Friday, Nov. 11: I drove from Portage to Ford River to stay with friends. Radio filled with extreme poltiical gibberish. Reporters called velociraptor agitators. Obama called Barack Bin Laden, and referred to as Hard Left Left Liberal Socialist Secular Reformer, at same time announcer screaming that the President is resorting to dirty and negative political ads. A billboard declared: Feed Cows, Not Deer. No idea what that’s about.
Saturday, Nov. 12: Out on patrol with CO Jared Ferguson in Delta Co. We spent half our day investigating an alleged violation called into the Report All Poach (RAP) Line in Lansing. Not a lot of hunters afield yet, though we found one untended and quite large campfire. Saw 10 deer during the day.
Sunday, Nov. 13: Drove from Ford River to Crystal Falls, jumped in with CO Jason (Whizzo) Wicklund. Worked all over the county’s north country, few hunters in camps, a trace of snow in woods. Dinner that night at the home of Lenny and Annie Brezek. Lenny is retired Chicago cop (Sgt) now dep with Iron Co. Great guy and chef. He had cop pals up from the city for deer hunting and the Lions-Bears game. Told story of moonlighting with White Sox and having contact with one of MLB’s major players who ordered him to call a cab and when Lenny asked for a name, the “star” whooshed, said, “Tell ’em Superman. ” So Lenny obediently made the call and the cab company refused to dispatch a vehicle and when “star” came back to demand where his cab said, Lenny reported, “It ain’t comin.’ They said if you’re Superman, you can fly by yourself.” There were many many more stories, all funny and interesting.[Saw 6 deer] Met two women and parents in north Iron County. They had three bucks and a doe and two tags left, all the animals taken with bow and arrows. Others are complaining about no deer while these women in same area are filling their tags. They offer us an apple when we visit. Nice to see people do it right, and enjoy themselves.
Monday, Nov. 14: With Whizzo Wicklund again. (Some fellow officers also call him iPod because of his technical electronic prowess). In course of day met up with CO Dave Painter and retired CO Mike Holmes who had been to a camp where there was an untagged deer, illegal traps and a couple of questionable bear capes. Later Dave met up with Wisconsin Warden Kelly Crottie to followup on case from last night where deputies stopped an individual driving erratically, with a firearm and a bunch of Wisconsin hunting licenses, not in his name. Turned out the licenses had been bought by the man’s lady friend, who works in Wisconsin, lives in Michigan, has mail box in Wisconsin, but collects Michigan welfare (or whatever it’s called nowadays). We ended the evening partnered with Painter at a camp where inhaitantss declared they’d never done anything wrong or illegal in 40 years, and proceeded to name off all the DNR personnel they know. When one of the brethren was found with a loaded gun in his blind, they got very quiet.[Saw 35 deer today, including a humongo 10-point specimen in NW Iron Co.] Very few hunters around, most complaining about how few deer. Could be in part because many of them have no idea what they are doing?
Tuesday, Nov. 15: Firearm opener. I’m paired with Dave Painter, who has just been named Officer of the Year for Mi. Today we found a guy from Chicago in a blind 35 yds from his truck in a small popup blind, all his gear brand new, his first time hunting ever. His partner was similarly arrayed down the road. Dave suggested they relocate. At dark we met iPod at another camp, where we found an untagged deer hanging. As others came into camp, some with loaded weapons, we heard how they do everything right and legal. As we talked to these folks an 85-yr old hunter with muscular dystrophy appeared on his 4 wheeler with an 11 pt buck loaded up, his rifle unloaded, helmet on, etc. Shot the buck, dragged it 200 yards to his 4 wheeler. Used his winch to load it, said he had to get on home because he had tendency to fall down in the woods, which worried his wife. Old with a terrible disease, but doing things right. I think the irony was missed by the others. Dave an I saw 47 deer today as hunters whined they were seeing nada. Dinner with Mike and Sue Webster and we went back out looking for night shooters, with an interesting, long chase on some lights.
Wednesday, Nov 16: Five otters and six eagles were mingling on ice outside Mike and Sue Webster’s house as Dave Painter arrived to fetch me. Late day we encountered a 12-yr-old boy hunting alone in an overbaited blind.Hhe had driven a 4-wheeler to the blind down a highway with uncased gun because he couldn’t figure out how to afix the gun case to the vehicle. His aunt, a half-mile away, was supposed to be supervisiing and by time we talked to her we learned she was hunting on borrowed licenses, etc. the usual litany of malarkey and excuses. Saw 14 deer today.
Thursday, Nov. 17: Drove to Stephenson in Menominee County and met CO Jason Niemi, who had 1- point buck mount riding shotgun with him. Night before he was going to meet a farmer about a complaint, was early and made a random stop on a hunter coming out of the woods. Turned out the hunter was Wisconsin resident using borrowed Michigan tags. In course of conversation, hunter boasted he’d shot 12 pt buck in Wi last year and showed photo, only the photo showed a 2009 Michigan tag hanging off an antler, so Jason kept the photo and went to Marinette and confiscated the deer off a wall as well. Turns out same person who loaned tags this year did same in 2009. I jumped in with Jason, and we joined Wisconsin Warden Dave Oginski and the three of this drive to house in Wisconsin to talk to Mr. 12-Point, whose story changes and changes and changes until it is murky soup. The man seems incapable of truth about even the most mundane items. He looks clean-cut and normal, claims to be an army vet. Has mounted deer all around his house. Turns out he bought them, but has been telling people he killed the animals and in some cases claiming he had shot state-record bucks, but nothing checks out and Dave and Jason stay on him for more than two hours. Michigan’s Retail Sales System shows the man has never held a Michigan hunting license; and Wisconsin records show he’s killed 29 deer on various ag permits over last five years, almost all does, though he has been bragging in MI he only shoots trophy bucks. He tells us repeatedly how he has been victimized by life. This victim story pops up very nearly every day we make contact with hunters. I forgot to count deer today.
