Iron County Tales

Word from pal CO Jason Wicklund that while other counties might have a dirth of deer hunters and illegal activity, Iron County was the opposite. Lots of hunters, lots of crapola going on. For example, officers deployed “Blambi” (the infamous robotic deer decoy) three times and got five “takers” (four shooters and a hunter with no hunter orange), plus a confession of an illegal deer taken earlier in the season. In the photo Sergeant Marc “Speedboy” Pomroy (L) and Wicklund pose with five illegal deer seized on opening day, plus a bow and two rifles. Within first couple of days, the officers had seized 10 illegal deer. By the way, the name Speedboy refers to Pomroy’s “rocket legs” on the ice hockey rink. A native of Calumet, the man can still fly on skates and stick-handle in a phone booth. And to those who might say, maybe the people who took these animals illegally were hurting economically and needed the meat I say an emphatic baloney. They’re thieves, pure and simple. COs invariably know which folks in their community are hurting and steer confiscated fish and meat to them.

Need further information? Two men the officers arrested included a felon and the violations by the two men included: take deer after hours; take deer with aid of artificial light; take deer in wrong DMU (Deer Management Unit); possession of firearm by felon; hunt while under influence of drugs; operate while suspended; loaded/uncased firearm in vehicle; no helmets on ORV; Operate ORV in closed area; Possession of marijuana. My word for folks like this? Bozoids. Here I recall a line, I think it’s from Hoosiers. “Kick their butts, boys.” Yeah, that’s it.

Great job, men, and great job  by all officers in our great state of Michigan. Be safe out there and give the bad guys no quarter.


Sgt. Marc Pomroy (L) and CO Jason Wicklund (R)

Let Freedom Wing

Long-time friends Griz (Joe) and Nan Harris of Old Mission Peninsula sent a note recently with this explanation:

For those of you who might have missed this event yesterday at Bowers Harbor Park on Old Mission, it was amazing. This fellow was found in October on the porch of a cottage near us near death, probably botulism. By the time they got him to the rehab ranch, he was comatose. The woman holding him is the operator of the rehab-Wings of Wonder, which does only raptors.
I had hoped to get a great pic of him taking off, but he fooled all by immediately banking left and heading in the opposite direction.
One of those wow days. About 200 showed up for the launch.
Over. [PS, if you’re going tohandle raptors, a good pair of welding gloves are essential (not to mention a high tolerance for pain…Thanks to the Harrises for sharing with us.
Up, up, and AWAY!!!

Part II: 2010 Firearms Deer Season

Yup, it's official. We be stuck.

MONDAY, November 15: CO Niemi dropped me at my truck at the Stephenson MSP post around 10 a.m. and I headed to the DNR office in Escanaba, about 50 miles away. Sgt. Darryl Shann picked me up noonish and we head northeast into Delta County. He shared with me Chief Gary Hagler’s  phone mail to all officers, informing them of the recent Pennsylvania game warden murder and reminding everyone to be safe and work smart. But word still not official on CWD positive test in Wisconsin within 40 miles of Michigan border. In fact, throughout the week all news that COs have will come from the media. They receive no direction for answering questions from the public. Sgt Shann and I drive an ancient railroad bed to where it intersects and ends a remote spot on the Sturgeon River. Two old gents are camped there and report seeing no deer or hearing shots. The ride in was rough – and whereas almost all DNR rides are nasty, this one was a new definition of bad and predictably we dropped our rear tires through a gap in some logs and were stuck. The sergeant immediately got out the long jack, but that didn’t work, so we called CO John Wenzel, who was not far away and he came to rescue us and pull us out. The always cool-headed Wenzel back his truck up to us from several hundred yards away and I wished I had taken a film, but was mesmerized by the sheer adventure. I did get a movie of him pulling us out, and of our drive out, but I think it is too large for the blog software, so sometime down the road when software capabilities change, I’ll try to post it. Or I’ll find another way. After “extraction” we met Corporal Shannon VanPatton and CO Mike Evenk out in the woods to talk about patrols. Like us, they were finding few hunters and seeing no deer. This is Darryl’s 20th deer season, Shannon’s 15th. Later, after dark, word came of a lost hunter in the Garden Peninsula: man was dropped to walk into his blind and to be picked up at 5:30, but he was not out at the road and his companions walked into blind and there was no sign he had been there so the lost hunter call was raised. Shannon and Mike were nearest and got to the scene early; John Wenzel was not far behind. Darryl and I headed east for home and dinner. “They’ve got enough people on scene,” he said. The Delta County Rescue squad passed us as we headed east. As it turned out the lost hunter was found on US walking east toward Manistique, about 3.5 to 4 miles from his blind. How the hell he got up there from below Bay de Noc High School escaped all of us. The sergeant checks out of service and I have been on duty 14+30 hours. A long, long day, but we are greeted by the dogs Maggie and Trixie and all is well with the world.

TUESDAY, November 16: I meet CO Wenzel at 0800 and we head up toward Rock and Perkins to check some situations. Again, very few hunters or camps where they are traditionally located. We do see a very nice buck, an 11-point with remarkably long tines, the deer having been taken in Hyde, east of Escanaba, but the hunter touring pals’ camps in the county showing it off. We work our way down all kinds of roads all day long and do not hear our first shot until 1732, and precisely one minute later coyotes began to sing. Wenzel, I should explain is much admired by his colleagues for his unflappability. He is an army vet, and was a deputy in Van Buren County for many years before going to the DNR academy. I first rode with him for his first deer season day in Iron County and I was with him when he got his first big fish case in Delta County some years later. He is by all accounts, a flat-line type, even-tempered, thoughtful and attentive in all situations. But he’s also known for his driving ability. He’s basically a gear-head and loves head-banger rock. Go figure. We log eight hours.

