A couple of items caught my eye in the recent Through the Ages column.
The first was the establishment of the Floodwood Game Refuge 100 years ago. This 60 square mile area was closed to all forms of hunting and perhaps trapping and even had a refuge patrolman whose duty was to “eliminate” all forms of “predators.” And It must have been quite a job to put game refuge signs up along the boundary and maintain them.
When I arrived in the area in 1969, this refuge still was here as well as another refuge in the southern area of the county, the McGrath Refuge, although they usually were open to hunting. I do not recall how big the McGrath Refuge was, but perhaps 10% of the county was game refuge at one time.
The original thinking behind these refuges was that wildlife would be “protected”, populations would flourish, and “excess” animals would move out to surrounding areas. In realty, this did not happen.
Since the refuges still showed up on maps, regulation books had to spell out that they were open to hunting but it led to confusion among hunters and landowners. In the case of the Floodwood Refuge, a good portion eventually became part of the Savanna Portage State Park, and the remaining area was not very good deer habitat and was not very accessible to hunters. So, we went to work to abandon the refuges.
One tactic was that refuge signs that seemed to disappear were not replaced so the public did not even know where the boundary was or that a refuge even existed. To abandon a refuge, we had to go through the same legal process that was used to establish it in the first place. This included a public hearing to gauge support for abandonment and then the commissioner could sign the order to do so. If I remember correctly, the Floodwood Refuge went first and then the McGrath Refuge.
The other item was the deer season 50 years ago when during the opening weekend, five gunshot incidents were recorded, none of them fatal. Today, hunting is very safe and five incidents during all hunting seasons in the fall statewide would be a lot. Hunting is safe because to purchase a license and participate in a hunting season a person needs to have taken a firearm safety course. The firearm safety certificate is required for anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979.