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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Falling for fall

October 9, 2009
By Jim Junttila

"I love fall," said Vic Betterly approvingly over a recent cold one right out in the open in Copper Harbor, "No people, no bugs, no people or bugs to bug ya."

He was right. I hadn't had a bite all day, there wasn't a bug in sight, and you could fire birdshot downtown without hitting anybody. We were working ice chest duty, keeping an eye on things between Zik's and the Mariner.

A lotta Yoopers share Vic's perspective. They don't mind if visitors come to fish and hunt and enjoy our woods and waters once in awhile, just so they don't like it as much as we do and decide to move here. What few touristas that made it this far north this summer are pretty much gone, except for the fall foliage crowd, archers and bird hunters, and they don't amount to much.

Local bars, restaurants, motels and merchants sure love their cash flow, Keweenaw tourism adores the economic impact, and the DNR likes those non-resident license sales. It's a win-win situation, and far from crowded.

Our woods and water are plenty big enough to swallow up the hunters and fishermen using them. If you don't have binoculars, you can go all day without seeing another boat on Portage Lake, Lac la Belle, Big Traverse and Keweenaw Bay. Even with bow season and fall fishing, you've still got the woods, water and worse pretty much to yourself.

We live in a place where you don't have to go very far to watch wildlife; they show up in your backyard, which some consider trespassing. You can shoot deer from your front porch, back deck or kitchen table, not that everybody does.

"It's not just going on all around us, it's going on in our back yards," observed WWW Wildlife Correspondent Paris Hiltunen. "Then there's trapping seasons for muskrat and mink, raccoon, bobcat, badger, beaver, coyote, fox, fisher, marten and otter, she added, "Diamonds may be a city girl's best friend," she said provocatively, "but Yooper chicks can't have too many furs when the snow flies," she added pragmatically.

"You still have to go out and catch your own fish, but the critters come to you. They show no favoritism whatsoever; Anybody with apple trees, a garden, flowers, nuts or berries, it's all fair game to small game and big game alike," she shrugged.

Your small game license entitles you to take your best shot at just about anything that moves: Partridge, woodcock, ducks, raccoons, squirrels, porcupine, possum, weasel, skunk and woodchuck. Separate licenses are required for deer, bear and waterfowl. There's a Special Disabled firearm hunt Oct. 16-19. Check your current Michigan Hunting & Trapping Guide or visit for regs, seasons and bag limits.

"They love 'their' fruit and vegetables and they're not the least bit fussy whose gardens they raid," Paris said. "Apples and acorns are their favorites, and they're all hardwired with sophisticated food detection radar, olfactory powers and determination far greater than ours."

You don't have to live outa town for deer and rabbits to eat you outa house, home and hostas. They'll eat you outa roses and rutabagas, too, and gnaw the cedar shingles off your house if you let them. If you've got food, they'll find it. And probably already have, like I'm telling you something you don't already know.

Just last week I flushed a pair of partridge as I waded Woodtick Crick outa brookie season and into bird season. They startled me as they always do, but kept right on flying even though I pointed my ultralight in their general direction and said boom twice.

You know it's transition time when the leaves are changing, frost is on the pumpkin, backroads bars take down their welcome fishermen banners and replace them with messages of hospitality to hunters, and when fall-run salmon and steelhead are staging off river mouths and heading upstream to spawn.

I'm happy to know a few late fall fishermen who don't put the boat in the barn when football and hunting season roll around. They hunt trophy splake in Copper Harbor, monster walleye, smallmouth, northern and muskie on Portage Lake and Lac la Belle, and those rambunctious redfins roaming the spawning reefs of Lake Superior and Keweenaw Bay, striking anything that begins with R; Rapalas, Reef Runners, and RJs.

Even with all that hunting and fishing going on, you rarely see anybody in the woods or on the water. And that blaze orange is hard to miss.

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at



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