WEDNESDAY, November 17: I drive 50 miles to Manistique to meet CO Jarad Ferguson. We are to meet at a gas station, but a few miles west I see an accident which had just happened. There are three vehicles already stopped and rendering aid, so I continue on and then I see a Troop racing west with his lights going and thirty seconds behind the Troop, Fergie whizzes by. I park at the meeting place and wait, knowing he’ll be along when the accident gets cleared. Once on patrol in Schoolcraft County we are putzing along a back road when a black car approached and veers suddenly to our right on a two-track. The vehicle had been moving slowly and we immediately run him down and find an uncased rifle in the front seat beside the driver. There is no bullet in the chamber but the clip is in. The guy is driving a Lincoln and protests that he thought not having a round in the cooker amounted to unloaded. Close but no cigar. He gets cited. Obviously he knew the rule and turned to avoid us. Not long thereafter a few miles away we spy a slow-rolling pickup truck with windows down, pull up and find an uncased black powder rifle in the front seat between the hunters, a father and son. The old man explains he can’t get the cap out so the only way he can unload is to shoot it. Fergie writes the citation and tells the man to wait until we are around the corner to discharge the weapon to unload it, then keep it unloaded after that. We get around curve and wait. Nothing. Shit. After five minutes we back track, hit the hammer and finally catch up. The guy has miraculously gotten the cap extracted and cased the gun without firing it. “We should have tried to pry it out ourselves,” Fergie laments. The patrol continues. We see a few hunters, but not many until after dark when a group flags us down and tells us they want to show us something. It is 6 o’clock or so and pitch black. Fergie starts to follow the hunters and I notice one of them go the opposite direction. I see he has a slung rifle and ask if the rifle is loaded. He says it is. When Fergie talks to the man, the hunter claims he thought he had 30 minutes after shooting hours to unload. Right. He had a chambered round and clip in. What the hunters wanted Fergie to see was the corpse of coyote or wolf in a small stream. It turned out to be a small coyote. Fergie drops me at my truck at  1915 and I drive 50 miles back to Escanaba to the Shann household, where Karla has her legendary homemade pizzas waiting.

THURSDAY, November 18: Today I drive to Gulliver to Meet CO Mike Evink, who has been in Schoolcraft County since September. This is his first deer season. When we meet he says his truck is making funny sounds and we head to Manistique to get in looked at. As soon as I hear the sound I tell him “Front right bearing.” I lost left and right front this summer so I know the sound. The mechanic verifies it and within an hour we have a new bearing and are back on the road. We get into an area and map multiple blinds, some with over-baits, but no hunters. In the evening, after dark in the middle of nowhere we come upon two ORVs with loaded, uncased guns and both of them get citations. We also hear reports of a crew operating on a two-track drinking beer and shooting indiscriminately into the woods and swamps, but we are unable to locate them. Patrol complete at 1900 Mike drops me at my truck and I head for McMillan and the Bear’s Den Motel, which will be home for the next three days. Up M-117, a few miles south of M-28, the road has black ice and a large buck stumbles and skids onto the road directly in front of me. I stand the truck on it’s nose, pitch all lose items into the windshield and manage to stop the Streamer so that the only contact is a light kiss on the buck’s right rear haunch. I can clearly count 8 large points, which are illuminated by my lights. The next morning a woman will run her truck off the road and die in the same approximate location. Weird.  At the Bear Den I check in at the convenience store/petrol station  by the highway to get mykey. Quirky: I like that.

FRIDAY, November 19: Snow is falling this morning. “Taller Tower” CO Mike Hamill (6-7) swings into the Bear’s Den at 0800, I load my gear, and away we go. We are driving north from McMillan when words comes of the accident alluded to earlier. Mike calls the Troop on the scene to see if he needs help, but the Troop says he’s got it and we continue north toward the Blind Sucker River Flooding. I ask Mike about a deal he encountered two summers ago when a hit and run driver slammed into people and killed someone in the Gould City area. Mike rendered aid along with CO Nightlinger, and then went in pursuits because the runner drove into an area Mike has hunted, but after some time the man eluded him. He was caught the next day, with brain tissue and blood and other visceral remains on the grill and bumper of his vehicle. COs and cops in all settings see some very nasty things and have to learn how to deal with them emotionally. The snow continues throughout the day, the temp hangs in the 20s and we find a man with a huge over-bait who has used his 4-wheeler to go around a berm to deliver bait to the blind. The limit for bait is 2 gallons in the UP. This guy’s bait pile stretches for 40-50 yards, with a salt block on the end. The day before Mike ticketed the same man’s father. Ticket written, we continue on to look for another hunter in the area, but we also notice that one of our tires is close to pancake mode and our gas nearly depleted, so we duck over to Grand Marais to gas up and put air in our feet and then we head for a complaint which came in yesterday, hunter harassment. This is the rough woods cop equivalent of a domestic – an argument over fish or game or whatever, often of longstanding, often without logic, often molten hot and threatening to explode into something a lot worse. The complainant informs us of the events. Deer shot, some guys quickly showed up to tell them they lease the property, which the complainant insists is CFA (Commercial Forest Act) property, open to all hunters. We are pretty sure there has been some heat in the “discussion,” though this is usually one of those irresolvable, “he said-she-said” deals. Returning to the hills above the Blind Sucker Flooding we look and find a blind with bait, but no sign of the alleged harassers. Yesterday, shots brought the hunters on a 4 wheeler, so Mike figures we might use the same bait, pulls out the rifle pumps two rounds in to a tree, puts the rifle away and we wait. No response, we continue our search and finally located a tiny camp in the middle of nowhere. As expected there is probably some truth to both sides of the tale; this camp has been leased by a family since the 1920s and is WAY off the beaten path. One of the men in camp, the elder, was clearly scared witless by yesterday’s encounter. We find a skull with antlers stuck in a ladder. The campers claim they found it last year, hacked the antlers off for camp. It seems unlikely to both of us that it went down the way the original complainant claimed and when we return to the complainant’s camp to try to reach some sort of conclusion, the camp is gated and the complainant and pals have pulled out, but told us earlier in the day that he would be back to hunt over Thanksgiving. Mike will re-contact the man then. Mike regales me with stories all day, including a sign in a local village advertising “Bare Beat” [Bear Bait, not a joke but a pure misspelling]. Late in the day we run into another violation, which escapes my note. The highlight of the day for both of us was contact with a hunter who was a felon with an expunged record. He told us he had robbed 26 banks when he was 16 and served five years for it, and had turned his life around. The kid said he came from an affluent family and just wanted the adrenaline. Indeed. Don’t think I ever met a multiple bank robber before; he’s lucky neither he nor anyone else got injured or killed. He did not spend the money. Instead he accumulated about $70,000 in cash, all of which was recovered. Out in the woods, you just never know what you’ll run into. We meet one older guy with precise diction who tells us when asked if he uses bait, “Bait’s for fish and traps, not for deer.” Funny. The day’s patrol lasts 10+30. Same story. Very few hunters or tent camps and very few deer dead or alive. Hamill went to high school in Crystal Falls with CO Ryan Aho, who is assigned to Dickinson County.

