Nearly 20 years ago, my Uncle Jim Von Haden, his son Tim and I floated the Eau Claire River near Augusta, Wisconsin in hopes of getting to a secluded county-owned landlocked area to hunt Whitetail deer.
Our small aluminum boat contained our camping supplies, food, rifles, hunting gear, one old tarp and one bale of straw. Since I had the most experience of the three on the river, I was running the small 2-horse boat motor. About half way down the river on our trip, we drifted into a sand bar in shallow water and broke the lower unit off our boat motor. This break down greatly slowed down our overloaded barge and caused us to be still putting up camp after dark in temperatures just above zero!
We cut some poles and placed them over a hole that had been dug by a backhoe several years before and fastened our tarp to the poles. We then broke the bail of straw and put it over the tarp for insulation and covered the straw with branches to hold it in place.
We had a warm, sheltered place to sleep except for one thing: the bottom was shaped like a V and there was only one flat place right in the center. We forgot our shovel so we had no way of leveling off the bottom. Consequently, Tim and I had to sleep on the side hill. If you have never tried sleeping on a side hill, I do not recommend it unless you like hearing “get away from me” all night long.
We did manage to get a deer on that trip, but the details really are not that important as this year I have a new and better story for you.
This year my Uncle Jim decided to redo this camping and deer-hunting trip with grandson Josh Bronstad, who is in the ninth grade at Fall Creek. Jim did not feel comfortable traveling by water in a canoe with all the gear and his grandson, so instead he only used the canoe to cross the river. That meant they had to carry or drag the canoe with their hunting and camping gear and food for three days and miles through the woods to the river.
This area is not known for producing huge trophy bucks, as it is in an area where hunting pressure is pretty high. Jim was more concerned with showing his grandson an adventure of a lifetime and spending invaluable time together with him than he was looking for that “Big buck.” Deer hunting in Wisconsin has created a lot of hard feelings throughout the years, as many hunters are on a personal mission to get that big buck at any expense. Many long-term friendships have sadly ended in a quarrel over deer hunting.
Jim gave Josh a choice of the two stands they had picked out, and Jim was able to shoot two small bucks on opening day. Josh was not successful, so on the second day he chose the stand where Grandpa had been successful the previous day.
Now I have to interrupt this story at this point to give you a little more background information about Jim Von Haden. He is a very humble Christian man and one of my all-time favorite hunting and fishing partners. He is great around camp doing chores and helping out wherever he is needed, and he is very pleasant to be around. Jim is someone you can truly count on and a true friend forever; not one to ever say or do anything behind your back.
He gives 100% all the time but does get a little excited or a tad nervous from time to time when the hunting or fishing (turtles) excitement tends to overtake him. Nevertheless, he would be one of my first choices to take on an outdoor adventure of any kind. Many years ago my father, Don Perkovich, and Jim were fishing and bear hunting in Ontario, Canada. Dad told Jim to put the trash from the bacon they were frying in the barrel behind the camper. When Jim opened the door, there stood a black bear looking back at him! They ended up shooting the bear, but as dad put it, “ Jim got so excited about seeing that bear that if he had been in a tree stand he wo uld have probably fell out!”
On day two of their hunting trip a huge buck crossed the river near where there is a small island. Jim fired shot number one but missed. He shot and missed again. The adrenaline was starting to pump as the buck was now across the river, but Jim had a shell jammed in his gun! Just a few more feet and the huge whitetail would only be a memory. Then as the buck started up the riverbank, Jim pulled the jammed shell from his gun and raised it for one last shot at the biggest deer he had ever seen. As though God felt there was a need for some divine intervention, the deer stopped and looked at him. The next shot found its mark and the 12 pt. (19” spread) 180 lb. trophy fell backwards near the river.
A quick call on the walkie-talkie to Josh and they wrestled the huge buck into the canoe to haul it back to camp. Sons-in-law Mark Larson and Dave Bronstad arrived with wheelbarrows to help haul out the three deer and gear Sunday evening.
Jim has been the talk of the town as the picture of him and his deer has been all over Wisconsin and even on the local TV station WEAU-TV in Eau Claire. One local Fall Creek businessman who had a picture of Jim and his deer was questioned why he was showing a picture of some other guy’s deer. He replied, “Because this guy is so humble I have to brag for him!” Jim’s only regret was that his grandson Josh hadn’t got the deer; “I couldn’t have done it without him!” See you next week!
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