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Tyson's bear hunt, by Joe Hopfensperger

Our son Tyson was invited to Kippenberg Creek Kids, which is a non profit organization that provides outdoor recreation for terminally ill and disabled children and their families, to hunt bear. Tyson has cerebral palsy.  We have been to Kippenberg Creek last year to go fishing, and then again to hunt deer.
Larry Beyer is the president of Kippenberg Creek Kids, and has one of the biggest hearts for kids I have ever seen. You could tell after our first visit that Larry and Tyson had some sort of a bond.
Larry contacted us around January of this year and asked if Tyson would be interested in going bear hunting. Needless to say, Tyson was very exited about the idea. The only problem was that Tyson was having surgery in February and we were not sure how long his recovery would take. We kept in contact with Larry, and when we knew for sure Tyson could participate in the hunt, Larry took care of the rest.
We arrived on Friday afternoon, 9/15/2006, and met Steve and his son Brent who were there for a bear hunt too. A short time later Larry and his wife Lorri were there to greet us. They always make you feel welcome. Of course shortly after the small talk, Larry and Tyson started picking on each other like they always do. Tyson just loves it when Larry picks on him, because he can give it right back.
A short time later we met Bill Prening Sr. and his son Bill Prening Jr. They are the wonder full people that donated the bear tag for Tyson. They are both experienced bear hunters, but have never hunted bear using dogs, and wanted to see how it was done and they wanted to meet Tyson.
The stories were fast and furious that evening. You could tell that Tyson was getting nervous and excited about going on the hunt the nest day.
4:30am came around really quickly. Normally Tyson is not the easiest person to get going in the morning, but not today. He woke up and got himself ready to go in record time, had a quick bite to eat and said "are we ready to go yet."
When we headed outside just before day break, we met a lot of guys that were waiting for us. I know that I cannot remember all of their names, but they were there to help Tyson get his bear. We all loaded up in trucks and headed out to a farm where they had permission to hunt, that wasn't too far from the lodge. The first truck stopped and let the farmer know we were going to be out in his field today, then our convoy mover out to a huge corn field, this is where we started our first bear hunt.
We parked our trucks, and a few guys got a couple of their dogs ready to go. They walked to the far end of the field looking for some fresh bear tracks, and they found them. The chase was on. You could hear the dogs were hot on the trail of something. Larry told me you can tell by the way they bark if they are close to a bear or not. I also learned that the dog owners could tell which dog was theirs just by their bark. I was very impressed. These men must spend a lot of time with their dogs.

Indeed we did have a bear on the run. Larry, Tyson, and I headed out to the next cross road to see if we could tell where the bear was by listening for the dogs. When we got to a spot on the road that Larry thought the bear might cross, we stopped and listened. We could hear the dogs, they sounded close but it was hard to tell in the thick woods. We were not there more then five minutes, when Larry said it sounded like the dogs were heading straight for us, he was right. Here came out this beautiful big black bear and the two dogs were in hot pursuit. Tysons' eyes were wide open. He said "did you see that Dad, my heart is just pounding." I put my hand on his chest and he was right, his heart was racing like a freight train. The bear was across the road in about four leaps it seemed. Larry even was excited and said that was a nice bear. The rest of the guys came there about two minutes after the bear crossed the road. They got out two or three more dogs and turned them loose to join in on the chase.
We monitored the dogs through tracking collars and radios. We got to the next spot that we thought the bear might cross and tried to get Tyson to an area for him to get a shot at it. Bill Jr. was with us and was very helpful with Tyson, when we needed to move farther ahead, Bill Jr picked Tyson up over his shoulder and away he ran. Unfortunately the bear would not come where we thought it would.
The chase continued the rest of the day, through the rain and lightning, through swamps and thickets and everywhere else that bear could run. It was not going to get up into a tree like we had hoped for. Tyson was carried around by several different people and on a four-wheeler, in hopes that we could get him into a spot for him to get a shot. He saw the bear three times, but never long enough to get set up for a good shot.
Around 3:00 in the afternoon we started picking up dogs that were exhausted from the chase, and wounded from the bear. By 5:30 we found the last dog. In all, five dogs were injured by the bear. One needed to be taken to the vet to get her wounds taken care of.
That evening the B.S. was really thick. Even Tyson was telling his stories of the day's hunt. He was a little concerned about not being able to hunt the next day due to a lack of dogs, but the crew said they knew that they would be more than able to get their dogs ready for tomorrow.  Tyson had a smile from ear to ear when he heard that.
Through the evenings conversations, I learned that there was much more to this hunt than just a bear for Tyson. Bill Sr. told us about his son, Marine Cpl. Brian Prening, and how he died in a fire fight in Iraq on Nov. 12, 2004, and how Brian too was an avid bear hunter along with his father Bill Sr. and his twin brother Bill Jr. Bill stated that this all started with a simple question to the Bear Hunter Association about what would happen with the preference points that Brian had earned toward his next bear hunt. With there help, and help from other families that had the same question, a bill was proposed and passed, and was the first bill that was signed into law this Jan. by Gov. Jim Doyle. The new law allowed the family of a deceased person to transfer the persons' points to a child. Tyson was the first beneficiary of this new law. Before this evening, I knew bits and pieces, and now I had a better understanding of how this all fit together.
The next morning we were woken from the smell of a breakfast fit for a king, prepared by Lorri. We all ate good and talked smart. Larry told Tyson, he had better eat well so he has the strength to drag his bear out of the woods today. That was all Tyson needed to get him revved up for the day.
After breakfast, we all met by another corn field where a bear was spotted earlier. The guys checked out the tracks to see if this bear was something we wanted to go after. We didn't want a cub, nor did we want a monster that we would end up chasing all day and not be able to tree. The decision was made that this might be just the size we were looking for. The dogs were readied and the chase began.