SATURDAY, November 19: “Smaller Tower” CO Derek Miller (6-5) fetches me at the Bear at 0800 and off we go, first stop a camp in the Engadine area. Derek tells me right off the starting line he ran into nothing on opening day, but a week or so ago he was aloft in an airplane and noted large bait piles at the camp we’re bound for. Naturally the gate is locked. There are tire tracks, with snow on top, no way to tell if the people are still in camp, so we walk a half-mile or so up icy two-track to the camp where three men greet us and immediately ask for a break. They don’t get one and we hoof back to the truck. South of Hulbert Lake Derek finds a hunter in a blind with a large over-bait and tickets him. Meanwhile I locate a gut pile with snow on top and from there a well camouflaged blind near our truck. The hunter Derek talked to said nobody in his group got a deer, but this turns out to be his brother’s gut-pile and we are able to track him to Hulbert. Nobody home when we get there but as we pull out a vehicle races up to us and a guy says “My neighbors said you was snooping around my house.” Derek explains we weren’t snooping, just looking for him, so we follow him back and he shows us the eight-point he shot the day before. He also tells us that his brother called on cell phone to bitch at him because he got an over-bait ticket because he had helped bring in the bait. Derek advises him it might be a good idea to share the cost with his brother and we move on. We are supposed to rendezvous with Mike Hamill and find his truck parked by a river and see where he went into the swamp going south. Derek gets him on the radio and Mike reports he is a mile and a half south and still going on a track and doesn’t know when he’ll get out. [As it turns out he will proceed three miles south and suddenly climb up onto an open plateaut, like an old homstead or something and 500 yards away a tall tree, which when he gets closer he sees holds a hunter with no orange on and it makes him very unhappy to have been in the man’s sight line all that time. He cites him for no orange but conceeds the man is the real deal, so far back in and alone. When asked why he had no orange the man said he’d never seen another hunter in the twenty years he hunted the spot.]  We left Mike to his work and went to meet Acting Sergeant Gerald Thayer, who delivers batteries (or a flashlight lens, or something) to Derek. From there we go to a trespass report over in the South Curtis area. Here the complainant meets us on the road and leads us to the alleged offender’s camp. Derek walks into the complainant’s property, finds a gut-pile and all sorts of tracks and follows the 4 wheeler track back to the camp where I am waiting. Two eight-points are hanging, one with a haze on it’s eyes indicating it was shot yesterday, and the second and larger with clear eyes showing it was shot this morning. After a lot of painful questioning the trespasser admits he shot the deer on private property and he gets a ticket for ORV trespass. The complainant also gets a citation for his own visible transgressions. From this goat rodeo we follow an illegal four-wheeler trail into the middle of nowhere until in narrows down too much for us to continue through a swamp. Derek runs the rest of the road on foot and comes back sweating. It took him 3 miles one direction. We look at computer and plat books and guess the transgressions are coming off some private land. Derek makes a note to block the road and to visit the camp and find out what they have been doing. Derek wonders out loud why so many hunters leave their brains at the bridge and I laugh (and write it down for future use). As evening comes on we meet Mike Hamill. We are going to enter a camp where there is information alleging they hunters there are mis-tagging deer and undertaking other shenanigans. It has been our intent to hit the camp at first light, but that didn’t work out. Reviewers sometimes carp how my plots don’t go from A to B and this is true, because CO’s life don’t go A to B and I try to make my books reflect the sometimes chaotic nature of the job. Today is a classic example of plans going out the window, but now that dark is here we have met and proceed into the open gate to the camp. We knock on doors. Nobody home. In back we see an ORV garage door open with a deer hanging inside. We check the deer, spike horn tagged with a tag that is supposed to go on a 3 point or 4 point on a side deer. As hunters come back they arrive with loaded weapons and uncased weapons. We guess that previous illegally tagged deer went home with hunters earlier in the day, but this night citations get written and we take the deer with us. The snow is falling, it’s 22 degrees, there is a full moon and both officers are sure the night hunters will be out, but they have no overtime for today and we call it quits, much to their frustration. For most officers there is a balance between remembering this is a job and a calling. Over time officers have to face that they can’t stop everything and live their lives within the constraint of hours the state allows them to do the work. Derek has written nine citations today. BTW, there are no ticket quotas. Some people are in areas with huge populations and lots of violations. Other officers are in locations were there area few people and few violations. It is what it is. At tracking school this summer, Gus Gustafson was asked why UP officers are such good man-trackers and he replied, “Because if  you want to see ANYBODY when you’re out, you have to be able to track them down.” Sort of a joke. But just sort of.

