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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 9-23-2015

by Mark Walters

Working Hard for a Black Bear

Hello friends,

This week’s column covers a few days before Wisconsin’s black bear season opens and then a week of hunting with my 14-year-old daughter, Selina as we tried to fill both of our tags in Wisconsin’s central forest in Juneau, Wood and Jackson Counties!

Wednesday, September 9th
High 84, low 53

Today would be day 65 since Selina and I started the mentally, physically and financially exhausting job of running six bear baits over a fifty mile area that includes several miles of how fast can you walk while carrying bait to each site way of life!

On Labor Day weekend I took out two tires on my truck, which in itself caused a ton of headaches.

Today, I picked Selina up an hour early from Necedah High School where she is a freshman. I had already run the baits and Selina and I would be sitting on, what has been a very reliable location over the years, an oak forest surrounded by swamp.

Trail cameras do not lie and this site has been hit every night since we re-started it on July 4th. The only problem and it has been the theme for just about everyone that I speak with, is that almost every “hit’ is after dark.

A very interesting fact is that this year a solid half of our bear (excluding cubs) are over 300-pounds.

So Selina and I are sitting side by side in a red pine with two stands. When Selina was ten she hunted 17 nights and passed up bear on 3 different occasions. In other words, Selina is in for the long haul on this hunt.

An hour before dark the pine squirrels and chipmunks started chattering behind us, as did several blue jays. On just about every occasion where I have seen a bear come to the bait while hunting, these critters let me know in advance, in other words listen to the forest!

We did not see a bear and on the half a mile hike back to the truck I had Selina, lead the way through the woods which is exactly what my dad did when I was kid, whether we were on the water, marsh or forest.

The next day, I was running the baits before our hunt and exactly six minutes after we got out of the stand the night before a bear in the 325 to 375 pound category hit the bait and gave us several excellent photos.

Friday, September 11th
High 65, low 44

A cold front has hit the upper Midwest and this can get bear moving earlier in the day, simply because it is more comfortable for them to move earlier in the day in cooler weather.

All of our baits were hit the last two nights and everyone had a good bear on it. The key to the story, every hit was ten minutes to five hours after dark. Selina and I are sitting comfortably in our stands. We are reading her book The 5th Wave (excellent book).

Read a sentence, search the forest! An hour before dark, maybe 500-yards away we hear a high-powered rifle, not good, but a sign that bear are moving. Again, tonight we do not see a bear, Selina has been playing the hunting and fishing game long enough to know the real deal is to enjoy the moment. Catching a fish, dropping a duck or harvesting a deer are a bonus.

Hunt #7 
Wednesday, September 16
High 86, low 64

I am currently in contact with 15 bear hunters. Between all of us we have harvested one bear and that is through hunting and fishing guide Jesse Qualle. There are two stories, either no bear at the bait or they are hitting it after dark.

On Monday, Selina ad I decided that she could handle sitting alone and I would work a different bait. I walked Selina in, got her set up and then hiked out to my truck, drove a mile hiked a half mile into the woods and began my first bear hunt in years (I passed my tag to Selina when she was ten). I did not have time to put up a stand so I climbed a maple tree and stood on a branch.

It is now Wednesday; I no longer walk Selina to or back from her stand. At fourteen, she is very independent We have worked with her cross country coach Annette Lessard and for the time being Selina practices for an hour, I pick her up and then we do the drive and hunt.

At about 9:00, we pull in the driveway. I cook supper, Selina gets cleaned up. After we eat she does homework (always been a straight A student) we eat and she hits the rack.

Seventy-three days into it we are both very tired and full of hope. Anyone that reads this and thinks bear hunting is just killing bear that are eating a doughnut, would be best off to become a little more open minded.

Love to hunt! Sunset