June 5, 2023 at 10:10 a.m.
Updated June 5, 2023 at 10:10 a.m.

Three hunters receive WDNR Ethical Hunter Awards

Shown at the presentation are (l-r) April Dombrowski (DNR), Jordyn Rae Coder (Wisconsin Rapids). Shane Potenberg (Fort Atkinson). Jason Howards (Sun Prairie) and Ryan Muckenhirn (Vortex Optics, Barneveld).
Shown at the presentation are (l-r) April Dombrowski (DNR), Jordyn Rae Coder (Wisconsin Rapids). Shane Potenberg (Fort Atkinson). Jason Howards (Sun Prairie) and Ryan Muckenhirn (Vortex Optics, Barneveld).

Three deer hunters were selected for the 2022 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Ethical Hunter award, an annual award first presented in 1997.

Jordyn Rae Coder, Wisconsin Rapids, Jason Howards, Sun Prairie, Wis., and Shane Potenberg, Fort Atkinson, were presented DNR plaques and certificates, and gifts from Vortex Optics at Vortex Optics May 25, 2023 in Barneveld.

The winners achieved their ethical acts in separate situations during 2022 autumn deer hunting seasons, and were nominated by the public.  Nominees must be licensed hunters engaged in hunting a game species in Wisconsin.

A four-member selection committee reviewed 15 nominations before unanimously agreeing that Jordyn Rae Coder, 16, be recognized as the youth winner.  Her action was clearly comparable to the two adult winners, confirming that ethics can be present at all ages.

Vortex makes and sells fine scopes, binoculars and range finders and sell worldwide.

“Jordyn Rae Coder demonstrated how much she learned about safety and ethical hunting, including gaining permission to track a wounded deer shot by another hunter, and then passing on shooting at a large buck because of safety concerns, a clean-killing shot,” said Bob Lamb, retired outdoors editor with the La Crosse Tribune and one of the three original committee members in1997.

Jordyn Rae recalls rising very early and traveling with her father, Caleb Coder, from Wood County to Sauk County to gun deer hunt on the Nov. 18, 2022 opener, with relatives. 

Her uncle shot a buck, which then ran onto adjoining property.  She insisted getting permission to enter the property before helping track the animal for her uncle and waiting for hunters on that property to finish their hunt before crossing the line and following a blood trail during a snow storm.

Jordyn Rae and others in her hunting party helped get the buck back across the line as quickly as possible so other hunters could continue their hunts.

After returning to her stand that afternoon, she was excited to see and hear deer and coyotes but unable get a clear shot at any deer.  Then a large buck appeared, partially hidden by brambles.  He turned to walk away offering a hind shot, which Jordyn Rae immediately passed up.

“Tracking deer was new to Jordyn Rae because all the deer she shot dropped on the spot,” her father and nominator Caleb Coder, said.

Jason Howards was hunting alone from the ground during the archery season and shot a buck that jumped onto adjoining land, so Jason spent several hours touching base with the landowner, and a hunter who had leased the land.  While searching, another buck came close to Jason but he passed a clear shot after determining that was not the deer he previously wounded.  The antlers were different and there was no blood on the animal’s side where he would have hit the deer.

Upon leaving with his loaded buck, he was followed by another archer who saw the deer in his truck and wondered if it was the large buck he had been hunting that season.  He just wanted a look.  It wasn’t but Jason’s story encouraged this hunter to return to the woods.

“Jason showed how hunters need to respect game they hunt by passing up a shot and rights of landowners by planning ahead and keeping names and phone numbers of people he may have to call,” Steve Dewald, committee member and retired DNR warden supervisor, said.

Shane Potenberg was hunting with relatives in Jefferson County during the gun deer season opener with several older hunters when he heard the distinct crack of a fellow hunter’s 30-30 cal. rifle.  He got down from his stand to help, walked up to the hunter and insisted on doing the field dressing and dragging before returning to his own stand.

Within a few minutes of being back in the stand he heard another distinct sound of a different rifle of a disabled hunter.  He came down and helped out again.  When Sunday evening rolled around Shane had not shot a deer but was overjoyed that he was able to see two other hunters get their deer and see the smiles on their faces from being able to spend time with relatives.

“Shane recognized that the most important part of our hunts revolves around the people we hunt with and what we experience together with family and friends.  Shane stopped his own hunt on several occasions to help other hunters who were physically unable to track, dress, or drag their deer,” said Steve Dewald.

“Shane unselfishly interrupted his deer hunt to help older or disabled hunters recover their deer.  Not only was he helping other hunters, he is teaching his son and nephews about the outdoors to ensure ethical hunting” Lamb said. 

Nominations for the 2023 award are due February 1, 2024.