Wisconsin Bear Hunt – Worth the Wait

  • Plan your Wisconsin hunt for a select zone- do the homework to identify the zone for success
  • Be patient, collect priority points for several consecutive years to score on zone selection
  • Research the guide, the gear, the location, and weather forecast…then count your blessings, control your aim

By Jason Houser

Showing up on trail camera photos frequently, this bear quickly became the author’s hit list bear.

If you are looking to bear hunt in Wisconsin, you need to start planning early. Years early, if you want to hunt in a zone with a lot of bears and a good chance for success.

After stacking up points for six years, I knew that I had enough points to put in for application on my seventh year for Zone D. This zone has a lot of bears and the success rate runs high. It is the only zone in Wisconsin that raised their harvest quota for the 2019 bear season while the rest lowered harvest quotas.

I settled on Big Bear Guide Service out of Iron River, WI. After talking with the owner Keith Holly and checking his references, I knew he was as good as they come, not only in Wisconsin but likely of any black bear guide in the United States or Canada.

Watching the weather on the days leading up to our hunt, it became clear that the weather would not be in our favor. High winds with strong thunderstorms, it would not be as suitable for us to be sitting or for the bears to be moving.

Opening day finally arrived and my wife and I went our separate ways. As predicted, the weather was not in our favor. The rain continued throughout the morning as strong thunderstorms were quickly approaching.

The forecast radar showed the rain ending early afternoon, but the winds would continue at about 13 mph. Because the storm and the rain were ending, I decided to return to my blind around noon to be there when the feeding frenzy might begin.

A few hours passed and at four-thirty the hoped-for feeding binge still wasn’t happening. Uncomfortable due to the cold temperatures and strong winds, I decided to keep pushing forward. Trail camera photos told me three bears routinely showed up around five every evening and I hoped that would hold true for this post-storm evening too. I had my eyes set on one particular bear that carried a beautiful “white blaze” on his chest.

At two minutes past five, I look up to see a black blob moving through the trees. Finally, a bear was visiting me.

Cautiously, the bear maneuvered around the bait, testing the wind with his discriminating nose. Satisfied he was not in any danger, the bear made easy work of knocking over the stump containing the cookie wafers he came to love in the weeks leading up to this day.

When the bear turned towards me to scent-check the area I knew it was the bear I was after. It wasn’t the biggest bear that ever visited the site, but the “white blaze” pattern below his chin and the long black coat was a dead give away. It was the bear I had hoped to have an opportunity for.

With the stump on its side and the sweet contents spread on the ground, the bear quickly began his evening meal. A few seconds passed with the bear having his back to me. My Carbon Express crossbow was shouldered, waiting for the perfect broadside shot.

Watching the bear through my Sightmark Core SX scope, he slowly began to circle. Knowing my shot opportunity was about to happen, I flipped the safety off and waited for the shot.

The Carbon Express crossbow and bolts partnered with Warhead broadheads from Rocky Mountain put the bear down quickly. Jason Bisby Photo

Stopping perfectly broadside to me, the bear put his head down for another snack. I quickly lined up the illuminated red crosshair for the perfect lung shot, settled my nerves the best I could and squeezed the trigger. The Carbon Express bolt flew true and with a loud thud, the bear fell for a split second before regaining his composure and bounding into the dense forest.

Within minutes, our guide and my wife Lotte and friend Jason Bisby were all on location. Telling the story of how everything went down, we decided to go to where the bear was standing when I took the shot.

Bright red blood was immediately noticeable as was half of my broken arrow. Looking through the thick vegetation it looked like someone took a red paint bucket and threw it all over the leaves and ground.

The bear ran less than 30-yards before toppling over. Years of waiting went into my first bear hunt ever and it lasted less than a day.

The author was all smiles after his first bear.  Jason Bisby Photo

The bear was not one of the giants from the area, but weighing in at 187-pounds I was quite proud of my first-time accomplishment. It might be a while before I can make it to Wisconsin to hunt bears again, but I will start the process all over again for collecting preference points until I have enough to be drawn in a predictably good zone.

