Vets get their bucks in first Bear Crossings disabled hunt
Organizers aim for more hunters in next year’s event
BY MATT FREY
THE STAR NEWS
Gray skies, cool temperatures and an all-day rain couldn’t stop three hunters from bagging their bucks from the same blind in Taylor County on Saturday, Oct. 5 during the first Bear Crossing Outdoors disabled veterans gun deer hunt.
Jim Frischmann of Medford took down his forkhorn buck just after first light. Carmon McCurrie, who made the trip all the way from Houston, Ark., got his 5-pointer not long into his afternoon hunt. Less than an hour after McCurrie cleared the stand, Ron Bremer of Medford shot his young buck.
The hunt, which was scheduled to go two days if needed, was held on 400 acres of land just northwest of Medford owned by the Livingston family, but it took neighbors, volunteers and financial sponsors to make the amazing hunt happen. Their efforts were applauded by the appreciative hunters even before a couple of them saw a deer from the stand.
“It’s fantastic,” McCurrie said during the early afternoon lunch break “You couldn’t ask for better people.”
“I don’t think I’d change a thing, except the weather. Can’t do anything about that,” said Peter Roepke, who was one of the primary organizers along with Matthew Livingston. “About four months we’ve been planning this thing. We did a lot of research going to other people who put on disabled hunts and got their ideas, what they did right and what they did wrong. The Rock Creek disabled hunt down in Clark County was one (we talked to). Joe Paul, the warden in Price County, has the Oconto River Kids that they do the disabled bear hunts with. We tapped into them. The sponsors are the ones that made this happen because without the financial support a lot of this wouldn’t be occurring.”
Matthew Livingston said, though he doesn’t want the credit, the idea of hosting such a hunt was first proposed by his father Jim.
“It came from dad,” he said. “I was like, ‘that’s a really good idea.’ So we’ve just been wanting to do it. I don’t know what sparked the igniting of it or what was the real kicker, but I guess this was the year that we were finally able to go forward with all the ideas. Pete stepped up when he heard of the opportunity.”
Roepke said he got involved through discussions that took place during testing day for a local hunter education course, and things just took off from there.
“I usually go out there and help on the test day,” Roepke said. “So we went through the thing and we’re all sitting around eating and Mike (Czerniak) brings this topic up and everybody else at the table has full-time jobs. I’m retired. So I said, ‘yeah, I’ll jump on board with this. It gives me something to do during the day.’ So that’s how it all got started. I called Jim and said ‘hey, I’ll come out and help you’. So Matt and I started on this, started doing research, then one thing led to another.”
The pieces all came together during the summer months. Organizers made a connection with Harvey Allen Outdoors, a company based in Grantsburg that builds custom hunting blinds. Two 6-foot by 8-foot ground blinds with a wheelchair accessible ramp, a 42-inch door and multiple windows were obtained. Wheelchair accessible sites were also available with large pop-up blinds. Hunters had the option of baited or non-baited sites.
The next strokes of luck came when Kevin and Sue Strebig, neighbors of the Livingstons, offered their oversized garage to serve as a central meeting location. Their daughter, Jenna Wieting, agreed to handle meal preparations for the weekend.
“Kevin was like, ‘hey I heard you’re doing a hunt,’” Livingston said. “Dad’s like, ‘yeah.’ And he said, ‘well you can have it at my place.’ It really works out great because it is a central area. We have one driveway to the east of us, we have one driveway to the south of us and we used both of them today just to spread those hunters out. Shoot, there’s not a better venue for an event like this.”
Adult and high school volunteers were on hand to assist with tracking, field dressing and dragging of deer, if necessary.
“We are probably overmanned, but it is by far more about the culture, getting these guys out and making it feel like a deer camp,” Livingston said. “ Jim was so giddy when we pulled up (after he shot his deer). He and his son (Scott) were so giddy just to have him shoot that deer. They’re ready to come back for next year. That’s exactly what we want. That’s what it’s about. He hasn’t done hard hunting for the last four years. So to be able to create that opportunity for them, that’s what makes it count.”
“It was so quick,” Jim Frischmann said of his hunt. “We were looking at the sun rise this morning and then off to the east you could hear goose hunters shooting away, blazing away. Then we were looking down the trail. It was still fairly dark yet, but we thought we should still be able to see something coming down. Then pretty soon my son Scott goes, ‘there’s one standing in the corn pile.’” “He didn’t believe me,” Scott said. “About three times I had to tell him it’s in the corn pile.”
“I said, I think it’s a spiker,” Jim said. “I put the scope on it. Finally he took a bite of the apples or corn and he looked in our direction. Then he went back and took another bite. When he turned, I said I think he does have horns. Scott said take him. He tipped right there. I looked at Scott and said ‘game over.’” “We told (the hunters) to bring your family,” Livingston said. “Bring a companion with you to be inside the blind because they know their situation better than anyone. Between Jim and Scott, that’s a memory made. You can’t buy that. You can’t fabricate that in any other way. With Jim’s wife (Sharon), we said come out for breakfast, come out for supper. Everyone’s included. It’s not just for the hunters. You come out and enjoy yourself. Especially on a rainy day, what else are you going to do?”
