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Dick Ellis Blog:
5/8/2019
Now it starts.  Too much to keep up with in Wisconsin, and that is one nice problem for an outdoorsman. OWO Columnist Wayne Morgenthaler and his son Neal spelled double trouble for two Richland County gobblers after four days of not filling tags. We put the May-June issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors to bed last week with 100,000 copies being distributed statewide. Look for your copy at any Kwik Trip statewide…that’s 400 stores ...
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Predicaments: Lost Boat

I like bow hunting, especially during the rut (mating time) of the white-tailed deer. The spot chosen for this hunt was a remote undeveloped public hunting along the Wolf River. I used my boat to reach this hunting area. After a brisk walk with a climbing tree stand on my back, I was at my hunting spot. Only a few minutes went by when a doe being chased by three bucks came running by.

That doe stopped in an opening less than 20 yards from me and, as she stood there, she kept twitching her tail. I assume this twitching was to entice those bucks. The biggest, an eight-point buck with wide antlers, was next in line and closing in. I clipped my new, very sensitive back tension release, on the bowstring and drew back my bow. As the buck approached, I held my site pin in the vicinity of the doe, assuming that the buck would be entering the opening shortly.

Sure enough he came right down the same trail and entered the opening. As I started to move my site pin to the vitals of the buck, the arrow suddenly and unexpectedly released. Both the doe and the buck stood motionless at the sound of the errant arrow. I tried to quietly load another arrow, but the buck was on full alert and heard me move. He ran off and joined the other two bucks. After about 10

minutes, the doe finally walked off still twitching her tail.

You can hunt for years to get a buck like that standing broadside in perfect bow range. Now when it finally happens, I didn’t have an arrow on the bowstring.

Predicaments

This is where the story takes a sad twist. When I retrieved that arrow out of the ground there was blood. I had inadvertently hit the doe. There was no way of knowing exactly where I hit her, but, hopefully, the arrow just grazed her. I suspected there was a poor chance of recovering that doe, but I would give it my best effort.

I marched back to my boat and drove home to get some late-night trailing help from two friends, John and Brad. Five hours later, we returned to the landing and navigated my boat upriver into the darkness. We pulled up on the riverbank and started off to find what little blood there might be on the trail. (This was one of the first times I had used a GPS and that thing was like a high-tech trail of permanent breadcrumbs. It guided us on our way through the swamp and darkness.) We began our tracking adventure trudging with the eerie glow of a Coleman lantern.

After several hours of searching a faint blood trail, we had burned up the Coleman lantern fluid

and decided to give up for the evening. We headed back to the boat with help from a flashlight and that GPS. We found our way back to the exact spot where the boat had been. Notice the “had been in that statement. 

The confounding events of the night must have distracted us from tying up the boat. Because of the heavy rain from the day before, the river was rising. It rose just enough to float our boat downriver without us. To recap; we did not have a boat, the landing was several miles downstream on the other side of the river, and this was before cell phones were common. We wandered along the riverbank searching for our runaway boat, passing blame from one to another. The phrases, “I thought you tied it up, no I thought you tied it up,” echoed on and on into the evening.

We did not find our boat so we decided to hike downriver several miles to get across from the boat landing. When we got there, we hollered and yelled in the direction of the cabins. There was no response.

My next thought was to swim across the river, but my buddies convinced me that swimming across in water that cold could kill me.

We then decided that our only option, besides

smoke signals or building a raft, would be to trudge several miles back upriver. Then we would angle left through several miles of swamp. If our plan worked we should find Hwy X.

It was a long tedious chore and our GPS did not help much for finding the road. Back then you had to have been to a spot first for a GPS to be helpful. (With the newer GPS systems you can call up an aerial photo of your surroundings and head out.) We found the road using dead reckoning and our dim and dying flashlight. We walked down the road a few miles to a closed-for-the-winter campground where we found a pay phone. Of course continuing our pattern of luck for the night, no one had change to use in the pay phone.

