Badgerland Bowhunters is the name of my father’s hunting crew. 38 members strong. My old man tells me he and a few others are friends from so far back they used to ride their bicycles to go hunting together because none of them had their driver’s license yet. All 38 are family, even though not by blood. They’ve hunted together for decades. Always hunting the same sacred land.
The hunting crew is a dedicated band of brothers; A group of men my brother and I revered as heroes while growing up. Heroes unlike those in comic books, these men are masters of the woods. They could do anything it seemed! Undeterred by the elements they hunted successfully in all conditions. Wind, rain, snow, mud, ice, sleet, darkness – nothing rattles them. These are the kind of men little boys aspire to become.
Living in a time before camouflage was easily purchased at a local sporting goods store they used to construct their own style of superhero costumes. They assembled homemade camouflage clothing patched together to make them invisible in the forest. They wore lucky hats and old leather boots. The apparel each member created became his own personalized uniform.
Most of the hunting crew grew up in the Coulee Region area of Western Wisconsin. Time would eventually pull them each in different directions but no matter what the distance though at least 20 crew members would make the trip to Western Wisconsin every year to meet up with the rest of the boys. Long before the use of cell phones, CB radio was the way this crew communicated with one another as they entered within range of their hunting lands. They called each other not by common names, but rather by nicknames obtained by some great feat or unique characteristic they might have possessed. Big Elk, The Old Guy, Brown Bandit, County Boy, Legs, and Head Shot were a few secret names used by this close-knit crew.
Their weapon of choice was the bow and arrow. Each weapon was customized and each crew member had honed his skills to deadly accuracy. I truly believe in my heart that I learned how to hunt from the best bow and arrow hunters in the world. I learned lessons from each one of them (sometimes without them knowing) by watching them in action. I always welcomed their advice and when I hunt nowadays I can hear them teaching me… guiding me… as I draw my bow.
They taught me how to walk in the woods – slowly and silently. They taught me how to use the wind, rain, and other elements to move through the woods undetected. They taught me how to use a compass (a skill slowly fading into history with the emergence of GPS). They taught me how to track game, climb and descend steep hills, and cross swamps. They taught me how to calm my mind and body when preparing to take a shot. I think most importantly they taught me how to find peace and comfort in the middle of the woods under any circumstances.
Pushing drives with my father’s hunting crew will forever own a special piece of my heart. Each year as a kid I waited and dreamed of those cold early mornings when I would get the chance to test my skills and prove my manhood. I feel extremely grateful to have been part of this generation of old-school hunters.
My dad is 72 now. Rarely do I hear him bring up the numerous Pope and Young Club or Boone and Crockett Club whitetails nabbed by the crew when I listen to him tell stories these days. Instead, his stories focus on being in the hunt with the crew (pushing those late season drives) and fondly reminiscing about spending quality time with his hunting brothers. More and more he expresses his sincere gratitude for the wonderful relationships among friends and family that were forged through hunting.
Ten crew members have now passed on. Those that remain — still hunt. A few (including my Dad) still make the trek to Western Wisconsin to hunt that sacred land. Those crew members not there physically are most certainly there in spirit.
Great hunters, wonderful teachers, and even better friends. They were and will forever be the original Badgerland Bowhunters.
Lifelong Relationships Built in the Hunt by Scott Christopherson.
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