Typical Woods Cop Night

Last Tuesday night on a county not far from here my partner and I were patrolling a muddy-icy dirt road beside a corn field and we saw an individual wearing an orange hat, without a weapon, crossing cornrows. It was about 5:30 or so, and dark. My partner identified himself as a conservation officer and the man came back to the road. The man said he had shot at a deer but wasn’t sure he had hit it. My partner checked the man’s weapons in his vehicle, two shotguns, in cases, neither firearm loaded. Then we returned to the patrol truck and asked for a check on warrants and criminal and DNR license histories and after a few minutes, Lansing (Station 20) begins by announcing an “officer caution,” and then began to read a litany of felony charges dating back to 1972. The man is younger than me, but looks much older. His most recent charge was for armed robbery and he plead guilty n 1990. Anyone convicted of a felony involving use of a weapon can never carry a weapon again. So this felon, who is clearly down on his luck, is facing a five-year felony for having any firearms, much less a pair of them. My partenr relieved the man of the weapons and gave him a receipt. Then we tracked and found a small button buck that had been gut-shot, but died, and we confiscated the deer from the guy, and put it in the patrol truck. The man had an out-of-state driver’s license and plates, but Michigan hunting licenses. And he had a letter from the post office indicating they started forwarding his mail to Michigan last month. Still; it’s not ot clear if he is or isn’t a Michigan resident, but we keep the weapons and let him go to his local address and tell him my partner will be in touch. Hunting license retailers exercise no quality control and will generally sell anything the customer asks for, even if its wrong. This is a gliche in our licensing system. Eventually computers will spit out the truth, but there ought to be a computer program that automatically red-flags improper license sales. Oh well.

All of this occurred, as it often does, after dark. The guy was pretty decent and did not get all jacked up like some people tend to do, but my partner and I afterwards talked long and hard about this country and how if you screw up seriously you are pretty much seriously screwed for the rest of your life. Some in society may be given second chances, but these seem rare, and it’s more likely that once you are a felon you are facing a snowball of trouble for the rest of your life. Eventually the snowball can crush you, or you offend again and end up incarcerated for a longer period of time. Companies rarely hire felons except for the most menial tasks — if at all, and if trouble happens, the cops come directly to known felons to check them out. These people begin to go through life with no money and no prospects and even for those with good hearts who happened to screw up, their lives are pretty much over. Many of these people lack education or training, or motivation, and then we wonder why they later turn back to crime? This country pays no more than transparent lipe service to “forgiveness and rehabiliation,” but what we really believe in is punishment. Just like most people pay lip service to supporting our troops, but in reality don’t do a damn thing for them. We are sometimes a country that is more bullshit than reality. Or maybe a lot of America’s reality IS bullshit. I don’t know, but I think about this often.

This isn’t your typical woods cop story, but over the years I’ve been with officers who’ve encountered armed felons, some of whom reacted violently, but most of whom reacted with resignation as the snowball gets just a little bigger and heavier ,and continues the process of slowly crushing life out of them.

It’s not the sort of black/white, right/wrong story most people want to hear, but gray is one of the realities of our society and as I’ve said before — when I go on patrols with officers — the events always get me thinking. Most cops I know are a helluva lot more understanding and open-minded than harshly judgmental like a lot of regular and self-proclaimed religious citizens.

Enough for today. I’ll try to think of more pleasant subjects. Watch the MHSAA championjship games this weekend if you want to have some fun. Nothing more pure than high school football.

Tales from the Woods

Later today I’m working in a nearby county with a conservation officer, but I woke up this morning thinking about the just-completed trip to the Yoop and discussion I had yesterday with one of my sons about so-called (sometimes rarely seen) hunter ethics. Below is a photo of Dave Painter in Iron County. The small buck at his feet was struck by a vehicle, whose driver called it in and we went out to look and Dave gave the man a permit to take the deer. In the time it took the man to get to his camp to call the DNR, locals had dumped a beer carton by the dead deer as a color marker and if the animal would be left unattended too long, they would swing by and sweep it up, without a permit. This is a common event in the north country. This has nothing to do with hunter ethics, but serves as an indicator that deer season often brings out odd behaviors among we humans.

