by Mark Walters
Bloomer’s “Northland Houndsmen”
This week and next I will be writing to you about the excellent experiences that I had while trying to fill my bobcat tag, under the guidance of an incredible bunch of guys and gals that call themselves “The Northland Houndsmen”.
This group that began back in the late fifties, when there were not many deer in the area or coyote or GPS’s; used to load their hounds in the trunks of their cars and chase fox.
The unofficial leaders of this group are Don and Dale Naset, Robby Turner and several of the gangs members are Mark Tomasovich, Mitch Poier, Mark Pierce, Sonny Marek, Rolly Naset, Diane Mitchell and I am sure that I have missed several.
Tuesday, December 30th
High 6, low minus 25
I am basing out of Flater’s Resort, which is possibly the coolest place on earth and is located where the Chippewa and Flambeau Rivers meet.
This morning long before daylight my connection to this group, Mark Tomasovich (Tomally) picked me up and we began our job, which like the four other trucks working the area, was to find a fresh bobcat track.
Sounds simple hey, well it is not. We are working big country in Rusk and Chippewa Counties, each driver covers about 15 to 25 miles of remote roads and much of the time your window is down or you are getting out of the truck and trying to figure out if a track is made by a fisher, coyote, fox or bobcat.
Generally you see deer tracks, sometimes they are wolf or coyote but the most common thing to remember is when a deer or coyote lifts its feet there is a slight drag mark between tracks. The bobcat does not drag its feet.
Generally these guys are hunting coyote and as each member of the gang works their stretch of road. They talk on marine band radios and relay their info and then a plan is made on when to meet and which hounds to put on the coyote that will be chased.
For myself I was actually being honored by a bunch of guys that did not even know me. Yesterday and today we were ignoring coyote and it was bobcat or nothing, I had the only “cat/short tail” tag and running a cat was the only goal.
Two days of frigid temps kept us from seeing a single cat track!
Wednesday, January 21st
High 34, low 17
Today was the second day of my second trip to hunt cat! In the time between hunts we had to cancel twice. Once because of frigid temps and blowing snow that covers all tracks. The other time because the only snow on the ground was hard pack that did not make a track and there was not much of it.
As usual I am riding shotgun with Mark Tomasovich in his 2003 Chevy “Avalanche”.
The Avalanche is a beast that does not get stuck even though all of Tomally’s buddies want him to get stuck so they can all give him a hard time.
There are five trucks on this hunt and everyone knows that I have to go home today. Both today and yesterday it snowed after midnight, so finding cat tracks is not at all easy.
There are hounds in the back of these trucks that go by the names of Ellwood/Redbone, Conway/Plott and Sailor a Walker that I really want to see hunt.
Each dog is fitted with a GPS collar and the hunters have hand held GPS’s in their trucks that they can track the hounds once they are on the hunt. The GPS’s are crucial in keeping track of the dogs, which helps to keep them off from private land, and lets the hunters know if they are near a road which helps to avoid catastrophe with car/hound collisions.
The bobcat season is down to ten days. I cannot return for five, the clock is ticking. The weather forecast is perfect for cat to move tonight. After a big day of hunting I have to go home and be a dad, a KAMO President and feed cattle. I get home at 8:30! The game is on, to heck with the five-day wait!
I am back at Flater’s the next morning; I got a cat tag to fill! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Cedar Country Cooperative