In the meantime, there are other states where I can hunt bears.

Yep, I have bear-fever.

 

LOWA Hunter GTX® EVO – Extreme Review

  • The 1st Boot Question is always: Are they comfortable?
  • Then, depending on where you plan to hunt: Will the boots keep me warm if it’s cold outdoors?
  • Last, and very important: Are the boots durable, waterproof, and breathable?
The Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme from LOWA is a great boot for fall and winter.

By Jason Houser

There are a lot of things that can make or break a hunt.

Some hunters think of shot placement, the guide service proficiency, weather factors and more.

Many do not take into consideration the boots they are wearing on their hunting feet. The boots can mean everything.

For the past few months, I have been wearing the Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme from LOWA. These boots have been on my feet while Aoudad (Barbary sheep) hunting in Texas, chasing Coyotes in Missouri, Whitetail Deer in Illinois, and a lot of points in between. That’s a lot of footsteps to challenge my comfort.

Usually, I like to break my boots in before leaving the house on a hunt or outdoor excursion. Not doing so is only asking for sore feet and blisters. After trying these boots on for the first time, I felt comfortable enough to wear them hunting the next day going after my first bear ever.

These boots received a lot of use and abuse on a recent black bear hunt, deep in the wilderness of northern Wisconsin. These leather boots proved their weight in gold, as I have covered a lot of miles in them.

So, how do the folks at LOWA explain the Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme boot? “The Hunter GTX Evo Extreme is designed for hunters who are chasing big game in extremely rugged, above-tree-line terrain. With an extra-high shaft for superb ankle support and a high wall rubber rand for protection against abrasion, the EVO Extreme provides outstanding performance, warmth, and comfort in tough fall and winter conditions. It is compatible with strap-on crampons and snow spikes. They are durable, waterproof, and breathable.”

As a hunter, trapper, hiker, and ice fisherman that spends more time outdoors than indoors, I understand the need to be comfortable.

To me, being comfortable begins with your feet. Once my feet get cold, develop blisters or other sores, like most everyone else, I am done. I never experienced any of these problems from the first time I put them on.

Too many boots are built to last a season and be done. I can tell you that I feel comfortable that these EVO Extremes will be around for a few hunting seasons. They are constructed of the best leathers I have seen and the strong soles on the boots are made for tough terrain. And, just in case the soles wear out, LOWA can put new ones on. With minimal seams, there are fewer places for the leather to come apart than what you find on many brands of boots. Lacing up is a breeze with sturdy eyelets and the patented LOWA X-lacing holds the tongue firmly in place.

The hunt finally came to success with a beautiful black bear appeared out of the dense forest. It was a bear that I had watched many times on trail camera photos. The bear leaving the protection and cover of the forest proved to be a fatal mistake.

Lining up the crosshairs of the Sightmark crossbow scope, I settled for a 30-yard shot and squeezed the trigger of the Carbon Express.  With a thud, the bear took a direct hit and died almost instantly.

The author managed to take this nice bear while hunting in Wisconsin this past fall.

A lot of things went into making this hunt a success.  Scouting, quality bear habitat, and a lot of luck, usually are what hunters consider when it comes to being a successful hunter.  But, first and foremost, you need to protect your feet or you will not be on them long enough to get a shot off.

Catching Your First Bass…Unforgettable!

  • Unforgettable moments at the Black River near La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Light line, swim jig with Strike King Shad
  • Bass Cat with Yamaha Vmax Engine

By Forrest Fisher

Melissa Boudoux with her first fish catch. Happiness is. 

There is something special about fishing for bass, especially when you’ve tried before, but you let your kids fish so they have that first cast and last cast while you manage all else, always hoping for them. Even at that, from shore, it’s often tough to catch a fish. Then one day, you’re hard at work and an invite comes along that is just perfect with the timing of your workday.

