There's a mass migration going on in the U.P. and it has nothing to do with Catholic church services. Even as we speak, Yooper hunters by the thousands are fleeing their jobs, homes and hearths and bailing for deer camp this weekend, with Opening Day Sunday.
It's Friday the 13th, time for festivities in the forests of the Keweenaw, with blaze orange everywhere and hunters balls, booyaws and bands at your favorite backwoods venison venues from Ontonagon to Copper Harbor, the Maple Leaf to the Mosquito Inn, Billy the Finn's to the Cliff View, the Rousseau to Zik's.
While the hunters are away, the casinos cater to hunter's widows who can track down the buck of their dreams at L'Anse Vegas and Watersmeet, venues for trophy male revues roaming the U.P.
"It's a Yooper cultural phenomenon, the rut has quite a following," said WWW wildlife correspondent and recognized rut expert, Paris Hiltunen, who has never not gotten a buck she set her sights on.
With the growing migration of hunters to the boonies, some are doing their hunting closer to town, betting on the "ghetto buck" theory.
"The more we intrude on the deer woods, the more evasive and elusive they become, migrating ever closer to town," said WWW whitetail correspondent John Deer. "All antlered urban and suburban deer between Calumet and McLain State Park, Hancock and Lake Linden, would be considered ghetto bucks."
There's plenty of anecdotal action to back it up. The more the hunting pressure out in the bush, the closer to town the bucks come to get away from it. Gardens and apples are deer magnets, and as long as you provide the food source, they're willing to eat you outa hostas and home.
People on the outskirts of town, in the wilds of Wolverine, Ahmeek. Bumbletown, Copper City and Traprock Valley, plink 'em off from their back porch and kitchen window, not that everybody does. That nice balcony on the upstairs bedroom facing the woods doubles as a deer stand.
On any given night, you can drive from Mohawk to Copper Harbor without seeing a car, but you can't do it without seeing a deer. It's a gauntlet out there; You're lucky if you don't hit one, even luckier if one doesn't hit you. We have lots more deer than people around here.
You know how Michigan has the dubious honor of leading the league in unemployment? We're over-achieving in deer-car crashes, too. In 2008, we ranked second in the nation, trailing only West Virginia. We're within striking range and you can help make us No. 1 again.
Adam Frimodig is doing his part and you can, too. Last season, Adam drove all the way from Michigan State University in East Lansing to Calumet without seeing a deer. Then one ran smack-dab into him on his way to camp somewhere around Delaware. The Keweenaw County Sheriff just happened to be coming the other way, the only car he'd seen since town. He threw it in the backa his pick-up and arrived at camp on Opening Day eve with fresh venison, still warm.
The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition recently released a study sponsored by State Farm Insurance that tallied 61,010 such accidents last year, down slightly from the 61,907 recorded in 2007, and 62,707 in 2004, the last two seasons that Michigan led the league. Twelve people were killed and 1,648 injured in last year's deer-car collisions.
Almost half of deer-car accidents happen during the rut in October and November when deer are mating. "That's what I'd call a social dynamic and romantic attraction on the horns of a dilemma," added Hiltunen, feeling herself taking a shine to John Deer.
Experts say that about 17 percent of all car accidents in Michigan involve deer, and blame deer-car crashes for damages exceeding $100 million annually. In some southern counties, like Oakland and Washtenaw, where both traffic and deer numbers are high, more than 10 percent of the deer herd may be struck by cars each year.
Here in the U.P., the deer are fewer and farther between, but nowhere near as few and far between as we are, and have long since taken over, out-numbering us 3-to-1. There are about 900,000 of them to 300,000 Yoopers; do the math.
It's already too late for rural villages like Eagle River, Eagle Harbor, Jacobsville and Gay, where deer roam the streets and eat anything that doesn't eat them first. Now they're encroaching on Calumet-Laurium from both sides of 41. They've pretty much got us just the way they want us; surrounded.
"They don't call them high-speed beef for nothing," added Deer. "It's not like you can out-run them."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.