September 22: Nathan Wildman & Darrin Pribbernow

Story Told by Eric Grover

Nathan Wildman & Darrin Pribbernow harvested 1 Black Bear, 2 Whitetail Bucks and 2 Doe between Sept 23-25, 2010

I was excited to hear earlier this year that I had finally drawn my first Wisconsin Black Bear tag. After applying for eight years, I now had a tag. My good friend, Bill Rands, from Ladysmith, Wisconsin, offered to have me in camp with the hopes to kill a North Woods Black Bear.

Knowing that I had plans to be in Ladysmith on September 22nd to help film two children with Catch-A-Dream, I decided to go to Ladysmith on September 10th and hunt a few days for myself. We had some great encounters with several young bears, but the wind conditions were wrong. I did not prevail. The big bears according to our Reconyx cameras were hitting the baits just after sunset.

On September 22nd, I arrived in camp again and was greeted by Bill Rands, his friends, Tote, Rico, and Jeremy. These are a few of the main members of the SHOT (Safe Hunters of Tomorrow) Program that have hosted this event for the past five years. Everybody was excited about the hunt. We hit the rifle range with Darrin and Nathan to sight the rifles in. Both Darrin and Nathan were excited for the hunt. Being confined to a wheelchair, these young men were restricted and would be using a Sip-n-Puff mechanism to fire the shot on their animals.

The first night out, Darrin and I set up a ground blind on a bear bait with approximately a 100 yard shot. It wasn’t five minutes after the 4 Wheeler left that our first bear arrived. It was a nice bear and caught us by surprise, but didn’t give us enough time to make a shot. As the evening closed with high anticipation, we had several bears hit the bait, but it was obvious we would have to be ready to make a quick shot because these bears were really skiddish. With 15 minutes left to hunt, another bear arrived. With the help of Tote, who was aiming the rifle, Darrin made an excellent shot. The first animal was down.

The second day in camp, bad weather rolled in. We were expected to get 4-5 inches of rain. We started the day chasing the bears with the bear hunters and dogs, but being confined to the wheelchair, the hunt for Nathan became too difficult to maneuver. The dogs were on the bear for 2-3 hours. The chase continued in a 200 acre cornfield and we could not get the bear to tree. Therefore, it made it impossible for Nathan to close the deal on this bear.

That night we set up again, both boys on ground blinds. Darrin had an exceptional night even with pouring rain. The deer were on the food plots. Just before dark, Darrin makes an unbelievable shot (150 yards) on a beautiful 135” whitetail. When we left the blind that night, we were standing in nearly 20 inches of water. By morning, the blind had shifted roughly 40 yards from where it had sat the night before.

The next morning, it was Nathan’s turn. Nathan was set up on a ground blind just outside an oak ridge where the acorns had been falling. A nice mature doe gave Nathan a perfect broadside quartering away shot and Nathan had his first tag filled.

That night, Darrin set up on another beautiful biologic field and it wasn’t 15 minutes into the hunt that he was able to take a mature doe with a great shot. Remarkable for Darrin, he had tagged three animals in a 47-hour period! All fair chase.

With just two tags left to fill for Nathan, we were able to extend the hunt for one morning with the hopes of Nathan being able to tag a black bear and a buck. And, sure enough, the weather had cleared to a beautiful bright, crisp morning. From a ground blind, Nathan puts the hammer down on his first whitetail buck.

All in all, this was an outstanding hunt. The boys had to battle a lot of adversity with the poor weather conditions we were provided. It was a great time watching and enjoying these kids and their families enjoy the moments of a hunt that they will cherish for years to come.

After having the opportunity for the past four years, meeting the different children that have come to Bill Rands’ place, it has been a continuing eye-opener and overwhelmingly humbling to witness so much courage from these kids. I again want to say Thank You to Bill Rands and the SHOT program and Reid Nevins with the Catch-A-Dream program for all their hard work to make this hunt a possibility for Nathan, Darrin and their families.

Special thanks go out to Jon Ecklor and Sean Graese for their help in filming these 5 hunts.