Last night I had an E-mail from a CO pal who told me about another officer who had “Made a good case against a chronic poacher, you know the drill, illegal deer, loaded gun on ORV, drunk on the ORV, borrowed tags, etc.” What I found interesting was the language — “You know the drill,” which I do indeed because this is far from an uncommon occurrence in our Michigan woods both above and below the bridge.

Here’s another one I witnessed recently. An officer and I were tooling around in the Yooper boonies and it was snowing like hell. We started our day with a very near head-on collision The two vehicles skidded to stops two feet from each other, nose to nose. My partner looked at me and said, “Good driving, eh?”{

I said, “More like blind-ass luck.” He laughed out loud.

Later, and much further along the roads, we came to a truck towing a trailer, with several people cutting firewood from downed trees along the side of the road. There were two ORVs with the truck as well. We pulled up and everyone was happy. They had a firewood permit from the local DNR office, the ORV drivers had helmets, registered machines and so forth, and one of the men announced his 18-year-old, first-time hunter son has bagged an 8-pointer. My partner lauded the whole deal and we moved on to patrol. Some miles down the two-track I spied a camp with a deer hanging and reported this, and my partner says, “Let’s go take a look.”

Which we did. As we pulled in, a man my age came out of the camp and began yakking about how his 18-year-old grandson got the 8-pointer on his first hunt and how his son tagged the deer for the son and then his face blanched and he looked sheepishly at my partner and exclaimed, “Guess I let that cat out of the bag.” Indeed, the tag showed the successful hunter not to be 18, but to be in his late 40s, and may partner asked where the hunter was and the elderly gent said, “Cutting wood.” Geez, small world, degrees of separation and all that stuff. What’re the odds?

So we drive back, find the group and ask them to return to camp, which they do.

As soon as they pull in, the father runs dramatically over to the deer, looks at the tag and begins shaking his head and saying, “How could I have done that?”

My partner lets the passion play go on for a while, then says, “Hey your own father told us you tagged it for you son, which means you did it intentionally and knew that before we showed up, so let’s face up to reality and lose the play-acting.”

We went back to the truck to run the hunters through the computer, and my partner said, “The old man tagged the deer so his kid could keep hunting.”

This is a noble notion, but it is cheating. The father had a combo tag entitling him to two deer, the kid a firearms tag, entitling him to one.

So my partner got out and explained he could take the deer and the rifles, and other gear, but he is going to rip off the tag, make them tag the animal correctly, and let them keep the deer. The father can keep hunting. The kid is finito for firearms season.

The father hangs his head and keeps nodding.

Meanwhile the elderly gent sidles up to me and begins complaining about taxes on his camp, how he has tried unsuccessfully to sell it, but Michigan’s economy sucks, yada yada and I say, “I feel your pain, but your taxes have nothing to do with this deer or what happened here, including our presence.” He grunts and begins to excoriate our governor and how it is her fault the state is in such bad shape and he’s been a small businessman for nearly 50 years in Michigan and I said, “This governor didn’t put us in the tank. The last one did — the same one all small businessmen loved while he raped the state.” At this the man turns away and stalks into his camp and does not come back out.

Meanwhile, my partner tells the father and son that he wants to take the deer, but I talked him out of it, which is not exactly an accurate report: I’d prefer if he’d take the deer, but he is doing good cop-bad cop.

Bottom line, the old man is teaching his kid by example that it is all right to cheat the system. I see this every hunting season, in every county in the state where I’ve worked — which is now at forty counties over the past 8 years.

I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe deer season creates a sort of greed-inducing ether that coats the north country and makes some people, ordinarily level-headed and smart, go temporarily stupid and do things they wouldn’t do when they are back home. Seen it every season in every county and among hunters of all ages.

