An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 10-21-2015
by Mark Walters
Thirty-Two Nights in a Tree
On Tuesday, October 13th, I made sure that my 14-year-old daughter, Selina Walters, was safely in a tree overlooking her bear bait and then I spent the next three-hours driving, hiking into the woods and removing trail cameras and stumps from four other bait sites. Where we have been attempting to harvest a black bear on a very long adventure that began on July 4th in Northern Juneau County.
This week’s column is a series of observations that I had during the 32-separate nights, 12 for Selina and 20 for me that we spent attempting to fill our Wisconsin black bear tags.
The bait site that Selina hunts over is phenomenal, we have kept this site active for five years and throughout the 95 nights that we had a camera on it this July/October, there was only one night that it was not hit by one or more black bear.
Selina and I ran six-baits at the peak of our efforts and in the end we had probably 1000 photos of black bear and just as many gray wolf photos. Anyone that does not understand the fact that deer, bear, bluegill and turkey and the wolf population need to be managed, simply does not know the facts of the forest.
The old story line that wolf only eat injured whitetail deer is a myth. I am very pleased that wolves made their way back into our region of the world, but there are too many of them.
Selina is one of the coolest young hunters that I have ever met. At 14, she can hike a half a mile into the woods, hunt bear and then at dark she can hike back to where I will pick her up. For many of our hunts, I was in a tree 9-miles away from Selina, between my hike out and then drive, Selina would have about a 20-minute hike in a very remote part of Wisconsin that was literally alive with black bear.
Selina was never scared on her hike or wait while she hid in the woods well after dark, of a black bear. It was humans that made it so that Selina hid fifty-yards in the woods and kept her 30:06 loaded until the headlights of dads truck showed up.
It was my 12th night out, before I actually hit the woods without Selina, she had cross country practice and her coach Annette Lessard had been excellent at letting Selina miss some practices and meets.
On this night, I chose to hunt Selina’s bait and it would be a bit of a challenge. I was completely comfortable 16-feet off the ground when one hour after beginning my hunt, I heard a rifle go off no more then 150-yards away.
Next I heard a whistle and then I had a hunter at the base of my stand telling me that he needed help finding a bear. I won’t go negative but it really sucks how people move in your bait and some of the things that they do in the woods.
On this night I helped a man recover a black bear that truly needed help.
An abundant acorn crop is what wiped out the dreams of many bear hunters this year and in reality that is just part of the game. Talk to any hunter, read any forum, acorns like no one can remember are on the forest floor, which in the very least, made moquaw nocturnal in hundreds if not thousands of hunters cases.
Thirty-two nights in the tree and we did not see a bear. In every case, but when the hunter killed the nearby bear there was a bear at Selina’s bait within one hour of climbing down from the stand. On four occasions, within ten-minutes of Selina or me climbing down from the tree we were hunting black bear were at the bait.
There is a growing conversation in two areas for black bear hunters. One is to start the season earlier as the acorn crop is really killing us and the other is the quality of the hunt on public land due to a steady increase in tags which is condensing the hunters.
Both of these situations like what I wrote about the grey wolf are a fact and if you are to understand Wisconsin black bear hunting this is part of the story.
In the end, I invested $1200.00 in bait and gas, my truck has a few more dents and a lot more “hard miles” on it. In all my life, other then the Appalachain Trail and trying to canoe up the Mississippi River, I have never experienced the long term fatigue so intensely as this 95-day marathon put on both Selina and myself.
The folks like the fool from Marquette County that wrote that Selina and I and everyone else that hunts bear are “bear assassins” simply do not understand the sport the challenge and most of all the experience whether you fill your tag or not.
Believe it or not I loved every mosquito bitten, sweat ridden, nocturnal bear moment of the sport call bear hunting. Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Cedar Country Co-operative