Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 19th, 2010 Edition.
Tomorrow morning, about a half-hour prior to daylight in the swamp, I’ll be doing something I’ve done fifty-five times during the past sixty-two years. I’ll be heading towards a favored location to await the opening bell of Wisconsin’s annual gun deer season.
The reasons for missing seven opening days, as well as entire seasons seven times, is ancient history and of little interest, but an explanation is due.
During the season of 1952 dad and I boycotted hunting deer and didn’t by a license after three doe seasons in a row, which left the north’s deer herd as scarce as democrats after the recent election. Then from 1960-65 I missed deer season because I was teaching school in Orlando, Florida.
I began my journey into the world of deer hunting in 1947 when dad allowed me to accompany him as mainly an observer during a mid-week deer drive. In 1948 on a cold and snow covered opening morning he allowed me to carry an old single shot .44-40 rifle – unloaded – to allow me to fantasize that I might get to shoot a buck should dad load my gun for me when a monster strolled by our location.
That memorable morning the two of us occupied a small knoll overlooking Franke’s Swamp just north of Big St. Germain Lake. Looking back at my first time experience in an opening day woods, dad was a saint for putting up with a squirming, jabbering, freezing to death eleven year old. He even consented to allow me to build a small fire to warm what I thought surely must be frostbitten fingers and toes.
We did see one nice sized buck that morning but weren’t able to see its antlers until it was too late for dad to get off a shot. But dad made up for our opening day skunk on the following day when he shot three running bucks out of a herd numbering about fifteen deer with three shots from his old Winchester model ’94 .30-30! Needless to say – dad was a crack with rifle or shotgun. I guess I didn’t inherit that gene.
The best thing about special times of the year, such as deer season, is the memories one accumulates. But time often causes memories to become dim unless one takes the time to record certain cherished aspects of whatever it is you’d like to remember and savor as time marches on.
I was lucky enough to realize history can only be recalled accurately if someone takes the time to record it. And in 1966 I set out to do just that concerning the history of the Anderson-Jorgensen deer camp.
From boxes of photographs that dad and several of my uncles had stored in various locations I began to piece together the history of my family’s deer hunting tradition. Dad had passed away in 1961 but I was able to pick the brains of three of my uncles on mom’s side of the family for information concerning the early years of our deer camp. Uncles Bud, Ed and Victor were all long time members in good standing dating back to the gang’s first deer season hunting in Vilas County in 1938. I recorded names of those who attended the annual events, what was bagged, general weather conditions and unusual or highly memorable events. It was a labor of love that now occupies three very thick photo/historical albums covering the deer seasons of 1938 - 2009!
Every hunting or fishing camp has its own personality, which is developed via the personalities, standards and ethics of its members. High on my list of highly memorable memories are recollections of a “new hunter” bagging their first deer. As the aging process advances I personally find more pleasure in sharing the experience of a young hunter being successful than bagging one myself.
The memory of bagging my first deer remains very vivid in my memory. It was 1951 and as a fourteen year old I was deemed old enough to hunt alone, but within a few hundred yards of either dad or uncle Bud. Bud and I staked out two locations overlooking Franke’s Swamp on opening morning. All deer were legal targets and about nine o’clock I bagged a small spike buck using dad’s 12-gauge shotgun.
Uncle Bud came strolling over to my location a few minutes after the fact to see if the kid actually got something or simply wasted a shell. I was still standing over the still form of my very first deer, quivering a bit in awe of what I had just done – taken the life of a beautiful living thing – when my uncle arrived.
He leaned his gun against a tree, patted me on the back and shook my hand. I felt almost grown up! Next he field dressed the deer for me and showed me how to attach the metal tag to its leg. As he was washing his hands with snow he looked at me with a grin on his face and said, “I hope you watched how I did that as I only plan on doing it for you once.” Wow, what a memory!
Dad shot his last buck in 1954 and gave up the sport after the season of ’55. He and mom then began to spend winters further south and uncle Bud, being the senior member, took over managing our deer camp.
Our son, Chris, shot his first deer during the season of ’71 and uncle Bud shot his last one the same year. Declining health caused my favorite uncle to give up the sport after the season of ’73 and with his passing in ’75 the leadership of our camp landed on my shoulders. It was a responsibility I did not take lightly.
Our oldest daughter, Cherie, joined the ranks of successful deer slayers in ’73 and I got to use the same line uncle Bud delivered to me after he field dressed my first deer. The only difference was I went on to field dress dozens more but Cherie ended her deer-hunting career several seasons later still stuck on number one!
Opening day has provided a wide range of hunting conditions over the past six decades, the most negative factor being having no snow on the ground. And that situation seems to be occurring with more frequency as the years slip by.
We’ve also had blizzard or near blizzard conditions a number of times; 1970 on the second day, opening day of ‘78, ‘91 and ‘97 to mention a random sampling. Hunters endured rain, thunder and lightning the second day in ’77 and 60 degree heat the first three days during ’79.
Hunter numbers in our camp have vacillated from a high of 21 in 1951 to just one in 1964 and 65 when only uncle Bud occupied the bunks.
The memories go on and on!
To be honest I don’t anticipate opening day with the zest I once did, but still I go – and hope for a safe and successful season.
This evening the current members of our deer hunting fraternity will gather to reminisce, indulge in a modest amount of internal body stimulants preceding consuming grilled beef steaks and baked spuds. The three-photo/historical albums will get much attention prior to everyone hitting the sack about ten.
And tomorrow morning - maybe, just maybe - one more member of our present gang, Keith, will bag his first buck. Time will tell!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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