Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For January 28th, 2011 Edition.

For someone who has spent six-plus decades enjoying Wisconsin’s great out of doors during all four seasons it’s somewhat rare to find “something new to experience”, especially during the winter months. But lo and behold such an opportunity presented itself a little over a week ago and I eagerly took advantage of the offer.

How many of you folks out there have ever taken a ride through our beautiful snow covered forest in a snowmobile trail groomer? Well, let me tell you it’s a very interesting and unique experience, which if invited I’ll do again!

I’m not into snowmobiling, although I did partake in the sport briefly during the sports infancy. We had four different snow machines during the time our four kids were in their formative years but Wifee Poo and I never got hooked on the sport. For myself cross-country skiing and snowshoeing became my favored outdoor winter activities.

One of my pals, Steve Clemens, is one of many local citizens that volunteer to help keep the north green during the winter months by keeping our visiting snowmobile riders happy on the trails. Steve works for the Sayner Barnstormers and spends three to four days (or nights) per week grooming trails. A reasonably short section of trail west and north of Sayner needed touching up and Steve invited me to “ride shotgun.” I accepted.

I arrived at the Barnstormer’s Barn at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday. The huge blue four-wheel rubber tracked monster tractor and the ten-foot wide orange groomer were gassed and ready to go. I climbed up and settled into the jump seat was off on my maiden voyage!

It was a picture-perfect winter morning. A light dusting of snow from the night before was receiving additional snowflakes. The trail bore no sign of recent travel and a serene, peaceful landscape moved slowly along beside us. The only evidence of living things were numerous deer tracks from Sayner’s local herd of semi-tame whitetails.

The first familiar landmark that I recognized was Plum Creek. As Steve slowly navigated the narrow bridge that spans its rippling waters the first of many ancient memories was extracted from my storage bin.

Here, on the west bank of the stream a trout hatchery once stood. It was but one of many small hatcheries our then Wisconsin Conservation Department operated. Just below the hatchery building was a deep pool, which every local trout angler knew very well. But every spring northern pike would journey upstream from Big St. Germain Lake on their annual spawning run and take up residence in the deep pool below the dam at the hatchery. And it’s a well-known fact pike and trout does not make for a good mixture in a small trout stream!

A few of the local teenaged boys took it upon themselves to help save the trout by harvesting the pike despite the fact pike season was not as yet open. Besides that, our method of harvesting was highly illegal, but because of the urgency of our mission and the remoteness of the location we’d risk the consequences of getting nabbed by the local game wardens.

Our pike harvesting equipment was simple. Musky rods and reels. Heavy nylon braided line. Large treble hooks weighted with many lead sinkers. By standing in the steam in hip waders we’d make short casts into the deep pool, let the weighted treble hooks sink and then jerk the rod, which eventually would snag a pike. The largest one Roger Stoeckmann and I ever removed from the stream was a bit over thirty inches!

Every pike we ever snagged had its stomach full of brook trout! Hey, we were just being environmentalists helping to protect those yummy brook trout!

However, one late April morning warden Ben Bendrick didn’t agree with our mission. We got caught red handed!

Mr. Bendrick refused to believe the pike committed suicide by leaping out of the stream and ending up on the bank. Neither did he believe the gashes in the sides of the pike were self-inflicted. Neither did he believe we were fishing for trout with musky rods and treble hooks.

But, he didn’t haul us off to prison! He sternly told us to “Get out of here and don’t come back – and take those pike with you.” Funny thing though – all the time he was scaring hell out of us he had a smirk on his face. Ben was a good, common sense warden!

Once west of Plum Creek deer tracks became few and far between. We passed through rugged, rolling hills filled with second growth aspen, an area my friends and I roamed years ago during fall hunting grouse, woodcock and snowshoe hares. Further on the landscape changed to oak and maple, later still we entered a stand of huge red pine. Beyond that was a stand of rare old-growth hemlock.

The trail began angling north and we passed Wildwood Lake. I hadn’t fished its water for over fifty years. Next came Fallison Lake, then Emerald Lake, all once fairly easy to access but now all are classed as wilderness lakes. The rustic two-rut goat paths that once allowed anglers reasonable access to these pristine lakes have long since been blocked off by the DNR. Just another example of “Big Brother” knowing what’s best for it citizens despite the fact the land is owned by the State and is supposed to be EQUALLY available to ALL citizens regardless of gender, age or physical condition.

Back in the good old days when it was possible to showcase these lakes to our tourists that enjoy a quiet, wilderness setting, all three of those lakes were primarily largemouth bass and panfish lakes. Once the DNR made access available only to the physically fit the fishery biologists began experimenting, trying to be smarter and wiser than Ma Nature. Hybrid muskies were planted in Fallison Lake, which didn’t pan out. Next trout were introduced with varying success. For a short period Fallison Lake produced some really nice sized brook trout but all too soon perch outnumbered the trout 100 to 1.

Emerald Lake once held a few monster sized pike, but I haven’t heard any recent reports of that still being the case. Ah yes, isn’t progress wonderful!

Steve turned the groomer around once we reached the portion of the trail maintained by Boulder Junction’s Snowmobile Club. The return trip was just as entertaining as our outgoing leg.

Trail travel was light but we did encounter forty-two sleds containing friendly drivers that quickly moved to the side of the trail to let the mechanical monster pass.

I’m certain being a trail groomer is a lonely job, but a necessary one. I take my hat off to honor all those who spend so much of their winter leisure time helping to promote the life-blood of the north’s winter economy!

Three cheers for those volunteer groomers!

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:  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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