By Steve Wall
Growing up in Southwest Wisconsin, not much thought was given to hunting black bears. Granted there are a few bears roaming around in that part of the state, but where would we hunt? How would we bait? After moving to Green Bay in 2005 and meeting more people who had actually hunted black bears in Wisconsin, I told my dad we should start applying for tags. Considering the logistics of where to hunt and how we would bait, we both said this would be a one-time hunt for us.
After checking the draw results from 2013 on the Wisconsin DNR website, I told my dad I thought we both would have enough preference points to draw a tag in Bear Management Unit A. Now I had to start working on finding us a place to hunt. From my conversations with other bear hunters, I knew how difficult, costly and time-consuming it would be to bait multiple sites for my dad and me. I started doing some research on the computer and came across Snowbelt Custom Outfitters in Iron Belt, Wisconsin. After checking out their website and Facebook page, I contacted John to check rates and see if they had any openings. A few email exchanges later, our deposits were sent in and our hunt was booked. Lets just say that the rates were very reasonable! I also learned that they are affiliated with Outfitters 4 Patriots, a non-profit organization that gives wounded or injured veterans and disabled children, hunting and fishing opportunities. I was happy to hear that part of our payment would go to help this great organization.
John and his partner Jim took care of all the baiting and setting up stands. As if we needed any more reason to be excited, they sent us trail camera pictures of some big bears coming into the baits!
John and Jim met us in Mercer, WI the day before our hunt and took us out to the lake cottage to get settled in. They were aware that my dad and I would be hunting with archery equipment and had the stands set up accordingly. We discussed our game plans for the next day and told hunting stories the rest of the evening. On the drive to the stands the first morning I knew this was going to be a great hunt. John and Jim put us in some very remote areas that I would never have believed existed in Wisconsin. We were truly in the middle of nowhere! The knowledge and experience these guys have in the areas they hunt is truly amazing! The bait I was hunting was hammered, John put out the bait while I climbed in the stand. I cant even describe the excitement I had when I received a text from my Dad a little after 12:00 that he had a bear down! We celebrated that evening at one of the coolest hunting shacks I have ever seen!
Storms rolled through late that afternoon and into the next morning. John took me back into my stand about noon on the second day where we found the bait untouched. I climbed back in my stand, excited, knowing that a bear would probably be coming to the bait at some point that evening. Shortly after 5:30, a black bear stepped out into the opening and approached the bait. The rain caused a large puddle on the front side of the bait, preventing the bear from giving me an ideal shot right away. As he turned to leave I drew my bow, he stopped and gave me a twenty-seven yard shot; I took the shot and got a complete pass-through with my arrow. The bear ran about seventy yards and did the infamous death moan. Surprisingly, I was fairly calm up until this point and then I came unglued! I started thinking I might not make it down from the tree I was shaking so much! I was able to get ahold of John and my dad and they came to help me retrieve my bear. I will never forget walking up to my first black bear and the pictures that followed with my dad!
Remember how I said this would be a one-time hunt? Well, lets just say that we are already planning our next black bear hunt! What an amazing experience hunting black bears for the first time. Even better was that I was I was able to share this experience with my dad! We both killed our first black bears and did it using archery equipment.