Bear Down

I can’t read the phrase I used for the title without thinking of the Chicago football fight song, but blame that on my roots. I told Matt that he was going to be writing the post about the hunt, since I wasn’t there. But I wanted to at least get the pictures up: he got his bear. Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend

Late Saturday evening, Matt and I drove up north to get to work on improving our duck hunting site, as well as hanging trail cams and various other odds and ends. We turned around and came back Sunday afternoon, hoping to hunt the opener Monday morning for early goose and teal, so we weren’t there long, and packed a lot of activity into a few hours. Continue reading

Big, Adventurous News

Matt got some big news last night. It looks like the earliest part of our bow season is going to be interrupted.

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Since the wait for his home area up in zone B is 9 years, and he ended up skipping a couple of preference point deadlines (deployments, they suck), he opted to take what preference points he did have and apply for a tag for zone C.

black-bear-management-zone

 

The northernmost boundary of C there at Rt. 64 is maybe 15 miles north of Wausau ( we take 64 part of the way to get east to Matt’s hometown), putting it about 2 hours and 15 minutes away. Since he got a tag for a zone where we don’t know anyone with land to hunt, he’s going to hire a guide. That could put us closer to three hours away if that guide happens to be out in the western counties like St Croix or Polk. It also means we won’t have to be driving to and from every week to replenish bait piles. Not only is that a lot of gas, but bear bait can get very expensive.

I’ll be picking up a Class B license, which allows me to accompany him and assist him in hunting activities like baiting and tracking. I’d also have it in order to sit with him if I could to film. Since we haven’t figured out exactly how it will work with a guide yet, it’s still up in the air.

The season for C runs from September 3- October 7. Zone C you can’t run bear dogs (not that we could- we don’t own any, and I don’t even know if you can hire a guy with hounds). What’s the bear population like there?  I had to do some reading on that one. The area we spend the most time in has plenty of em- remember the poo piles? But it’s a different zone. Anyhow, according to this article from the WIDNR, there’s even an occasional incidence of bear sightings in the northwest of Dane county where Madison is located. As the bear population has expanded south, it looks like they’ve become abundant or common in most of Zone C.  According to another DNR article:

“More than 104,000 hunters applied for 9,015 permits in 2012, making the wait to receive a harvest permit approximately 5 to 9 years, depending on the bear management zone. However, when one finally receives that permit, the opportunity to harvest a bear is better than 50 percent and some of the biggest bears in the country are taken in Wisconsin. Several bears registered by hunters each year top 600 or 700 pounds!”

Granted, that’s for all of the bear hunting zones put together. It’s looking like Zone C usually has the fewest bears killed. I’m going to guess that this is a combination of a slightly lower bear population, a higher human population with a shorter wait for permits, and mostly, a much, much larger spread of land area. Zone C covers the southern and central 2/3 of the state. At the bottom of this .pdf  there’s information from the 2012 season. 810 for 2/3 of the state doesn’t seem too unfavorable, especially considering 2012 was that awful drought year for the southern portion of the state.

In addition to normal tagged registration like any large animal taken (deer, sturgeon, etc), we’ll have to provide a tooth (a premolar) for aging, and part of a rib for population counts if we’re successful. Apparently the DNR has volunteers place baits laced with dyes that show up in the bones of bears, enabling them to track population growth. It looks like we have a busy year ahead of us. We’re gonna need a bigger freezer.

 

 

Closing Day

Time to hang up the blaze already. Until doe and holiday hunts, anyway.

Time to hang up the blaze already. Until doe and holiday hunts, anyway.

Since we came back from up north late on Saturday night, we were in Madison for the closing evening of gun season. Matt had to do a little work Sunday morning, but we made it out by about 3 that afternoon. And what a change was wrought by warmer weather. I mentioned how very cold opening weekend was. And how cold it was during the week. Sunday was in the mid-thirties. As we came around the bend at Sunny Slope, there were five cars in the small parking lot. Remember that this piece of land is just about 250 acres. Cramped, when everyone has a gun.

