The cold winds shook the trees while the deer were trying to go unseen. The uniform was orange hunting gear, and it could be seen from miles away.
There’s not much to do in these rural areas, but people make do. They even create a competition out of who can catch the biggest buck.
This is the time of year these towns wait for. With grocery stores miles apart, a 150-pound white-tailed deer could last a three-member family a few months. People actually eat what they kill. You might even see a coyote lying in the back of a hunter’s pickup truck, but the deer are the main prize. It’s only two hours and 30 minutes out of the inner-city of Milwaukee, but you enter into a new dimension. As the animals are hiding, the hunters are preparing for their next meal. Hunters are everywhere: in garages, gas stations and in bars. Their cars line the highways and are tucked away along side roads.
By 11:12 a.m. on the opening day of deer season, Tim and Jacob Bray had already killed their first prey. With the dead whitetail on the side of the road, and a pocket full of bullets, the 44-year-old father and his 15-year-old son reflected on the new president-elect.
“Even though he’s bat sh-t crazy, hopefully he’ll fix the economy,” said Tim as he walked up to the western Wisconsin highway leaving his deer where he shot it.
Despite his concerns, Tim voted for Donald Trump after backing Barack Obama in 2012. He’s part of a trend in this area of western Wisconsin, where white working class voters like Tim flipped in dramatic percentages from Obama to Trump.
“Hopefully [Trump] brings in jobs back to the United States.”
Hunters in general – at least those out here – favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton because they think he understands them more than she does. She doesn’t understand the importance of guns in their lives, they say; it’s not for violence, but for a means to survive.
Although Jacob couldn’t vote, just like his father he would have voted for Trump. They hope Trump brings economic relief, but Tim is scared Trump’s going to bring other things into the office.
“I worry about things getting worse, like the racism. All the cops, they’re shooting people. Hopefully a lot of it changes.”
Tim and Bray were found hunting in Marietta, Wisconsin next to an isolated road with their bolt-action rifles.
Hunting is a bonding experience that brings an entire town together. Everyone knows everyone and if their guns were taken away, they fear they would be losing a part of themselves.
And in the bars, you’ll often find hunters passing out venison sticks. The deer was likely hunted, killed, processed and eaten within 15 miles. People here stick closely together and they seemed to vote in a pack this time around too.
Tim just wants to hunt without having to worry about his safety, but he’s not sure if Trump can help with that even though he’s a white male, in a majority white county, who’s armed with a gun.
“The way people treat each other, it’s not as friendly as it should be. Anybody should be able to walk down the street and not have to worry about being harassed.”
Tim, Jacob and other hunters believe Trump will be the change they need economically. They were willingly to take a chance on a man with no background in politics.
If Trump disappoints him like Obama did, Tim says the voters will just throw him out too. Then he jokingly adds that Trump might be killed anyway.
In the meantime, they’ll keep hunting. Up here, even the houses are part of the dress code. From the camouflage shades to the rugs, it always clear when a hunter resides there. It’s safe to say, the rural areas of Wisconsin chose Trump in hopes he’ll bring the change Obama promised them in 2012.
-With contributions from Jordan Garcia