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September 23: Tanya Poppe, Dakota Moore

Story by: Eric Grover

Catch-A-Dream and the SHOT (Safe Hunters of Tomorrow) Program joined forces to create a magical hunt/hunting camp experience that will be remembered by many for years to come. The host of this hunt was Bill Rands. He offers his north woods cabin and land for many of the local hunters and families to join in together on another three day hunt. This year we have Tanya and Dakota who have both been chosen and awarded a bear tag and two whitetail tags for either sex, thanks to Wisconsin DNR Warden, Jeremy Peery, who along with Rick Nash and many of the local hunters, have formed the SHOT (Safe Hunters of Tomorrow) Program.

The first night on stand, Tanya is set up with an Elevated Solution tree stand created by Tony Benik and Bill Rands. This gives her the true experience of hunting out of a tree stand. At a young age, Tanya was diagnosed with a brain tumor and during her surgery, she unfortunately had a stroke. Because Tanya is not able to actually pull the trigger, the rifle was also modified with a sip and puff trigger mechanism so that Tanya could activate the trigger. With a rifle mounted to a tri-pod and modified with a 7 inch LCD screen mounted above the scope so that she and her uncle can put the crosshairs on a true 150 class northern whitetail.

It was quite the experience to be in the same tree overlooking Tanya and her uncle knowing that everything would have to come together for Tanya to be able to harvest an animal. As the evening grew close to darkness, with several doe and a small buck on the food plot, a large 10-pointer entered the field. This was a buck that Bill Rands had many photos of. He had nicknamed him Crab Claw and estimated him to be 150+ inches and 5 ½ years old. It didn’t take long for Tanya’s uncle Mike to get the crosshairs on this giant. Mike gave Tanya the o.k. and Tanya set off the trigger by giving a quick suck on the tube. Crab Claw was full frame and rolled to his back. He was down. I turned the camera to Tanya for her reaction thinking that Crab Claw was down for the count. What I didn’t realize was Crab Claw had been knocked off his feet with a great shot, but had managed to get up and make his way off the food plot. With all the excitement, we decided to view the shot on TV and made a decision to go after Crab Claw in the morning.

The next morning brought all kinds of anticipation. Several local hunteres started early that morning to track Crab Claw. Meanwhile, our 11 year old, Dakota, went on stand and harvested his first animal of the day – a mature doe. After Dakota’s morning hunt, we all met up with the local bear hunters and their dogs to try and find a bear. It wasn’t long into the hunt, after chasing a coyote and a raccoon that the dogs were on a good bear. This bear was a tough one and would not stay treed. The hunters decided the only way to stay on this bear with their dogs would mean Dakota would have to somehow get the bear with a ground shot. We saw the bear cross a gravel road and made a plan to try and stalk up on the bear while the dogs had it bayed up in hopes to get a good shot. This is where it got kind of hairy! One bear hunter, DNR Warden, Dakota and myself, by foot, with GPS in hand, went into a large 100 acres or more cornfield with the hopes that we could get close enough for Dakota to make the killing shot. Several times we had the bear within range, less than 15 yards, and he would wind us and bust out. It was about our fifth stalk when we found ourselves less than 10 yards from the 250 lb. black bear. Jeremy, the DNR Warden, lined Dakota up with the rifle and Dakota laid the bear down. It was truly unbelievable that we were sneaking up on this bear surrounded by cornstalks with dogs barking everywhere around the bear. I am sure that when that gunshot went off, all the others that had put so much into that hunt were jumping for joy. It was truly a moment of excitement. This was a day that we will call Dakota’s Triple Play because before the day was over, just three hours later, Dakota shoots a beautiful 8 point buck and fills all three of his tags in one day!

Back to Crab Claw: The hunters that were tracking Crab Claw all day had no blood after 200 yards. Late in the day, they were able to kick Crab Claw out of his bed and it seemed that he was in good shape. That night Tanya went on stand and harvested her first doe of the hunt. The next day, we continued to look for Crab Claw and again after many hours of searching, they finally concluded that if Crab Claw was to die, it was going to take more time. On the third evening, Tanya set up on the same stand that she had shot Crab Claw out of, and she took a beautiful 8-point buck. This time the buck stayed down and Tanya had accomplished her goal of harvesting a nice Wisconsin whitetail buck.
Bill Rands and the guys are still determined to get Crab Claw. They have spent countless hours looking with hopes that he will either show up on another food plot or they will find him before the mighty northern wolf does.

It is truly rewarding to see so many volunteers come together to help Tanya and Dakota have a hunt of a lifetime. It is truly magical!

A Big Thank You goes out to Curt Drexler with Catch-A-Dream for being the Catch-A-Dream host and Sean Graese for all is help filming this hunt.