That’s how it was for Yamaha Communications and Dealer Education Manager, Melissa Boudoux, when Yamaha bass pro staff angler, Brett King, was in town to meet with the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) for their annual conference at the AmericInn Hotel. Brett has his Bass Cat Caracal and 225Hp Yamaha VMAX moored at the hotel dock on the Black River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and he asked if anyone had time to help him test a few new bass lures. “I’ve never ever caught a bass,” said Melissa. “Let’s go, we’ll see what works today,” answered Brett.

A few minutes later, his Bass Cat was floating near a rock pile along the shoreline and Melissa was casting a 3-1/4 inch Strike King Rage Swim Tail on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig. A new experience, the 6-foot, 9-inch lightweight rod from J. T. Outdoors was a perfect match for the lure and in no time, Melissa says ”I was casting a very long way with very little effort. It was really fun!” As Brett placed his boat in a fishy-looking spot along the shoreline rocks, a hungry largemouth bass caught a glimpse of the swimbait passing by. That was it. WACK! FISH ON!

“It was so exciting! That bass fought so hard,” Melissa said. Brett adds, “Mellissa caught another bass a little while later too. It’s great to be in the boat when someone catches their first bass ever. This was a special day, she’s a veteran now!”

Thank you for the memories Mister Bass! 

Brett adds, “You know, I run my boat about 4,500 miles a year, none of it on land either. Sometimes in the roughest water and many times, in a debris field of blow-downs and backwaters. I have to feel comfortable with my engine and boat, I need to have confidence in them, and I have to know that they will provide the capability for me to run far and run back safely, and on time, when I fish big money tournaments. My Bass Cat and Yamaha 4-stroke engine do that. I love my rig and I trust it.”

Melissa adds, “I learned what to do after you catch a bass now too, so I can show my kids. It’s all so exciting! We released all the fish we caught. They’ll be there next time for somebody else to enjoy.”

Back at the outdoor media conference, word got out, and the next day and everyone cheered to Melissa’s first bass.

Catching that first bass, it’s magical.

Unforgettable moments.

 

 

Yamaha Pro, Brett King, earned the title 2018 Angler of the Year during Cabela’s® National Walleye Tour.
The 3-1/4 inch Strike King Rage Swim Tail on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig with the 6-foot, 9-inch lightweight rod from J. T. Outdoors was a perfect match to catch the first bass.

 

Fall Fishing in La Crosse, Wisconsin: Binge-feeding time for Walleye, Bass, Catfish

  • Mississippi River pools offer multiple species
  • Fall weather excites fish toward binge feeding
  • Autumn colors provide an extra measure of goodness for visitors
 The Bassmaster Elite anglers visit area waters for exiting fishing fun. Photo – LaCrosse CVB

By Forrest Fisher

Near La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Upper Mississippi River spreads well beyond its main channel, a bonus for anglers.  Hundreds of tiny islands, channels, and deep pools offer a new home for many species of fish, perhaps more than any other temperate-climate river in the world. It’s a fishing paradise.

Walleye is king in these waters, but you can catch just about anything here, including sauger, northern pike, shovelhead sturgeon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, gar, channel catfish and blue catfish, just to name a few.

Interested in giant catfish? Click here: Here’s a great article about catfish in the area

The La Crosse River and Black River join the Mississippi near La Crosse and create a home to many of the same species. A few miles north of La Crosse, the Mississippi opens into the 8,000+ acre waterway named Lake Onalaska that features 7 boat landings and is chock-full of panfish, northern, and bass, and the area also offers myriad cold-water streams rife with brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Kayaks and small boats provide access to hundreds of fishy waterways near La Crosse. Photo – LaCrosse CVB

Another popular lake fishery is Lake Neshonoc located in West Salem. It has a maximum depth of 11 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from public boat landings and a public beach. Fish include panfish, largemouth bass, northern pike and catfish. Check out the DNR’s Trout Stream Map for La Crosse County.

The La Crose area features several boat landings, marinas, and beaches, as well as fishing floats and piers, guides, and numerous outfitters. The Upper Mississippi USFW Refuge (United States Fish & Wildlife) has put together some fantastic maps of Pools 7 and 8 of the Mississippi River, with boat landings, walk-in access points and more.

