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Memoir Chapter 1 from The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man

by Bill Wiesner, with Glenn Helgeland


It was opening day of deer season.  My nerves were as tight as violin strings, just like everyone else’s on opening day.  Had someone shouted ‘BOO’ behind me, I probably could have landed on the moon.

About 9:00 am I heard two shots in the swamp directly in front of me. I was instantly at full alert, waiting for the big swamp buck to come at me!

Instead, a red suit was making its way toward me.  It was an elderly woman, chewing and spitting tobacco, swearing with every other word.

She laid a big wad of tobacco juice on the snow at my feet and asked, “What kind of a (expletive deleted) gun you shootin?

“A Remington 20-gauge pump,” I said.

Her next words were more of an order than a statement.

“Follow me.  My son Hermie just shot a bear.”

As we entered the swamp, I noticed Hermie looking at the ground, but I could not see what he was looking at. Once we reached his location, I could see he was standing on a blood trail, a bear’s blood trail.

The lady started barking orders like a drill instructor.

“Hermie take the (expletive deleted) blood trail. I will flank your right.”

She turned to me.  “You stay to his left.  Be careful.  We are dealing with a bear here.”

She didn’t need to tell me.  My stomach was in knots. We slowly advanced on the trail.  My eyes were trained straight ahead. We were in a tangle of alders, and it was difficult to see the other two red suits to my right.

Without warning, the bear jumped up right in front of me, maybe 10 yards away but no more.

I shot from the hip in pure reflexive, non-thinking, instant reaction.  Had it been a red squirrel I might have done the same.

The bear dropped. My shot had broken its spine.

“(Expletive deleted!) Hermie, you see that (expletive deleted) shot? Good job!”

Having a bear jump up in front of me at point blank range…incredible. It was heart stopping, unexpected, thrilling and any other emotion that could be layered on.

I thought the bear was a monster.  OK, it weighed maybe 175 pounds; but you know how difficult it is to judge a bear’s weight.  That’s why there’s the infamous ‘ground shrinkage’ regarding bears seen and bears shot.

– – – – – –

I was 12 years old.  This was my first day of deer hunting in my first season of deer hunting.  I’ve not been the same since.

I have mentally thanked that foul-mouthed, brash old woman a thousand times for triggering my interest in bear hunting to such a degree that, over the years, it developed into a passion that continues to this day.

Back then (1962), it was legal to shoot bears during the Wisconsin firearms deer season and red was considered the proper safety color for your hunting jacket.

How-To Chapters

  • What Is The Black Bear?
  • Distribution, Population & Record Books
  • Hunting Gear
  • Hunting Styles
  • Scouting & Habitat
  • Baiting
  • New Twists & Trials
  • The Shot (Before, During, After)
  • Care Of Meat & Hide
  • Bear On The Table

Memoir Chapters

  • Lady With Mouth And Attitude
  • Spilled Rotten Fish
  • Most Satisfying Bear & Biggest Bear
  • Living In The Boondocks
  • One-Up, and One Down
  • Amber’s Dream Bear
  • Toughest Man In The Woods
  • Memories of Michigan
  • North To Canada
  • A Humbling Hounding Experience

Additional biographical items for Bill Wiesner:

  • First hunter to complete the Great Lakes Grand Slam (deer, bear, turkey) with all types of bowhunting equipment – compound bow, recurve bow, longbow, and selfbow with stone heads. This means he has taken all three species with each type of bow.
  • First hunter to receive all five (coyote, bobcat, turkey, deer, bear) Wisconsin Bowhunters Association pin awards for animals taken in one season.  This is extremely difficult, due principally to Wisconsin’s point system for issuing bear tags.
  • Seminar speaker on archery gear, archery shooting safety, bowhunting and bear hunting topics.
  • Youth mentor and speaker at high schools in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
  • Hunter education instructor for 25 years.
  • Bowhunting and archery/hunting safety instructor at Ted Nugent’s Kamp for Kids, 4-H clubs and youth archery organizations, and conducted Door County (Wisconsin) 4-H archery program.
  • Presented archery/bowhunting promotional programs at banquets and in-store events.
  • Member of the “Red Arrow Society”, awarded by the Lakota Sioux Nation for archery contributions to the tribe. This award is rarely given to a non-tribal member.
  • Certified Easton arrowsmith.