An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
Never too late to be an Outdoors Woman
Hello friends: Today was day 63 of the process known as bear baiting, with the hunting season opening on Sept. 9. Over the years I have taken a lot of pleasure in helping people get their first black bear and in all honesty, I love chasing bear.
This year I am going to help Michelle Chiaro, who has never hunted a day in her life, to maybe harvest a black bear. I met Michelle more than three years ago and one of the first things this ICU nurse told me was that she wanted to become an outdoorswoman. At that time, she was living on a 40-acre farmette with her children near Horicon and she had/has a great love for horses.
That first spring I took Michelle fishing on Green Bay and we camped on a marshy shoreline and absolutely put a smacking on the walleye.
This was, I believe, her first time fishing and we were running planer boards, which in no way is simple with only two people as one drives the boat and the other tends to six lines.
That summer I ran bear baits as I always do and that was the fall when my daughter Selina harvested her bear. I know this is hard to fully understand, but running bear baits kicks your butt.
I am into the long hikes of at least a half a mile each way, but it is hot, the deer flies and mosquitoes are always brutal, and carrying five gallons of bait is physical. Michelle went baiting every chance that she got, and it was obvious she loved chasing bear. Later that fall she applied for a bear tag and took hunters’ safety without me even knowing it.
The next winter, Michelle told me she wanted to become an avid ice fishermen and winter camper. Her first trip was on Lake Onalaska, which is part of the Mississippi River. We camped for two nights, had a blast, and her first fish through the ice ever was a huge gator. I have sat in a bear stand with her on several occasions, and winter camped with her at least five times, including this last winter when we were back on Lake Onalaska and she caught another huge gator. That trip started out crazy because we were one of the first trucks on the ice for the season that did not fall through and I was pulling a trailer. Michelle started protesting loudly in fear and I literally had to tell her to shut up as that drive was a 100-percent focus situation. Last week we camped on the Wisconsin River near Portage and she caught seven walleyes. I caught zero. A crazy side story on that trip is that when we were driving home with my boat in tow, my truck started shaking something fierce. The old girl has well over 300,000 miles on her and there are flashy chrome covers over the rims. The covers caused the rims to rust/rot and my rim literally broke off. Moral of that story, be wise to covered rims on old trucks.
Much of the time Michelle runs her baits by herself and she carries a large knife and a 30.06. She says she has more fear of some of the crazy people out there than bear but is not taking chances with either.
Since she has never hunted, she is learning how to shoot. I have her shooting a .22 as often as possible and ending each experience with at least two rounds from her 30.06. The .22 is inexpensive to practice with. The 30.06 is the real deal.
So three and a half years have passed since Michelle told me she wanted to learn how to hunt, fish and camp. Her big test will come this fall when she sits in a bear stand and has to walk back to the truck in the dark. Some of the nights I will be with her, some of the nights I will not.
Bear hunting is an incredibly cool sport, the meat is excellent, and a rug on the wall or half-body mount gives me positive thoughts every time I look at it.
Wish her luck. Sunset
This northern pike is the first fish Michelle Chiaro ever caught ice fishing.
Learning how to shoot from a tree stand can be a big deal for a first time hunter.
Michelle Chiaro has put on a lot of miles running bear baits this summer!