In the dark, quiet morning of the calm forest, the first howl of the bear hounds wakes up the camp. Since July, this is something that my family and I have gotten used to. After my parents hunted with Camp Believe it or Not in 2017 for my dad’s bear, and again in 2020 for my mom’s bear, we bought our very own hounds and joined the camp. This summer, as a 7-year-old, I started training just like our hounds for the upcoming bear season. The guys at camp joke that I’ve “made every tree.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but I have come close!

This year, I was very blessed to receive a Wisconsin Black Bear Transfer License from Joyce Kratz (Montello, WI). The day of the season opener, I was nervous and excited. In the early morning hours, the baits were checked, and it wasn’t very long before the race was on! I love all the hounds at camp, and it is my favorite part when they go to work and we get to watch them run on the GPS. There was one other hunter at camp on opening day and I knew that I had a second choice. As the morning went on, our hounds did their job and soon we had opportunities to see black bears! The first bear was treed and that was a pass for our camp and the other hunter. Before long, another bear was treed about 800 yards off the road. I wasn’t worried, because I was thinking the other hunter at camp was going in, but before I knew it, my mom, dad, and I were grabbing gear and on the move. Uncle Jacob and Uncle Mike headed into the tree first to hold the bear and check in on the dogs with my dad close behind. My mom stuck close to me and cheered me on as I climbed over trees and hopped on bogs. Mom said later that I practically ran the whole way.

When we made it to the tree, the dogs were getting tied back and my dad was picking the perfect spot for me to line up a shot using a 6.8 Remington Special on a tripod. I wasn’t too worried about the shot because I had been practicing shooting all summer, and my parents drilled me on where the vitals are on a bear. The ground we were on was boggy and a little wet, which made the tripod tippy. I was glad that I had on my camo muck boots! As the bear moved around in the tree, my dad and I worked to make sure we had everything lined up. I looked in the scope and would tell my dad what I could see and was careful not to put my finger on the trigger until I was ready to shoot. Dad double-checked, clicked the safety off, and I shot. The bear twisted around the back of the tree and fell to the ground! I yelled, “He’s on the ground!” and gave a fist pump. I was so happy that my very first big game animal was a Wisconsin Black Bear! Everybody gave me high fives, hugs, and handshakes. I had some tears, and my mom and dad talked to me about how that means that I appreciate the animal and am thankful for the meat to feed our family.

This wasn’t the first hunt that I’ve been on in my seven years, but this was the first hunt that I had the tag. Being with my family, the bear camp guys, and having my hound, Vito, at the tree with us made this hunt special. My bear dressed out at 114 lbs, which made it a very nice first bear.

In my family, we believe in God, hunting, and being kind. This hunt will forever be one of my favorite memories. I cannot thank Joyce for my transfer tag enough and the bear camp guys for teaching me so much all summer.