Inspired by a paper Bob Schaaf’s oldest son wrote in grade school about his goal of becoming a deer farmer, Badger State Whitetails and Badger State Whitetails Adventures has rapidly evolved from a fun family hobby into a full-time business.
“It’s cool. You just sit there and watch stuff emerge from the woods,” Schaaf said.
Schaaf said his first five years in the whitetail business have been very rewarding, and he looks forward to showing off his facilities south of Chetek Saturday, Aug. 5, when he hosts the 2017 Whitetails of Wisconsin Summer Picnic and Open House.
The event is held each year at a different deer farm around the state, usually at a breeding facility.
“This will be the first time we have a hosting farm at a hunting ranch, and all members and the general public will be given tours of this amazing property,” said Roxanne Lotts of Indianhead Whitetails, Chetek.
Schaaf will guide guests through Badger State Whitetails Adventures, a 240-acre hunting preserve he owns in partnership with Lynn Davis. The property features 140 acres of dense swamp and thick woods; about 60 acres of farm fields planted in corn, soybeans (half of them forage beans), perennial habitat grass, clover and tubular brassica forage; and 20 acres of hills and rolling oaks.
“(Lynn) had the land and I had the deer, so we put the two together and started our dreams,” Schaaf said.
This is the first year that preserve will be open for hunting, and Schaaf said he feels fortunate to have 14 hunts booked so far for this fall. Deer were moved into the area this past spring.
Schaaf said he hopes that his preserve eventually will be “85 percent self-contained and self-populated,” with fawns born within its boundaries.
“I don’t know what’s gonna be out there,” he said.
He said he put 19 mature bucks (3 years and older) in the preserve, and some are “flirting with” antler scores of 350 to 400 inches.
As an added attraction during the open house, dogs from Northwoods Training Kennel of Cadott will perform a shed-hunting demonstration.
Badger Whitetails’ breeding facility includes about 105 of this year’s new fawns, along with nine mature breeder bucks, 70 mature does, 26 yearling does and 17 yearling bucks, in 20 acres of breeding pens.
Schaaf said they’re currently bottle-feeding 19 fawns — a three-time-a-day chore for which he often enlists the aid of local children, who relish the chance to feed a newborn deer.
“That makes all the work worth it,” he said.
Good genetics are key to the success of Schaaf’s deer farm, and he brings in some of the best from across Wisconsin, as well as Iowa and Pennsylvania.
“It’s kind of like building a house,” he said. “If you don’t start with a good foundation, you ain’t got nothing.”
Lotts said they expect 300-500 people to attend next month’s picnic and open house.
“This is a great family outing, and we have fun for the kids planned, as well. Everyone is welcome,” she said.
Registration will begin at noon, with a complimentary lunch served at 1 p.m. Educational seminars will be at 2 p.m. Charly Seale of the Exotic Wildlife Association will be the guest speaker on “Why Conservation Fences? The Controversial Issues Behind Them” and “Chronic Wasting Disease: Ignore the Hype/Know the Facts.”
All deer farms deal with these two issues on a daily basis, Lotts said.
Ranch tours will follow from 3 to 5 p.m., with the Smoke Wagon Band providing live music from 3 to 7 p.m.
Lotts said WOW includes more than 170 members, mostly deer farms and hunting ranches in Wisconsin but also some professionals within the industry and out-of-state farms and ranches.
She said they are monitoring an Iowa County deer farm on which CWD was found and studying the long-term effect of the disease in whitetails on that farm to see how long the deer live and help develop a live test to detect CWD.
“This is a new study that has not been done anywhere,” she said.
Each year, WOW members attend Summerfest near Black River Falls, an event sponsored by the United Special Sportsman Alliance, which grants wishes for disabled and critically ill individuals seeking to participate in a major hunting or fishing expedition.
Lotts said WOW was first contacted by Brigid O’Donoghue, USSA founder, to set up a hunt for a “wounded warrior” on a Wisconsin hunting ranch years ago.
“Our relationship with this organization has been thriving ever since,” she said. “Each year, many of the hunting ranches donate hunts to organizations like this or to youth hunts. This year, we will be bringing a few fawns to the event to allow these special individuals to see, touch and hear a fawn bleat. This is just one of the many ways we bring the cervid farming industry into the lives of others that otherwise would never have the chance to experience it.”
If you go
What: Whitetails of Wisconsin Summer Picnic and Open House.
When: Saturday, Aug. 5, noon to 7 p.m.
Where: Badger State Whitetails, 2046 2½ Ave., Chetek.
Activities: Lunch compliments of the Wisconsin Cervid Farmers Foundation, educational seminars, ranch tours (binoculars encouraged) and music by the Smoke Wagon Band.
Directions: From the north, south and east, take Chetek Exit 124, head south on County Road I for 7.2 miles and turn left on 19¼ Street; from the west, turn right off Highway 25 onto County Road A, go 7.4 miles and turn right on 19¼ Street. Go 0.4 mile on 19¼ Street, then turn left on Third Avenue and drive 0.5 mile. Turn left on 2½ Avenue and go 0.7 mile. The farm is on the left.
Information or RSVP by Aug. 1: Send name, phone number and number of adults and children under 10 attending to WOW at 525 Old Highway Road, Mineral Point, WI 53565 or email@example.com, or call or text 608-341-9520.