SUNDAY, November 20: I depart McMillan at 0715 and head east on M-28, then south on M-123 to meet Bob Bernhardt at BJ’s in Trout Lake. Jambe Longue and I buy all our tumbling supplies from Bob and Judy and I told him I’d be there at 0800 to pick up 12 pounds of 80 grit. Five miles north of Trout Lake the road is ice and snow-covered and slippery. Bob is waiting. I pay for the grit, chuck it in the truck and boogey south  to St. Ignace. Once on I75 the snow disappear and it’s clear from there south to Gaylord. Yesterday we called CO Nick Torsky on the radio re our meeting today and he told me to come to his residence, so that’s where I head. He, wife Kristy, daughter Anna and I chat and then we suit up and go into service at noon or so. We work south of Gaylord for a while and eventually end up in the Pigeon River Country, which is one of the state’s greatest area. Nick says deer season here is about a three-day event, year in and year out, start day or weather pretty much irrelevant. I’ve heard this same report in many counties around the state over the past few years. Nick is one of the state’s most thoughtful COs and we talk a lot about the interface between prosecutors and game wardens. We make the patrol without incident and arrive home for dinner, a six-hour outing. Nick falls asleep in the chair, me sitting on the couch and Kristy wakes both of us and tells us it’s time to turn in.

MONDAY, November 21: My final day of patrol, 15 in a row. We depart the residence at 0930 and head out. We stop to visit bear houndsman and his Great Pyrenees dog to get a bead on the season. Nick tells me the story of how he, Gerald Thayer and Glenn Guiterrez got called into a situation where a man killed one persona and wounded another, who managed to get out and call for help. They ended up going in and fetching the body of the murdered man and then going back to surround the house and eventually the man surrendered without further bloodshed. Nick also tells me that there have been two incidents of people impersonating game wardens, both occurrences in the Johannesburg –Lewiston area. In the first instance it was one man alone and in the second and most recent it was a pair. The COs would like to catch these bozos and eventually they will. We meet COs Kelly Ross (Montmorency Co) and Mark DePew ( Nick’s parrtner in Otsego Co) for a Mexican lunch. From there it’s to the district office where I meet Sgts Jim Gorno, and Greg Drogowski and CO Carl Vanderwall. Ross and Vanderwall are both acting sergeants at the moment and acting el-tee Gorno has scheduled a sergeants conference. We leave the gathering to head north into the PRC again, this time to search for a camp of a known violator, which we locate and also find bait, which is banned below the bridge. Later Nick shows me an area where it looked like there had been a grave. The guy who piled the rocks had lost his daughter to a murder in Flint sometime ago and he had built this as a sort of memorial. He also assembled walls of sticks and had his own camp. Despite sympathy for his loss, COs and PRC personnel had to ask him to move on, which he did reluctantly. It is an eerie sight to see. Kelly Ross comes up with the quote of the trip: Why does a divorce cost so much? Because It’s WORTH it!” We’re out of Service around 1800. Kristy is at some sort of meeting of an art club. Anna and Murphy (the lab) are glad we’re home. The next morning I head for the Meijers gas station and  blast off for home. It’s been a great trip and as usual another great learning experienced. This makes ten years riding with COs, a real privilege. I titled the first segment of this report the Dying Deer season. I saw only two hunters under age 17 this trip, no females in the field and very few hunters period. There was no excitement in UP towns before the event and the whole deer thing seems to be fading as the vagaries of herd management and constant beating by the economy takes the fight out of so many people. I just happen to be re-reading the Studs Terkel book, Hard Times. The late Terkel wrote, “Our country, the richest country in the world, may be the poorest in memory.” He points out that in the 80s, as a prelude to his interviews on the Great Depression, modern folks “… found boxcars, with hardly room to move. The new nomads have come from the rust belt, abandoned farms, small failed businesses: Many of them voted for Reagan because he ‘made us feel good.’ Now they don’t feel so good, but few blame the President. They resent being called losers, though that is what they are called these days. In the Thirties (at least in retrospect) they were called victims. If there is a core difference between Then and Now, it is in language. Then the words of the winners reflected discomfort in the presence of losers. Now, they reflect mild contempt.” No, Studs it’s more than mild contempt, it’s out and out total contempt with little attempt to mask the venom The Haves deeply resent Have-nots. The whole thing is like a toxic spill that finds its way into every fiber of life and this past two weeks I could smell death in the air, not of deer, but of a way of life. Sad but real. As usual I had virtually no contact with the media for two weeks and when I got home the same whining was underway as when I departed. ANIMAL COUNT  FOR TRIP: 183 sandhill cranes, 91 deer, 28 turkeys, 13 pats, 12 redtail hawks, 10 porcupines, 6 skunks, 5 bald eagles, 5 cooper’s hawks, 2 coyotes, 2 pheasants, and 1 each, golden eagle, snowshoe hare, woodchuck, pileated woodpecker, and Great Horned Owl.  Over.

