Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 28th, 2007 Edition.
A current article in “Wisconsin Outdoor Journal” sparked a considerable amount of speculation on my part as to where exactly the events described in the story occurred. The piece was entitled “The Railroad Deer Hunters”, which was expertly written by Rob Wegner from Blue Mounds, WI.
His story chronicles the experiences of a group of deer hunters from Indiana, headed by one George Washington Cunningham, that hunted in Vilas County between 1895 and 1907. The expedition members traveled from Portland, IN to Sayner, WI via the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Their “guide” and local contact was Orrin (O. W.) Sayner, the founding father of Sayner and whom the village was named after.
The groups ton of equipment was transported from the depot in Sayner to the banks of Lost Creek by buckboard for the 20-day deer season that then ran from November 1 to the 20th. Deer of either sex were legal and there was no bag limit! The hunters lived in two large canvas tents, one serving as the bunkhouse and the other as the dining, card playing and story telling room.
What really interested me was the possibility that the boys from Indiana camped almost exactly where wifee poo and I now call home! Old maps from that period clearly indicate the only so called road that would have allowed travel by buckboard would be Dead Man’s Gulch Road, which presently is a town road that passes through a portion of our property.
Clues abound in the story, which lead me to believe the Indiana boys probably camped very close to where our home is situated. Clue number one was the admission the group harvested hemlock boughs to pile on the floor of their sleeping quarters to serve as a mattress. The only stand of hemlock anywhere along Lost Creek is situated just 200 yards upstream from our residence.
Clue two in the tale mentions the fact the campsite was situated beside the “swift flowing stream” that flowed through a narrow valley with steep sides. That description also fits perfectly, as the only swift flowing area on Lost Creek is in the same locality as the grove of hemlock trees.
My parents purchased this particular 40-acre parcel in 1938 for $3.00 per acre. During that year my dad discovered a group of “down-state” hunters tent camping at the present location of our home during deer season. The group was totally unaware the property was privately owned, as they had camped in that same spot for many years. Dad allowed them to stay, but politely asked them to move somewhere else the following year, as he and numerous other family members and friends were planning on hunting the property.
After reading the current story of the Cunningham party, it came to me that possibly this second group of tent camping deer hunters selected a choice spot to camp based on the evidence that someone else had camped there previously! At least the theory made sense to me. Having done a considerable amount of tent camping myself, I know I’d have selected such a location on the banks of a lovely, pristine wilderness stream!
The immediate area where the tent campers camped is now covered by a very dense stand of balsam. But years ago when as a kid I freely roamed the area hunting grouse and hares until I knew the lay of the land like the back of my hand. One additional item near the campsite always intrigued me, the rusted remains of a very old automobile, with only its front fenders and bumper sticking out of the swampy environment. Could it be in later years someone traveled to that campsite and got stuck in the mire, or did someone simply get rid of an old worn out tin lizzy by driving it into the swamp? I’ll never know but it qualifies as a good mystery!
The Cunningham group evidently had the entire area to themselves, as nowhere in his descriptions of the hunt is there any mention of bumping into any other deer hunters.
Somehow Mr. Cunningham received the notion that Lost Creek was so named because it did not seem to know where it was going. He remarked, “It would be difficult to picture an imaginary creek whose turnings and windings were more absurd.”
However, he was evidently misinformed. Historical records indicate Lost Lake, which is the source of Lost Creek, was named by a group of surveyors who camped on the shores of Lost Lake. While returning from a shopping trip to Sayner in a blizzard the surveyors missed Lost Lake, (which at the time was unnamed) and stumbled upon Found Lake, which at the time was unnamed.
This event prompted the naming of both lakes!
Besides eating lots of venison written records indicate the group also ate rabbits, grouse, deer brains, liver, pine squirrels and “Beans! Beans! Beans!”
When the Cunningham party returned for the 1902 season they discovered much had changed in one years time. Their leader lamented, “The forest, especially the pine, is about all gone.”
The written records abound with tales of giant eight and ten point bucks being harvested by “still hunting” with lever action .38-40s, .40-65s, .38-56s, .45-90s and .32-20s. Cunningham remarked, “Still-hunting makes the most charming excitement the land beyond the pavement has to offer, and is the main reason why thousands are crazy over still-hunting.”
The group’s last hunt along the twisting course of Lost Creek took place in 1907, one hundred years ago. If by some chance the spirit of Mr. Cunningham could have visited this same area in 2007 he would not recognize the place. Traffic on Dead Man’s Gulch Road during the present nine-day gun season often resembles rush hour in Minocqua. Dozens of blaze orange clad bodies comb the remaining stands of jackpine and hazel brush gullies. Logging operations have decimated much of the marsh areas along the banks of the creek. And as for those huge eight and ten pointers, -- the seven members of the Anderson-Jorgensen Hunting Camp did not see a single buck during the entire nine day event!
Mr. Cunningham and your crew, -- lucky you! Your gang really did hunt here in what certainly were “The Good Old Days!”
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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