My name is Elizabeth Puishis and I am 14 yrs old.
I started my archery experience back in seventh grade at De Pere Middle School, when one of my teachers and one of five archery coaches, Mr. Bootz, was talking about the clubs at school and archery was one of them. It sparked my interest and I love the outdoors, so I asked about it and joined the Archery Club. That’s when I meet two more archery coaches, Matt Secora and Mark Macco, these two are the ones who mentored me through this Learn to Hunt Bear Archery program.
With the support of my family I continued shooting in archery. I continually got better and throughout my middle school, I went to tournaments: local, state, nationals and world. Then, in May of eighth grade, I was given the chance to apply for this archery bear hunt, thru a Learn to Hunt program setup by the state DNR. I had to write an essay about why I thought that I should be chosen. At the 2015 Nationals, in Kentucky, I found out I was chosen, along with two other girls. I believe we were the only ones using a bow to hunt bear in this program.
About one week later, we started practices for this hunt. I would practice every week at home shooting and one day a week I would practice with, coaches Matt Secora and Mark Macco, using a tree stand and shooting our bows. We also had to go and learn to bait our sites, we would walk in the woods to our bait sites and give the bears some, sweet treats, pizza crust, etc. There were also trail cams setup so we could see what was coming in.
Twelve weeks later, on Friday August 14th, we attended an instructional class, where we met the DNR in Vilas County and a bear biologist. After the class, we were able to go start our hunt. We got out in the woods at about 3pm, we then started climbing the tree, and we got situated at about 4pm. Matt, my mentor, and I were closely watching the bait and the surroundings. A little over and hour later, while enjoying the small squirrel show, I heard a much bigger crunch in the leaves and that squirrel at the bait site started to act different, I looked to my left and saw a black bear. I then informed my coach, Matt, who told me to grab my bow, the bear entered the bait then walked away not giving me a shot but then it came back. Coach Matt then guided me thru the shot, when I should stand, draw back and then that is when the bear gave me the shot.
We watched and heard it run off, we could see it was a good shot. Matt and I talked about the shot, we were so excited and my heart was pounding. We text my family with the good news and waited in the tree for a bit and then started to get down. We walked over to the bait site and could see a good blood trail. We waited for the other hunter to finish her hunt and we as a group went to track my bear. We didn’t get the chance to start tracking until it was about 9pm and tracked the blood for about 80 yards and there it was, my bear. We then took it back to the cabin and started the process of field dressing and processing it and didn’t finish until about 12:30am.
It was an awesome experience that I will never forget. Like my coach Matt said, we went through, twelve weeks of practice, helped with 5 weeks of baiting and 1 hour and 14 minutes in the stand for the best shot and experience a girl could ask for. I can’t thank those involved in this program enough for everything they did to help me with this experience, my coaches, parents, the Vilas County DNR, and several others. It is truly a great program to be able to participate in and I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity.