- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

WAUSAU, Wis. — Chao Xiong plans to join tens of thousands of hunters taking to the woods Saturday for the opening of Wisconsin’s deer season. But he will be doing it against the advice of his mother.

“My mom has actually called me many times and tell me not to go,” the 36-year-old Hmong immigrant said. “One of my brothers is not going this year because of the concern about the incident.”

“The incident” occurred last year when a Hmong hunter fatally shot six white hunters after being caught trespassing in the woods.

The murders exposed racial tensions between residents of the predominantly white north woods and the large community of Southeast Asians who have immigrated to the Midwest.

In the past few years, whites and Hmong immigrants have clashed in the woods, with Hmong saying they have been harassed and whites complaining that the immigrants don’t respect private property. Soon after the shootings, a white man spray-painted “killer” on the homes of three Hmong families in Menomonie.

“In all honesty, I will breathe a sigh of relief when the season is over,” said Mike Bartz, a warden with the state Department of Natural Resources. The DNR has been running radio and TV announcements focusing on trespassing and landowner rights.

“Let’s face it, this incident is going to be on people’s minds,” said Randy Stark, the department’s chief warden.

On the second day of the 2004 season, Chai Soua Vang, a St. Paul, Minn., truck driver, trespassed in a tree stand on private land. An angry confrontation ensued with a group of white hunters, and Vang killed six of them and wounded two others.

During his trial, Vang testified that he shot in self-defense after the others hurled profanities and racial slurs and took a shot at him. But two survivors testified that no one pointed a gun at Vang, and a jury found him guilty.

Last week, the 37-year-old father of seven was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

One of the wounded hunters has urged calm.

“I don’t want to see any retribution or whatever you want to call it because of what happened. That’s done. It’s over,” Lauren Hesebeck said.

At his sentencing, Vang seemed to do the same, saying all Hmong should not be judged by his actions.

“Learn to treat one another better,” he said. “Walk away from trouble if you can. You don’t have to fight to be a man.”

The nine-day deer season opens just before sunrise Saturday. The department estimates that up to 1.5 million deer roam the fields and woods, about 200,000 fewer than a year ago.

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