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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

You can't go to deer camp cold turkey

November 6, 2009
By Jim Junttila

A recent WW&W Opinion Dynamics Poll among non-hunting wives of hunters, about to become deer camp widows once again, revealed that wives just don't understand why their husbands have to "go camp" every chance they get these days when the season doesn't start until Nov. 15.

I'll try and splain it as it's been splained to me, and trust my sophisticated Finnish girl correspondents to enlighten you further. They know a thing or two about getting their bucks.

There's no big mystery or enigmas wrapped in riddles here. Yooper deer camp is a male culture all its own, and a fine, noble, clandestine culture it is. Just like there's no self-respecting football game without the obligatory pre- and postgame tailgate parties, so goes deer camp.

"You don't just go to camp cold turkey without a few practice camps to get in shape," said enigmatic WWW camp correspondent Sarah Palinen, welcome at bipartisan deer camps nationwide on her looks alone.

"I've been to enough camps to know the boys have plenty to keep them busy," Sarah said. "By the time I'm done test-flirting, test-firing the sauna and fighting them off, I'm ready for a cold one."

Last weekend, I paid a training camp visit to Camp Kukkelikuu (pronounced gook-a-lee-goo), Finnish for "everything's pretty darn good," way out in the boonies of Baraga County beyond Billy the Finn's, back in the Huron Mountains beyond Helen Gone's. I was riding shotgun with Pete Oikarainen, whose mission was fine-tuning the dish at the legendary camp in time for deer season.

After pruning branches by axe and shotgun and firing up the sauna, the Petrelius brothers, Bill and Rick, and Charlie Rautio, gave us the tour.

Camp Kukkelikuu is perched on a rock outcropping high above the West Branch of the Huron River, which was running at perfect fall coho flow. Maybe it was the hospitality, but the view from the River Room is mesmerizing.

There are floor-to-ceiling windows and a deck; In the glow of the gas lamp, I visualized fresh-from-the-lake fish, finning through the rapids right beneath our feet, surging upstream, under the cover of darkness, to their destiny; to spawn and become a sacrifishal deer camp fish fry. You read that right, yet another new word coined in this column.

We enjoyed practice pasties, practice saunas and practice shots toasting Pete's new, improved dish hookup.

"All those in favor of going with ten 30-packs of Old Mil Light for ODI (Opening Day Inventory) raise your hand," Bill Petrelius motioned as my mind wandered back to the meeting. The vote was unanimous.

"Start slow with the 12-ounce curls, working your way up to 16-ouncers til you feel the burn, then switch to pitchers," coached WWW trainer and mixologist Brandy Alexander, stressing the popular Yooper camp fitness program.

Training camps include preseason scouting, keeping bait piles replenished, shagging the chippies and squirrels outa the blind, setting out acorn and apple chum, patterning buck and doe travel routes, scrapes and rubs, setting and checking trail cams.

Even with all the technology and treachery, there's no substitute for time in the bush and the blind.

"A lotta people think it all comes down to the rut, but it's much more than that," said WWW wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen, speaking from experience.

"There's the early-rut, pre-rut, the rut itself, late rut and post-rut," she added knowledgeably. "And a hot doe's ability to lure a hot buck. I'll keep you posted throughout the season with the official WWW Rut Report, up-to-date information you can use to plan your hunting trips, hunters balls & booyaws, and other deer camp dalliances."

"When the guys go camp, the wives 'go Green Bay' or the closest casino with those hot male revues roaming the U.P." tipped Dolly Partanen. "Jack London was right: Who can resist the call of the wild?"

Archery season runs through Nov. 14, with the rut usually reaching its crescendo during the regular firearm segment Nov. 15-30.

Archery resumes Dec. 1-Jan. 1, then Muzzleloading season runs Dec. 4-13.

For more information and regulations, check your Michigan Hunting & Trapping Guide or visit

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@



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