Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 21st, 2008 Edition.
My, my, where did all those years go so quickly? It's hard for me to believe, but it was sixty-two years ago when dad deemed I had reached the age to accompany him into the snowy November woods for an opening morning deer hunt!
I was nine and tagged along simply as an observer. I even was permitted to sleep in the bunk house along with a dozen or more of the downstate annual crew that paid mom and dad $5.00 a day for room and board during the then seven day bucks only deer hunt.
Mom and grandma Jorgensen would be up and at it by 4 A.M. cooking a gigantic breakfast and packing sack lunches for the would-be hunters, who were still snoring away in the bunkhouse. Dad would arise about fiveish, light the kerosene lamps, stoke up the wood stove and then yell out, "Get those bare feet on the floor, its already getting daylight in the swamp!"
Bunk springs would creak, a variety of voices would complain, and woolen socks and underwear would appear from duffle bags and suitcases tucked under the bunks. Another deer season was underway!
I vividly recall following dad through the still nearly pitch dark woods to a modest sized knoll overlooking Little Duck Lake Swamp between Kasomo Lake and Big St. Germain. Back then tree stands were unheard of and illegal besides. Some veteran hunters who took up a stand in the same place year after year built "ground blinds", which were similar to a camouflaged duck blind. Others simply roamed the early morning woods until they located a "likely spot" and then hunkered down on a handy snow covered stump or a downed tree and waited for a buck to hopefully appear. Needless to say, baiting was also illegal.
How dad put up with me that opening morning in 1946 I'll never understand. I jabbered incessantly, fidgeted by whittling on a stick, asked a million stupid questions and complained about being cold. Finally, about eight o'clock dad let me build a small fire.
The most amazing thing that happened was despite all my shenanigans, moving around, making noise and in general being a royal pain in the posterior, a nice buck galloped out of the swamp and stood broad side to us on yonder hillside. However, the distance was so great neither dad nor I could make out the antlers on his head, so dad never fired. The buck wandered off to the north and was soon dispatched by one of my uncles. It was a dandy eight pointer, and uncle Bud backtracked it to where we had first viewed the deer, so we knew for sure it was the same one.
I also vividly recall following dad and uncle Bud during a "drive" through a series of jack pine thickets on Thanksgiving Day. The landscape was much more open sixty years ago, as the environment was still struggling to rebound from the logging era. Much of what today is heavily forested with trees and underbrush was then scattered patches of pine and popple interspersed with open areas of grass, ferns and sage.
The three of us flushed a herd of deer numbering about a dozen out of a jack pine thicket. As the departing deer fled pell-mell up an open slope dad fired three shots from his old lever action Winchester .30-30 carbine and dropped three bucks in the wake of the departing does and yearlings. This was a feat of raw marksmanship I still hold in awe! Yes sir, my dad was a crack shot! But sorry to say I didn't get that gene.
The following season I got to "tag along" once again. This time I was present when another eight pointer rumbled by our opening day stand. This big boy had been shot at and was running flat out on all cylinders! I can still clearly see his high bounding gate as he sped by us, leaping over blow-downs like a high hurdles sprinter. Dad calmly shouldered his Winchester, found the buck in his peep sight and fired a single round. Mr. Buck piled up neatly, as dad later proclaimed, "Drilled 'im right through the slates!"
Later that same season I was following dad through a swamp on another drive. Suddenly, a hundred or so yards ahead of us the stillness of the morning was violated by two well-spaced shots. Dad stopped, turned to me and said, "I think that was Owen Kitto shooting." (Owen was one of our regulars from Kaukauna, WI.) We continued the drive and soon emerged from the swamp. And there on the ground was a magnificent eight-point buck, shot squarely between the eyes. Dad looked up the hill to where Owen sat under a spruce tree. Dad had a question.
"How come I heard two shots?" Owen smirked. "Look a few feet to your left." We looked! There was a seven-pointer, likewise shot squarely between the eyes. What memories!
In 1948 I finally got to carry my own gun - unloaded. Dad called the season of 1948 "my apprenticeship" to see how I handled myself and a gun in the woods at the same time. I guess it was what today might be the final exam in a hunter safety course. I guess I passed the test, as in 1949 dad let me load the gun and I shot my first deer.
There is obviously no need for me to confess my love affair with deer hunting and most any other kind of hunting is still pretty much full blown. And even though times have changed considerably, the "going and the being there" still holds an emotional grip on me that is impossible to explain on a written page.
In my six plus decades of taking part in the annual event I've passed through the four basic stages most hunters experience. In the beginning it's the anticipation of "killing something" that drives the beginner. Killing something soon begins to drop lower on ones list of why we hunt. It's replaced by attempting to "take a wall-hanger trophy." Next comes putting greater emphasis on choosing ones hunting companions, cementing relationships and bonding with those who share your personal views on how one should conduct themselves during the hunt. And finally, the hunt simply becomes a joyful season of planning, going and being there. One can now spend an entire season in the forest, not fire a shot and expound over and over about what a great time they had.
Unfortunately, there are some among us who never graduate from stage one. That is what separates "hunters" from "killers."
Good luck, be safe, and store more memories!
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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