The VOR and I headed north Friday night with the ultimate destination being the 10th wedding anniversary party at Camp O for the GurneyGranny and Podman. We all figured they owed us a party since they snuck up a hill and a decade ago and had the WoodFondlingBarrister tie the knot with only the KingOfIronwoodIsland as a witness. I was out at the deer camp on that beautiful Saturday in 1999, wondering where the hell they were since it was a perfect weekend to be in the woods. Possible nuptials had never crossed my mind because on more than one occasion Pod had ripped friends and acquaintances foolish enough to get married during the hunting season. Now, ten years later, the VOR and I planned to spend the night at the camp again before heading east at some point on Saturday.
It was a cold, crisp, starry night when we strolled in after dark, and it took about two hours for the pot bellied stove to get the joint from 42F up to around 60F. I got up to stoke the stove around 4am when it became apparent we were losing ground, temperature wise. When I headed out to water the shrubbery off the north deck, the stars had disappeared and snow was coming down hard at about a 45 degree angle. We awoke to a winter wonderland, made even the more spectacular by the fall colors, at or near their peak. The only toy I had brought along was a 28ga shotgun; no boats on the roof this trip. Or camera for that matter, which explains the cell phone camera image quality you are seeing this morning. We headed out on the trails in search of the wily grouse and within 200 yards of camp came across the bear tracks.
Moquah or Makwa (take your pick, I guess) is the Ojibwa name for the black bear. We have a healthy population in our area, as does most of the state of Wisconsin. Last year a grad student from UW completed a study that indicated the state has twice as many bears as the DNR thought we had. Out at our camp on Reefer Creek we've always had plenty of bears. We discovered that for a time our area was the problem bear drop off point for Bayfield County. If Mr Moquah was eating garbage in Washburn or Bayfield, he would find himself in the greater Oulu area before he knew what hit him. This made for more aggressive than normal bears but we managed to coexist. None of us have the least amount of interest in bear hunting, mainly because we don't like to eat them. That's as good of a basis for a hunting ethic as any I guess. This boy looked like he was fattening up for the winter from the path he was taking and the the mess he was making in the woods. From the size of the paw, we would estimate a male of between 300-350 pounds. That's my rather large paw in the shot next to the bears. The other shot is from a game camera of a large bear enjoying an unexpected meal of deer viscera.
Winter is coming. When I woke up on Saturday morning in the warm camp I was glad that we had the anniversary commitment or else we would have been agonizing about crawling out of our sleeping bags in our tent at the SilenceOfTheLambChop's Trout Lake kayak trip. I trust things went well but winter camping is an activity that I can not be talked into. Mr Bear has a few more weeks to fatten up, the leaves are still on most of the trees and look gorgeous, and Pod and GG are poised for another decade of bliss. For the first time I thought seriously about my skis and actually sitting up in a tree with my bow. By the way, I was surprised by covey of grouse and missed with both barrels. Next weekend I need to get my eye hand coordination a bit more dialed in. Bring on that change of season!