In his younger days my father was a hunter and trapper and has always been a lover of nature. His favorite trapping grounds were on small rivers in the northern part of Wisconsin. On this particular trapping season he chose his ground along a small river near White Fish Bay. in the extreme northwestern part of Wisconsin. Fur-bearers of all kinds were plentiful. There were also such big game as deer, bear and an occasional moose. Many lynx, wildcats, martens, mink, 'coons, otters and also a few bears were caught by him. The following experience which my father had on the trap line I will relate in his own words as near as possible:
"It was in the spring of the year 1891, about the time the bear begin to move about and leave their winter quarters. Taking up most of ray traps for the small fur-bearers I prepared to trap for bears. My one great ambition was to capture a large black bear which then inhabited the woods. This bear had skillfully evaded all sportsmen and had been caught in only one trap, which had been set by an Indian. He escaped, leaving two or three toes in it One morning as I was running my trap line I came upon his trail. Following up the trail I found it led to the carcass of a deer which I had shot the day before. I took one of my best bear traps and set it as skillfully as possible, having high hopes of catching him the coming night I followed up the rest of the traps and got a fair catch.
"I went to bed earlier than usual, so that I would be able to get up earlier. I rose earlier than usual and after eating a hasty breakfast took to my trap line again. I soon saw old club foot's trail again, as that was what he was called after he had lost his toes. His trail was very fresh, so I had high expectations; but I saw I did not have him as I neared the trap. The bear had been there and had also left unharmed. He had feasted upon the venison and had been careful not to touch the trap. Placing the trap in another position I left with less hope of success than the previous day, although trappers soon get used to disappointments. Following the rest of my line I got a fair catch. I returned to camp in the afternoon and after eating and doing a few odd jobs around the cabin I went to bed.
"Rising at the usual trapper's hour, about five o'clock, I again pursued the trap line after eating a hasty breakfast. To my surprise I came upon another fresh trail of old club foot. As I neared the trap I saw by the looks of things that my trap had done the business; but much to my dismay, found that the drag was too light and the bear had left with the trap and drag. But as he left a very plain trail I decided to follow it. As traps were very expensive those days I was very much concerned over the loss of both bear and trap. Thinking I could catch up with the bear, who would be encumbered with trap and drag, I decided to follow it. I traveled all forenoon and was going to eat dinner when a commotion in the bushes ahead caused me to hasten my pace. As I emerged from a clump of cedars I saw the bear, the largest specimen I had ever seen. I cocked my gun, which was an old reliable Winchester lever action repeater. A large number of deer and bears had fallen before it. The bear was still standing still, which gave me an opportunity to shoot him. Taking careful aim I fired, expecting him to drop; but the gun did not go off. Upon examination I found the magazine empty and I had taken no cartridges along with me in my coat, which was very careless of me, although this was the first time it had happened. I was in no immediate danger myself, as I could keep out of his way easily; but bruin might at any moment decide to move on and I would not have any means to stop him.
"After walking about ten miles I did not relish giving up the game so dearly earned, especially because it was the long sought for club foot. After resting and thinking a few moments I decided to get him at any cost. Seizing my small camp ax in one hand and a large stick in the other I began to torment the bear. He began to lunge toward me. This was my opportunity and quickly dodging between two trees I again let the bear come up closer. The bear lunged again and the drag caught between the two trees. His claws caught my pants leg and ripped it to shreds, but luckily I escaped without a scratch. The bear was now safely secured for the time being, but would probably again escape if the trapper went back for ammunition. After considering the proposition awhile I decided upon a course of action. Again taking the stick and ax I advanced toward the bear, but kept just out of his reach. I poked the stick at him and when he opened his mouth to bite at it I shoved it in his mouth and as far down his throat as possible. This turned his attention from me and I dealt him a stunning blow with the ax. After several blows on the head he became unconscious. Taking out my sheath knife I cut his throat and skinned him. This ended the career of the renowned club foot. His pelt was one of the best ever bought at the post. I was offered $28 for it, which I accepted, and my time spent getting him was considered well paid for."
Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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