Roger Driesenga got the color phase grand slam in a most unexpected way
By Bernie Barringer
Roger Driesenga is an unassuming man from the little village of Zeeland, Michigan. At 78, he’s one of the most active people you’ll ever meet. “I get up early every morning and work until 9:00 at night,” he explains. “I have no health problems.” Roger has a hobby farm where he raises a huge garden that grows enough to share with all the neighbors, some animals that are more like pets, and more than 100 rabbits which he breeds for sale to pet stores. “I still put up over 100 bales of hay by myself and I’m only 150 pounds,” he says. He does his own taxidermy and mounts deer heads for others. He took in over 100 deer mounts this year. Busy guy.
He has his own museum of nearly 400 animals, big and small, that he mounted himself. It includes mostly animals that have been taken on hunting trips across North America since his retirement. Roger loves to share with others and his ever-present smile gives away his perpetual good nature and positive attitude. The museum in his house is another way to share with others. “I want people to be able to see animals that they would normally never see!”
He spent most of his life as a produce manager at a chain of grocery stores in his home area, not making a huge income but taking good care of what he made and doing a few side hustles to pay for his hunting adventures. And that leads us to his color phase grand slam, which took place in such a remarkable way. The story needs to be told.
“I met Scott Smith of Canadian Wilderness Outfitters at the Outfitters Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Roger remembers. “He had a picture of a musk ox on his brochure and I was interested in hunting musk ox, so I kept the brochure and his business card.”
Some time later, Roger got the idea that he needed color phase black bears for his museum, since most people in Michigan, he says, don’t even realize they come in colors other than black. A couple years later, he came across the Canadian Wilderness Outfitters’ literature again. Scott’s brochure had color phase bears on it, so Roger called him up and set in motion one of the most remarkable experiences any bear hunter could have.
In 2017, Roger and his buddy, Vern Kreihoff, headed to the Duck Mountains to hunt with Scott. Vern goes along on many of Roger’s hunts but doesn’t always hunt. Roger likes the company and Vern just likes to come along. That first year, Roger decided he wanted to hold out for a color phase bear, he didn’t care what color, and he wasn’t going to wait for a big one.
Roger saw a few black bears, but one day Scott told him that a color bear had come in on him while he was baiting a site, but it wasn’t very big. Roger said, “Put me in there!” Scott did as he asked and the cinnamon bear rolled in by mid-afternoon. Roger had his first color phase bear for his collection.
He had so much fun he decided to give it another try in 2018. On this hunt he passed a few black bears, still looking for a color phase. Because Scott doesn’t have cameras on most of his baits, everything is a surprise. Sure enough, later in the hunt after a couple moves, a big blonde bear rolled in. Roger’s .280 Remington pump gun sent a Nosler Partition on its way and Roger now had the two toughest color phases in his museum. Four color phase bears and he had the two hardest ones first. The rest should be easy, right?
Well, actually, it was easy. Roger went back to hunt with Scott in 2019 looking for a chocolate. But a huge black bear interrupted his plans. He passed the big, mature male. But it was the biggest bear he had ever seen in person and he started to have doubts after passing it. A chocolate bear presented itself, but he passed that one as well. “It was maybe three years old and not very big,” he said. Just not really what he wanted to represent in his museum. After a couple more evening hunts, he ended up back on the stand where the huge bear had shown up and sure enough, the bear came back. Roger ended his hunt with a big black one. Three of the colors in three hunts.
The following year, 2020, put a crushing blow on the hunting plans of a lot of people who love to bear hunt in Canada. It drove Roger crazy, but he didn’t do a Canadian hunt of any kind that year as the border was closed. In 2021, he decided he needed to get his bear hunting fix in the U.S., so he booked a spring hunt in Idaho and, you guessed it, shot a chocolate bear. He now had his color phase grand slam in just four hunts in four years, but this story takes an even more interesting turn.
With the border still closed, he didn’t expect to be able to hunt with Scott in the fall of 2021. But just a week before his hunt was scheduled, the Canadian border opened up. It was a fiasco getting shots and tests, but after all the rigmarole, he ended up in Scott’s camp on opening day at the end of August 2021.
On his mind was the small chocolate bear he’d estimated to be three years old in 2019. He figured the bear would be a shooter by now. That’s what he focused on, but the bear never showed. He hunted a couple stands and passed a few bears, but then it happened. “Good things just happen to me,” Roger laughs. I say that positive people with positive attitudes seem to make their own luck. “When that nice chocolate color phase bear walked in, I knew I had the grand slam with Scott.”
Four hunts, four different color phase bears, and one outfitter.
Roger has no intention of ending his bear hunts. “I don’t know how much time I have left. I’m ready to go any time. If I live to be 100 and if I can get in a tree, I’ll still be hunting bears!”
If you ever get near the small town of Zeeland, Michigan, I’ll just betcha Roger would love to drag you down into his basement and show you his incredible museum of mounted animals. And I’m certain he’ll get especially excited when he shows you his color phase grand slam!