John knew a homeowner several miles down the road. Did you notice several miles seem to be the theme for this night? We were lucky, after a few minutes of late-night door pounding, John’s friend was amiable enough to allow us to use his phone. My wife, Kathy, answered the call and made the run to rescue us.

We dropped John off at his house, retrieved my truck from the boat landing, and dropped Brad off at my house where he had left his truck. Even though it was cold and late, I wanted to find my boat before it drifted away into the next county. My wife put on

warm clothes and I put on some warmer clothes. We then headed out for my third trip to the hunting spot.

We needed a search boat to look for the one I lost. My son, Chad, has a boat so we headed over to where it was stored and hitched it up. After thinking about our situation, we would need some light. The lantern was empty and the flashlight was almost dead. We returned to our house and picked up a spotlight. My spotlight plugs into a power point on my boat. Naturally Chad’s boat didn’t have a power point; therefore, we had to do some late-night wiring to set up his boat for a spotlight.

There is an expression I had often heard before that night but paid little attention to. That expression states: “Nothing is easy.” With all the obstacles thrown our way, on this night I endorse that expression.

Kathy and I finally made it back to the boat landing and launched Chad’s boat. We carefully eased upstream using the hot-wired spotlight to scan the wooded riverbanks.

I grumbled to my wife that my boat could have drifted down to Fremont by then. As the cold wind continued whipping around us, my boat was still nowhere in sight.

We reached the spot where the boat had drifted

away and I handed the spotlight to my wife. I turned the boat around, and headed back downstream. Having gone this far without seeing the boat meant one of two things. Either we missed it or that boat had gone several miles downstream and had already passed by the landing where we put in. It might very well be in Fremont before we caught up to it. Suddenly, Kathy shouted “I see a reflection of something right there.” We motored over and much to our delight there was the lost boat, caught up in some over hanging-brush a measly 25 yards from where we originally left it.

It is a mystery how three of us could have walked within approximately 10 yards of a 17-foot boat several times without ever seeing it? We towed our found boat to the landing and this time secured it to shore with a rope. We put my son’s boat back on the trailer and returned his boat. We returned to the landing, (my fourth time) and put my boat on the trailer. As we headed home we watched a beautiful sunrise.

I took a nap and then spent much of that day back in the swamp looking for that doe. It was unfortunate that I never did find her but that did encourage me to think she would recover.

Believe it or not I was back hunting in that same tree early the next Saturday morning. I got settled in

well before daylight and waited for the sunrise. Famous Quote: You can enjoy a sunrise only if you wait for it in the dark. After it got light it only took a few minutes of rattling antlers together before a buck (one of the smaller bucks from before) came charging towards my tree. This time after a well-placed shot, that buck got a ride home in my recently found boat.

I was happy and thankful to have taken this deer. However, remember that big buck, the same buck that was instrumental in getting us in that predicament a few days before? During the excitement of the smaller buck responding to the rattling antlers, that big buck had somehow silently snuck up underneath my tree. After my shot at the smaller buck, I watched in disbelief as that big eight-pointer once again bounded off to safety.

I, on the other hand, had been doing what I seem to be good at: waiting in the dark.

Want to read more stories like this? Predicaments: Mostly True Hunting and Fishing Stories can be purchased at www.amazon.com , print and digital editions are available. Print copies can also be purchased at Johnny’s shop of Bait in New London WI.

Randy Williams lives in New London, WI. He has a degree in conservation, is a fishing guide, and a taxidermist. He has won over 40 fishing tournaments and spent 5 years as a co-host on an outdoor TV fishing and hunting show called No Excuses Outdoors. He has been an outdoor columnist for the Waupaca county Post and recently published a book called Predicaments:Mostly True Hunting and Fishing Stories. He now enjoys hunting and fishing full time after retiring from teaching. To watch videos of his adventures visit www.wilfish.com