Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For September 14th, 2007 Edition.
It was shortly before 5 am as my vehicle slowly eased into a small turnaround at the end of a two-rut goat path someone had dubbed as a road. I extinguished the parking lights, grabbed my fanny pack, switched on the green cat-eyes light on the brim of my camo hat and stepped into the inky blackness that surrounded us.
This, the first morning of a scheduled two-day youth bear hunt, would be the first such experience for teenager Norman Rasmussen and his dad, Kevin, of Sayner. Norman had qualified to receive one of the few coveted kill permits for the late August hunt. For me, this would be my second time serving as a “mentor” for the DNR sponsored event.
DNR sponsored “Youth Hunts” have sprung up all over our nation in an attempt to shore up the dwindling number of young persons that are getting into the sport of hunting. And it appears to be working. The gradual downward spiral in the number of new hunters taking part in the various traditional hunting seasons nationwide has now leveled out, and more and more young people are once again becoming “hooked” on the ancient sport. And in my book, that’s a very good thing. It’s a proven fact that there are fewer young hunters and anglers that “get into trouble” compared to their counterparts who are unable or unwilling to take an active part in those two outdoor sports!
Wisconsin’s youth bear hunt is a relatively new event, but its popularity has quickly mushroomed. All interested bear hunters between the ages of 12 and 16, who have successfully completed a Hunter/Firearms Safety Course, are eligible for consideration to receive one of the highly limited number of kill permits. Each youngster that is so selected, plus a responsible adult, is required to attend a one-day workshop sponsored by the DNR. During the seminar DNR personnel and professional bear guides and veteran bear hunters give lectures and answer questions concerning rules and regulations, ethics, bear management, plus information about bear habitat. The program is a five star performance.
Hunters have a choice to hunt with the aid of dogs, or sit at a blind watching a baited area. Those that opt to hunt with dogs are assigned to a local bear hunter who has veteran bear dogs and has volunteered their time and efforts for the two-day event. DNR personnel also assist with the hunt to monitor the activity and give a helping hand when necessary.
Hunters who opt to sit and wait are paired with a DNR Conservation Officer or a qualified mentor, such as a licensed Hunter/Firearms Safety Instructor.
Now, back to the hunt!
With Norman leading, the trio quietly navigated a twisting path for a hundred yards through a mature forest of balsam, white spruce, red pine and a smattering of mixed hardwoods to the crest of a hill overlooking a small woodland meadow. Here is located a crude three sided log “blind”, which would possibly be our home for much of the next two days.
We each carried a portable canvas lawn chair, and a fanny pack or small backpack filled with necessities, such as coffee, soda, water, munchies, binoculars, cell-phones, rope, hand towels and handy wipes, and a roll of tissue paper. Norman also carried a cased, unloaded rifle.
Once we were seated comfortably we settled back in our lounge chairs to await the coming of dawn, which was more than a half hour in coming.
A few stars shone faintly through the roof of pine branches and needles above us, and a gentle northwest breeze whispered night songs as it filtered through the treetops on the ridge. Assorted night sounds drifted to our ears, such as the distant yowl of a coyote, the who, who, who of a prowling owl and the hair raising snapping of a twig or two not very far from where we sat in muted silence.
For me, several small cups of fresh, hot coffee from my thermos tasted mighty good, as I washed down several dark chocolate chip cookies wifee poo had recently baked for my enjoyment. To my left I occasionally heard zippers opening and closing as Kevin and Norman sampled something from their own personal packs.
Slowly, ever so slowly the darkness began to soften. This, my personal favorite time of day, is sheer delight! Various bird sounds begin to orchestrate, stumps and vegetation take on weird shapes and play tricks on ones mind and eager eyes strain to detect movement while ears attempt to make sense out of an assortment of noises.
Legal shooting time was 5:41, and it was nearly that time before we could make out the jumble of logs and rocks some 50 yards below us that had once been used to cover the bear bait pit. It was obvious that Blackie had dined on the goodies that had been placed there the day before. Now the question was, would he or she return during daylight hours?
During the 2006 youth hunt our wait had been long. The object of our wait had not appeared until 5:30 pm of the second and last day of the hunt! But the wait had been worth it as 12-year-old Dustin had made a perfect shot. Would history repeat itself? Time would tell.
I helped time pass more quickly by reading a hunting magazine, Kevin thumbed through a recent copy of the Lakeland Times. Norman probably prayed old Bruno would make an appearance. Six, seven, eight, nine and ten o’clock passed. By then all three of us were standing up getting the kinks out of our bodies and were secretly thinking how nice a hot plate of eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast would taste. At 10:15 Norman’s prayers were answered.
I spotted the bear first and whispered a coarse, “Bear, get down, it’s a big one!”
As one, the three of us quickly but quietly settled back into our chairs and Norman readied his rifle. The bear sat down, then got up and presented the young marksman with a perfect broadside shot.
Norman’s practice and patience paid off, as at the sound of the shot the bear dropped on the spot, briefly regained its footing but quickly expired after only traveling a scant 5 yards.
After a round of high five’s we cautiously moved through the ferns to where the bear rested on the hillside. Photos were taken, the field dressing was completed and the team dragged the trophy from the forest.
A life long memory had been created for a first time bear hunter, his beaming father and a thankful mentor!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: email@example.com or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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