Fall and Winter Action is Just Ahead

The cooling temperatures of fall bring wonderful color to the woodlands and bluffs. Fall also provides hungry fish and some of the best fishing of the year. Walleye begin to move again in the fall and while the fall walleye run tends to be less lively than in the spring, the fall run tends to provide steady action right up until freeze-over.

For a summary report on Mississippi River Pool 8 walleye sampling efforts that identify fish density and methods of assessment, visit this link provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – LaCrosse: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/documents/reports/LaCrosseMississippiRPool8_2018_2019WeSaAdultsSpring.pdf.

The first areas to catch the attention of ice anglers are the area’s many backwaters. As ice creeps out from the shores of Lake Onalaska, so do intrepid ice anglers looking for some of the best panfish catching of the year. As ice covers a wider area, ice anglers begin moving further out to deeper water in search of walleye, yellow perch, and northern pike.

You can find information regarding licensing, rules, and regulations at Wisconsin fishing regulations at the Department of Natural Resources website.

For a free visitors guide with additional accommodation and outdoor adventure information, click the picture.

Sky-High on Loon’s and Walleye in Wisconsin

  • Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Wisconsin offers comfort and Sounds of the Outdoors
  • Autumn Musky, Walleye, Bronzebacks on the bite with upcoming Fall Colors
Voyageurs canoe to one of the many 60 remote campsites on the islands of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.
By Bob Holzhei
Catching a limit of walleye was expected, however, I wondered if it was the call of a loon that echoed in my mind and brought me back to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, located near Mercer, Wisconsin.
Our stay at the Gateway Lodge provided a secluded retreat. It located right on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, with a reputation as the Muskie Capital of the World.  Gateway Lodge is the gateway to an unbelievable outdoor paradise. Owned by Wayne Riebe and his wife Melissa since 2005, the Riebe’s “love to cook.”

Clair’D Loon made its debut in 1981, it weighs 2,000 pounds and welcomes all visitors to “Loon Country” near the Chamber of Commerce building.

The lodge features two-person cabins/a bath, along with 3 and 4-bedroom modern private homes with two baths.  Prices are very reasonable and begin at $100 per night for a one-bedroom, one-bath cabin, and more for luxurious homes with up to four bedrooms for an entire family. Specials are offered throughout the year, for more information, visit their website at the end of this article.  It’s one of the finest and most elegant places I have ever stayed at.
Boat rentals include 23 and 24-foot pontoons, plus, there are 16, 20, and 23-foot boats equipped with Mercury outboards.  Bait is available too, on-site. You can bring your own canoe, kayak or fishing boat, of course.
The on-site restaurant features a menu that includes lunch and supper favorite, including fish fries, burgers and melt-in-your mouth steaks, as well as additional items that will have a person wonder what shall I have for supper?
The Turtle Flambeau Flowage offers access to a 14,300-acre lake and some additional 26 surrounding lakes with 227 miles of undeveloped shoreline.  Blend in more than 21,000 acres of nearby forests offering four seasons of outdoor adventure that include fishing, area campsites with full amenities to 60 remote campsites accessible only by water.  There’s more: biking, backpacking, hiking, canoeing, paddling, snowmobiling, and wildlife-viewing in abundance.   The woods explode in autumn in a panoramic display of fall colors.
The call of loons across the water from years past called me back for a return trip adding to the outdoor wilderness adventure. Mercer is well known throughout the Midwest as a consistent producer of trophy fish.  The Turtle Flambeau Flowage is so similar to the Canadian Wilderness that it is hard to tell the difference.
I anticipate fishing the Turtle Flambeau Flowage for walleye in Wisconsin every time I think about walleye fishing. Tight lines!

For More Information: Gateway Lodge, info@thegatewaylodge.com, phone: 715 476-7878; Mercer Area Chamber of Commerce, www.info@mercercc.com, phone:  715 476-2389