But there's always the trusty long jack to get us out.
Or not. All we can do now is wait for Flat Line to come to our rescue.
Jason Niemi and I were following up on a complaint /tip and came across this PAT who was not the least bit concerned by our presence. We had a cup of coffee and watched the bird pick berries off a tree. Unbelivable colors, eh?
Same bird, different view.
Pre-winter color is subtle but no less beautiful and interesting.
Okay, Mother Nature wins the design contest, hands-down.
11-point buck shot in Hyde, Michigan on the first day.
The Wenzel family's bowling ball freak. You think throwing a frisbee is hard?
Daylight in the swamp. Literally.
Leaner tweener. All sorts of evidence of recent wind storms the whole state experienced.
CO Wenzel and I stopped at a camp where they ahd two deer hanging. They had also propped the rib cage of one of their kills on a tall stump to provide fee for gray jays (also called whiskey jacks). One of the hunters asked if we could identify the white fatty item against the spine. It's a fat deposit, not uncommon in deer.
More of nature's beauty bounty.
CO Ferguson writing citation for uncased, loaded firearm in vehicle.
Small coyote thrown into creek indirectly resulted in loaded firearm after dark citation for a hunter. Damn thing looks vaguely human in poor light.ORV bow ornament. Different strokes. It made me laugh.
CO Hamill readying "bait" for alleged hunter harassers.
OK, folks this is not, uh, exactly how you're supposed to transport weapons, capisce?
Hamill gathers information from a hunter.
CO Hamill calls Station Twenty (Lansing Rap Unit) for information off a deer tag.
"You mean that's more than two gallons? Even if we crush the stuff?" Duh.
Elemental math: Six-seven staning on bed of patrol truck equals about 15 feet of verticality.
Hunter's spoor leads CO Miller up two-track to an overbait.
While Derek's up the road I spot this.
From the drag trail I can see the cut boughs and think there's a makeshift ground blind, but look beyond to the dark clump of trees and see the real blind.
Truck won't go any further and CO Miller goes forward on foot. Here's he's returning.
One hunter shot both eight-points, one of them on private land where he was trespassingCO Miller and complainant return from a walking look. This case might have gone a little differently had the complainant actually posted his land rather than just slapped blue paint on some trees.
Moon above. We enter camp after dark, find illegal deer, await hunters' return as the snow falls lightly and the temperature drops.Business concluded: The Twin Towers of Luce County, Hamill (L), Miller (R)
Imbeds clutter.
Deer confiscated from a camp.
Trapping bait from the end of CO Torsky's driveay. Coyote and beaver carasses.
Nick Torsky talks to hunter about success in camp. None.
Sturgeon River, before the snow flies.
Unique camp decoration.
I have no idea what this is, but I am absolutely certain that if I could bottle it I could make a million bucks in the upper midwest. Dudes!
This could serve as basis for a painting. Time will tell.
Nick heads down a hill for recon.
"Grave" in the PRC.
"Stick Walls" near the "Grave."
Eerie. This blue plastic jug looks like a face with pierced eyes. It is of course near the so-called gravesite.
While Nick is on recon, I spot this desing in lichen on a tree and think, "Nude woman, sitting." It is then I realize that it is time for me to get my butt HOME!
Jambe Longue has the Yooper Battle Flag flying for my return!

PART I: Is Deer Season Dying a Slow Death?

Another view of 440 pound black bear.

MONDAY, November 8: left home and drove to the UP, signed books for Mary Carney at her First Edition Too book store in Brevort and had dinner with CO Kellie Nightlinger; the next morning booked it to Baraga to meet up with Steve Burton. Ironically I took the back way out of town and saw a huge buck just west of Cold Brook Park on my way to intercept I-94. Thus began “The Tour,” which I will now report in two parts, the first up to and including the first half of opening day of the 2010 firearms season, Nov. 15, and the second part taking us through to November 22, when I left Gaylord for home. I’ll post the second part after Thanksgiving.

TUESDAY, November 9: I took the most direct route west from Epoufette, heading up M-117 to M-28 then to Marquette, where I skirted town on country roads and popped out back on M-28 at Ishpeming, then a quick zip to the Baraga DNR Field Office. I followed Sgt. Steve Burton to his residence and dumped my vehicle and we took off to investigate a fire up on Cliff Drive in Keweenaw County. The burn had been reported the previous day and was out, but mopup was being conducted and the point-of-origin, starting point needing determination. You’d think a 4-5 acre fire would be easy to find, but it wasn’t. We actually got the truck within 25-30 yards of the place where the fire began, but could not smell anything or see anything. Once the fire started it began climbing the Cliff, site of one of the richest copper mines in Keweenaw’s fabled mining history. Striking out below, we drove two tracks to the top of the cliff, found the DNR fire personnel and their pumpers and climbed down the rocks to see what happened. Turns out it was a campfire.

And after seeing that we began making contacts with various people we found in the area and believe we may even have talked to the person responsible, but that investigation would take place after I was long gone from the neighborhood. On out way south the Tahoe puked just at the edge of Calumet and we had to summon a wrecker to haul the truck to Hancock while CO Matt Eberly brought his patrol truck and hauled us down to Baraga to fetch another mechanical steed. That night Steve and I met CO Brett “Gus” Gustafson in the far western reaches of Ontonagon County where some night shooting and illegal shining had been reported. We pulled into a farmstead to get a plan set and I noticed that the area seemed familiar. When I asked who owned the adjacent farm Gus told me the name and I told him, “That’s the husband of my high school girlfriend.” Burton laughed demonically. The work-day ended at midnight.

