- 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
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.
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 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.