Mark Walters, Columnist
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I started running bear baits with my girlfriend Michelle Chiaro on April 15th in northern Juneau County as I have for the last 13 years. It seems like a lifetime of situations has happened since we started including the unexpected death of Michelle who was my mate and outdoor everything partner. This week’s column is a short summary of the first ten days of my bear hunting situation in which I did not miss a day sitting in a tree.
Saturday, September 3rd
High 74°, Low 53°
It has been eight days since I have had a daytime picture of a black bear at one of my baits and so yesterday, with 5 days to go before the season opens, I created two new baits, with both being about a mile from my existing baits. My hope was to maybe intercept a bear earlier in its day, before it arrived at one of my existing baits. Today, I was checking one of them and walking in a forest with waist high ferns when I had the misfortune of walking directly into a nest of hornets. This would be the worst insect experience of my life so far and I was stung at least 25 times in the head, arm, stomach and legs. At first, I thought I was going to be okay. The following day I became very ill, swollen, disoriented, arthritic, itchy and in pain. This situation would last 8 full days and really sucked.
Saturday, September 9th
High 83°, Low 54°
Today was my 3rd day of hunting and no matter what, I never give up hope. The trail cameras tell me that within 20-minutes of climbing down from my tree the last two nights bear have been at the bait. There is a debate among bear hunters about whether we are being watched while in the stand. I firmly believe it happens. It has now been over two weeks since I had a daytime hit and I know I just have to keep running my baits, be observant when I am in the tree and believe that I may have a chance.
So, I have spent hundreds of hours in the forests since April and on one of my baits I have a baby porcupine that greets me each day or should I say is not scared of me. Now I am hunting, and I watch this porcupine for hours as I also am able at times to watch skunks and other porcupine as they try to get at the bait.
Before I get in my tree, I talk real nice to it and I think it listens. Tonight, while I was in my stand and watching the baby, another porcupine showed up which obviously was an adult. When these two saw each other it was apparent that it was mama and for the next hour I listened to them talk to each other, the baby crawl on top of mama and both of them licked each other a lot.
Saturday, September 16th
High 84°, Low 55°
Yesterday I did the 23 mile drive from my home to hunt and bait and realized that I had forgot my 300 BAR. I was not giving up and drove fast and did some speeding walking to my baits.
Today would be my 10th day in a row of hunting and I am a “nothing is going to stop me kind of machine”. When I am sitting in my tree, I do thank you cards. So far, I have heard from over 500 people since Michelle passed and I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you. I never get bummed when I do not have daytime pics and I really enjoy every aspect of the hunt.
Today I had great news. One of the baits that I did not hunt last night had two “shooter” bear at it before dark. This good news completely got me in the game and though I really am “long term” tired, I can rest when I join Michelle. I did not have a bear come in on hunt number 10, but I will not give up till the season closes on October 11th. I have to go on the trips that give me material for each week’s column but I bait when I leave for the trip and hunt on the way home.
Live a full day today, it may be your last!
Check out previous weeks’ columns here or in print in the paper.