WEDNESDAY, November 10: Sgt. Burton and I investigated area where hunters were trying to block public access to public land. I drove down to the Baraga office to meet CO Dave Miller, loaded my gear in his patrol truck and headed up onto the Baraga Plains to check some things, and when it got dark enough we met Gus Gustafson and drove up the Abbaye Peninsula to sit in an area where there had been frequent reports of night violating. To no avail. Somewhere early in the patrol Miller explained to me that his night vision did not immediately kick in, but took 30 minutes or so to work. I think he had eye surgery of some kind and this was the residue of that. Still, we didn’t bounce off boulders or hit too many trees too directly. Dave grew up “across the street” from Sgt Darryl Shann in L’Anse and Dave followed Darryl into the DNR. We ended the patrol at midnight. Burton had the day off and had hunted and I was greeted with a caped out deer when I pulled up to the Burton residence and let myself in quietly trying not to arouse the house mutts (Willow, Aspen and Oreo).

THURSDAY, November 11: I met CO Gustafson at the Park and Ride east of Greenland  at  0930 at the intersection of M-26 and M-38. From there we unloaded the Arctic Cat 4-wheeler and headed up the Bill Nichols Trail to investigate reports of unauthorized 4 wheeler trails and to look for blinds and baits, typical pre-season scouting by COs. The Arctic Cat is a very comfortable way to patrol the back-country and when we got up to Winona (WHYNONAH) and Twin Lakes State Park, we stopped at the local convenience shop and picked up a couple of pasties for lunch. The proprietress showed us a photo of a local man who had shot a 440-pound bear with his bow during the 2010 season. The bear has about the most beautiful head on a Michigan bear I’ve ever seen, so I took photos of the photos and they are here in the blog. The day ended at 1630 when Gus reloaded the 4-wheeler and I drove back to Chassel but going north to Painesdale and driving east across the Painesdale-Chassell Road. Delicious homemade sushi and a little vino and beer for dinner with Steve and Gina and Andy and Cecilia.

FRIDAY, November 12: “Night of the Ass Fire.” In the morning Burton and I checked some places and went up to Hancock to fetch the repaired Tahoe. I drove the extra vehicle back to the Baraga Office, where we dumped it for Dave Miller, whose Tranny expired after I rode with him. Sgt Burton dropped me at the house while he ran to get his kids from school (They go to Painesdale Jeffers). He told me to start lunch, which I did, a package of cream of wild rice soup, into which I dropped four PAT breasts I cut up and sautéed in garlic and butter and various and sundry spices before throwing them into them into the soup. Damn good soup but I get no credit. Whole deal was Steve’s idea. Steve was going hunting and CO Doug Hermanson, who lives relatively close by picked me up at 1430 and away we went up into the Baraga Plains to search for blinds and other matters. We worked our way south to just north of Covington and upon our return started spitting fire wads out the back of the truck. We could smell something burning, but looked underneath and couldn’t find anything and Doug was afraid we’d start a grass fire or something so we headed north and about a mile from Burtons the truck expelled a large burning bolus of something and the fireworks seemed to be over.  Doug and I also took a ride down into a nasty wet swampy marshy area where he showed me some interesting items and he dropped me at the house at 10 p.m.

SATURDAY, November13: I was awake early and headed south to Stephenson in Menominee County to work a couple of days with CO Jason Niemi. It began snowing just south of L’Anse and continued to snow hard all the way down  to the other side of Florence Wisconsin. Heading east through Norway it dawned on me I had not taken the one-hour time change into account and would be an hour early in Stephenson, but it didn’t matter. Jason “Sensei” anticipated the faux pas and was waiting for me. We quickly loaded gear and started out on patrol when a Troop called to ask if we could back him up. There had been an alleged felonious assault that morning, a man who allegedly fired multiple rifle shots at people and the judge had just verbally authorized a warrant and he was going to make the arrest at the man’s hunting camp, where the man had fled to after the shots. We first followed the MSP trooper to the complainant’s camp, and then went on to the hunting camp. Corporal Terry Short and CO Marv Gerlach were teamed up for the day, and joined us as we reached the gate to the camp. It was a memorable moment to hear rounds being pounded into the boilers of the COs’ rifles as we got ready to go in. Fortunately the man was outside and though seeming up tight, offered no resistance other than a little verbal venting. He had a loaded pistol on the front seat of his truck as well as two long guns, one with a 30-round clip in it. The arrest was made safely, and the man driven away.  The three DNR men met afterwards and concluded had the man not been caught outside, that is if he had been inside the camp building, there might well could have been a barricaded gunman situation. We were all happy it went how it went. A few days ago I’m on a fire and now backing up an arrest for this kind of thing. COs have to prepare to handle anything in their line of work. And as I try to show in the books, then can plan all they want, but reality invariably intervenes and investigations drag out as they try to satisfy all the demands on their limited time. From the arrest Jason and I went out to check some property where there were some complaints of a violator operating and we found some interesting things. My day began at 0630 and we pulled up to Jason’s residence in Stephenson at 2200. Word was out that CWD had been discovered 40 miles from the Michigan border. Per established in-can plans if it turned out to be true, all baiting would be banned in the Upper Peninsula, as it is in the lower peninsula. There was no official notification from DNR personnel and all COs were getting their information on the tense situation via the media. Jason slow cooker meal for us and Terry Short joined us and we smoked cigars and had some cognac and swapped DNR stories.

We talk about the deer season. Normally in the UP it has a festive air, like some sort of testosteronal holiday, but this year nada. Nobody talking about it, nothing – and Menominee County probably has the highest deer count in the UP, but even here, nothing. It is like a non-event is approaching and this strikes all of us as eerie and pretty much without precedent.

