Tradition continues at Foster’s End deer hunting campOne of the oldest deer hunting traditions in Wisconsin continues at Foster’s End, a camp at the end of Snuss Boulevard at the south end of Mason Lake near the Flambeau River.
By: Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist, River Falls Journal
One of the oldest deer hunting traditions in Wisconsin continues at Foster’s End, a camp at the end of Snuss Boulevard at the south end of Mason Lake near the Flambeau River.
In the early 1920s, the Foster brothers Earl, Art, Joel, Harry, Bert and cousin Ken White from River Falls started going up to the Flambeau country to hunt. It took them a day or two to get there over bad roads. They camped in tents for weeks at a time, hunting deer, bear, grouse and ducks.
They bought a logged-over parcel at the south end of Mason Lake for back taxes. Art Foster and Fred Chinnock built a dugout cabin of tamarack logs with a tin roof overlooking Mason Lake. Art Foster homesteaded there with his family for a few years before moving to Alaska.
The Hines Lumber Company was still logging hemlock trees in the area in the 1930s. It had a network of narrow gage rail lines to move logs from along the Flambeau River to its big camp near Draper. The landscape around Foster’s End was heavily logged and burned repeatedly. Grassy openings, called “slashings,” were dotted with stumps of the big white pines and hemlock that once covered the area.
Since the 1930s much of the area around Foster’s End has been purchased by the state and is now the Flambeau State Forest. Today the forest is a mix of hemlock groves, sugar maple, yellow birch and white ash on the ridges, and cedar swamp, balsam thickets, and tamarack bogs in the low areas. Few of the slashings remain open, slowly growing in with thornapple, poplar and hazel brush.
A magnificent stand of old white pines remains at the site of Schreimer’s logging camp on a bend in the Flambeau River to the south of Foster’s End. The terrain is hilly with glacial kettles, knobs, lakes, bogs and Mason Creek flowing through a deep ravine to the Flambeau River.
The ground is rough with tree-throw holes and dirt piles. Blowdowns in the early 1980s and on Labor Day 2002 left trees piled like jackstraws on the ground. Ski trails bulldozed into the area south of Foster’s End have made dragging deer out much easier. Some selective logging has recently opened up some areas which are growing up in “dog hair” maple and poplar saplings.
The deer herd in the Flambeau State Forest has varied greatly over the years, influenced by the changing forest, the return of wolves and by hunting pressure. Now that the forest is more mature, deer density is fairly low compared to deer densities in the farmland and woodlots around River Falls. The hilly terrain, dense balsam thickets, cedar swamps and remote character of the Flambeau River area makes the hunting challenging.
Four generations of men from River Falls have hunted at Foster’s End including members of the Foster, Kordesky, Pechacek, Chinnock, White, Phillips, Stots, Cudd, Kulstad, Zinder and Baker families.
The late Bruce Foster started hunting at Foster’s end as a boy in the 1940s. He started a hunting camp log as a teenager, interviewed the older hunters, wrote narratives about the annual deer hunts, and assembled log books with photos from as early as the 1920s.
Visitors at Foster’s End continue to maintain the camp log books. It’s fun to look over the photos and stories from previous years. A Milwaukee Journal article in the log book from 1953 has a photo of some River Falls hunters in the dugout cabin playing cards with a skunk drinking whiskey from a dish at their feet. The headline reads, “Drunk as a skunk in the deer hunting cabin.”
The original dugout cabin has been fixed up and is still used as a bunkhouse. In 1968, the Fosters bought a cabin from a small resort at the outlet of Mason Lake and moved it to the camp, complete down to the silverware. In 1978 the Joel Foster family corporation was formed and assumed ownership of Foster’s End. Today there are about 35 stockholders in the corporation, related by blood or marriage to Judge Joel Foster, founder of River Falls.
The “new” log cabin served as the main lodge for many years until it burned down accidentally in 2005. Bruce Foster of River Falls, Mike Foster and his son Jason Foster of Ridgeland along with many helping hands built a big new cabin at Foster’s End in 2006.
Hunting at Foster’s End just isn’t the same without Bruce Foster. Bruce showed me around the woods south of Foster’s End before deer hunting in 1979, and I have hunted there every year since. Bruce kept the deer hunting tradition going with enthusiasm. He was our hunting mentor and fountain of foolishness.
Foster’s End became known as the Behavior Modification Center. An ongoing series of practical jokes and visits with the Steenberg family deer camp at Oxbo continues, including a gift-wrapped outhouse. Recent traditions include ham with redeye gravy by camp bull cook Bill Smith, rib eye steaks cooked by Ken Hensel over a maple fire, and cutting and packing deer in my shop at home.
This year, Bill Smith, Jesse Smith, Dennis Anderson and Ken Hensel of River Falls, John Wilcox of Madison, Dave Jensen of El Paso, Ken Schreiber of Osseo, chef Tom Chenoweth of Shoreview Minn., Mike Foster of Ridgeland, and I hunted at Foster’s End.
Bruce Foster’s nephew, Master Sergeant Ed Hall, came up from his army post in Georgia to hunt with us again.
Hunting conditions were pretty good with a dusting of snow. On opening day we got five deer. Bill Smith shot a big doe close to the cabin. We hauled three deer in a garden cart and dragged one a long ways along the old Flambeau River railroad grade back to the cabin. Hensel cooked steaks and we celebrated the hunt. Friday we had a marathon session to process the deer in my shop. Now we have plenty of venison in the freezer.
Bruce Foster was there with us in spirit, beaming about the continuing deer hunting tradition at Foster’s End.
Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.