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My buddy Rod

My buddy Rod My buddy Rod

An Outdoorsman’s Journal

Hello friends, My good friend Rod Bensley of Burnett, “Beaver Dam area,” told me back in early June of 2021 that he had rectal and prostate cancer and would probably die by September. Rod owned and managed Roosters Run pheasant preserve and did an excellent job of managing it, as well as the 212 acres of land that he and his wife Wendy Vick owned.

I decided on the day that I found out about Rod’s future that I was going to be the best friend that I could be to him in the last months of life. In July of 2021 Rod gave me his Ravin R 29 crossbow as he was sure that he would not see that fall’s bow season. In September, Rod was still alive. I returned the crossbow and he harvested a buck with it and was told he would “maybe” make it until December. In December I muzzleloader hunted on his property and Rod was still very much alive. I was also there for the first day of the doe season and I watched him shoot two antlerless deer. I left his home with the Ravin 29 as he was sure he would be gone by March. This past August I returned the Ravin as Rod refused to die and was tough as ever. Our friendship had really grown to a very mutual admiration.

Long story short, my dear friend Rod Bensley passed away on Nov. 27 and on the last week of Wisconsin’s bow season I did a tribute hunt to Rod with his crossbow to Pepin County on the Chippewa River bottoms west of Durand.

Thursday, Jan. 5 High 28, Low 14

Even though Rod taught me how to shoot the Ravin, I have never shot it by myself and, I have to admit, I was scared. Yesterday, I scratched that itch and I shot it better than I do my .22.

Today was very difficult, my plan was to drive to paradise, build camp on the ice, put out tip-ups and bow hunt in the afternoon. I drove in a snowstorm and that really sucked. Next, I drove in an area on a hillside where no one had driven yet this winter and got my truck stuck at least 30 times. I put out tip-ups and when I checked them, every one of my minnows was dead, a sure sign of oxygen depletion, which generally means there will be no living fish in the area.

Quite possibly my largest challenge was that I planned on traveling about a mile with my/Rod’s Ravin and hunting where I knew a humongous buck would give me a great shot. The ice was stupid bad and I wore a life jacket, had ice spikes around my neck, and carried a chisel which hit the ice in front of me with each step. I would have zero phone reception and if my body fell through the ice, it was up to me to pull my body out of the predicament.

I was very proud of myself when I reached my destination, which is a long beaver dam separating a flooded forest and a ridge line. In the fall the beaver dam is a deer highway.

Other than a large amount of coyote and otter sign there were no deer tracks, which is not a good sign if you are hunting deer. I made an executive decision that I was going to spend the afternoon hiking, which was crazy difficult due to terrain that was froze enough to hold a mouse but not me and, in some cases, not a mouse. Naturally, I was wearing hip boots with trash bags for liners. I had patched the boots the day before and they held up well for this hunt.

By the time I made it back to camp, I felt I had traveled 4 miles from the time I left camp. It was a challenge in deep snow, slush and open water but I was proud that I had tried. I determined that the deer had been sucked up by aliens until next September.

I closed out the daylight hours with a bit of tip-up fishing and naturally all of my minnows died upon lowering them into the water.

The following day, I knew my situation was not good, but I switched to calling coyotes at sun up. My lips got so cold I could not blow into my dying rabbit call and I did not harvest any coyotes with Rod’s Ravin.

I cleared the slate and headed north of Durand and explored The Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area and, let me tell you, this is beautiful country. I had high hopes. It was about 15 degrees as I watched day become night but no deer or coyotes were spotted.

I honestly miss my buddy Rod Bensley. His nickname for me was Outdoor Boy and every time he answered the phone that’s what he called me!