CO Dave Painter
CO Dave Painter

Mopix

CO Doug Hermanson checking traps for owner's name. COs spend a lot of time working at night in all kinds of weather.
CO Doug Hermanson checking traps for the owner's name and vitals.
CO Jason Wicklund at Burned Bridge Campground. Pretty good fishing in the area. Swimming, not so much.
CO Jason Wicklund at Burned Bridge Campground. Pretty good fishing in the area. Swimming? Not so much.
Nothing prettier than holly berries agains dark spruce and all covered with fresh hoarfrost.
Nothing prettier than contrast of red holly berries against dark spruce and all covered with fresh hoarfrost.
Yep, this is how it looked when day dawned and I pulled into Marquette.
Yep, this is how it looked when day dawned and I pulled into Marquette.
Huh?
Who is that old fart and why is he here?
BAld eagle flying in right middle of photo,and presence of other eagles led us to the carcass of a deer killed the night before. Nature proviides all sorts of signs if we learn to read them.
Bald eagle flying in right middle of photo,and presence of other eagles, led us to the carcass of a deer killed the night before. Nature proviides all sorts of signs if we learn to read them.
Okay, after a few days in the UP I sometimes hallucinate, but I swear when I looked at this tree, I saw Cookie Monster with a hungry look on his face.
Okay, after a few days in the UP I sometimes hallucinate, but I swear when I looked at this tree, I saw Cookie Monster with a hungry look on his face.
Conservation officers drive a lot of rough roads and rarely even pause to contemplate impediments, but this one gave us cause to measure how deep it was.
Conservation officers drive a lot of rough roads and rarely even pause to contemplate impediments, but this one gave us cause to measure how deep it was.
Not snow. Hoarfrost, west of Engadine.
Not snow. Hoarfrost, west of Engadine.
Iron County deer camp. Hey they named it. I only report it.
Iron County deer camp. Hey they named it. I only report it.
Birch tree, shedding skin. Menominee County.
Birch tree, shedding skin. Menominee County.

More from the deer season trip.

Covered Drive, the scenic route to Redridge and Freda. Take this ride in fall for a glut of color.
Covered Drive, the scenic route to Redridge and Freda. Take this ride in fall for a glut of color.

Anal Beads, Eagles, Weed, & Priest Camp: Notes from the North Country

Earlier this year I found a newly built cord road near Epoufette. This one is very old and in Menominee County and I was picking my way over the bumps before I realized what it was, a remnant of the old logging days in the U.P. and not too far from the Cedar River.
Earlier this year I found a newly built cord road near Epoufette. This one is very old and in Menominee County and I was picking my way over the bumps before I realized what it was, a remnant of the old logging days in the U.P. and not too far from the Cedar River.

Howdy. Back last night after a 12-day sojourn in the Yoop to work with COs and observe the shenanigans of firearm deer season. Actually I was headed home on the 20th, but it took me four hours to drive 90 miles from Houghton to Marquette so I sought refuge with my brother-in-law Mike Phillips, wife Claudia and their dog Bogey. I hunkered down there until the storms to the south cleared.

On the drive south yesterday I saw much less traffic than usual [even on I-94] and generally there were fewer hunters in the UP than I have come to expect. I’ve toyed with various ways to create a report for the trip, day by day, by officer, or what? But I picked up some extremely hilarious anecdotes and stories and selfishly prefer to save most of them for the Woods Cops mysteries. So, what I will do is share some photos of the trip, with information-packed captions (I hope) and here offer a couple of stories and reports.

An officer [here unnamed], was out doing ice-fishing patrol and came to a small lake where there were four or five holes and numerous unattended tip-ups. He followed tracks to a nearby cabin and knocked on the door around five A.M. and after a long interval the door opened to reveal a very hungover twenty-something male. The officer explained about the lines, etc, the guy said, “Yah, those’re ours,” and invited the officer inside with the admonition “Don’t talk too loud or our heads will explode, eh.” Once inside, the officer observed four other males and a naked female in a bed, who sat up, rubbed her eyes, looked around the room, and asked indignantly, “Okay, Who left the anal beads on the table?”

Uh…ah…well…uh…okay then…….

Another officer had reports of an illegal camp and we went looking for it and as we bumped along a two-track we saw a juvenile eagle in a tree, and then a mature bald eagle fin another tree and we spooked him into flight. Then we saw two more mature eagles flapping along and lots of crows and ravens. This, of course, meant that there probably was a dead animal in close proximity. So we turned off the engine, sat and watched and finally get a good look at where the animal activity seemed to be taking place. We then drove part of the way, parked and started walking. The officer found the animal, a dead deer. Front legs gone, eviscerated, stinky. I saw him gagging and then I smelled it and announced I didn’t really need a closer look. Probably somebody wounded the animal and it died out in the field. The actions of the birds suggested a coyote was edon the carcass when we first arrived. I thought this an interesting example of how officers learn to read natural sign around them.

Out with another officer on another day we came upon two Wisconsin hunters, sitting by roadside i their pickup. We stopped to see if they needed help. They opened the window and the officers said, “What’re you guys smoking?”