SUNDAY, November 14: In the morning Jason tests his TASER, which all COs now carry. It sounds like an electronic bug zapper, which is one sense, I guess describes its function. Our day lasts from 1000 to 2030. Most of the day is spent in routine patrol and more scouting for the opener which starts in the morning and over the day we formulate a plan and let Sgt. Shann know I’ll work with Jason until noon, then head over to Escanaba to work there. We stop to visit some Polish guys from Illinois whom Jason ticketed years ago, but have become friends. Then we went looking for a local violator and stopped to see a man who leases land to some nonresidents, about whom other landowners have been complaining. We talked to a lot of people and talked them through various aspect of the hunting guide, which of course few people bother to read. At dark we creep some locations where violator activity is know to take place and depart dark, planning to open the day in this spot tomorrow. Dinner is leftovers.

MONDAY, November 15: The Firearm Deer Opener, once the most revered time in the outdoorsman’s annual schedule, but now hunters are aging, few young people are participating, the deer herd is in poor shape in many northern counties and the event is just not what it once was. Still, there will be some diehards. There always are. And there will be some cheaters: this you can take to the bank when you think about the old violator philosophy: “If there’s a lot, take a lot. If there’s a few, take them all.” Our morning ends catching an 18 year old in his blind without a license or ID and we go back to camp with him to take care of business. From there we proceed to a location where an underage hunter has been left alone and if not being supervised, which the law requires. The young man asks if he’s in trouble and Jason tells him “No, you’ve don nothing wrong, but we need to talk to your dad. When the dad shows he claims he though supervised hunting was required only the first year after hunter safety training. He is informed that he is misinformed, and this will be the trend as it is every season, all season, all of which could be solved by people reading the hunting guide and taking it to heart an memory. Clearing the second site Jason dropped me at my truck at the MSP post and I drove to Escanaba, met Sgt. Shann, dumped my gear in his Tahoe and head into the northeastern reaches of Delta County, that story to be told in Part II. Be careful out there and have a nice turkey day with family and friends. Over.

CO Jason Neimi returning from brief recon.

Bluff above Cliff Mine, searching for the wildfire site. We thought if we got upstairs we might see burn area below. This approach didn't work.
Cliff looker. Jambe Longue and I picked up copper ore and samples int he poor rock pile a couple of hundred feet below Sgt Burton's boots.
Finally we found the fire guys and followed the hoses downhill to where the mop-up was underway and nearing completion.
We summon a wrecker to haul the crapped out Tahoe down to Hancock and CO Matt Eberly picks us up and takes us down to Baraga to fetch replacement wheels.
Da Burton Dawgs, L-R: Aspen, Willow, Oreo (whose breed is ROAR or Rat on A Rope)
Game wardens are known for a lot of things. Eating well in the field is not one of them and this half-eaten sub is good illustration of how everything happens on the run.
Tree blocking the way? Not a problem. You hitch up the strap or chain and pull that sucker out of the way. Time lost to progress. Maybe a minute. COs keep going. Period.
One of the things I find great about batting about with COs are all the weird scenes one encounters. These deer traps are in an old storage barn and look pretty creepy lit up this way.
One night returnign to the Burton hacienda I find that Steve has gotten a deer that afternoon. ROAR Oreo runs over and eats on meat and blood every change he gets.
Gus Gustafson loading the Arctic Cat for all-day patrol.
From bridge into valley of West Branch of the Firesteel River. Beautiful, wild country.
You see the blind. Apparently this guy also cut down all those trees, plus many many others, to clear shooting lanes. Not legal if he's the one who did it. That's a high, steep rocky bluff above and I wanted to climb up for a look-see, but no time to waste.
Gus and I stopped for pasties for lunch and the shop had a whole bunch of these hats. There is so much bullshit and misinformation about wolves in this state it blows my mind. One fool reported seeing five wolves south of Gaylord on opening day. No doubt right beside ten cougars and a UFO. I worked a lot of counties and heard countless tales of seeing 5-7 wolves at a time. If I'd kept count and totaled them it would amount to about 2,000 animals, about four times the known population.
The lady who sold us pasties wanted us to see this photo of 440-pound bear taken by bow in the area during bear season. Most beautiful head and feet on a Michigan bear I've ever seen. Congratulation to Troy Sheats, who killed the animal.
I've seen salt blocks, but never seen a salt feeder quite like this.
This blind on the rocky outcrop overlooks the salt box on the stump
Add four sauteed PAT breasts to this soup and await food coma.
When Gina Burton found this heart-shaped potato she took it as a sign. her Husband took it as a potato and what more can you expect from an Ishpeming-Diorite boy?
Game wardens become skilled at hiding or masking their trucks. This is a fair example by CO Doug Hermanson.
Doug takes a little walk to check a property line.
Night time in da marsh. Some roads are better not followed.
Pretty fancy sushi -- and homemade. It was terrific. Great job by Steve and Gina.
Making an arrest in support of Michigan State Police. Notice how far from the action the writer places himself.
AFter clearing from the arrest event, Jason Niemi, Terry Short (middle) and Marv Gerlach meet for window-to-window de-briefing on the situation.
We are enroute to complaints of four wheelers buggin hunters and running wild and en route spot these two who seem to veer into field away from us, and we pursue and make the stop. They are not the guys we want.
Even with the deer-gaurd cut back to afford more clearance, our jaunt into the cornfield dug us in a bit.
Officer Niemi helping young fella down narrow, icy stairs from tower blind.
A scene which becomes a daily event over the course of the deer season.
One of several bridges on the Bill Nichols Trail

Credit Where Credit is Due

KW (Kept Woman) Colleen Steinman advises that credit for the weird yooper humor photo of last night’s blog rightfully belongs to Diane Stampfler, czarina of Promote/Michigan. Over.


