Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For September 25th, 2009 Edition.
In last weeks column I recounted a sampling of memorable adventures experienced during my formative years while camping and hunting with dad, uncles and friends on opening weekends of grouse and duck season. My recent ramblings covered such adventures through my senior year of high school. However, a similar outing took place a year later and the realization that tomorrow is the opening of the 2009 waterfowl season triggered additional fond memories of the event, which I'll share with my readers in this narrative.
My college days began in early September of 1955 at Superior State College in Superior, Wisconsin. After settling in our dorm room, my roommate, Tom Dean, and I, with the able assistance of Tom's cousin, Doug Dean, began exploring the rural areas of Douglas County in our free time to ascertain whether or not the area contained any promising duck hunting habitat. We hit pay dirt upon discovering and exploring portions of Bear Creek!
I eagerly notified dad of our discovery and strongly suggested he and his pal, Charlie Goodyear, pack their bags and head north to join Tom, Doug and I for a weekend camping/duck hunt on a massive beaver flowage we discovered on Bear Creek. Dad accepted the invitation and our annual fall fling was given an additional year of life.
Tom, Doug and I hunted the flowage during opening weekend and bagged a few mallards. We also scoped out a neat camping location and built dad and Charlie a makeshift blind in the center of the flowage amidst a clump of flooded alders. All was ready for the following weekend.
After our final afternoon classes on the second Friday in October a two-canoe-flotilla paddled downstream for a couple miles and the five adventurers made camp on a tree covered knoll overlooking the huge beaver flowage. We erected the same old, musty smelling 8 X 8 canvas tent that had housed us for years, collected a massive pile of dry firewood, lined the floor of the tent with balsam boughs for added comfort, ate grilled steaks and fire blackened potatoes for supper, told tales around the campfire, wrapped our bodies in layers of blankets and quilts and spent a fitful night tossing and turning as visions of decoying mallards flitted through our dreams.
An hour prior to the break of dawn those same wonderful camping sounds I had grown up with awakened my companions and I. The crackling of the morning fire and the aroma of coffee being brewed as the odor of bacon frying wafted on the cool morning air soon followed the sound of dad splitting kindling. Plus dad remembered to follow the original script by loudly announcing, "get up you slackers - it's almost daylight in the swamp!"
After a gut filling breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and mom's homemade bread toasted on forked sticks over the glowing coals, we paddled out in the pre-dawn gloom and set out our decoys around our respective blinds to await the morning flight - should there be one!
Because of a very low cycle in the population of wood ducks the Wisconsin Conservation Department decreed that species was protected. This minor fact was the catalyst that spawned the most memorable event during the two-day adventure at the Bear Creek beaver flowage!
Shortly after legal shooting time arrived the trio of college kids caught sight of a lone duck winging its way down the twisting channel of Bear Creek, heading right for our blind! As we raised our shotguns to attempt bagging the unsuspecting duck we luckily identified the bird as a wood duck. We allowed it to pass over our blind and loudly yelled to dad and Charlie, who were several hundred yards beyond us, that the approaching duck was a no-no. Evidently our message was not received.
We saw the wood duck flair and head for higher altitude a second or two prior to hearing two closely spaced shotgun blasts. The duck continued its morning flight unharmed and disappeared in the morning haze. The three of us had a short chuckle and commented it was a good thing dad and Charlie, or whoever fired those two shots - missed.
About fifteen minutes later a new sound reached our ears. Someone was chopping wood at our camp! A few minutes later we detected a thin column of blue smoke curling skyward, highlighted by the slanting rays of the morning sun. A tremendously humorous vision danced through our brains! We correctly suspected Dad and Charlie had tipped their canoe over! The desire to discover what exactly happened outweighed our desire to continue the morning hunt and we quickly paddled back to camp.
The scene that greeted our inquiring eyes is one I'll never forget. Huddled around a roaring blaze were two adult men dressed only in a pair of dripping underwear. Numerous articles of soaked clothing were suspended on clothesline rope and hanging on sticks randomly placed around the fire. Both men were in a seemingly hostile mood, pointing at each other and verbalizing loud accusations as to who was the klutz that caused the canoe to tip over and deposit its occupants into four-feet of icy water! It was a scene no one could have avoided doubling over in laughter upon viewing!
There were two versions as to what precipitated the dunking - dad's and Charlie's. Dad claimed it had been pre-determined he'd get the first chance to shoot should a duck come into range. Charlie disagreed and counterclaimed he had been awarded that right. One detail they agreed on was they didn't hear our verbal warning not to shoot and both of them stood up and shot at the duck - not a wise thing to do in a tipsy-canoe! A second agreement was a shared admission the water was very cold.
On the positive side both shotguns were recovered and by mid-morning the soaked nimrods were once again fully clothed in dry apparel and beginning to see the humor in the situation. The hunt resumed and our two-day adventure ended on a high note.
This adventure was the final camping/hunting outing for dad and I. The following fall he and mom closed up their resort shortly after Labor Day and headed south to spend their winters in sunny Florida.
An era had ended - but what an era it had been!
The two of us shared one additional, final duck hunt together in late December of 1961 among the twisting maze of channels along the St. John's River between Lake Jessup and Lake Monroe in Central Florida. I paddled the canoe while dad sat in the bow seat and shot both our limits of ducks. Four days later he died of a sudden and massive heart attack.
Dad, thanks for being a great teacher, friend and maker of memories! I still miss you!
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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