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May 23, 2018

2/9/2018 7:25:00 AM
Travelings trails less traveled
Sacred locations, part two
"Buckshot" Anderson

In last week's column, I introduced readers to my all-time favorite outdoor location, known locally as the Minnow Pond Swamp. This typical northern Wisconsin wetland occupies 20 acres and was part of a 40-acre parcel my parent's purchased in 1938. This treasure of nature has continued to be owned and enjoyed by my family to the present.

My first excursion into the swamp's mysterious - and to a nine-year-old, its foreboding - interior in 1946, only heightened my desire and curiosity to explore the entire 20-acres. So, when Dad began allowing me to begin hunting grouse and hares solo in the fall of 1947, exploring our Minnow Pond Swamp and becoming a hunter became my major objective!

Actually, I did not hunt solo, as my constant companion was a black, male Cocker spaniel named Pat that loved to hunt and explore as much as I did. With Pat's able assistance I was frequently able to bag a few grouse and hares with my single shot .410 Stevens shotgun.

I never really got "lost" in the swamp, but I did get "turned around" quite a few times. I soon learned that by climbing a tree and looking at the horizon I could easily see the tall trees on the high ridge that almost circled the swamp and then know which way I needed to go to get back to high ground.

Pat and I found several places we could cross the small spring creek that flows eastward out of the swamp without getting wet, or simply follow it to Dad's minnow ponds and the rustic road that led back to our resort.

Another favored landmark within the depths of the swamp was a giant, ancient white pine that towered over all the other trees. Another highly impressive feature within the swamp were the numerous old-growth white cedar trees, many of which were over two-feet in diameter at the stump. Surprisingly, it was one of those huge cedar trees that allowed me to bag a nice six-point buck in 1957!

I was one of three drivers during the November gun season and I was nearly run over by a doe and buck during their haste to exit the swamp. The doe actually jumped over my head and seemed not to notice me, but her boyfriend did see me while he was in mid-leap. When he turned his head to gaze at me, he ran smack into a huge cedar giving me time to raise my rifle and get off a fatal shot at a range of five yards!

During my high school years, (1951-55) the spring system within the swamp was my primary trapping area. The small stream was a highway for traveling muskrats, mink, raccoons, and - an occasional skunk!

By the time I was 18 I knew every tree and shrub in the swamp by their first name.

Beginning in the fall of 1955 and continuing until the summer of 1966, I was unable to spend much time visiting my most favored sacred place. Four years of college, getting married, helping to produce two children and a teaching career during the school terms in Central Florida from 1960-66, robbed me of having time to keep abreast of the changes taking place in my favorite outdoor location. But all that changed in June of 1966 when Peggy, our two kids and I returned to St. Germain on a permanent basis.

Wifee Poo and I purchased my parent's Vilas County property in 1967, which allowed me to re-acquaint myself with my old friend. Then, in the spring of 1972, we decided to rejuvenate Dad's old minnow ponds and convert them to suitable ponds to raise trout.

I was successful in obtaining a permit from the DNR to dredge out and deepen the original minnow pond area, plus create two additional ponds in two other nearby springs. We hired a dragline operator who successfully completed the project. Next, an electrician ran an electric line over a quarter mile from our resort to the new ponds, and I built a small concession stand at the entrance to the pond complex. When all the connecting underground culverts and above ground stream-flow ditches were completed, a truckload of small rainbow trout arrived from the Watersmeet, Mich., trout hatchery. Daily feedings caused the trout to grow rapidly and by the spring of 1973 the Andersons were in the business of raising and selling trout. Local artist, Sue Pucci, created a beautiful, very large, "Trout Fishing" sign that was erected on Highway C, directing wanna-be trout anglers to our new ponds.

Our son, Chris, became the sole employee at the pond, greeting arriving visitors, demonstrating how to easily catch a mess of delicious trout, cleaning their catch, selling them goodies from the concession stand and taking their money.

We also sold fresh, cleaned trout to several area supper clubs, such as, Blink Bonnie, Ed Gabe's Lost Lake Resort and Froelich's Sayner Lodge, which added a delicious local entree to their menus.

For the next three years our "trout project" ran very smoothly, but there were unforeseen problems looming on the horizon.

During the winter of 1975-76 a family of otters discovered our ponds and killed nearly all our trout. I was a bit beyond horrified to discover dozens and dozens of 16- to 18-inch trout lying on the surface of the ice covered ponds, each one only bit just behind its head. For folks who think wild creatures only kill things to eat - think again.

That disaster prompted us to close down our trout raising facility and allow Ma Nature to reclaim the ponds, which she quickly did. Today, the area looks completely natural, and small brook trout, minnows, muskrats and a host of other wild critters own the ponds and the swamp.

Over the ensuing decades, the swamp continued to allow family members and friends to enjoy harvesting the bounty it provided. I logged off most of the old growth cedar, as those old trees were dying of old age, just as people do. Winter outings with our beagles continued to provide hasenpfeffer dinners, through the decade of the '90s. My personal fully enclosed deer stand, nestled in a stand of balsam trees next to the small stream is now abandoned, but remains as a reminder of the numerous deer I harvested there, including my personal best buck in 2010.

I no longer fish for those tasty brook trout, but can still admire one mounted specimen that somehow grew to a highly respectable size before it fell pray to my baited hook in 1976.

My frequent wanderings, with my dog or dogs, through the old swamp allow me to mentally relive the past, which for an old man, is a wonderful experience!

Buckshot may be reached at: buckshotanderson@yahoo.com.

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