When my daughter Selina Walters and I received our permits last February to hunt black bear in Zone C, I made the decision, that with this being our last bear hunt together before Selina is in college, or maybe even after, I was really going to try to do this hunt right.
The following is a recap of what turned out to be exactly 90 days of baiting and hunting.
The southern section of Zone C that holds a respectable number of black bear includes northern Juneau County, along with Jackson and Wood counties.
There are not a lot of black bear harvested in this part of Wisconsin, but there are a lot of big bear, as proven by trail cameras put out by those who bait bear.
I believe this part of Wisconsin has a lot of black bear over 400 pounds in part because dogs are not allowed to aid in harvesting bear in Zone C. To my pals that are dog hunters, don’t get mad at me, I support you guys as well.
Here is what I know for a fact is happening in our southern bear hunting section. Black bear have learned that moving during daylight hours after Labor Day might cost them their life. In other words, they have become nocturnal.
Selina and I ran nine baits with five of them having trail cameras. Two of our baits had a true 550-600 pound bear that I have been chasing for years, hitting them. Several of our baits had two to four bears over 350 pounds hitting them at least twice a week.
Until Aug. 1, we were having about five daytime hits a week, which is good, but not great. The big bear was hitting our baits during the daytime at least twice a week, and let me tell you, I really wanted to put him in the crosshairs of my rifle!
I have mentioned in the past, that the long-term fatigue really kicks a hunter’s behind. It is the kind of fatigue that keeps chores from getting done, stops social engagements from happening, beats the bajeezus out of your truck and more than empties your pocket book.
I hunted on opening day with Selina in her stand a mile away, and then the next two nights by myself, as she had cross country practice.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, it had been 40 days since we had a daytime hit on our cameras. Selina and I were sitting in our trees, and by God, a 220-pound sow gave Selina a shot and she drilled it. Like her dad taught her, she put a second shot in it when it was running away, and both shots were in the chest.
At that point I had four hunts under my belt. I was very happy, but I wanted to hunt for a big bear. Fifteen nights out of the next 31 would find me sitting in Selina’s stand.
My stand, which was just as good, lost all of it’s bear action when a pack of wolves moved in and literally lived on it.
I talked to one hunter that had 14 wolves in one trail camera picture. About all I can say to all of the folks that are 100 percent against some form of sensible wolf management, is this. Can you imagine if you were a whitetail deer that was about to give birth to a fawn, or a deer that is run down from the rut or living in deep snow and the forest is loaded with unregulated meat-eating animals that weigh from 60 to 120 pounds?
So anyways, my life is consumed with family, the Kids and Mentors Outdoors group, hobby farming, traveling for my job and never missing a night in the stand when I am home. The last week of the season, I had several big bear hitting my one and only bait. In some cases these bear were hitting the bait 25 minutes after I left the stand.
Since July 10, when this journey began, the bear were only eating about 2 to 3 pounds of granola due to an incredible amount of food in the forest, but now they are eating about 15 pounds.
I constantly dream of seeing a big bear and sometimes visualize a full-body mount in my living room. There is not one second of this time- and money-sucking adventure that I regret. On the last night of a great journey, I sat and visualized the incredible night that Selina killed her first black bear from the tree that I was sitting in and did not give a rat’s hiney that I did not see a bear the entire season.
Run down, but not dead!