Back from DNR patrols, report to follow here with photos later this week. Worked in Keewenaw, Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, Chippewa and Otsego Counties. Not many hunters in areas patrolled. But the few deer being shot appeared to be fairly large. I append to this brief entry a photo of Father Rob Howe’s 7-point buck, taken at St. Hubert’s Padre Camp in Alpena County. Rob rarely gets skunked. And I include some local humor pal Colleen forwarded to me, purported to be from the Ishpeming area. True? The Hematites are in the state finals this weekend and everyone around there is a little jacked up on football juice.


Purported to depict highway near Ishpeming, west of Marquette. Deer was hit there, placed on couch dumped previously. Day three someone placed the end table and lamp. Day Four, the TV stand appeared. Sign reads: "Sorry Hunters. Obama ruined healthcare. We can't afford to have injured hunters on our conscience, so I'm staying home! Sorry, Signed The Deer." The real joke here is that deer don't have a conscience, get it?
Fr. Rob Howe's 7-point buck, 15-in inside spread.

Songs You Never Heard

This here song youses never heard before, but some night in a UP tavern, you just might. Meanwhile, I am starting to get juiced for deer season. You might run into me anywhere in the state, so don’t be surprised and don’t get caught doing something stupid or naughty. And finally, some interesting local photographs to share. Here’s the song, then the pix.

Hump and Heavies the band was called,

Every man three hundred pounds, over six-foot tall,

We had drums and banjos and guitars galore,

Tubas, old-time keyboards, and a shitload more.

Our lead singer was on a pool-hall floor,

Jumped on the bus when we passed through Crystal Falls

Said she’d just drop-kicked some logger’s balls

Decided time as an  inginue might be a better venue

Looked at us, said her howdy doos.

Call me Mayme, I’mma joinin’ youse.

The bassman had six-fingered hands

Most peculiar digits in the land

But he could play like god’s own sweet voice

Or shatter beer bottles with his noise.

Our drummer-boy couldn’t see five feet

But pounded  skins with a madman’s beat

While our frontmen danced like Ichabod cranes

Destroying guitars, making splinters rain,

Mayme sang while the guitars twanged

And screamed at customers to all go hang.

She sang with thrusts and bumps and grinds

And surges, dips, and splits of wine.

But when she took out her baritone uke

We knew that she would surely puke,

Cause Mayme for all her gifts for song

Couldn’t drink for all that long,

And when she sang and turned her face scarlet

We knew she’d soon dive for the nearlest turlet

We toured the land for three short years

Drinking, laughing, shedding tears

Packed the bars and joints we played

Trashed the motels where we stayed.

And all the while we were on the road

Rolling Stone said we were the ultimate load.

The song our fans yelled for us to sing

Made bar girls smile like it was spring.

Take us back to our river

We left so long ago

Take us back to our river

And leave us all go.

Johnny O was in Alaska fishing and had a close encounter of the ursine kind. Said the bear was considerably closer than photo shows, and that he had to regain composure before thinking about working the camera. You know, John they've been known to charge camera-wielders!
I had a speaking engagement at the Fountains in Kalamazoo in October. Very nice crowd and lo and behold my old bluegill fishing partner showed up, Big John Ptacek!
Mystery Hole: My friend CO Paul Higashi told me about a strange hole he'd found out in a field and naturally Jambe Longue and I had to go check it out.
CO Higashi learned about the hole from one of our Portage cops and the cop also said that one day he learned who the digger is, went to his house and met with his spouse who said, "Yep, he likes to dig big holes." The funny part is that the digger is a local citizen with a very responsible professional position. The hole, I should add, looks like a computer-guided shovel did the excavation. Deer tracks all around it. I love this sort of random stuff.
We usually look at leaves at full color, but even later they retain a mysterious beauty.
Wizard of Oz trees from Al Sabo Preserve
Or how about a twisty tree from the Woods of the Blue Brassiere?
Last year Consumer's Energy shaved the power line right of way, but it's grown back and growing and color late in the day is great!

An Oyrishman’s October Trout

Pals John O’Neil and Kelly Neuman  floated the lower AuSable, from Alcona to Loud Dam last Saturday, caught and released four dandy trout, 16-18-20-24 inches.  John says the stretch is beautiful water. In addition, John’s son Captain Norm has just earned his Green Beret, which you should know, is not an easy thing.  Many fail on the road to that goal . Army combat vet Norm has always wanted to be a soldier. God speed to him and all our thanks for his service. Hey Norm, your old man worries, so be cool dude. Over.

What we have here is a spawned out 24-inch hen brown. Beautiful lady.
Either an 18 inch or 20-inch rainbow from the lower AuSable. Beautimus fish!!!

The People Have Spoken

I found myself oddly moved very late last night sitting and watching the more or less calm and orderly transition our democracy brings through the electoral process. Rick Snyder tried to make a reasoned, restrained, thoughtful acceptance speech for governor, but many in his audience howled like fools, earning some well deserved intense stares from the governor-elect. Good for him; boo on the bigmouths. I didn’t vote for the man, but I’ll do what I can to support him. Every newly elected official deserves a clean slate. Despite this, I continue to get venomous, half or no-truth Internet “crap” from pals about their avowed political enemies. Such are the times we live in.

I saw a friend the other day who said she had someone ended up in a focus group with a long-time congressman who listened to his focus group discuss various issues, then summarized, and she said every single time he did this, he entirely missed what was said, and simply stated what he believed — as if that is what people had said. She had voted for the man for years; not so yesterday. But he won anyway. In PR we used to teach that ultimately you are known by your deeds, not by your words.

No more political ads…at least for a while. We should have a party. Did I hear $2 billion was spent on elections? Does anyone other than me find that amount obscene and wonder WHY so much money gets spent if people simply want to be public servants and do what’s best for citizens and the nation?  Over.