Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 14th, 2008 Edition.
About the time this edition hits the newsstands I’ll be crossing the Menominee River into Michigan’s UP. I, like thousands of other deer hunters, am heading for “deer camp” to engage in the traditional November 15th opener for whitetails.
My host, one Dr. Thomas Tilkens of Green Bay, opened the door of his secluded camp for me some thirteen years ago and I have been able to accept his annual invitation seven times previously. And, I’ve been lucky enough to bring venison home six times. This year I’m hoping to move that number up to seven.
Tom’s camp is basically a “family camp”, I being the lone foreigner. During the beginning of the camp’s existence an ancient sixteen-foot travel trailer served as the bunkhouse. Now as one might imagine, cramming four deer hunters and all their gear into such tight quarters makes for a whole batch of close bonding! I recall Tom’s two sons, Mark and Steve, shared the modest sized bed, Tom curled up on the table area, which converts to a bed and I spread a foam mattress and sleeping bag on the floor of the entrance.
I believe it was during that maiden adventure when suddenly in the middle of the night one of Tom’s sons detected what he thought was a “gas leak.” A verbal alarm was sounded and three sets of bare feet pounded past me and out into the snow covered landscape. As my comrades gasped for fresh air I chuckled in my sleeping bag and was forced to confess the “gas leak” was not from the propane heater! Such are the events that deer camp history is forged from!
As time marched on the makeup of the camp’s clientele changed. Mark and Steve marched off to college and membership in Tom’s deer camp dropped to just two. Then there were the years when Michigan’s opener occurred too closely with that of Wisconsin, and I was forced to opt out of the Michigan part of the annual events. And let it be known, being the lone hunter in a hunting camp is a lonely experience!
The area where Tom‘s camp is situated is prime deer country. Numerous farms dot the landscape, separated by woodlots and acres of hardwood, cedar swamps and alder thickets. Most of the land is in private ownership so unless you have a place to hunt one will have a difficult time finding public lands.
The land we hunt is a mixture of second growth balsam, interspersed with small grassy meadows with a large cedar swamp thrown in for good measure. A small stream meanders through the lowland providing the local whitetails with a handy source of liquid refreshment.
Tom hunts from the summit of the only strip of “high ground”, while I hunker down in the thickest portion of the cedar swamp. A third stand sits on one of the bends of the “crick”, which this year will be occupied once again by Mark.
For this seasoned hunter, a cedar swamp is a splendid place to spend a day, or several days or the better part of a week. Lowlands such as this are alive with living creatures to entertain a hunter while they wait for the primary object that draws them here.
There is no end to numerous birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, ravens, and crows roam the skies and hunt for food. Pine and gray squirrels scamper from tree to tree and stump to stump storing cones and seeds for winter dining. Occasional flocks of Canada geese honk overhead as they flit back and forth between the mighty Menominee River and various harvested grain fields, while ruffed grouse roam the forest floor pecking at choice morsels.
In past years I’ve been blessed with visits from owls, hawks, and eagles. I’ve also been privileged to glimpse a somewhat rare peregrine falcon that tried unsuccessfully to ambush a gray squirrel and a very rare great gray owl that took up residence near me in a dead elm tree for almost an hour!
For me, this year will be a more leisurely hunt. I have a maximum of five days I can spend relaxing in my pop-up blind as I wait to fill my tag. Last season I had but one and a half days to commit to the challenge, as the Michigan opener and the Wisconsin opener were but two days apart. Hopefully, this year I will be more able to “pick and choose” from the cedar swamp shopping mall.
The Tilken’s Camp has experienced an exceptional “hunter success rate.” The black spruce “meat pole”, which is suspended between a mature balsam and a red maple, has been put to good use year after year and has never chalked up a goose egg. And Tom has a photo album to prove it!
Once again there will be four bodies in Tom’s new travel trailer. No, it isn’t bigger than the original sixteen footer, but it offers a lot more luxury! And this year I get the table/bed while Tom sleeps on the floor! Sometimes it’s nice to be the oldest guy in camp!
As always we’ll eat well -- probably too well. There will be homemade chili and venison brats tonight. Steak and baked potatoes on Saturday. Sunday evening we’ll dine on Tom’s famous mouthwatering jerked beef stew. Monday’s dinner is scheduled to be Canadian goose stew, and a thick venison stew on Tuesday. Wednesday night might be a gourmet mixture of leftovers!
This year we’ll have a first time rookie deer hunter in camp for opening weekend! Tom’s oldest grandson, Luke, will be on board to test his shooting skill should an opportunity present itself. Grandpa and Luke will share Gramp’s blind and grandpa is very anxious to see how his grandson handles his first deer rifle! This my friends is what memories are made of!
I have been oh so fortunate over the years to be a part of many “first time deer hunts” and share the excitement of a rookie hunter’s first conquest. And at my age that is much more exciting than possibly bagging a deer of my own.
So Luke, good luck and shoot straight! I hope to share the excitement with you, your dad and your gramps!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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