” Swisher Sweets,” the sixtyish driver with the ponytail says. The passenger is holding a cigarette lighter, and said he just ran out of cigarettes but was going to have a Swisher Sweet. There was no empty ciggie pack in the truck. The officer said, “Right and asked me to smell inside of the truck.

“Skunk,” I reported. Skunk, you should know, is the scent of skunkweed, a form [low THC] of marijuana – a smell impossible to get out of vehicles or clothes. Up in the Yoop and elsewhere in this state, weed and hunting are increasingly regular companions.

And, on the way home yesterday, I saw a large gray wolf cross US-2 about 400 yards west of Gould City Road, my 11th live wolf sighting, plus two dead ones. This was a big boy, a male I am guessing because of the size, very very gray, but not quite black with a gi-normous head.

In a deer season-related tale, I had a note just before I headed out from Fr. Robert Howe, whose parish is Sacred Heart in Bad Axe. Fr. Rob, a graduate of NMU, invited me to the St. Hubert’s Hunt Club (what he called a “priest camp.” in Alpena County, offering that it might be interesting fare for the Woods cop stories. It was a generous invitation, but I had to decline. Upon my return I got a note from Fr. Rob saying the Holy Hunters had taken a nine point, three eight-points, a six point, a four point and a three point. I am thinking that Fr. Rob and his pals need to pass around the secret prayers for bagging bucks, but I doubt they pray for luck; more likely they rely on their skills as hunters to bring home the venison. Whatever their secret, congras the Nimrods of St. Hubert’s.

Animals seen during travels with officers: 222 deer, 27 redtail hawks, 10 bald eagles, 10 pats, 5 possums, 2 great blue herons, and one each: broad-shouldered hawk, coon, coyote, elk, osprey, red fox, turkey, weasel, and wolf.

Photos will be posted from the trip later today and more tomorrow. This software doesn’t seem to like too many at once. Go figure….

Another example of what lies at our feet in the woods, even as the snows begin to arrive.
Another example of what lies at our feet in the woods, even as the snows begin to arrive.
Liking Lichen: Dave Painter was talking to bird hunters out the driver's window of the truck and I looked out my window and saw the color in this picture. These lichen are growing on twigs the diameters of Number 3 pencils, thought using the macro function of the camera makes them look like trees. Beautry is everywhere in nature in every season.
Liking Lichen: CO Dave Painter was talking to bird hunters out the driver's window and I was staring blindly and suddenly noticed the lichen in this photo on branches the size of a Number 3 pencil. Beauty everywhere in Michigan, in every season.
Redridge Dam from the impoundment side. The redridge dam sits at the end of the Salmon Trout River, a pretty good upstream from the dam. Below the dam there is a pretty good run of steelhead. Most people never poke around the dam to see what's there.
Redridge Dam from the impoundment side. The redridge dam sits at the end of the Salmon Trout River, a pretty good upstream from the dam. Below the dam there is a pretty good run of steelhead. Most people never poke around the dam to see whatLearning to See. The more I am out and about in the woods, the more I learn to see and the more I develop the skill, the more I experience. This beautiful little cluster of the dead and dying were at my feet when I got out of the truck in an isoilated spot in Iron County.
Bear skulls curing near camp of bear guide
Bear skulls curing near camp of bear guide
This is a hair on the weird side for camp decor, eh?
This is a hair on the weird side for camp decor, eh?
Dugout dope box and illegal deer, also not an uncommon occurence in Michigan during deer season.
Dugout dope box and illegal deer, also not an uncommon occurence in Michigan during deer season.
Not uncommon attitude among some hunters in the U.P. during deer season.
Not uncommon attitude among some hunters in the U.P. during deer season.
They sell WHAT in this joint?
They sell WHAT in this joint?

Snowjoke

I am currently in Marquette and more or less snowed in. When I came through Ishpeming-Negaunee early this morning the snow was coming down at 6 inches an hour. It took me four hours to drive the 90 miles from Houghton, so I decided to hole-up rather than press on. Been a great trip to the Yoop and elsewhere, working with officers. Will post on this, with photos upon my return. Not as many hunters as expected opening weekend and people were generally acting more lawful than normal.

Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921

Ooh-rah! Today is the 233 birthday of the United States Marine Corps (nee, the naval infantry….). You can bet that Grady Service and Luticious Treebone will celebrate with all other marines. Notice I don’t characterize them as former marines because there’s no such thing as “former”: Once a marine, always a marine. Ooh-rah!

The birthday was formalized by Gen. John A. Lajeune in 1921 when he issued the order cited in the column’s title. This order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps — and directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. Happy birthday Devil Dogs everywhere. Semper Fi and be safe wherever you are. I’ll lift one to you all tonight. Ooh-rah!

On Da Whenever-Whatever-Wherever Road

Spent last three days on CO patrols. Night before I got there, CO got a four-person shining crew,  (shooter, spotlighter, mule, crow]. A 911 call came into the county and shots could be heard on he call.  The CO tracked them south through the county , eventually saw their lights and heard shots, and moved up on them. When he lit his spots and blue lights they scattered like cockroaches and he had to collect them one at a time after county backup arrived.  It then took more than two hours e to track the wounded buck and put it down. The animal had intentionally been shot in mouth.  Had the CO not put it down it would have starved to death. More on this case later – after it is adjudicated.

Illegals: 8 point buck, bow with dilatpidated arrows. 17 caliber rifle with only 9 of 50 rounds left, and a truck, all the tools of a night-shooting crew.
Illegals: 8 point buck, a doe, a bow with dilapidated arrows, .17-caliber rifle with only nine of 50 rounds left, a spotlight, and a big-tire truck, all the tools of a night-shooting crew of violators.

One night we stopped some coon hunters, with an unmarked trap in posession and initially the trap belonged to an unnamed friend in Ohio, etc. Yadayada. It was raining, perfect night to run the dogs on raccoons.

Coons on Da Roof. The stuff you see when riding with COs. Amazing.
Coons on Da Roof. The stuff you see when riding with COs. Amazing.

Next day, we got a trespass call and went to investigate.  The guy we found was not trespassing, but he did not know about the bait ban and had bait out. He got a ticket.

Part of one day was spent patrolling on a new Polaris RZR, no windshild: I advise wearing a brainbucket with face shield so that you don’t have to peel wet oakleaves off your face. The RZR is a great tool.

RZR-Time: New Polaris ranger, great for patroling the back areas -- and fast.
RZR-Time: New Polaris ranger, great for patroling the back areas -- and fast.

My room in Durand was nice. I had roomies as well. Bugs, as  shown. At one point I counted fifty of them all moving around on the walls. Sweet. Protein if I needed it.  What more can one ask for? Go with the flow is the only pragmatic road philosophy.

Will be back at end of month.  I stopped home today to resupply and grab more snow gear. Now to da Yoop

Finnish Cop, Eh. Okay,okay, not all of the officers I spend time with look like regular COs -- for example this lovely Finnish Cop, dressed for action. What kind of action? I don't speak Finnish, eh?
Finnish Cop, Eh. Okay,okay, not all of the officers I spend time with look like regular COs -- for example this lovely Finnish Cop, dressed for action. What kind of action? I don't speaking dat Soumi, eh?
Checking Traps on a small stream. Lots of deer sign everywhere.
Officer Dan Bigger checking for traps on a small stream. Lots of deer sign everywhere.
Roommate
Roommate

An Historic Night in America

I did not vote for Barack Obama. Nor did I vote for John McCain.

But this morning I feel proud to be an American and I feel great pride in our country for Obama’s election.

I thank John McCain for his gracious concession speech and as we could expect from the patriot he is, for his trying to heal the country and help pull us together. Well done, Senator.

I envy my daughter being at Grant Park in Chicago tonight for this historic moment.

I have lived through a lot of American history, but this tops everything — so far.

I even find myself having to thank George Bush, without whose pettiness, partisanship, ineptitude and pathetic and misdirected leadership, we might never have even heard of Barack Obama, much less seen him elected leader of our country. In some ways Barack Obama is Dubya’s legacy.

One plea for President-Elect Obama: Dump the techie bozoids who ran your web-site and replace that system with real channels for citizens to communicate with you, channels where actual listening will be encouraged and will take place — not the one-way nonsense of the campaign, wherein citizen input fell on deaf ears only to be used by the web site to try to raise more money. I’m still insulted by and disgusted by all of that electronic folderol

Enough political talk. Onward and upward. Together, one country — and so forth.