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.