Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 14th, 2007 Edition.
For many years dating back to the early '70s I sponsored one of my many "annual" outdoor adventures, which alas, is no more. The first or second weekend in December was always set-aside for an annual "Snowshoe Hare Hunt." Generally a dozen or more eager hare hunters would show up for the event and I need not mention a good time was had by all!
I bagged my first snowshoe when I was ten, although on the day of that event I was not supposed to be shooting at hares. The gun deer season was in progress and dad decided to allow me to be one of the "drivers" on a short drive for deer on our own property. I was also allowed to actually carry my gun, a single shot .410 that was also capable of firing a .44-40 rifle cartridge, which I was using that historic day.
Dad put me between two of my uncles, which were about a hundred yards to my left and right, so I wouldn't get lost or walk in circles while the drive was in progress. Boy did I feel like a big shot! About half way through the drive I almost stepped on a snowshoe that was hunkered down under a clump of ferns. The frightened bunny raced away, then cut in front of me in a 90-degree turn. I guess my hunting instincts took over. I don't recall cocking the hammer but I do recall pulling the trigger and watching in surprise as the fleeing rabbit did two forward rolls and kicked a couple of times.
As the sound of my shot stopped echoing through the forest I heard someone yell. "WHO FIRED THAT SHOT?" Proud as a peacock I yelled back, "ME, -- BUCKSHOT!"
A second question resounded through the still morning. "DID YOU GET ONE?" (Naturally everyone on the hunt expected whatever was shot would be a deer.)
With a smile a mile wide on my face I replied, "YA!"
Bodies clad in red wool jackets and hats converged on the kid who, in their minds, had claimed to have bagged a deer.
My joy at bagging my first snowshoe hare was short lived.
When dad realized what I had done, which was goofing up a well-orchestrated drive for deer, he was anything but joyful.
I got a fairly good tongue lashing for being so stupid as to shoot at a hare, but also received a small bit of praise for making a dead center shot on a rapidly fleeing target. The final decision was to leave the bunny in the woods and re-organize the drive.
After the hunt I had ruined was over and we returned to the camp. One of my older cousins, Lee, felt sorry for me, as I was probably pouting that my first hare was still lying in the woods. The two of us returned to the site of the event and retrieved my prize. Then Lee showed me how to skin and clean the beast. He stretched the hide on the outside of our icehouse wall and tacked it in place to dry. I kept that hare hide with the big .44-40 hole in it for several years before mom made me toss it in the trash.
All through my formative years my pals and I spent many weekends during the winter months chasing those "gray ghosts of the thickets." Getting snowshoe hares for dinner was a fairly easy task back then as every swamp and alder infested creek bank was filled with them. And for those of you who have never dined on hares, well, you are missing a gourmet meal.
We bought our first beagle about 1970 and named her Bunny. Now I had a hare-hunting machine. All I had to do was turn the dog lose and wait for a harried hare to circle the swamp as Bunny bayed a traditional deep-throat beagle howl while on the chase.
A special memory of a certain hunt with Bunny always comes to mind. Our son, Chris, was about 14 at the time and begged me to allow him to take our snowmobile to the swamp where our hunt was scheduled to take place. We owned the swamp, which was also the home to several trout ponds I had developed to raise rainbow trout.
Chris parked the snowmobile next to one of the ponds, while Dave Pucci and I walked deeper into the swamp to begin the hunt. I turned Bunny loose and in minutes she had a hare up and running. Eventually the hare circled the swamp and arrived at the location where Chris was stationed. He dispatched the object of our quest and gleefully announced the fact he had scored.
A few minutes later he loudly asked if he could go home, as he was getting cold. I approved his request and seconds later I heard my snowmobile engine spring to life. But the sound of the engine only reached my ears for several seconds, -- and then all was instantly quiet again.
Then the voice of my son explained why I could no longer hear the sound of the snowmobile engine. "Dad, -- the snowmobile fell into the trout pond."
Well, that was the end of that particular hare hunt. Four hours later, with the help of my snowplow, a hundred feet of stout rope and a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood, the snowmobile was rescued from the icy waters. Several days later, after everything dried out in our basement, the beast was once again up and running. But it was never again used for a vehicle to carry a hunter on a hare hunt!
After Bunny passed on to the Big Doghouse in the Sky we bought Freckles, and later still, Bugsy. As a hare hound Freckles was the best of the three, but a total bum. At every opportunity she would decide to explore a three-county region, and be gone for hours and sometimes days on end.
But boy could she hunt! The dog had limitless energy and actually had to be caught and subdued in order to get her to stop hunting. One afternoon hunt ended up about eight o'clock in the evening under a full moon before one of my companions cornered her and carried her out of the woods on his shoulder to my vehicle!
Snowshoe hare populations continued to remain high through the early 1990s. But with the rise of the killer fishers the hare population hit the skids and still remains fairly low in this immediate area.
The once popular annual event has now dwindled to but two hunters and a tag-along black Lab named Belle. Eddie and I will be keeping the tradition alive this coming weekend, and maybe this year we'll even bag a hare or two.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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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