Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 28th, 2008 Edition.
It was one of those very special late fall mornings – a true Indian Summer morning – a special time of the year when summer like conditions balance precariously on the fence of fall – knowing full well the coming gales of November will soon prevail and the Northwoods will slip once again into a world of winter virgin white.
It was November 4th to be exact – Election Day. And while the world waited and gave thanks the two years of political BS was finally coming to a conclusion my mind was on grouse.
Wifee Poo and I voted early, then devoured a much too large breakfast at DJ’s before returning home. While we waited for our food Peggy noted her mate of fifty years was in deep thought. “What ya thinking about?” she inquired.
I’m thinking Belle and I need to get outdoors on this glorious fall morning and allow me to shoot at some grouse.”
Wifee Poo knows I’m very good at shooting at grouse, but generally come up short when it comes to bringing grouse home. And so it was, by 9:30 my faithful pooch and I were heading outward bound on a trip back in time.
Paradise begins just a few steps from our front door. We took a short cut through The Swamp, stopped at one of my permanent deer stands for a pre-season inspection. All was in order, so I tippy-toed across a twelve-foot plank that spans our tiny spring creek and ascended the steep southern side hill that forms one of the boundaries of The Swamp.
We passed underneath the weathering remains of one of my old tree stands I used for several deer seasons during the late 90s. A short stop was required as I mentally re-visited the bagging of my “blizzard buck” on opening day of ’97. The north was wallowing in a late fall blizzard as wet sloppy snow continued to pile up as the morning deepened. I felt somewhat guilty that brutal morning as I sat warm and dry under a tarpaper roof soaking up the radiating heat of my charcoal heater. And if it hadn’t been for my son, Chris, I probably would have not seen a deer all day.
Chris was occupying a ground stand some quarter mile to the west of my tree stand and by mid-morning he was soaked! Chris headed back towards his home to put on dry duds and grab a raincoat when he stumbled upon a buck bedded down in a jack pine thicket. Unfortunately for the buck, he wandered by my stand about fifteen minutes later. Chris heard the muffled shot just as he was about to enter his house. Who ever suggested deer hunting success is all about skill?
Our journey continued into highly familiar territory. As I slowly picked my way through forty acres of aspen regeneration my mind re-wound memories of this parcel as it was before the State clear-cut it in 1976. Stately pines plus mature popple and white birch dominated the landscape. Now only a few mature pines remain interspersed between the young aspen and massive hazel brush thickets.
After crossing the State forty I entered the private domain of our son and daughter-in-law. Belle and I again paused under Chris’ permanent “guard tower” stand to take a short breather. The much too warm environment had my dog panting and my sweatshirt was plastered to my back. I extracted two bottles of water and a plastic bowl from my game vest and poured Belle a generous serving of cold water, which rapidly evaporated via a series of lap-laps.
As we rested I recalled my conquest of another buck from this stand on the second morning in 1988. The land that surrounded me was chucked full of memories covering nearly seven decades!
Turning north I stopped once again to inspect an old-fashioned ground stand. Made from the charred remains of several giant ancient hollow white pine stumps, at a distance the blind looks exactly like an old charred stump. More memories flowed freely through my gray matter as I fondly recalled how uncle Bud loved to hunker down in natural looking stands such as this one.
It was here the first grouse of the morning made a fool out of me. As I daydreamed looking at the stump-stand the feathered rocket blasted skyward and zoomed away through the young aspen before I could recover from my rookie mistake. When hunting grouse one must never, never, never relax their vigilance for one moment! Belle gave me a look that amounted to an icy stare of disappointment. We moved on.
Several hundred yards further we crossed paths with grouse number two. Belle tipped me off with some “birdie moves” and I was set and ready when the fan-tailed missile burst from cover just twenty yards from where I waited, finger on the trigger. This was a classic flush. The bird rose almost vertically, struggling to clear the hazel brush thicket from which it was flushed. I confidently swung the barrels of my 20-gauge ahead of the rising bird -- continued the swing and pulled the front trigger.
It’s downright amazing how frequently a tree will suddenly leap between hunter and quarry. My load of number 7 ½ shot caught the trunk of a mature red pine quite squarely. I actually heard the grouse giggle as it soared away to safer haunts. I shall not comment on my dog’s reaction to my miserable marksmanship. I apologized to the pine and we moved on.
We next passed the decaying remains of what was my most favored tree stand for a decade. The location became a “dead zone” after the State clear-cut the adjoining forty in the mid-nineties. I constructed the 24-foot high condo in ’86 and during the next decade the stand produced ten bucks! Wow, what a batch of sweet memories!
After a second short break for a refreshing drink of water the team moved on. Grouse number three of the morning caught me completely entangled in the grip of a stand of dreaded hazel brush. Mr. or Madam Grouse waited until I was ensnared in the grip of several hazels tentacles before rocketing skyward and zigzagging off through the popples. Belle suggested we head home.
Twenty minutes later Belle was swimming in Lost Creek lapping up gallons of sweet, cold water. Ten minutes later I was cooling off in our shower and twenty minutes later still I was prone on our couch drifting off into dreamland.
And I dreamed of old places, familiar trails, deer stands, grouse, bucks – and a black dog.
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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