By Dave Samuel
Bear Hunting Magazine
May/June 2011 Issue
It was the last Sunday of Wisconsin’s bear season and we had a new hunter in camp. Ryan Foster had never harvested a black bear before and his good friend and fellow houndsman, Todd Johnson, had asked if we had room in camp for him. There had been a mix up on areas and Ryan had inadvertently applied for the zone we hunt in, not where Todd normally hunts. We had filled all of our tags and were more than willing to give it a try.A lot of the hound hunters in the area were complaining about the lack of bear, much less good bear. Not us, we were having a great season.
It started out slow but the last couple of weeks were making up for the slow start the first week. Sunday was a bust with not much happening but early Monday morning we were back out checking baits. Annette found a strange looking track on the one of the bait stations she checked. The prints she could see showed it was definitely a good bear but there was a weird drag mark in the sand with it so she did not know what to think about it.
Val Carlson, Todd and Annette each stuck a dog in on the cold track as it was the best we had that morning. Gene Benson held his and was going to pitch it in on the crossing once they got the track lined out. Dogs went out singing strong and it sure sounded like they had a good handle on the track. They took the track across one road and they never missed a beat. Pretty soon the barking picked up in tempo and it sounded like the bear was jumped and moving.
The crew spread out along the roads trying to hear from the best position available. Val went to the west road and discovered he was right on top of the dogs and it sounded like they were bayed up tight. He called for everyone to come right over because he figured they were only 150 yards off the road.
As quickly as Todd and Ryan got there they headed in to see what was happening. As they approached, the bear was on the ground facing the dogs as they bayed at him. Definitely a good bear and he was not happy about the three dogs holding him in the one spot. A quick bluff charge and he scattered the dogs again as Todd and Ryan moved in closer to them. The bear tried to start climbing a tree and that is when the hunters knew there could be trouble.
Somewhere in the bears past he had encountered a situation where he had lost half of his back foot. He was using his teeth to pull himself up the tree and, of course, the dogs were baying him hard. The hunters were not sure the bear would be able to climb free of the dogs far enough for them to get under him and leash the dogs up before they took a shot. They certainly did not want him falling out of the tree on top of a dog.
He made the climb far enough and the dogs were tied back. Ryan got in position and took the shot. Perfect, out of the tree came a dead bear. The dogs got their reward for their work and then the hunters then got a good work out.
If you have ever drug a bear out of the woods you will understand how bad they had it. Imagine dragging 325 pounds of jello straight up a hill with a rope tied on one end of it. It slips, slides and slithers in every direction except the direction you want it to go in.
Once the bear was brought back to camp for hanging and pictures we were able to exam why he had so much trouble climbing. The front half of his right hind foot, including the claws, was missing. The foot was completely healed over and had calloused up hard. Much conjecture as to what could have happened to it but nobody really knows for sure. Upon closer examination we also found a broadhead stuck in the inside lower front leg, which appeared to have happened very recently. There was no serious injury to speak of from the broadhead. The leg bone was intact and no sign of infection.
As distinct of track as this bear left he had not been on any of the baits to our knowledge this year or in the past. We think maybe he was just passing through the area in his never ending quest to fatten in the fall for the upcoming months of cold.
We had a great hunt and Ryan ended up with an unusual trophy for his first bear. Ryan and his dad said they had the time of their life on this hunt. We are looking forward to what next season has to bring and the opportunity to introduce others to our sport!.