How many of you know a 71 year-old, female bear hunter?
My friend, Ruth, from Wisconsin can do just about anything, but I would never have guessed that she hunted bear. She doesn’t look like a bear hunter! But last October, when I was pounding away on my computer keyboard, blogging away, read what Ruth was doing!
It took Ruth 8 years to get the license to get the hunt one bear. She bought a point every year for $3, and it took 8 points to get a tag. In addition she had to buy the bear licence for $49. It cost $250 to help out her nephew, Mike, with some of his costs. He had a team of hunting hounds – not called dogs when they are specialized. Mike also had to have a special permit to take people with him. That’s the way the government has of limiting the number of bears that can be shot. Sadly, if you miss getting your bear during the season, then you lose out for eight years! However, on the up side, if lots of hunters miss their mark, and the bear population increases, then the government may lower the number of years it takes to get a license. Ruth’s husband, Dallas, also had to buy a $10 chase permit, just to go along, but because he was a first time buyer, he got a 50% discount. So Dallas paid $5 and then he could carry Ruth’s things, and ride along.
Nephew Mike took care of all the details to go bear hunting. He got the bait, drove the pick-up, and the 4 wheeler. To be a bear hunting guide is a fairly expensive proposition. Mike has hounds, a pick-up and cages to care for all year. Of course, he has to keep his dogs licensed or pay a $179 fee. In Wisconsin Dallas told me you can buy a big barrel of bear bait – very sweet, yummy stuff for about $200. Such a bargain! Gear also includes radios, GPS collars.
Did you know that hounds have specialties? Some are better for picking up the trail of an animal and some are better for treeing the them. For the most part the hounds know to chase bears, but they sometimes get led astray by wolves or raccoons. If the hounds tree a raccoon or lose the bear, the hunters have to go and check it out because the dogs are trained to just stay by the tree and bark until the owners retrieve them. They won’t tree a real big bear because big bears won’t go up a tree. They are much too big, and the trees are too spindly. The larger bears just stay on the ground and fight the dogs. Mike has lost some dogs, and some have been cut up pretty badly. Hunters want black bears to be at least 36 inches tall and 250 lbs. or so.
Our friends had 10 days to catch their bear. Since the bears were in their neighborhood, they could sleep at home in their cabin which they built themselves from logs on 18 acres of northern Wisconsin backwoods. Mike starts out leading the way with the dogs on the trail following the dogs and they lead them by GPS. Once he radioed, “Del, don’t come any closer. It’s a raccoon.” By watching the GPS they can almost tell what animal the dogs are chasing. Raccoons run in little circles,, while coyotes, which run straight and far.
Did you know that bears, deer and raccoon like corn? Did you know that Wisconsin deer are the best tasting? (They eat corn rather than grass or pine needles, I guess.)
Mike had two hunting groups at the same time when Ruth went out. He tried to keep them separate because one was a big game warden from Idaho. The warden made a big bear very mad causing it to swipe at the trees and knock them down. This particularly mad bear was right behind a house. Mike and another guy ran for about a mile and a half, to ran up behind it and shoot it. Mad Bear was a big bear. It took 6 guys to get it on the back of the pickup. The warden didn’t really want any of the bear, so he sold the hide to some kids for $500, and gave the meat to his parents.
Ruth and Dallas spotted several bear. The very first bear went 25 feet into the tree. To get him down Dallas took a branch and rattled the tree. Bears don’t like that. Baby Bear got about 6-7 feet above their heads. They tied the dogs to the trees so they wouldn’t take off. Then Baby Bear rumbled down the tree and ran off. They let him go because he was too small. Ruth said, “He was so cute. He had a little white mark on his shoulder.”
Bushes were about 10 feet high, and the ground was swampy. Dallas fell down once. There was one little tree, and the bear climbed the tree. There were other friends that went with them along, didn’t have a gun. Dallas said, “It’s pretty exciting to walk up to a bear that’s in a tree.” The bear crossed a river, and they couldn’t cross the river, so they had to go way around. Later It turned out that the dogs were tracking a wolf. Hunters would like to get rid of the wolves, but they are illegal to hunt.
At this point Mike drove the four wheeler across the creek with Dallas perched precariously on the front with a gun slung around his neck. As they approached the creek, with out slowing down, Mike yelled out, “You’d better get off Dallas.”
“That was dangerous,” Ruth instructed me – like the whole process didn’t sound dangerous to me!
On the last day of hunting season, Ruth shot her bear. It wasn’t more than about 200 pounds. By the time they weighed out all the meat, there was only about 100 pounds of meat – very tasty meat for about $3.40 a pound, if you don’t count labor. Not a bad price for an adventure and a good meal or two. Next year Dallas already has his permit ready to go. Anyone want to go to Wisconsin for a tasty bear dinner?