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January 17, 2020

Dean hall/lakeland times

Pictured front from left, Charles Gahler and Donavin Schillinger hold the deer mounts they recently received for their top scoring bucks in the 2018 Northwoods Youth Deer Hunting Challenge (NYDHC). The deer mounts were courtesy of Strasburg’s North Country Taxidermy. Presenting them with the mounts were, back from left, NYDHC Committee members Heather Holmes, Gregg Walker, Baile Strasburg, Travis Strasburg, Tom Wrasse and Chris Bartelt.
Dean hall/lakeland times

Pictured front from left, Charles Gahler and Donavin Schillinger hold the deer mounts they recently received for their top scoring bucks in the 2018 Northwoods Youth Deer Hunting Challenge (NYDHC). The deer mounts were courtesy of Strasburg’s North Country Taxidermy. Presenting them with the mounts were, back from left, NYDHC Committee members Heather Holmes, Gregg Walker, Baile Strasburg, Travis Strasburg, Tom Wrasse and Chris Bartelt.
1/11/2020 7:30:00 AM
16th annual NYDHC banquet a rewarding experience
170 youth honored for their hunt
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

The deer harvest was down this year across the state, and especially up north, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the 170 youth hunters who participated in this year's Northwoods Youth Deer Hunt Challenge (NYDHC).

And on New Year's Day, they were rewarded for their hunt at the 16th annual NYDHC banquet held at the Lakeland Union High School commons.

At the banquet, hundreds of prizes, including an impressive array of over 50 guns, were given away to the young hunters, along with duck decoys, hunting blinds, turkey calls, deer cleaning kits, ice fishing gear, gun cases, and so much more.

All the prizes, donated by NYDHC sponsors, were given as a way to commend the youth for doing their part in maintaining the sport of deer hunting.

Five of the guns were also given in memory of fallen hunters Tom Handrick, Michael Wanty, Jeremy Ritchie, Danielle Gorectke, and Zeke Jonas.

The NYDHC, which was established to promote youth hunting, was open to hunters, age 10-17, who reside in Vilas, Oneida, or Iron counties and hunted this year in one of those counties or in Price or Florence County.

Hunters did not have to shoot a deer to be eligible for a prize, but anybody who shot a buck was eligible to receive a free antler mount from Dennis Rinehart of the American Institute of Taxidermy.

This year the top three bucks, overall, were taken during the gun season. Tyler Gillich shot the highest scoring buck, a 10-pointer that measured 16 3/8-inches for a total score of 26 3/8. That was followed by Collin Guelcher's 8-pointer that measured 15 3/4-inches and scored a 23 3/4. Coming in third was Sophie Miljevich. She shot a 10-pointer that measured 12 3/4-inches for a final score of 22 3/4. All three of these hunters will receive a free head mount of their deer courtesy of Strasburg's North Country Taxidermy, as will Caden Schillinger. His 8-point buck measured 13-inches, for a total score of 21, and it was the top buck in the mentor hunt category.

In addition to prizes and awards, the NYDHC banquet also included a brat and hot dog dinner served with all the fixings by the Minocqua Lions Club. All the food was donated by Trig's.

'An incredible event'

Prior to the awards ceremony and dinner, the youth hunters also had the opportunity to participate in a number of seminars and contests and visit various exhibits, all geared toward expanding their interest in not just deer hunting, but other activities in the outdoors as well.

For instance, Marty Kwiatkowski held a trapping seminar where he explained various traps and showcased impressive furs.

He said it was important kids are reminded that trapping is an option for outdoor activity.

"To let them realize this is out here," Kwiatkowski said. "A lot of people don't realize. They think we quit doing this 100 years ago."

He said trappers have long been hush-hush about the tricks of their trade, but they've come to realize that, like hunting, trapping will face extinction if new generations don't carry it on.

"Years ago it used to be that trappers would never tell. They wanted to keep all those secrets themselves," Kwiatkowski said. "But we've come to realize you got to take the kids out. You got to take everybody out and educate them."

Additionally at the banquet there was a deer skinning and butchering demonstration by Don Buss and an otter skinning seminar by Marv Smith, as well as a gun cleaning and safety station hosted by Jim Rehm.

Oneida and Vilas County representatives of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress were also on hand, hosting an information booth, as were members of the Minocqua Gun Club, who were promoting the high school trap league team.

Some of the stations at the banquet offered hands-on challenges, like Chris Thielman's "Recover Your Deer Game." For that challenge, kids were given a deer hunting scenario on a card that described where a specific shot was taken from, what weapon was used, and what the deer did after being shot. Using that information, kids were then asked to inspect a deer hide and determine where on the body the deer was shot and how long someone should wait to start tracking that deer.

"The kids were very interested in that," Thielman said. "People just think of shooting a deer. Sometimes after the shot is really where the work is."

Another activity offered was the Pope and Young Scoring Challenge hosted by Harley Benson.

For that challenge, after Benson explained the antler scoring process, he asked participants to try scoring an example rack.

And more than one young scorer was on the mark.

"There's a lot of them that listen when I do the presentation on it," Benson said. "And we have a three-way tie this year. Three of them are within an 1/8 of an inch."

Benson, an official Pope and Young scorer who has been with the NYDHC for many years, said antler scoring is another aspect of deer hunting that keeps young hunters interested, which, he said, is vital.

"If we don't have them interested it's going to die. The sport will die," Benson said. "So anything we can do to keep their interest up is always a plus, and even if its something like measuring the deer after it's been harvested. It sparks them to want to go see deer shows then, too. So their interest gains."

Wade Wentland put on a very popular archery competition at the NYDHC banquet, and he also saw the sparks of curiosity fly as a result of the event.

"Some of them have not been exposed to archery in any form," he said. "So even if it's their first chance it might spark an interest, you know, and create a new hobby or a new love that they might not have thought of."

And the benefits of archery, Wentland said, extend well off the shooting range.

"The patience and discipline that's involved with archery can cut across so many boundaries in other parts of their life," he said.

Gregg Walker, the NYDHC founder, knew it took a lot of patience and discipline this year in the woods, which was all the more reason to celebrate the 170 youth who hunted through a tough season.

"To go out and sit in a deer stand all day and not see a deer is pretty tough, so for those of you that did it, you young hunters, my hat's off to you," Walker said at the banquet. "Our committee, we know what that's like and we're just glad that you're out there hunting, because I tell you what. It's one of the greatest sports out there."

Hunter participation numbers are dipping nationwide, but thanks to events like the NYDHC banquet, the generosity of its sponsors, and the enthusiasm of its volunteers, youth hunting in the Lakeland area is alive and well, and that is the ultimate goal of the NYDHC.

"It's hugely important, to have something like this in this community is unreal," area warden supervisor Chris Bartelt said. "To have something like this where we're actively recruiting and rewarding our kids for hunting when there's so many other competing interests out there. I mean it's an incredible event."

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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