I won’t gloss over it- it pissed me off. I’m not sure exactly what it is that forms the basis of my hatred for fairweather people, but it’s there. Maybe it was growing up and being a fan of Chicago sports- I get grumpy when the Packers fans up here turn off their TVs when they start to lose. I don’t know. It’s definitely translated to disliking people who fairweather outdoor sports as well. Opening weekend, there were two people out there besides Matt and myself. And I didn’t even see them- Matt did, and they hunted, then left. Since the weather had warmed up- Saturday had hovered right around freezing- I had halfway expected there would be more people out. But it still astounds me how inconsiderate people are.

I saw two other hunters and Matt saw one or two himself. From what I saw, and from what Matt told me, they probably had never been out to this area, much less scouted it. Of the two I saw, one lollygagged around for about ten minutes, and the other set up after I did, and we got there a bit late. He didn’t have a blind- he just sat in some scraggly tall grass across the field from me. He was facing entirely the wrong way to see deer where they tend to come out in this field, and to top it off, he was rotating every so often. Taking his coat off, putting it back on. The cherry on the top of all this was he left at about 4:45- about 25 minutes before dark. With a flashlight, when there was still enough visible light to read easily. I hoped he’d spook a deer out to me, at the very least, but no such luck.

I did hear and just barely see one deer Sunday evening, but with how many people were kicking around, I doubt I’d have ever gotten a shot- it was crunching around on the steep backside of the hill I sit on. And I only saw its neck at a distance between some trees. Our gun season definitely went out with a fizzle. Someone got a deer out there- we saw bloody drag marks in the snow and dirt.

I didn’t end up hunting Monday evening. Many fewer people use black powder rifles, given how difficult they are to load, and the extra cleaning required. I figured at the very least, I’d give the deer some peace and quiet. The DNR’s gun season numbers are in- statewide, the harvest appears to be down about 30%. After just opening weekend, it was down 18%. They’re blaming it on the intense cold and fewer people being out, but given how many tags are purchased each year, I don’t see why it couldn’t be a both/and between cold weather and a smaller deer herd over all.

One upside, however, is that we are finally, finally seeing migrating geese. I counted upwards of 100 overhead on Sunday, and have since seen more, as well. Hopefully, we’ll make it out for our first geese for the year soon. The season ends the 21st. Duck is done already. Many of the lakes and rivers up north are actually frozen. The Wisconsin river just north of us had decent ice when we crossed it headed north. We’re getting plenty of skim ice up here. Or we were, when it was still cold. When it dips again, it will restrict landing spots for geese. Our hunting spot has a current strong enough to slow skim ice, so they will hopefully be forced to land near us.

Matt’s 200 Yard Shot.

The video is cut and edited. Matt took a 185 yard shot on this deer on Thanksgiving evening. He successfully hit the big artery in the neck, dropping her immediately. We would see another 8 deer this evening. Some of them may have been bucks, but it was too dark to pick out any headgear. We ended up hunting over the gut pile the next day for coyote, but we didn’t see anything.

Deer Camp and Thanksgiving

I finally make my return after a several day absence. We returned from Deer Camp and Thanksgiving late on Saturday night. This will probably be the first of three or so posts on the last weekend of gun season. On the one hand, we had incredible luck- we returned from northeast Wisconsin with two deer strapped to our cargo carrier. On the other hand, we had what I can only call Pech. It’s the German word for bad luck, but it’s also the German word for pitch (pine tar, not the action in baseball). The German word for good luck, Glück, only really has positive connotations, and making the straight antonym of it doesn’t quite reach as far as I’d like. Pech describes our circumstances so much better, both because of the negative connotations, as well as the idea that it just sticks to you and doesn’t come off.  The bad luck enters when I didn’t fill any of my tags or see deer, when Matt backed the truck into a tree, mangling our cargo carrier, and when the scope on my rifle came loose. Oh, and the fact that the week before we arrived, most of Matt’s younger cousins had been running amok all over the hunting land. The roads were rutted all to hell from inexperienced teenagers attempting to drive off road, we found bottle rocket leftovers in front of the cabin, they’d shot two porcupines, and the deer were spooked for miles around.

