An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
D C Deer Camp/The Best Week of the Year Hello friends: This week I am going to write to you about what life is like at our deer camp for the last six days of the season. We are called The Red Brush Gang, we build a temporary shack in The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area in northern Juneau County, and we hunt and play hard.
Tuesday, Nov. 22 High 34, low 25
A brief description of the area we hunt would be that it covers hundreds of thousands of acres when adding state, federal, and county land. I would guess about 25 percent of it is oak and pine forests and the rest is marshland or a combination of the two. Due to years of above normal precipitation and a rapidly growing beaver population, much of this area has water where there did not use to be water. We all wear either hip boots or chest waders and this year I wore chest waders every day.
Starting on Monday, we do deer drives that generally cover one square mile and it is literally indescribable how physically and mentally difficult this is for the drivers between what we call half ice and dense brush.
What is half ice? Half ice might hold you, but generally does not and often you do not know if the water underneath the ice is six inches or four feet.
There are seven fathers here with 15 children who range from 16 to 31 and three others, and this year 25 people would sleep in our shack at one point or another.
Today there would be four of us in camp — Doug Cibulka, Ross Moll, his dad Jeff, and myself. Over the course of the day, five inches of very wet snow would fall and we decided to research an area that we became “watered out of” about three years ago. We did twoman drives and the standers would walk ahead almost a mile through very difficult country.
One time I hit a beaver slide while negotiating half ice and went from six inches of water to four feet just like that. I got soaked as did my .300 BAR, but life was good because moments later Jeff Moll kicked an 8-pointer to Ross and that buck is now in heaven.
Friday, Nov. 25 High 44, low 23 Today there would be 16 of us hunting and two more at camp after dark. As usual we are doing drives and as usual there is more wolf sign than deer. On one of our drives a stander saw a wolf chasing a doe. On a typical day as a group, we are seeing three to six deer. Thirty years ago, before the wolf, we were seeing 20 to 35 a day. We did not see a fawn this year on any of our drives.
My 19-year-old daughter Selina shot a spike buck today and my stepson Travis shot an 8-pointer.
Saturday, Nov. 26 High 46, low 28 Injury report! I am a big part of setting up the drives. My troops are hurting; I am down to about six people who can work the swamp. Today was a day for young hunters to miss running bucks.
In late October I had a brand-new pair of chest waders given to me. Today I tripped on a beaver spike and nearly ripped the right shoe off. My feet got so cold in the swamp water that my foot died.
Tonight was “The Saturday Night Party,” the last of the big fun for the gang. The old timer in the gang, Dick Schuster, beat out 19 others in the championship dart tournament.
Bryce Kies is from Necedah and was Nate Moll’s roommate at Badger Boys and also at UWMadison. These guys are like 24. Bryce fights forest fires, Nate is in line to be an F-35 pilot.
Bryce wrestled in high school and is in the UW-Madison Wrestling Club. Bryce has 30 pounds on me and is 35 years younger. I just had to come out of retirement and wrestled Bryce in at least eight matches on the forest floor with a crowd of 20 yahoos laughing their heads off. Because I am stupid, I kept coming back for more. I got my butt kicked so bad that I had 15 separate bruises and literally was a physical wreck for about three days.
I sang songs with the big buck trophy cup in hand from on top of the table in the shack while carrying three sets of horns and we laughed a lot.
Next year will be my 50th year in a row. Sunset
The majority of The Red Brush Gang on the last day of camp!
Ross Moll dragging out his buck in typical Meadow Valley habitat.
Jeff Moll has pushed the red brush for 46 years without missing an opening day!