Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 4th, 2009 Edition.
(Reflections Covering 7 Decades of a Northwood’s Deer Camp – (Part three of three 1990-2008)
The decade of the 1990’s began with a variety of fanfare. Chris Anderson bagged his 4th buck in four consecutive seasons to set a new camp record. Steve Clemens took a page out of the Yooper’s song “The Second Week of Deer Camp” by killing a deer with his truck while making a ”beer run.” The DNR began handing out doe tags like a government run printing press, as 7 of our 9 hunters held antlerless tags!
Snow began falling late in the afternoon of the day before opening in 1991 and continued unabated through noon on Sunday. Hunting conditions were the worst since the season of 1978, prompting the DNR to add a week to the normal nine-day gun season. Mike Riley bagged a trophy of a lifetime, tagging a 9-point buck early the second day of the season. (Photo appeared in last week’s Lakeland Times.) Buckshot was the lone hunter from the A/J Camp to venture out on December 7th, the 16th and final day of the season. He lucked out by crossing paths with another trophy 8-point buck to end the season on a very high note!
However, unwanted news arrived shortly after the deer season of ’91 that caused a major change in the A/J Camp. Eighty acres of land that had been available for camp members to hunt on since 1938 had been sold to a new owner who informed us, but very politely, we could no longer hunt the property beginning in 1992. This in turn caused the Riley’s to drop their long-standing membership in the A/J Camp and purchase property to hunt on in Michigan’s U.P.
Lee Jorgensen bagged a buck opening day in ’92 that really caused a stir in camp! It was a beautiful 6-point that sported antlers still in velvet and was missing the body parts which would normally allow a male deer to reproduce!
Bill Pfeiffer joined our ranks in 1993, bringing the camps numbers up to seven. Mike Nickolaou, who began hunting with us in 1989, bagged his 4th buck in four consecutive years, tying a camp record with Chris Anderson. Hunting conditions were sub-standard due to very little snowfall.
Bill Pfeiffer was involved in a crushing negative experience opening morning of ‘94 similar to the one my dad experienced in ‘54. Bill connected with his first buck, which staggered off our property onto state land. Bill and my son, Chris, trailed it only to discover another hunter had already tagged the deer and refused to give it to its rightful owner. For anyone to lose their first buck to a “wood’s slob” is a major disappointment not soon to be forgotten!
Mild conditions existed the entire season of ’94. The north was devoid of snow all 9 days, the first such season since ’41.
Kermit Momsen made the honor roll early opening morning of ’95 by bagging a trophy 9-point buck. Later that same afternoon Kermit filled another camp member’s tag by bagging a nice sized spike buck.
The season of ’96 was Lee Jorgensen’s final one, after spending 37 seasons in the A/J Camp! His retirement from a carreer as an architect resulted in buying a winter retreat in sunny Arizona. Lee is credited with bagging 23 deer during his tenure giving him a success rate much higher than the state average at 62%! Steve Clemens doubled on bucks, one on day one and one on day two filling not only his tag but that of Bill Pfeiffer.
Opening day of 1997 produced a half-foot of wet sloppy snow coupled with wind gusts reaching 25 mph! Those of us who stuck it out in our tree stands were almost seasick by quitting time. Only one deer ended up on the camp meat pole opening evening, a modest spike buck that Chris Anderson generously pushed by his dad’s stand about noon.
On Monday morning the temperature rested at –18 degrees, the coldest temperature ever recorded at the A/J Camp! The gang sighted but 27 deer all season and only bagged the one buck from opening day!
In 1998 only five bunks were filled at the A/J Camp. Chris Anderson, Steve Clemens, Mike Nickolaou, Bill Pfeiffer and Buckshot Anderson ruffed it while Kermit Momsen rented a deluxe room at a nearby resort! Kermit rubbed a little more salt in his companion’s wounds by bagging a magnificent 10-point buck at 7:30 opening morning, the largest of his career! The season remained warm and balmy causing all the snow to be gone by Monday. Steve and Chris added two additional bucks to the camp meat pole later in the week to give the gang a success rate of 50% for the season.
In 1999 Steve Clemens’ daughter, Lisa, became the 6th female to join the A/J Camp and filled her antlerless tag the afternoon of day two. Tom Tilkens, a “now and then” group member bagged a very large 6-point buck opening morning sporting a 17 ¾-inch inside spread! Chris Anderson also bagged a 6-point opening day and Buckshot finally filled his buck tag at 3:30 in the afternoon on the final day of the season! All 8 hunters ended up with venison for their freezers!
During the decade of the ‘90s the number of hunters participating in the hunt averaged 7.7 per season. Twenty-four bucks were taken for a success rate of 32%
The new millennium produced very strong hints the north’s deer herd was in rapid decline. Hunting conditions were excellent the entire season of 2000, but hunters from the A/J Camp only sighted four bucks the entire nine days! And for the first time since 1965 no deer were taken opening day!
The 2001 season offered up more warmer than normal temperatures resulting in little snow and readings in the 50s and 60s. Complaints from hunters concerning the lack of deer in the woods became more common. A typical example was expressed by Mike Nickolaou, who hunted all nine days and saw zero deer!