Short linguistic tangent and rant about Kids These Days over, I’ll sum things up with words before throwing up a huge gallery of photos. The two deer were both Matt’s work. I got video of the first, as we were sitting next to each other on the edge of an unused cow pasture. The video is saving as I type, and I have yet to even upload it to YouTube- it will go up this afternoon, I suspect. It was a great shot, and he was happy to get it out of the way. That one he got on Thanksgiving day, as we headed out from dinner at his grandparents to hunt that pasture down the road. She was a little doe- probably a yearling.

We hunted that same pasture Friday night after helping his dad with some projects, and getting the blower fan in the truck replaced (in other news, the Durango has heat for the first time since we bought it. Hooray!). However, Friday night, his dad and his youngest stepbrother also hunted the pasture. Poor little kid has both inadequate gear and instruction in hunting- it was about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit all day, and he got cold fast. He was shivering audibly, and left his stand with about 35 minutes of light left. His stand was right on the trail the deer came from on Thursday night- we weren’t going to see anything. I doubt anyone told him he has to stay out until damn near full dark.

Saturday morning, we hunted but didn’t see anything. The trail camera we put out over a bait pile the night before picked up images, however, so it was heartening. The deer were getting unspooked after a couple quiet days. Saturday afternoon, we replenished bait piles that were gone Saturday morning, after not having been hit for days. Saturday evening, I didn’t see a thing, in spite of heavy sign and a rub near my stand. I would hear Matt shoot, and that’s when he got his second deer- a much bigger doe we had captured at the same bait pile the night before, and I suspect the one I passed on back in September. She’s a biggun. Lengthy summarization over, let there be photographs.

So, the video should go up this afternoon. Tomorrow I’ll have a post about the last evening of gun season down in Madison tomorrow. Black powder rifle season started at sun up today, and goes until this Sunday. We basically get a chance to fill any tags left over from gun season. According to Matt the moon phase today and tomorrow is good for hunting- I may make it out tonight. This weekend we hope to be heading to a kind acquaintance’s out in Richland Center to hunt with our muzzle loaders.

Turtle Shell and Hunt Camp.

First off, Matt finished and shellacked the turtle shell the other day. It looks nicer than it did when it was still on the turtle. I didn’t think it would come out so nice. It was muddy and dull when the turtle was still alive.

GE

 

Second off, we are leaving Wednesday afternoon to go participate in a tradition that’s been a part of Matt’s life for about 18 years now- Thanksgiving hunt camp. I missed hunt camp last year- the job I had that led to me starting this blog hired me right before the holiday, and then required me to work the holiday weekend. That should have been my first sign to quit, but that’s another story. However, I did make it in the Fall of 2011, a couple months after moving up here.

The way it’ll probably go is we’ll drive up, stay the night, hunt on Thursday morning, grab Thanksgiving dinner with Matt’s grandparents, visit with his family, get to bed, and then hunt hard all freaking weekend. Last time, I didn’t have a hunting license yet. I didn’t shower for three days, and I watched my first deer get gutted. Matt shot a button buck, and that was also the first deer I butchered. When we got the deer home, Matt hung it from one of the trees in our front yard, cut off the lower legs with the chainsaw, and then skinned and quartered it (with the chainsaw again). Our neighbors down the block were standing in their front yards, hands over their mouths in horror. I’ve since convinced him to keep that to the garage.

hanging

 

I’m hoping to do some filming to see if we can’t get a few minutes of decent footage to put up. That may mean me and Matt hunting together, rather than splitting up, but we’ll see.