Rusk County trail camera photos hold plenty of promise
I have been gathering bear harvest points for years, instead of applying for a kill tag, due to coaching junior high football during the fall. Now, with my youngest son now in high school, and me not being able to take a month to coach “two-a-day” practices, I decided to apply for a Wisconsin black bear kill tag.
Access granted. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to the hunt to go. Hire a guide? Hunt on a friend’s lands and bait myself? Dogs? I decided I wanted to hunt over bait instead of using dogs. Not judging anyone, I just wanted to hunt over a bait instead of me chasing a dog. Knowing my luck, I’d blow a hammy in the process.
I got very lucky in that I became friends with Ben Foerster, of Slinger. I coached his kid a bit in football and generally just got to know him because we live in a small town. Casual small talk during sporting events led to me learning that he guides for bear hunters every fall near his cabin in Rusk County outside of Ladysmith.
“I bought this land originally because of my love of whitetail hunting,” he said. “I was fresh out of school and had only a modest income, but I walked right into the local bank and asked for a loan. The banker said he had never had a young man ask for a land loan, but he granted it because he must have felt I’d never l default.”
Foerster bought the land for deer hunting but realized later in his occupancy that the property held more bear than deer – sometimes.
“I guess you could say that I’m still an avid deer hunter, but I also wanted to use the land for what it is best for,” he said. “I set up food plots for deer, but I also guide people to bear hunt out here because they are so prevalent.”
Based on his advice, Foerster thought I should go out with him and hang stands last weekend. He warned me it would be hot, the bugs would be merciless, and it would more or less be hell.
“I just think you will appreciate the hunt more if you have a part in the placement of stands and baiting some,” he said.
The heat was bad, at 85 degrees, but the bugs were not as bad as Foerster had forecasted.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years and this is the best I’ve seen the bugs,” he said. “We had a couple cool nights last week which might have helped. Or, maybe it’s that fancy clothing you got.”
I was wearing clothing made with a proprietary ingredient that repels ticks, black flies, and mosquitoes. I was a bit paranoid about how bad the bugs would be, so I looked into the product. There’s no need to apply any sprays (although I did anyway). It seemed to work pretty well.
We hung the stands and our lifelines with Foerster doing the lion’s share of stand placement because he is so comfortable in his saddle style system. Seriously, the dude is like a husky Spiderman. He’d swing from one side of the tree to the other, ratcheting straps and securing lines like a super hero, sans the cape.
Foerster had placed three cameras two weeks before we got up there to hang the stands. After we had finished the day and several gallons of water we went back to his cabin, poured a cocktail, started a campfire and began to review our SD cards.
It reminded me of opening presents on Christmas morning.
“It’s a little hard to tell from these images, but I think this one is well over 400 pounds,” he said. “Look at its girth, the head, the butt, that is a monster. I bet this is the one that left those huge tracks we saw on the way in.”
All told, we had about 19 bears working the three stand locations we had set. I’m not worried about shooting a monster, I’m just looking for the experience and a rare weekend without sports.
And at worst, we’ll tell some bad jokes, eat some good food, and get off the grid for a while. Stay tuned for the hunt in a couple weeks.