A long-standing desire to hunt “something big” took London resident Reagyn Semler, now 18, to Wisconsin in September to pursue black bear.
“Ever since I started hunting, I wanted to hunt something outside Madison County,” said the petite brunette.
That desire took her to Louisiana to hunt alligator at age 14. And it now makes her a worthy competitor to dad Eric Semler, who’s been her hunting mentor and firearms instructor for more than four years.
Being diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 5 hasn’t stopped Reagyn. Her tumor lingers, but with treatment has diminished to 20 percent of its original size. Her condition is considered medically stable.
Over the years, she’s become a veteran activist and fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation and was (literally) a poster child for the Safe Auto Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Her picture has appeared on billboards throughout central Ohio in support of that organization.
Her work through those and similar charities opened doors that might have otherwise been shut. The Wisconsin bear hunt was organized through Child Wish and the United Special Sportsman Alliance which arranges outings for seriously ill or disabled youth and their families.
Reagyn, her parents and sister Avery, traveled to Rib Lake, Wisconsin on Sept. 13. They stayed in a large, multi-family cabin owned by the organizer of the hunt. There were guides and their families staying in the facility and the Semlers soon made friends.
The entire family got up at 4 a.m. on Sept. 14 to help check “about 60 bait sites” for signs of black bear. They learned Little Debbie cakes are a favorite “bait” and sand piled around the sites clues hunters to any bears prowling the neighborhood.
Paw prints in the sand indicate the size of bears in the area, Reagyn said.
The group’s contingent of walker hounds went to work and about 9 a.m. treed a 125-pound female bear.
Reagyn was excited. But the guides advised her to wait for something bigger.
The group stayed out until about 9 p.m. that first day, eating little but a bag of Doritos and having no success, Reagyn remembered laughing.
Their luck improved on the second day, Sept. 15.
“The dogs picked up a bear about 7:15 a.m.,” she said.
By 8:30 a.m. that bear – a 200-pound boar – was treed and Reagyn was ready to go.
With the bear 50 to 60 feet up in the tree, she leveled a .243 rifle mounted on a tripod at the animal and fired.
“He just dropped,” Reagyn said.
Eventually, the bear’s meat came back to London where it was turned into steaks and jerky. The head and paws will become a half mount for the Semler family living room. It will join the trophy her father brought home several years ago from a West Virginia bear hunt.
“Mine is bigger than dad’s,” Reagyn said with significant pride.
Back in Ohio, Reagyn went deer hunting in Scioto County on Nov. 17 and arrowed a 9-point buck. That outing was sponsored by the county’s chapter of Whitetails Unlimited.
She also received a one-day internship at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium on Dec. 1 and will appear in the zoo’s calendar that publishes in 2020.
A 2018 graduate of London High School, Reagyn now works part-time for a London veterinarian and attends Columbus State Community College. She is studying vet tech with the goal of someday becoming a full-fledged veterinarian.
In the meantime, she will continue to pursue “bigger” game.
“I think elk would be fun next,” she said.