Young buddy has heck of a year

One of the young hunters in our deer-hunting group is eagerly
awaiting the archery deer season opener on Saturday, Sept. 13. He
has a new compound bow, he’s been practicing hard, and he wants to
shoot a deer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. The way things
have gone for him, this young fellow probably will shoot the new
state record.

My young buddy is Jake Kraetke, 14, of Park Falls. His parents
are Claus and Judy. Even if Jake doesn’t shoot a deer, he’s had a
heck of a year.

In April, he shot his first turkey, a 20-pound bird with a
9-inch beard. He shot the bird while hunting with his dad in
Ashland County. There aren’t a lot of turkeys in Ashland County,
but Jake managed to scratch out a pretty nice bird.

That’s a great way to start a career in the outdoors, but wait,
it gets better.

In late May, Jake was fishing with his older brother, Joe, from
shore on a river in Price County. The boys were after walleyes, but
Joe had seen a big muskie in that area on an earlier trip. He was
hoping to hook it, but guess who did. Jake not only hooked this
fish, but also landed it on his 6-pound-test line. Luckily, the
46-inch, 24-pound muskie didn’t straighten out the hook on the
light jig that Jake was using. It was Jake’s first legal muskie,
and he’s getting it mounted.

Not bad, eh? A nice gobbler. A big muskie. What more could a kid
ask for?

Well, even before he shot the gobbler and beached Moby, Jake had
a pretty good story to tell, and it stems from the 2007 youth bear
hunt. Jake applied through local conservation warden Dan Michels,
who helped set up a hunt in northern Price and southern Ashland
counties. Jake was selected for a tag, and he hunted with the Swamp
Creek Gang, headed up by Larry Murphy and his brother, Al

They didn’t get anything on the first morning of the hunt, so
Jake sat on a baited stand that first afternoon. He saw one bear at
that bait station, but his mentor for the afternoon judged the bear
at about 100 pounds, so Jake watched the bear, but didn’t

The next morning, Jake, Joe, and Claus met up with the Swamp
Creek Gang again and started checking baits before daylight. They
didn’t have a whole lot going on right away, but later in the
morning they saw a nice bear cross a road. Larry turned a couple of
dogs out on the hot track. About 45 minutes later, it sounded as
though the dogs were barking “treed,” so Jake and his support staff
headed into the woods.

“As we were getting closer to the tree, the bear bailed – you
could hear it jump out,” he said.

The chase started all over. The group stayed put to listen for a
while, then started walking out to the road on a game trail, which
happened to be the same direction the bear was going, judging by
the baying of the dogs.

“Then I could hearing something running really fast – there it
was running right at us on a deer trail that we were walking on. My
dad pushed me out ahead of him, I saw the bear coming – running
right at me -_and I shot it.”

The bear’s nose was six steps away from Jake’s toes when it
stopped moving. We know this because Claus paced it off. Jake’s
.30-06 did the trick.

“Everyone was excited. My adrenaline was pumping, but I wasn’t
scared,” Jake said.

The support staff helped Jake drag the field-dressed bear about
three-quarters of a mile to the trucks. Later, it weighed 206
pounds on a scale at the Midway Bar. Jake just got the bear back
last week from the taxidermist, who happens to be my
brother-in-law, Todd Wegner, of Butternut.

Jake’s a pretty quiet kid. If I_had shot a bear in that fashion,
the story would take 45 minutes to tell, and it would include a lot
of hand gestures and pantomime. I’m sure Jake gets excited, but
it’s pretty tough to tell. You wouldn’t know it by looking at

When he tells the story, it takes about 45 seconds – he saw the
bear running at him, so he shot it. That’s all there was to it.

To tell you the truth, it almost seems as though Jake is more
excited about the fact that his brother, Joe, will be going to
UW-Stevens Point this fall. He didn’t say it’s because he gets his
pick of the bow stands this fall – I’m just guessing.

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