On Tuesday, Oct. 8, at about sunset, Wisconsin’s black bear hunting season came to an end. The following is a summary of what I witnessed during the 75-day period that I spent in the woods both running baits and hunting bear.
I have been running bear baits in northern Juneau County for nine years. It all started when my daughter Selina was 10, and I passed my tag down to her. Northern Juneau County is about as far south in Wisconsin as you can realistically hope to harvest a black bear, as our harvest comes in at only 7%.
This year my longtime friend Doug Cibulka and I teamed up and shared the tremendous task of running baits, which is physical, time consuming and sometimes frustrating. The most frustrating part of hunting black bear in this part of the state is the fact that our bears have become almost 100% nocturnal.
What I love about hunting in this area is that we have an abundance of bears over 400 pounds. No dog hunting and nocturnal bears means older bears, and older bears means big bears.
I have one bait that is reliable for generally one chance at a bear harvest per year. Selina shot her first bear at it. My friend Larry Wargowski did and this year on Sept. 5, Doug Cibulka harvested a beautiful 315-pound dressed sow at it. In those nine years, my stepson Joey Dushek also harvested a bear, which he did with a bow and arrow, and I was able to capture it with a video camera.
I have an immense respect and love for black bear. I will tell you about one. When I first got his picture, Selina was 10. This bear weighed maybe 250 pounds, and what was unique about this bear is that it has very thin hair throughout its entire body.
Now nine seasons later, the thin-haired bear is still coming into Selina’s bait. It still has thin hair, it weighs maybe 375 pounds, and even though I have got hundreds of pictures of it, this bear has never come in for a daylight picture.
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Another subject that is huge is the unrestricted wolf population. Grey wolves are protected, which makes about as much sense as sticking your head under a running chainsaw. Simply put, there are too many wolves in some parts of Wisconsin.
On one of my baits, over a 20-hour period of time, I got 240 pictures. Every bait had wolf living on it, and since no one can harvest them in Wisconsin, the fear factor has diminished in a big way over the last five years.
I hunted 19 days, and my motivation is to see a huge bear, and maybe harvest it. My goals were all met when Doug harvested his trophy. I never saw a bear, and for some crazy reason, the last 17 days, the bear 100% quit hitting my baits.
When Doug harvested his bear, he walked out of the woods. I met him in the dark, we walked to his stand and the monster that we had been chasing for years had hit his bait after Doug had fired his gun and while we were walking in the dark to his stand. That bear never came back.
I am addicted to bear chasing; it keeps me a lean machine and totally in touch with nature due to the time spent in the woods. The flooding of our forests, the firsthand knowledge of the grey wolf, my friend the thin-haired bear, along with Joey’s, Larry’s, Selina’s and now Doug’s bears are memories for this gang that are huge.
Yesterday I went to pull a stand off a piece of private land and someone had stole it. About all I have to say is no matter how bad or good things sometimes seems, the sun still comes up in the morning.