Bing Taege waited quite a few years for a hunting camp of his own. It was something Taege wanted for himself, his father, his sons and their sons. A camp to preserve the memories of the past and to forge some for the future.
When the Taeges and friends got to build that camp, its name was already known. That name is Bud's Camp, in honor of Taege's late father.
"It all started with my grandfather, who taught my dad how to deer hunt. They had a camp over on the Flambeau River," Taege said.
Taege said he was a teenager when he started hunting deer with his dad, who had fond memories of that Flambeau River camp.
"He was a pharmacist, so he didn't have a lot of time off," Taege recalled. "We would just go out in the woods in McNaughton.
"He was always a little disappointed because it wasn't like the Flambeau River and the camp. He said some day, when he could afford it, he was going to buy some land and build his deer camp. He never got the opportunity to do that.
"When he was dying I said to him, 'Dad ... if I ever can afford it, I'm going to have a deer camp and we're going to call it Bud's Camp.' And I did."
Twenty-some years ago, Taege was still hunting deer in those McNaughton woods when an opportunity arose.
"A friend of mine, Jerry Neis, said, 'Why don't you come out in Starks,'" Taege said. Neis had 150 acres.
Neis told Taege that he and his boys could only cover about a third of the property, and suggested that Taege come hunt there with his two sons, Jason and Jeff. They did just that.
"About 15 years or so we hunted on Jerry's land. He and his boys patrolling the north third and my boys and I patrolling the bottom third, and the middle we called the sanctuary," Taege said.
Of course, the thought of Bud's Camp was still in mind.
"As I succeeded in business, I thought maybe I could afford some land," Taege said. "I would often take a walk on some land right next to Jerry's land, and I always thought, 'Boy, is this a nice piece of property.'"
The property that Taege enjoyed was owned by Consolidated Papers. He asked if they were interested in selling it. Consolidated would not sell the property outright, but would consider trading for another piece of property acre-for-acre. The piece Taege wanted was 200 acres.
For two years, Taege searched for a tradeable piece of property. It was difficult finding 200 acres of land that Consolidated was interested in. After again talking to Consolidated and getting some suggestions, the search was expanded to other areas.
Taege would eventually find 600 acres for sale in Ashland, and found he would be able to purchase 200 of those acres at a very good price. Consolidated agreed to the trade.
"I actually owned the land up in Ashland for one day," Taege said.
Soon, he owned the piece of land he really wanted. The right piece in the right location.
"Most of it is contiguous with Jerry's land, so it's like one big chunk of land," Taege noted.
The wild piece of land has a mix of timber, small openings and swamp. It's also close to a large farming operation.
"As a hunter, you know this is what you want to be by," Taege said.
Taege recalled the years before he purchased the land - the years leading up to Bud's Camp.
"Every morning at four o'clock we'd drive out and park and walk into our deer stands, and at noon we'd walk to the cars and have lunch and listen to the Badgers and the Packers. That's basically how we hunted. And we were extremely successful."
Taege said they hunt a little differently now than they did then.
"The thing we did then that we don't do now is - if it was a legal buck, it got shot - and now we are eights-or-better and we manage the land for deer - for not only quantity, but quality."
The land they manage now has that central location - the camp.
Taege said the camp started with a base group of 10, and currently has close to the same group. The camp hosts nine to eleven hunters per season. Its first year was 2000.
The current crew includes Bing Taege, his sons Jeff and Jason, his grandson Will, Taege's brother-in-law Rich Boersma and his son Josh, Jerry Neis and his sons Steve and Brian, and Roger Robbins.
The crew bunks in a very nice cabin.
"When I got the property the next thing we thought was, 'Let's build a cabin.' So, the big search was on for the right location for the cabin," Taege said.
"We decided that by the pond was an obvious good location," Taege said. That pond is named "Ellie's Pond" after Taege's wife (perhaps one builds "time at camp" equity with such flattery).
With Ellie's Pond selected as the site, it was time to get going on the cabin that would be Bud's Camp.
"We thought it would be most fun to build it by ourselves," Taege said. "We're pharmacists and fishermen, and not carpenters, but we have a friend that was a carpenter."
That carpenter friend agreed to supervise the work. Taege said a number of other friends also helped on the project. They eventually built a sturdy and comfortable cabin.
"There's a lot of self-satisfaction there," Taege said.
"We did almost all the work and I scrounged almost all the windows, the doors, some of the chairs ... I scrounged from friends, people remodeling. I had people that knew I was looking for stuff and they'd call me."
Taege said it took about a year to build the cabin. It's more than satisfactory.
Inside, long beams are peeled spruce that came from the property. A table-top was crafted by Taege's brother-in-law - its base was found on a roadside.