Friday, Nov. 18: Picked up another borrowed license tonight. Last night’s subject has been nicknamed Chernobyl: A major disaster with continuing fallout. We have to go back to see him again, probably tomorrow. Saw 5 deer today. Very few hunters afield.
Saturday, Nov. 19: Oginsky spotted Chernobyl hunting in Wisconsin with a pal, and a buck and doe in truck bed. We went to revisit him again today. A second Wisconsin warden went along. The man is a disaster. Saw no deer.
Sunday, Nov. 20: Checked camp with two hunters from downstate, on public land, two other hunters, a wife/mother and neice had gone home. Two deer hanging. Overbaited. Blinds not marked, illegal ORV trail and operating over a berm, etc . Something fishy about stories of who got one, and two bait piles. Jason wrote tickets for various infractions and told them we were going to talk to the wife/mother. En route to find cell coverage we spotted truck by fence and road and stopped to make quick check. Second man out was standoffish and stories didn’t mesh, so Jason got him aside and he confessed to tagging an 8-point with his mother’s license. We went to camp and took the deer. These were major landowners, presumably upstanding community citizens — doing same stuff the wingnuts are doing. Got out to cell coverage, called woman downstate. She told of three deer shot and two in camp not by who the men claimed, both tagged wrong. We returned to the camp, found the men gone, and took both animals, left paperwork and instructions to call, which they didn’t do until next morning. Saw 12 deer today. Dinner with Cpl Tery Short and CO Marv Gerlach.
Monday, Nov. 21: Went to Stephenson Office, met our “boys” from last night and got a confession for two deer. They denied shooting a button buck they wife/mother told us about. Wife claimed she shot doe, which her hubby tagged, and hubby shot button buck, which son shot spike horn. In DNR office, dad took the fall for all of it. After meeting the two men, I drove to Gaylord and pulled into the Torsky residence moments after Kristy. The southbound deer count on the bridge said it was up 66 percent over last year. Obviously lots of deer being taken, despite all the bitching on the west side. Shortly there after Nick “One Word” called to say he’d gotten a spike. Did we want to take a ride? Sure. He picked us up and drove us to the deer where we held lights while he surgically gutted the animal, loaded it and headed home. It had been his day off.
Tuesday, Nov. 22: Paroled Otsego Co, and slipped down into northern Crawford. We met a retired Ohio police officer who told us his son had shot a 10 pt buck over in Thunder Bay River Country over by Alpena and after four days in camp needed to get home. Other guys wanted him to stay. He went inside, packed and came out to find deer gone from his truck. He asks the other guys. “Okay, where’ is it?” They swear they never bothered it. He starts looking, finds blood trail follows it, finds deer with haunch gone, antlers broken, bear tracks. The bear had gotten into the pickup bed and dragged the carcass away. We heard of 4-5 bears being sighted over time I was north, a couple of them large ones. Pretty funny story, I guess, if you’re not in the truck. Nick and I dropped a donated deer at a residence and talked to various hunters. At one point we encountered young driver weaving over center line and bumper sticker proclaiming: I DRIVE LIKE THIS TO PISS YOU OFF, and Nick pulled him over, learned he had unpaid ticket, was a suspect in a theft, and was cutting boughs on private property. Nick would go check that claim later. Kid is 20. Saw 6 deer, and at conclusion of the patrol I jumped in the Green Streamer and booked south for home, Jambe Longue not expecting me until next day. Rained hard from Mt. Pleasant south. Just under 100 hours of patrols since I arrived in Yoop.
Themes for the season:
1. Not enough snow. Tuesday opener. Not sure how this connects to snow depth, but whatever…
2. Deer not in rut yet.
3. Not many deer being seen. (Oddly enough, not one cry of the “wolves have eaten all the deer.”
4. Not many hunters. Lots of complaints about not seeing deer, though I personally saw at least 135 in the days I was up there.
5. Lots of people illegally loaning and borrowing licenses, and I am tempted to think it’s the economic times, but most doing it appeared to be in pretty good shape; more likely, just wanting to cheat — to get away with something. COs spared them in writing tag violations. Fine is $50-500 with probable 2-yr loss of hunting privileges. Illegal deer charge would be five days in jail, $1000 restitution, $400 costs, three years loss of privileges, possible loss of vehicles, equipment, guns.. Small no. of hunters could be due to economics and gas, though gas pices lower at this time than for months. Or it could be complaints about small deer numbers in Yoop in previous seasons, but there have been two consecutive light winters, lots of twin- and triplet- fawn sightings last two summers and lots of deer around.
6. Very few young hunters. Most 50-80, and few women. We used to have more than a million hunters, now something like 660,000 licenses sold. The sport gives lots of evidence of fading away here. We had pretty good weather conditions, cold mornings, some tracking snow, but rut was only beginning in various counties. With a Tuesday start we figured wrongly next weekend would bring heavy pressure: It didn’t. A few photos follow. I have to steer clear of showing folks who’ve been ticketed but not yet adjudicated. Ergo, my photos tend to focus more on the surroundings and random sightings. Some pix tonight, more tomorrow. Enjoy. Over. PS: Thanks to Darryl and Karla Shann, Mike and Sue Webster, Lenny and Annie Brezek, and Kristi and Nick Torsky for various amenities and kindnesses.
Opening morning dawns.
Neither a county nor state road sign.
Decoration (Target) of Opportunity.
On foot in Northwest Iron County
Illegal otter pelts from the evidence locker.
Untended fire in Delta Co.
L-R: CO Ferguson, Old Fella, CO Wenzel at Esky office lot.