My son, Mike, recently participated in a disabled youth bear hunt provided by the United Special Sportsmen Alliance. Mike is 15 years old, 4 ft 7 inches tall, 64 lbs, and has both physical and learning disabilities.
His hunt started Sept. 11, 2008. We left after school to go to bear camp north of Tomahawk, WI. We got there about 6 p.m. and ate with the crew. At 10 p.m. we went out to check and rebait the sites that the bears hit. It was a long night for Mike and me with very little sleep, waiting for the morning hunt.
Sept 12th, we were up at 5:30 a.m. to check the baits, hoping that one was hit by a bear overnight. As luck would have it, none of the baits were hit. The crew continued to check the baits every 2 hours. About 2 p.m. it was decided that it was too late to put the dogs on a track, even if one was hit. The day wasn’t a waste though, as we got to know the crew and became a part of their hunting family. The day ended with checking and rebaiting 4 sites that were hit about 8 p.m. according to the timers on the baits.
Sept 13th, the crew was up at 3 a.m. to check and rebait. Only 2 sites were hit. At 5:30 a.m., they were rechecked with no fresh hits, but one site had fresher tracks. The guys decided to try 2 dogs on the tracks at 6:30 a.m. Within minutes, the dogs found the bear and more dogs were added to the chase. Around 7:45, the dogs’ tracking collars indicated that the bear was treed. Then came the long walk to the tree. We walked about a mile and a half, with half of that walk through swamps, alders, and tamarack groves. The bear was treed in a big pine about 12 feet up. This happened to ruin a bow hunters chance to get a deer, but he was happy to join our hunt. It took a little time to tie the dogs back and find a clear spot for Mike to take his shot. Mike finally got the okay to shoot, and he made his first shot count. Mike hit the bear in the chest, and the bear fell to the ground dead. When the bear was weighted later, it tipped the scale at 300 lbs.
Mike and I would like to thank the gentleman from Ixonia for donating his tag to Mike, Brigid O’Donoghue, the founder of USSA, and the hunting crew lead by Tim and Chuckie O’Leary, Rick and Jamie Seliger, Casey Opper, Alan Waid, and Brett Klug. A special thanks to Dew, Ruckus, Skyler, Crook, Buddy and Bolt. Without those dogs, the hunt would never have happened. We would also like to thank Steve Niehaus of Northern Lights Taxidermy for providing the mount for Mike’s bear.
You can contact Brigid at United Special Sportsmen Alliance at 1-800-518-8019 or at www.childswish.com for more information on getting a disabled child involved with the great outdoors. Or, like the gentleman who donated his tag, maybe you can help out a child.
By Dan Mrotek