On the plus side, Bill Pfeiffer bagged a spike buck opening morning and Steve Clemens bagged an 8-point buck Monday morning. Late Monday afternoon Buckshot received an unexpected surprise when he prepared to tag what he thought was a really big doe. The deer turned out to be a buck with both antlerss broken off at the base of the skull! The event is recorded as “The slaying of Mr. No-Horns.”
On the negative side, the season of 2001 was Kermit Momsen’s final year in camp. A serious health problem occurred during the winter of 2001-02, which forced him to give up a sport he loved. During Kermit’s 16 seasons in the A/J Camp he bagged 12 deer for a superb success rate of 75%!
Another “first” in the A/J Camps history took place on Wednesday during the season of 2002. While half of our group was making a drive through a swamp that borders Lost Creek, Steve Clemens, one of the group’s standers, shot a buck at the edge of the creek. The stricken animal staggered out on the ice-covered surface of the creek, and expired.
Seizing an age-old phrase, “necessity is the mother of invention”, members of the group dragged a canoe through the swamp, tied a stout rope to the stern, placed Steve in the craft and shoved the retrieve vehicle out over the thin ice to where the deer rested. Then several members of the hunt pulled the cargo back to shore! Cameraman Carl Zimmerman recorded the entire episode!
In 2003 Mike O’Gorman, Kermit Momsen’s stepson, re-joined the A/J Camp after an absence of 27 years! His rifle was the one Kermit used, allowing “the legend to live on!”
Bill Pfeiffer experienced a highly memorable opening morning by filling his antlerless tag at 6:30 and then bagging a trophy 9-point buck just 15 minutes later!
Lisa Clemens bagged her first buck, a 6-point, shortly after noon on opening day, and Steve and Buckshot “teamed up” on a spike buck Friday.
Events transpired during the early spring of 2004 that completely changed the complexion of the A/J Camp and its long tradition. Buckshot and Peggy Anderson sold a portion of their property, which contained the building that housed the deer hunters since 1977. The “Hunter’s Hilton” was no longer available for our gang to use for their deer camp!
During the summer of 2004 Buckshot and Peggy’s retirement home on the banks of Lost Creek was completed. What remained of the A.J Camp’s membership would continue to assemble there the evening prior to opening day and again on the evening of opening day. We dine, indulge in chilled spirits, plan upcoming hunts and reminisce concerning hunts gone by.
Seven expectant deer hunters assembled in the Anderson family room on the eve of the 2004 season. Steve and Lisa Clemens. Craig Long, Mike O’Gorman plus Chris and Buckshot Anderson were present. Although slightly subdued, the remnants of the A/J Camp continued the long standing tradition.
The season of 2004 was bleak indeed. Six hunters only sighted six deer opening day, none of which sported antlers. For the first time since the season of 1970 no bucks were taken by members of the A/J Camp the entire season!
In 2005 Shelly Long joined the camp membership and in 2007 bagged her first buck. Lisa Clemens last name changed to Keller in 2007, and her husband, Keith also joined our ranks. Two bucks were bagged in 2005, Craig Long recorded his first, a fine 6-point and Buckshot added a spike buck.
The gang added two more bucks to the camps total in 2006, one of which was Mike O’Gorman’s first.
By the time the season of 2007 rolled around, the talk of the woods was more and more about the lack of deer up north, and Shelly Long’s spike buck was the only deer supporting antlers of the four that were taken.
The same cast of characters assembled for the hunt of 2008, except for Chris Anderson who decided not to participate in the event for personal reasons. The overall quality of the event continued to decline with no bucks being sighted the entire season! No deer were taken during the traditional nine-day gun season, although two antlerless deer were obtained, one during the special four-day antlerless hunt and one during the December muzzleloader season.
During the first nine seasons of the first decade of the new millennium the A/J Camp averaged 7.0 hunters per season. Fourteen bucks were taken for a success rate of 22%, which is the 2nd lowest success rate for any decade, only surpassed by the 15% rate during the 1970s.
From 1938 through 2008 fifty-six different hunters have spent time at the A/J Camp. Records from the very early years of the camp’s existence are somewhat sketchy, but all facts and figures are completely accurate from 1960 to the present. Actual figures from 1960 through 2008, combined with known facts from 1938-1959, indicate members of the A/J Camp accounted for 157 bucks and 72 antlerless deer. However, the number of bucks taken is probably somewhat higher due to the lack of specific information from 1938-59.
Postscript: As I put the finishing touches to this rather lengthy, three-part narrative, the traditional nine-day gun deer season of 2009 looms just three days ahead. The remnants of the A/J Camps “Glory Days” will once again gather at the Anderson home on the evening of November 20 to grill beef steaks, consume a modest amount of chilled internal body stimulants and ponder our chances for success during the coming season.
Although the physical deer camp is but a memory, the core values of the institution remain – hunt safely, ethically, have fun, and store additional memories. Any deer bagged are a bonus!
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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