any traffic that would require one. Businesses downtown have taken a hit, too—with a popular market, restaurant and some bars closing after the highway changed course.

Kids who live in Lena say the most disappointing part is that they now have school on the Friday ahead on the gun deer hunt.

This year hunters' biggest change is that the requirement to physically tag the deer after they've been harvested no longer exists; it's done online.

It should be easier for hunters, but not everyone loves it.

“My cabin has no cell phone service whatsoever so if I get a deer Saturday morning I've gotta drive at least 45 minutes to get cell phone service,” said Joshua Zarling, who hunts in Eagle River.

"It worked really slick when I got my deer for bow season. Just registered it online—and it takes away some of the fun out of it because it was always fun to bring it in to the registration station and tell your story,” said Sherman.