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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2003


Hair-raising hunt
Bear hunter stuck in his stand as wolves descend on the kill
by Cynthia Brekke  |  October 21, 2003

When Terry Brandenburg went out to his bear stand on Sat., Oct. 11, he was hoping for some action. He had brought along a video camera, just in case...and when a pack of wolves moved in on his position, he videoed an experience he’d never had before.

Terry’s journey to the McGregor/Tamarack area began about seven years ago. “I wanted to hunt in Minnesota,” Terry began explaining, “because the wait in Wisconsin was so long.” He contacted the DNR in this area, to see if there were any nuisance bears he could apply for, which there were. Arnold Stofferahn was having some problems with a bear and another location, northwest of McGregor, was also a trouble area. “I met Bonnie and Arnold, and Marty and Ruth, and we became real good friends.” Terry bought molasses, for baiting bears, at the feed mill where Marty worked. “I stay at Marty and Ruth’s now, we’ve become that good of friends,” Terry commented. His influence rubbed off on the Stofferahn group, as Marty and his nephews, Justin Mitchell and Jeff Smith, all hunt archery now.

Terry is an archery hunter from Milwaukee, Wisc., who actually trained with the U.S. Olympic team in the Compound Bow division, and has traveled all over the United States, competing in archery tournaments. He’s also an instructor, helping others with archery techniques. He shoots out of Whiffen Archery in Milwaukee, who makes the Bobkin Broadhead tip for arrows. Grant Whiffen was Terry’s hunting partner, seven years ago, when they first came to this area.

As an archery hunter, Terry has taken 31 bear with his bow. Two years ago, he shot the second biggest bear that Sam and Kathy Haugse, owners of Sam’s Grocery in Tamarack, had ever taken in for processing, and they’ve owned the store for about 26 or 27 years. It was an eight-foot bear, estimated to have weighed around 550 pounds, taken by bow. He hunts, mainly, for the bigger bears.

For this year’s hunt, Terry was using a Hoylt compound bow, 70 pound, with the Bobkin broadhead on his arrow. He’s firm about being absolutely scentless in the woods. “It’s very important, with archery, your scent and how you enter the bait is very critical, as far as I’m concerned.” He only carries his bow and a knife when he hunts.

Since Terry lives in Wisconsin, Marty began putting bait out, on his way to work, in the area they planned to hunt, northwest of McGregor. “We’d been working on a bigger bear,” Terry began, “for about four or five weeks. We had about a four to five hundred pound bear coming in.” But this was the last weekend, however, and the big bear wasn’t hitting. “We figured we better think about shooting something, before we ended up with nothing!”

Luckily, another bear decided to hit the bait. “A real beautiful bear came in, with a white stripe on it’s chest,” Terry went on. They decided to take him, and Terry zeroed in on the bear with his compound bow. The arrow, with it’s broadhead point, hit the mark, and the bear traveled only 30 yards before going down.

Terry continued his story. “I stay up in the tree stand for about 20 to 30 minutes after I shoot a bear, with a bow,” he said. “All of the sudden, there was a very unusual noise coming from our backs. We’d had other bear coming in, but never had a bear walk in from our back.” They stayed up in the tree stand, watching and waiting to see what was creeping up behind them. “This noise was like nothing I’d ever heard in the woods. You know what a deer sounds like, what a squirrel sounds like, or a fox, or a bear... but I’d never heard this noise before.”

Guided by the scent of blood in the air, and the bait, a pack of wolves was slowly, cautiously descending on his position. “They were coming in from my right, which was the south side. The alpha male actually walked within 30 feet of me and was standing there. He squatted down, as soon as he came in the area. The fur on the back of his neck puffed up and his ears went down. I thought, ‘oh boy, I’m in trouble now.’” Terry thought that the alpha male had picked up his scent, but the wolf hadn’t caught any scent of humans and wasn’t focused on what was in the trees. It was what was on the ground that had his attention.

“All of the sudden, he started to howl,” Terry went on, the excitement rising in his voice. “And then they all started howling.” What had happened was, the pack was actually making a drive through the swamp to kick something up. They were coming up on the bait and the bear Terry had just shot. “Oh, this is cool,” Terry thought, as he slowly brought his video camera around to capture the whole event. “I caught the alpha male on video tape, howling.” It was normal for him to have his camera with him. He’s videotaped grey fox, blue jays, squirrels, birds, and other wildlife he’s encountered. Over the years, he’s made quite a collection of wildlife clips.

The wolves disappeared for about five to seven minutes, but then Terry heard them again. This time, they were swinging around in front of him, where the bear was laying. Terry stayed still in his stand, scentless, the wolves unaware they were being captured on film. “With the bear down only 30 yards from me, I could visually see him, lying there.” The wind was coming from the north, so the pack was following the scent of blood. The alpha male came into the clearing, reared up and did a false charge at the bear, probably in an attempt to get it to run or move somehow. Since the bear was dead, it didn’t move. So, the wolf began stomping, and began marking the territory around the fallen animal. “He walked out of there and, about 15 minutes later, as it started getting dark, they were about 100 yards away and they all started howling again.”

While this was happening, Marty, Justin and Jeff had gathered on the road. They were archery deer hunting and were almost a mile away from the incident, but could hear the commotion the wolves were making, and it was coming from Terry’s direction. “They were waiting for me to come out, because they didn’t want to come in,” Terry laughed. As soon as the wolves left, he waited for about 15 more minutes and walked out to the road. “We went right back in there to get that bear out of the woods, because those wolves would have ripped him apart that night. It was really exciting for all of us, because we only carried bows and we didn’t know what to expect.”

Terry showed the video of the event to Sam and Kathy. “I appreciate Sam and Kathy so much,” Terry said. “I call them up and bring a bear in almost any time. That’s a huge plus for a visitor from Wisc., to have people who are so generous. They’ve been real good friends.”

The video tape is in the process of being dubbed, and Terry will send a copy of it to the Voyageur Press, so that anyone interested in seeing it can check it out. Stay tuned for the notice in the ‘Along the Portage’ pages.

This article first appeared in the October 21, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.