Adventures in Wisconsin’s Central Forest
An Outdoorsman’s Journal,
By Mark Walters
Hello friends, This week’s column is about the second week of deer camp for The Red Brush Gang, as we camp and hunt for whitetail deer in Wisconsin’s central forest.
Monday, Nov. 25 • High 34, Low 22
For the last seven days of the deer gun season, the number of hunters in camp fluctuates from seven to 19. Each day, an adult is in charge of a meal, where all food is provided for the camp and that is the only time, the entire season, that person has to cook. Our meals are top of the line, served generally about 10 at night, and our evenings are spent socializing by our two woodstoves, playing darts and by the campfire.
This year, our harvest has dropped and that simply is because the areas we hunt have a very solid number of wolves, which is proven by the fact we are seeing as much sign of wolf, as deer.
Today would mark our first day of deer drives, and it is a wild and very physical adventure for everyone. We wear hip boots, often are walking in water that is knee to waist deep, and this year, at least in most cases, the ice could not hold us, which means you can almost walk on it, but you can’t.
Half ice, as we call it, is almost hilarious, when you listen to members of our gang on the two-way radios, as they try to negotiate it. You simply do not know if it will hold you or how deep your fall will be when you go through.
Our drives are 1 to 1 1/2-mile sections, each driver has their own line and whatever comes your way is what you have to deal with. Today, on our first drive, I kicked up two does; it was a 14-man drive and that is all the deer that were moved. The half ice in my stretch and almost everyone’s, was almost physically and mentally overwhelming.
Our last drive of the day moved two deer, which gave us four for the day, for 14 sets of eyeballs.
One of those deer was a fork horn and Tim Rittmeyer, who is one of the “kids” in our gang, made an excellent running shot on it.
Friday, Nov. 29 • High 42, Low 22
Another interesting aspect of this year’s hunt, is the gravel and sand roads that we drive on. Because of lots of rain and snow, freezing and thawing, they are getting more rutted and slippery by the day. In most cases, if you go in the ditch, your truck is in water.
Today, there would be 17 of us and we would do one-mile drives in an area where we hoped there would be less wolf. This would be a new drive for the gang and our young guys planned it out.
This weekend, of the 19 hunters that would stay at camp, 11 were under the age of 31, with the youngest 15. The elders have formed these kids into a well-trained militia that can travel in harsh country, not get lost, hit running deer and deal with the cold.
Today, my old high school buddy, Todd Cibulka, and his son, Joey, who is 20, made it to camp, and Todd was really hoping Joey would have a great weekend. That great weekend became reality, when our drivers kicked up a 10-point buck and Joey put a bullet in it.
Something that was interesting, is one of our drivers came across fresh wolf tracks in the snow and it was obviously dragging something. Another one of our drivers also came across fresh wolf tracks and lots of blood. The story resolved itself, when one came across the head of a wolf and the other came across the partially eaten body.
I have great respect for the wolf. I also have great respect for managing the number of wolves in a given area. In this situation, the wolves did it themselves.
Every one of the six deer harvested by our gang this year, was taken by a young hunter. On the last day of the season, we packed up our camp on several trailers, the roads were about gone, and everyone was about as tired as a man or woman could be, and still functioning.
Red Brush Gang Rocks! Sunset