MIDDLETON — It was a scenario that could have concluded in many other ways, most of them negative, but the result was one that earned Dan Burns of Madison the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Hunter Ethics Award.
Burns gave up his cherished deer hunting location on public property in Washburn County on opening day of the 2016 gun deer season. The recipients of that ethical act were Keith and Alec Halverson of Esko, Minn.
Burns was hunting with Dan Lyksett of Eau Claire, one of two men who nominated Burns for the annual ethics award. Michael Dettlaff of Stanley also nominated Burns.
“I was standing next to Dan Burns on that cold, dark morning and know what it meant to him to make that gesture. It certainly touched me,” Lyksett said.
Now in its 20th year, the annual award that was started by three La Crosse men was presented to Burns Sept. 2 at Vortex Optics Headquarters in Middleton.
The Vortex company manufactures binoculars, rifle scopes and rangefinders, among other equipment that helps hunters see the outdoors more clearly. Vortex presented Burns with binoculars, scope and range finder, valued at $1,000.
“This year’s award winner is synonymous with the exact definition of the hunter ethics award,” said Bob Lamb, one of the men who helped found the award. Lamb is a retired outdoors editor from the La Crosse Tribune and continues to serve on the award’s selection committee.
Steve Dewald, a retired warden supervisor and another founder, said, “By being considerate to another hunter and his 9-year-old boy, Dan Burns created a positive outdoor experience for another hunting group. Burns’ actions are consistent with the theme of the hunter ethics award, which is to demonstrate actions that reflect positively on the tradition of hunting.”
Burns scouts his cherished location each year and did so in November 2016. So did the Halversons, who even made several makeshift blinds from fallen timber. This was the only place they knew how to get to in the dark that opening morning.
This was Alec’s first deer “hunt” with his father. He was still too young to be licensed but he could tag along, observe and help when needed. Instead of seeing two grown men, experienced hunters, argue about who had the right to this location, Alec saw Dan Burns say to his father, Keith, “You go to the area you picked out, and I’ll go to another location. I know where a ridge is, and I’ll go there.”
When Lyksett and Burns returned later in the day, the Halverson truck was gone but there was a note on their vehicle window. It was written on a hot dog wrapper and said, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being so kind and selfless to move from your stand for us. We are all defined by moments we choose to touch others’ lives. Your act of kindness was appreciated. Thank you. Keith and Alec Halverson, Esko, MN.”
The impact of the event on Nov. 17, 2016, is likely to stay with young Alec for many years. He and his father did take a deer home that day, but the ethical episode Alec observed will surely stay with him, too.
Each year, anyone in the public can nominate a licensed Wisconsin hunter for the DNR Hunter Ethics Award for an action that took place during that calendar year. While many nominations are made during gun deer season, the ethical action could be during a squirrel hunt, turkey hunt, waterfowl hunt or any other Wisconsin season.
The licensed hunter nominated need not be helping another hunter, but anyone in the outdoors. The nominated person must demonstrate actions that reflect positively on the tradition of hunting, as committee member Steve Dewald said.
Past winners have helped wardens, landowners, people lost in the woods and someone unable to drag or load a deer carcass.
The first Hunter Ethics Award in 1997 was awarded to a man and young boy who found a registered deer carcass that had fallen off a truck. They gave up most of their opening weekend to get the deer back to the rightful owner.
Jerry Davis can be reached at email@example.com.