When my daughter Selina Walters was 10 years old, I transferred my black bear hunting tag to her for that fall’s hunting season. That 10th summer of Selina’s life, she put in at least 100 hours running baits with me in northern Juneau County on what is a very physical job.
When hunting season arrived, Selina passed up two different bears. One was too small and the other was a sow with 1 ½-year-old cubs, not the standard 6-month-old cubs that most hunters are accustomed to seeing with a sow.
That sow was enormous and came to her bait twice.
When Selina was 14, she received her first bear tag via the Zone C drawing. That was two years ago. Once again she put in at least 100 hours running baits, and on the stand, she hunted 17 nights and did not see a bear.
This year Selina is 16, she obtained her drivers license in August and last January another Zone C permit to hunt bear. Without a doubt, I have never seen such a slow season for running baits, from our start date in early July until this very moment.
Selina and I ran nine baits, which cover 46 miles of driving, and our walks were from 400 yards to a mile. In August and September, we did not have one bait hit at daytime, but did have some nice bear coming in after dark.
I honestly believe that the hundreds of hours that Selina has spent in the woods and marshes, along with the sweat, the work and the observing nature from a tree stand is a huge reason why she has such an incredible work ethic, a love for nature, no fear and plans of becoming a wildlife biologist.
This year’s stress for myself, as we entered the 35-day season, is that Selina is simply over-scheduled in that thing called life. She is a first-year president of her school’s DECA chapter, very active with The National Honor Society, works four shifts a week at the Necedah Kwik Trip, has a friend from Brookwood and is a runner on the school’s cross country team.
Just the cross country story is very cool, as it was just 10 months ago when we were taking her to her deer stand on a deer cart after she blew out her left knee and had to go through 6 months of therapy, which thankfully avoided surgery.
Saturday, Sept. 9
High 72, low 44
All of the above was on my mind as I dropped Selina off for what would be the fourth night of Wisconsin’s bear season, and drove my truck to where I make my half-mile trek into the woods.
Selina was adamant that she could carry her bait, re-bait if needed and do the 16-foot climb into her tree without her dad’s help.
We often text each other when on our stands, and on this hunt, Selina saw three separate deer and had a porcupine experience. I kept telling her that this was an excellent sign. The fact that her bait had been hit was also good news.
I am 20 feet up in a red pine. I love the view and doing nothing but watching the forest for 4 hours. Selina is maybe 1 ½-miles away, and at 7:10 p.m. I heard a beautiful sound. It was what I was confident was her 30:06 being fired twice.
Less than a minute later I got a text from Selina: “GOT ONE!” Then another text that said it didn’t even run far. Without a doubt those were the best text messages of my life.
So here is where things got crazy. I am hunting a bear that is in the 500-pound range, so I stayed up in the red pine until dark. As I was making my way to Selina, which includes a 2 ½-mile walk, and then a drive, a sow came into her bait with two cubs. Selina’s gun was empty and on the ground. Thankfully the sow left without incident.
Selina’s brother Joey Duskek, his girlfriend Ashley Potter and my other bear-hunting partner Doug Cibulka, all were a part of getting Selina’s trophy out of the woods. It was 1 a.m. before we were home and the bear was iced and hanging.
A rug will be made, the meat will be consumed but the memory is one of the best that I have so far as a father. Good work Goof!