Again, Tyson and I rode with Larry, and we headed out to the other side of the woods to listen for the dogs. Again Tyson was bouncing around in the truck like popcorn as we rode down these trails. We would stop every so often and try to get a fix on the dogs. It was like music to our ears to hear the dogs barking and howling. For about a half hour or so kept this up, till over the radio we herd "The bear is treed, get Tyson in here." Tyson was thrilled. We got as close as we could with a vehicle, then Bill Jr. grabbed Tyson and over his shoulder he went, and through the woods. It was maybe a quarter mile or so, and there in the tree was the bear with the dogs dancing around it. Tyson was put back down in a spot that looked like he could get a good shot at the bear, but he never got the chance. The bear decided it was too crowded and down the tree it came despite the dogs. It ran within 15 feet of Tyson and the dogs were hot on it again. The look on Tyson' face was priceless. I am not sure if he was in awe of seeing the bear, scared because it was so close, or just disappointed that bear was on the run again.
We were all disappointed but we needed to get back after the bear. We took turns carrying Tyson back out to the truck. The guys that were out by the other trucks saw the bear and where it was heading. We just needed the dogs to tree it again.
As luck would have it, it wasn't fifteen minutes later the dogs had the bear in a tree again, this time it was right on a snowmobile trail where we could drive Tyson in on a four wheeler. It seemed like we all got there in about a minute or so. The bear was high in the tree, and it was tired from the chase. Tyson was very nervous. Larry got Tyson set up for the shot, using Bill Jr. as a rest for him. With the help from Larry and Bill Jr., Tyson got his chance. He fired and hit the bear in the chest area. The bear started down the tree fast. Another shot was fired and the bear fell. Tyson got his first bear. You would have sworn we were having a party in the woods from the sounds of everyone hooting and hollering. Tyson was getting high fives, and slaps on the back. Bill Jr. Grabbed Tyson and carried him in to see his bear. The sight of Bill kneeling down with Tyson on his knee was awesome, and I cannot describe the emotions right then.
The celebrating continued all the way back to the lodge, and to the registration station where several people congratulated him. He had a smile on his face that was never ending. The final highlight would have to be the interview for WJFW channel 12 from Rhinelander. They talked with Larry, Tyson, Bill Sr., and Bill Jr.
I cannot thank everyone involved enough.
Thank You, Kippenberg Creek Kids, Larry and Lorri Beyer, Bill Prening Sr. and his family, Bill Prening Jr. (you made Tyson feel like your little brother.) To all the hunters; Joel, Pat, John, John, Corrie, Corrie, Craig, Dan, Travis, Bret, and the rest of the gang that I didn't even get to know your names. You have all given our son something that will never be forgotten. 

Thanks again,
Joe Hopfensperger
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