by Mark Walters
This week’s column is on the 62-day process of my good friend, Larry Wargowsky’s first bear hunting season. A lot of work, time, and some cash, but most of all believing in the ultimate goal resulted in the very positive story that you are about to read.
Saturday, August 3rd
High 84, low 64
Today would be the first day that we put out baits and Larry Wargowsky’s first day of Bear Hunting 101. I know Larry Wargowsky because he attends the same church that I do and is a retired manager of The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
Today we would be creating bear baits by digging holes at three separate locations, putting cookie dough in each one, and then covering them with logs that weighed from 40-80 pounds.
Two of the baits were on public property, and the other was on private, all three were places that I have baited in the past. Over the next two months, I would “run” the baits, that grew in number to six, periodically with Larry and it was really cool to watch as Larry really grew to understand bear from their nocturnal habits, to being affected by ripening blueberries, and falling acorns.
A pack of four grey wolf came every night to one of what used to be my best baits and after about a month, we shut that site down due to the expense of bait and because there were no bear hitting it.
Raccoon can also be a problem, but if you cover the bait thoroughly, they generally do not clean out your bait until a wolf or bear opens it up.
We used two trail cameras, and this is an area where my pal had an incredible learning experience as he had not worked with a trail camera before. By using trail cameras we were able to tell what time the bear, wolf, turkey, and raccoon would visit our sites.
Our main site and I knew it would be, is one that I hunted 17 nights with my then 10-year-old daughter, Selina, two years ago when I passed my tag down to her.
This bait in past years was hit almost everyday by 1-5 bears and many of them would come at the typical prime time, which is the last hour of daylight. This year was much different and I heard it from bear hunters across Wisconsin, simply put, there was no regularity to when bears were hitting the baits and it was not very often at all.
By late August, Larry Wargowsky had lost a lot of weight and understood black bear a whole lot more then he did in mid-July.
We had one bear that was coming in, for the most part, after dark and occasionally in the morning. By the last day of Larry’s season we had hundreds of pictures of this big animal who almost always hit the bait around midnight
I sat in a tree with Larry for many nights, once the season opened, and as Larry would always say, “let’s go watch the squirrels” because my friends that is about the only animal life that we would see.
We always had a ritual after our hunts, which was a cold beer and some venison sticks, and we never let the lack of bear sightings get us down.
On Tuesday, October 1st Larry was running late getting to his stand, was hunting his 9th night in a row, and his 17th since the season opened on September 4th. Larry had only been in his stand ten minutes when the big male, Larry’s first bear encounter of his life, happened and the big bear knew something was wrong as soon as it came to the bait.
From the start it was huffing and twice it reared up on it’s hind legs to lean against red pine tree’s. The second time it did this Larry put a 180 grain bullet from his 308 into the bear’s lungs and it dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Larry thought his hunt was over, and then just like that, the bear got up and started running and Larry fired again and the bear vanished.
I was not with Larry but got a call from my bear hunting buddy that he had just hit the “big one”. All the thoughts of tracking after dark and hauling a bear, almost a mile out of the bush, kicked in; this was on public land so it would have to come out of the woods by us dragging it.
When I met Larry, it was almost dark, and he was getting the “I hope I didn’t wound it worries”- a common syndrome with someone that has just put a couple of bullets in a large animal but does not see it.
When we started trailing it we did not have to go far and we found my friend’s trophy, it was high fives and hugs, every statement that my bear killing partner made was that we had done this together and it was truly an incredible experience.
Getting Larry’s bear out of the woods with my injuries (sprained ankle, torn calf muscle and broken rib) was pure crazy for two hard working men, as we pulled what would be a 325 bear out of God’s country.
When we got back to the truck, Larry called his wife Jean, who is a teacher at Necedah Elementary School, and she told me that she had prayed that day for Larry to get his bear because she wanted her man back home after spending the last two months in the woods.
Anyone that thinks running your own baits for bear is simple and does not take much time needs to read this story.
Congrats Larry, you had a goal and you achieved it! Sunset.
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Ormson’s SuperValu