It’s about much more than the hunt to Marathon County man
For some guys, deer hunting is hanging some blaze orange clothes on the family clothes line for a week and, rifle in hand, sitting in a tree stand for a couple days of the year waiting for a pair of horns to come walking by.
That’s not the way Rick Baeseman, town of Wien, approaches it. For him, deer hunting is a way of life.
He lives on an old beef farm converted into a deer paradise. He has planted 65,000 trees on his property, as well as lush stands of soybeans, clover, radishes and turnips to feed not just local Edgar deer, but herds that wander in from Schappsville and Fenwood. Part of his property is reserved as a deer sanctuary, where neither he, nor anybody else, ever goes. It is a haven for large-antlered bucks.
A sturdy tree stand, which features a heater and pictures of past deer kills, stands strategically in the center of it all. Even teenage girls with a modern rifle can bring down deer in a multitude of directions.
A deer lifestyle never ends. Each day, Baeseman is busy either tending to his 25 species of trees, looking after his several deer food plots or just walking the trails on his property, uploading images from his several trail cameras and looking for deer scrapes and hoof marks.
It is nothing unusual for him to find deer horns (sheds) along a trail. “I have barrels and barrels of horns,” he said.
In the Baeseman home, a large collection of large deer and elk mounts are displayed in a crescent above the living room fireplace. Some are from treks out west to Colorado or south to Texas, while others were taken from hunting land he jointly owns with an Edgar crew in the New Wood, Lincoln County. Many of the deer, however, were harvested in what amounts to be his backyard.
This is not just convenient. It’s amazing.
Baeseman started deer hunting with a gun in 1977. Two years prior, he stood by his father, Arden Baeseman, Edgar, while he hunted. These early hunting years took place in Jackson County near Black River Falls.
“That’s because there were no deer here in Marathon County in 1977,” Baeseman said. “Back in those days, I’d sit on the logging road in Edgar for two nights and never see a deer.”
It was only “somewhere in the 1980s” that deer left the mature forests of northern Wisconsin and settled in the farmland of Marathon County, Baeseman said. Fed on abundant crops, the deer herd boomed.
“Now, here in central Wisconsin, this is the most populated area of the state for deer,” he said.
Over decades, Baeseman has honed techniques of bringing this large herd of deer to his property. He owns a tractor, a grain drill and forestry equipment to make this all happen.
For Baeseman, deer hunting, including stuffing a family freezer with venison steaks, is all part of living on and caring for a piece of land.
“I am a conservationist,” he said. “I like working on the land actually more than I do hunting. If I had to give up hunting, I wouldn’t miss it even a little bit. It’s the land that I enjoy.”
Baeseman credits his parents for his perspective. His father, Arden, helped plant the Burma Forest in Marathon County. His mother, Joan, was his assistant in planting trees across his property.
Baeseman said deer hunting is about camaraderie. People gather to prepare for the hunt, celebrate together when somebody gets a nice deer and butcher deer carcasses as a group.
But, in the end, Baeseman said, hunting is about being alone.
“It winds up in solitude,” he said. “I call it therapy.”
What that means is that every deer mount is its own story that describes a unique, personal experience.
“The stories are endless, just endless,” he said.
Baeseman points to the many deer hanging on his living room wall. Each deer is its own story.
One is his Christmas deer. He was hunting alone in the New Wood on a frigid Christmas Day. The temperature was 20 degrees below zero. This was the final day of the final hunting season of the year.
He snowshoed out to a food plot and, after seeing smaller deer coming out to feed, saw a monster deer walk out in literally the last minute of the hunt. This was a deer that had eluded New Wood deer hunters for years.
Baeseman downed the animal but wondered, given the cold, whether he was doomed himself. “My ears were frost-bitten,” he said. “I was so cold I worried about being able to walk out.”
Baeseman did hike out back to his cabin, warmed up, and retrieved the 210 pound 9-pointer.
“What a gift,” said.
Baeseman points to a large, mounted elk on the wall. Another story follows. Baeseman was hunting on the mountain tops in Colorado with a bow and arrow. Finding the large elk, he shot the animal. His arrow pierced the animal, entering from the bottom and exiting from the top. The dying elk tumbled down the side of the mountain.
Baeseman followed and, on his way down the grade, he discovered an arrow lying on the ground. This was a mystery. Why was there a strange arrow on this mountain side?
Closer investigation showed that the arrow had been lodged in the large horns of the elk and only came loose after the animal tumbled over the cliff.
A large deer on the wall is pointed to.
This is Baeseman’s deer from Fenwood. He recalls hunting for a large buck in a swamp. He heard the animal snort and, to get closer to the deer, he entered the marsh. First, he was up to his knees in chilly November water wearing only woolen pants. Next he was up to his waist. Finally, he was up to his chest. As light faded in evening, the buck emerged from a thicket for a brief moment. Baeseman took a quick and lethal shot.
“I had just enough time to pull the trigger,” he said. “He was just seconds away from making it.”
While often a solitary hunter, Baeseman does his best to share his deer lifestyle. He has mentored many Edgar youth, both boys and girls, about how to hunt deer. He is more eager, actually, to show pictures of local youth learning the craft of deer hunting at his Wien property than pictures of deer he has harvested.
Baeseman said he was lucky to be taught the ways of the whitetail as a youngster. Now, he said, he wants to return the favor to a next generation.