Mountains of the Misbegotten (Lute Bapcat #2) by Joseph Heywood
In the sequel to Red Jacket, former Rough Rider turned Michigan game warden Lute Bapcat sets out to find a deputy warden who has disappeared from Ontonagon County, one of the Michigan Upper Peninsula’s most lawless places. Merely hours into his search, Bapcat is shot by assailants unknown. After a miraculous rescue and recovery aided by mysterious caretakers, Bapcat uncovers a plan by powerful locals to capture and sell bears to zoos around the country, an act akin to theft in Bapcat’s mind. The game warden’s determination to break the scheme ratchets up when it seems his missing colleague may have authored the idea and employed the help of an outlaw called Red Hair, who had been raised in the same orphanage with Bapcat. Red Hair’s gang of thugs have long terrorized the region. Bapcat must use all of his woodcraft to brave the Trap Hills and Porcupine Mountains to face the criminals at the old Nonesuch Mine. Zakov the Russian—Bapcat’s eccentric game warden partner—is brought in to help with the hunt, which causes Bapcat to reevaluate his personal values. In classic Heywood style, an extraordinary band of Upper Peninsula characters collects around intrepid woods cops.