The hearth for the wood stove was made by a couple of Taege's duck hunting friends, and features deer hoof prints in the concrete beneath. Behind the stove, a heart-shaped stone bears Bing and Ellie's names. A friend that knows calligraphy did the names.
The wood stove is the cabin's sole heat source. A Honda generator provides a few electrical comforts.
The kitchen has cupboards and counter that were salvaged. It also boasts a propane fridge and cook stove. The sturdy bunks the crew built are separate from the kitchen and relaxing areas in bedrooms and a loft. The camp has 10 bunks.
Upon entering Bud's Camp one is greeted by rustic decor and the racks of many eight-point-or-better Northwoods bucks. Successful slayers of eight-pointers-plus are featured in pictures on the walls.
"We average 3.6 eight-point bucks per year. I think we got five one time ... never fewer than two over the 13-year period," Taege said.
A turkey trophy hangs among them - a fan, along with two 10-inch beards. Taege's grandson Will, now 14, took the double bearded turkey on the property last spring.
"I guided him, so I'm kind of proud of that," Taege said. Will's father, Jeff, mounted the fan and beards.
"I have the two grandsons here in Rhinelander, Jeff's boys, and they're very indoctrinated to the outdoors," Taege said.
He added that Will is a successful deer hunter and, with some deer under his belt, now more than embraces the eight-point rule.
"We've got him brain-washed into our way of thinking," Taege said with a chuckle.
Taege's grandsons, sons of his sons Jeff and Jason, will experience more of the camp life this coming year. The younger boys will be sitting with father or grandfather to observe and learn.
On another wall at the camp, a map of the area sports push-pins that mark the spots where eight-point or better bucks were killed.
Taege said, though they have the eight-point rule, he encourages hunters to take does for venison and the rule is waived altogether for young hunters pursuing their first buck.
For the others, the eight-point rule has a little wiggle-room, but not much.
"Every once in a while we get a slick-six," Taege said. A slick-six is a six-pointer with no brow tines.
Taege described his son, Jeff, who he considers to be their best hunter, as "kind of our hunting boss out here," and said Jeff gave shooting slick-sixes the OK if they have no brow tines.
Other shooters of sub-eight-pointers endure a harsh punishment.
"A guy who shoots a deer that isn't an eight has to wear a pink dress the Friday of the next year," Taege said. "We're all here and we all have a few beers in us. It's the first night, and he has to walk around in a pink dress."
An old .38 with an octagonal barrel hangs in a special place on the wall at Bud's camp. It was Bud's gun. The gun is displayed beneath an old whitetail head. Taege's grandfather took the buck.
"Grandpa Bill was quite an old hunter ... he was a real outdoorsman, and he influenced my father big-time," he said.
The head mount is a recent find.
"A year ago I had a family reunion, and one of my cousins said, 'I hear you have a deer camp. You know, in my attic of my garage I have a buck that grandpa Bill shot. Would you like it?' ... It fit into the memories of the cabin," Taege said.
Managing the land
Taege said though they target eight-pointers and larger, he generally has no qualms with hunters that do otherwise.
"I don't blame the guy that doesn't have what I have for shooting the first spike that comes along. The guy sitting out, like I did, in McNaughton, he sees that spike, he shoots it. If he doesn't, the next guy will," he said.
Taege said they manage the forest on their land to support deer and other wildlife. Some oaks were planted, though they've been slow to grow in the dry conditions the Northwoods has had over a number of years. Other practices are yielding good results.
Some timber cuts are now about five years old and they're thick with young aspen.
"They've come in beautifully along with balsam. And of course the deer and the grouse and the turkeys all love it," Taege said. Taege worked with a forester and said he is thankful for the sound advice he received.
There are also several food plots on the property. Plants such as turnips, brassica and clover attract deer and other wildlife.
Taege said they've been seeing the results of the efforts on the land that they love. Hunters frequently see a number of young bucks.
"I can't wait to see what they'll look like next year," he added.
Taege said Bud's Camp and the land is a year-round attraction.
"The families all love the cabin," he said. "Everybody comes back here various times of the year, including the winter, to cross-country ski, snowshoe and just hike around. Spring and fall we're back here all the time building food-plots, managing. Making wood."
Ellie's Pond provides not only a nice spot for the cabin, but some good duck action as well.
Taege is an avid pursuer of waterfowl, and has long been involved with Ducks Unlimited, including serving as state chairman. His retriever, Bucky - yes, named after the Badger's mascot - is a faithful and frequent companion.
Of course, come deer season, the hunting crew will be ensconced in Bud's Camp. In the cabin that's seeing just its 13th season, but holds the memories of generations.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce