Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For September 18th, 2009 Edition.
In one of my recent ramblings I freely admitted my hands down favorite season is fall, a confession that surprised a few folks. My reasoning for loving fall revolves around several factors, my love of hunting, my fondness for camping, and a treasure-trove of wonderful memories experienced by taking part in both activities.
During my formative years dad made the opening weekend of grouse season (back then everyone called them "partridges") a combination camping/hunting adventure. The traditional opening always took place the last weekend in September. After school on Friday we'd pack the old '41 Chevy pickup with gear and supplies and lead a two-vehicle convoy deep into the Nicolet National Forest in Forest County for a delightful two-day, two-night fall outing.
Our other companions included uncle Bud, Toby Andersen, Charlie Goodyear plus our black cocker spaniel Pat, and Toby's Springer spaniel, Freckles. Our sleeping quarters consisted of an old second-hand canvas tent, complete with a musty smell and leaks at the four corners when it rained.
For a number of years we camped next to uncle Art's tarpaper shack that was nestled in a thick stand of balsam trees next to a small spring fed creek. Uncle Art was one of dad's older brothers, a self-proclaimed hermit, who was also a squatter on government property! Fortunately for uncle Art, once the Feds discovered he had been squatting on their property for two decades they simply kicked him off and tore down his shack!
During the late 1940s and early 50s grouse and woodcock were thicker than hair on a hounds back and generally we all "limited out" prior to returning to our homes late Sunday evening.
Camping back then was really "ruffing it." Nobody had sleeping bags, ground pads or inflatable mattresses. To ensure a good night's sleep we'd cut a ton of balsam boughs and line the floor of the tent with them to protect us from the hard ground and the cold. Everyone rolled up in heavy blankets and used their hunting jacket as a pillow. I cheated a bit and invited Pat to curl up with me under the quilts for a bit of extra warmth.
I can still hear dad splitting kindling and minutes later the crackling of the morning fire, followed by the smell of hot coffee and bacon frying while dad yelled for the rest of us to "roll out you slackers - it's daylight in the swamp!" Yes sir, those my friends are cherished memories!
Next came duck season, which traditionally opened the first weekend in October. During my four years in high school I was allowed a second fall hunting/camping adventure. This time we camped closer to home, only venturing a few miles to Devine Lake where we camped on its only island. However, just getting to the island was an adventure in itself!
A narrow two-rut dirt road off North Farming Road led us to a dead end turn-around on the crest of a steep hill overlooking the valley of Mishonagon Creek. From here we had to carry or drag all our gear and canoes down the hill to the shallow gravel bottomed trout stream. Next we'd pull our overloaded craft upstream for several hundred yards to what dad called "the mother of all beaver dams." Once we portaged over the monster it was clear sailing, or I should say paddling, all the way to the wild rice infested Devine Lake.
Generally it was dark by the time we had our camp ship-shape. Our Friday night dinner traditionally consisted of baked potatoes and grilled steaks plus slices of mom's homemade bread. We could stay up late and bond with oft-told tales around the campfire as legal shooting time on Saturday was noon. As the junior member of the expedition I enjoyed those old timer's tales almost as much as the duck hunting -but not quite!
I shot my first mature greenhead mallard there when I was fourteen, and still count it as one of my all time favorite hunting memories!
Another first class memory involved a major dispute that took place between uncle Bud and Charlie. Bud's only shotgun was a 20-gauge pump, which he believed was too underpowered to use as a duck gun. This was despite the fact I was able to bag a few with a 20-gauge. So, uncle Bud borrowed Charlie's ancient double-barreled 12-gauge and loaded it with heavy loads of number 6 shot.
Bud and Charlie shared a blind on "No Good Point", (so named by dad) and awaited the opening bell at noon sharp. Shortly thereafter a small flock of ducks sailed over their decoys and Charlie succeeded in knocking one bird out of the flock. However, the bird was crippled so Bud attempted to send it to the hereafter.
Taking careful aim at the bird he pulled the front trigger. His reward was a "click" sound. Puzzled, but persistence, Bud aimed at the bird again and pulled the second trigger. Again a "click." Bewildered, he began lowering the gun wondering why it had not fired when he pulled the triggers! But then it did! Both shells ignited simultaneously, ramming the butt of the stock against Bud's left bicep!
Let me interrupt my tale for a moment to admit my uncle often experienced sudden mood swings when things "went wrong." As he freely admitted much later that evening, "I got pretty mad when that gun miss-fired and whacked my arm." In fact, Bud became so angry he flung Charlie's old double barrel into the lake! Fortunately, Charlie was able to wade out and retrieve his gun, despite the fact Bud kept asking why he bothered expending energy retrieving it.
The entire story finally came out as the five of us sat around the evening campfire where dad, Toby and I cleaned our limit of mallards. Bud showed off his injured bicep, which resembled a plump plum and a cluster of purple grapes, while embellishing his tale of woe considerably with each additional verbal play-by-play of the event.
The following morning, when legal shooting time began a half-hour prior to sunrise, Bud opted to sleep in and forgo the morning hunt. Just before the rest of the hunting party shoved off Bud asked Charlie one simple question.
Hey Charlie - where did you put that old double barrel? I found a deeper spot for it."
I told you fall holds some great 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: 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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