Frischmann and Bremer both said they’ve enjoyed deer hunting as long as they can remember but, obviously, it got tougher as they got older.
Bremer served in the U.S. Army at the end of the Korean War and then served three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. He later served 10 years with the special forces in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I retired in 1978 and have done a lot of different things,” Bremer said. “I was into building fancy furniture for businesses. I got tired of that so I ended up in the roofing business. Fell off a roof and smashed my left foot. I spent three months on a crutch with no weight. After I healed up from that, I went back up on roofs but I was a little too leery then. So I became a locksmith in Medford.”
He retired for good after his locksmith days and remains happily married to Marlene, his wife of 60 years.
“The last two years I had a corn pile out and had a nice blind,” Bremer said. “I fed deer and watched them. But I thought if I shoot something, it might run into that swamp. Then if I have to go in there, I’m going to get wet, I’m going to have to gut him in the swamp and drag him out. I didn’t shoot a thing two years in a row. This year now, if someone’s going to do it for me, I’ll go.”
Frischmann said he was drafted in 1968, served a few months in Vietnam before being wounded.
“I got wounded and was in hospitals
See DISABLED on page 5
Carmon McCurrie and Ron Bremer celebrate with Jim Frischmann (r.), who bagged the first buck of the day during the first Bear Crossing Outdoors disabled veterans hunt on Saturday, Oct. 5.
MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS
Audrey and Carmon McCurrie went back to Houston, Ark., with this 5-point buck shot during the afternoon hunt on Saturday, Oct. 5.
MATTHEW LIVINGSTON PHOTO Disabled vets hunt a success
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for nine months,” he said. “Then I just sat behind a desk and finished out my term and then they let me go. That was my service. I worked in the woods most of my life. I worked with Weather Shield nights for a couple years. Then I got into ginseng and I was with that until I retired. I still play with that.
“It’s just fun being out in the woods with a whole bunch of guys,” Frischmann said of his love for hunting. “When my body was letting me get out I would do the driving, run around and keep up with the young ones. Now I can’t quite do that.”
Roepke remembers well what times were like during the Vietnam conflict and it meant a lot to him to give his former physical therapy clients a day like this.
”You look at all the crap those guys put up with when they came back from Vietnam,” he said. “They were spit upon. That’s why a lot of them don’t want to talk about Vietnam. They didn’t want people to know that they were over there. They went over there. A lot of them didn’t make it back or came back with serious injuries.”
McCurrie comes from the younger generation. He served 17 years with the U.S. Army and had tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was injured by a mortar round and left the military in 2005 but not before meeting one of his best friends, Alex Parker, who happens to be Matthew Livingston’s brother-inlaw.
“I’m a farmer,” he said. “I raise cattle and chickens. It’s not bad. I really like it. I don’t spend a lot of time doing outside interaction with other people. I’ve got a small group that I associate with. I spend a lot of time just enjoying doing stuff with the cows. They’re more like my people I guess.”
McCurrie hunts deer on his farm, but the opportunity to come to Wisconsin was something he couldn’t pass up.
“I got to kill two birds with one stone by coming up here and spending some time with Alex and Matthew and them,” he said.
“Plus the deer in Arkansas are not as big as they are up here,” McCurrie’s blind mate and wife, Audrey, said. “That’s always a plus too.”
After a successful first run, Livingston and Roepke fully intend to expand this event next year.
“Next year, we may say we want anyone with a disability who’s got the permit,” Roepke said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll analyze things and go from there.”
Livingston said more neighboring landowners have talked to him about opening up their land, bringing the potential huntable land up to about 700 acres, which would accommodate more disabled hunters. He would be happy to hear from even more area interested landowners.
Landowners have the option to specify what they want harvested from their land. This year, hunters were allowed one deer, which could’ve been either sex if they had the appropriate antlerless authorization.
Wisconsin sets aside nine days in early October each year for the gun hunt for disabled hunters. The annual process starts with landowners enrolling their property for the hunts with the Department of Natural Resources by June 1. After the land is enrolled, interested hunters who possess a valid Class A, C, D or long-term Class B shoot from a stationary vehicle disability hunting permit have until Sept. 1 to contact sponsoring landowners and set up potential October hunts.
More information on the deer hunts for the disabled can be found on the DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov. Search key words “disabled deer hunt.”
Livingston is already expecting two 2020 candidates if their health allows.
“I already put my name in if they don’t find anybody next year,” Bremer said. “I’d like to go again.”
“I’m right behind Ron,” Frischmann said. “I was told our names are already on the book because they’re going to have a bigger area to hunt. I guess there’s a few more neighbors that want to get involved. Being that this is the first year that they arranged this, from now on it should just get bigger and bigger every year I would think.”
The Strebig garage served as the perfect hub for the Oct. 5 disabled vets hunt.
MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS