James Stukenberg  ·  Deer Season

Deer Season is an ongoing project that explores family relationships and history through the lens of Wisconsin’s annual deer rifle season.

In Wisconsin, deer hunting is a holiday. Family and friends gather, special food and drink are on hand, and the seasonal color—blaze orange—decorates the landscape. It was a part of my family’s rhythms, and I hunted alongside my father and grandfather long before I was able to carry my own rifle. It was a rite of passage and a valuable connection to the 98 acres of land I grew up on.

Years of living in urban areas distanced me from my rural roots. In that time, the landscape of my tight-knit family has transformed as well; my grandparents passed away, my siblings and I scattered across the country, and I became a father. These changes have made me increasingly aware of the pace of my own life passing by. But as I continued to return home for the annual hunt, I felt more drawn to the tradition for the sense of camaraderie and belonging it created and its ability to connect me not only with nature, but to my family’s history.

Since 2016, I have limited myself to photographing this work only during the nine-day window of the annual deer rifle season. The rhythms of walking, standing and waiting in the still woods lead to quiet reflection. But that silent meditation is shattered by the fast, loud violence of the kill. The dichotomy of these heightened moments provide fertile soil for considering life, death and legacy on a greater scale.

James Stukenberg  · JamesStukenberg.com · James@JamesStukenberg.com · 262.689.5302