Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Nicolet National Forest gives up 472-pound bear

Correspondent

Eagle River, Wis. Don Marley had shot a big bear before, but
that one was at a bait and he was in a tree. When Marley followed
hound music to the top of a Vilas County ridge on Sept. 15, he was
eyeball-to-eyeball with 472 pounds of black bear when he crested
the ridge.

“I was eight steps from that bear. I could tell from previous
experience that it was a big bear. My next thought was that I had
to make the shot count,” said Marley, of Eagle River.

It was raining that day, so he left his .50 muzzleloader home
and was carrying his .30-06. Good thing. The two black plotts,
Culley and Red, were in front of the sitting bear and about six
feet off the bear’s muzzle, giving Marley just enough room to make
the shot. The bear was sitting with his back to the top of the
ridge, and to Marley. He put the crosshairs at the base of the
neck, where the spine splits the shoulder blades. One squeeze later
and Marley’s first Wisconsin bear was down, and the five-hour hunt
was over. All that was left was a three-quarter-mile drag.

Marley hunted with friends, and houndsmen, Jeff Reeves and Dan
Klessig, both of Eagle River. On the morning of Sept. 15, the fifth
day that Marley hunted with Reeves and Klessig, they started a
track at a bait in the Nicolet National Forest east of Eagle
River.

“Each day we were on bear,” Marley said. “The third day the dogs
were on what we thought to be a very nice bear. We never did see
it, but one of the hounds, Culley, took almost 60 stitches that
day.”

Two days later Culley was back in the hunt, and Culley and Red
stayed with the bear for five hours, baying it up twice. The first
time the bear bayed, the three men walked in, but spooked the bear
before Marley could get a shot at it.

“We returned to the vehicle, disappointed to say the least. But
the dogs were still in the chase so we circled back to the north
side of the area,” Marley said.

At about 1 p.m. the bear bayed up again, so the hunters headed
in once more. As they closed in on the baying dogs, Marley realized
he had to climb a ridge.

“When I neared the crest, I scanned the trees, hoping that there
was a bear up in the tree and I wouldn’t spook him. All of a
sudden, there was the bear, about eight steps in front of me,” he
said.

That’s when Marley carefully lined up his shot his 3-10X scope
was actually a handicap in this situation. Even on 3X, he had
trouble locating the bear’s vitals at that close range.

He pulled the trigger, and the bear dropped and exhaled his last
breath in about 30 seconds.

“I knew the minute I got hold of that bear that he was a big
one. I had killed one in Maine that dressed at 412 pounds, but I
had no idea this guy would be 60 pounds heavier. This was my first
experience hunting with dogs,” he said.

It took five men three hours to drag the bear out. Rick Lax, of
Lax Taxidermy in Conover, weighed the bear at 472 pounds, field
dressed. It was 7 feet long. Lax will measure the skull and do a
full body mount. The bear was in great condition and sported a
white V on his chest.

Marley manages Guides Choice Pro Shop in Eagle River. Shop owner
Rick Krueger plans to display the bear on top of his 16,000-gallon
aquarium.

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