An Outdoorsman‛s Journal
Bear hunting -- a way of life
Hello friends: This summer and now fall I have run bear baits for the 10th year in a row where what I honestly believe is about as far south as you can hope to get a black bear in Wisconsin. In all honestly, what I do in many cases is attempt to help someone to harvest their first bear. Over the next two weeks I will share the adventure and try to teach you a bit about hunting this incredible animal.
Thursday, Sept. 10 High 68, low 51 Michelle Chiaro is on the very first hunt of her life today, and she has been paying her dues since we set out our first baits of the year on June 9 in The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area and surrounding public lands in northern Juneau County. The season actually started yesterday, as did what would be a 2-week “bear camp” in this beautiful area where there are literally hundreds of square miles without a fence or “No Trespass” sign. A solid rain would put a 1-day delay to this adventure. For 92 days, Michelle or myself or the two of us together have been doing the 52-mile roundtrip drive and as of now five hikes into the forest to tend our baits. Some of what we have observed is almost constant sightings of hen turkey with their broods. There is always two hens and broods and the largest deer population that I have seen in this area in years. Until about a week ago, I cannot remember a year that I had so many big bear on the cameras. We have five out. I am talking “big,” with at least three over 500 pounds and two over 600 that have come with great regularity and best of all giving us daylight pictures. Michelle is an ICU nurse who works weekends and took off this week, which would give us eight days to hunt and then four more the next week. A year ago, she purchased her first gun, which is a Remington 740 Woodmaster 30:06, and she loves it. We built our camp on the exact site where my dad brought me 49 years ago for my first deer hunt and I have never missed an opening day here.
I used my 13x8 Eskimo ice shack, which we tarped, and it was simple, dry and flawless.
Something that most hunters do not understand about hunting bear over bait is this — the hunt begins in May or June and it is physical, expensive, incredibly psychological, and I am 100 percent addicted to it.
Zone C, which is the unit that I create my adventure in, has a harvest rate of 14 percent and on the southern end where we are located, I bet it is not 5 percent.
I honestly believe that the reason for that has everything to do with people and I am not complaining, it’s just a fact.
A number one reason is that acorns start falling from the oak trees generally about a week before the season opens, which is always the Wednesday after Labor Day.
Number two, and this could be as big as number one, where I hunt is as close to bear country as anyone south of northern Juneau County can get. In other words, if you are driving from Kenosha or Portage or Janesville to run baits, it is a lot closer than driving, let’s say, to Cornell, which is in the same unit.
Due to this fact, there are so many baiters the bear in this area can go nocturnal. Thirty days before the season started we had a couple of hunters, and they are good guys, put a bait 600 yards away from our main bait, and within two days that bait became a nocturnal-only bait and was never hit again in daylight hours.
Michelle and I have had an absolute blast, she is into anything outdoors and going for it. As I write this column, we are down to our last night of hunting as we have a “hot bait” and she got one of her coworkers to cover for her until midnight.
In other words, we get out of the woods at dark, bear or no bear, do the 30-minute drive home, and then she has to do the 2-hour drive to work.
Like I said from day one, we have been giving it everything that we have! Sunset