Keweenaw hunters awoke to a fresh white groundcover on Thanksgiving Day for the first snow of deer season.
Some say they like the tracking snow and it's easier to see in the bush. Others say if you drop 'em where they stand, you don't have to track 'em. The WW&W "Black Friday" Rut Report just calls 'em as we see 'em and lets you decide.
In recent columns, we've discussed fluctuating Yooper deer populations, including the "Ghetto Buck Theory" where more and more older and wiser bucks are moving their trophy racks closer to town where there's more grub and fewer hunters and they feel safer. And where the deer go, the coyotes and wolves aren't far behind. Residents of Tamarack Heights, Cen-tennial Heights, Raym-baultown, Swedetown, Bumbletown, Ahmeek, Copper City and other hoods around the edge of Calumet can hear 'em howling out there. They've learned to keep their cats and dogs inside at night so they don't become coyote and cougar snacks. And not the good kind of cougars either, like the ones I wish would get me.
"Be careful what you wish for," cautioned WW&W urban cougar correspondent Dee Troit. "You Yoopers aren't the only ones with encroaching whitetail problems; With 45,000-some vacant lots in Detroit now, ghetto bucks are moving closer and closer to the city in droves."
Whether deer numbers are up, down, sideways, about the same as last season or what, depends on whom you talk to. It's a subject of rampant conjecture and speculation among Yooper hunters and MDNR wildlife biologists alike, but everybody agrees on one thing: The deer have us right where they want us.
"They've got us pretty much surrounded," said WW&W wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen, "but Lake Lindeners and Bootjackers can still escape by water. The deer leave the Torch Lake shoreline pretty much unguarded; Dollar Bayers can still make good their escape by boat at Sandy Bottom, but do so under the cover of darkness," she advised. For current deer movement information, check Dolly Partanen's hunting headquarters downtown Dollar Bay, along the escape route to Sandy Bottom.
"Lac la Bellers have Bete Gris, and Traverse Bay, Gay, Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor residents always have open Lake Superior if their backs are against the wall," she added, "although it may be too late for those who've already put their boats in the barn for the winter."
It's no surprise that Sarah Palinen and Paris Hiltunen got their bucks, they always do. Both correspondents were welcome guests at deer camps and the backwoods bars across the U.P., and took their best shots.
"It took three shots, but he finally went down," Paris said enthusiastically describing how she spotted her buck at the Hunters Ball at the White House last Saturday, but had to buy him three shots of Jack Black before he fell for her.
"I've met hunters who got their bucks in Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon, Baraga and Gogebic counties, and those who haven't," said Palinen, who got hers during a slow dance at the Lac la Belle Lodge Hunters Ball after tracking him all the way from the Cliff View.
The biggest buck I've heard of so far was a 12-point, 200-pounder shot by Tom Talvensaari in Keweenaw County. "It had an inside spread of 17-5/8 inches with a massive 4-7/8-inch diameter beam and a buncha stickers," Tom said. "I shot it at about 85 yards with a new 6.5 mm Remington Mag I won at the CKSC Gun Show in August."
WW&W oldest hunter awards go to Donald Lehto, 96, Baraga, who bagged a 7-point, 160-pound buck hunting outa Mighty Deer Lick Ranch: and Joe Reilly, 80, Bootjack, who shot a 9-point, 165-pounder outa Bruneau Creek Camp with a 30.06 handgun. Other successful hunters at the same camp were Larry Smith, Lac la Belle, with an 8-point, 150-pound buck, and son Steven Smith, who shot a forkhorn.
The U.P. is the Land of 10,000 Koskis and many Yooper deer camp names reflect the Finnish heritage of the hunters who inhabit them, as in Camp Koski, Camp Niemi, Camp Maki, etc.
"When you come right down to it, they're just half Finns," Dave Koskiniemi splained. "If you're looking for whole Finns, you gotta go with Camp Koskiniemi and Camp Koskimaki."
You don't have to be a hunter to take a good, tasty bite outa Keweenaw deer camp culture. Take in the Hunters Ball tonight, 9-1, at the Drift Inn, Copper City, music and dancing by The Wingnuts; or the Gay Bar Hunters Ball, Saturday, 9-1, downtown Gay.
Firearm season ends Monday. Archery resumes Tuesday and runs through Jan 1. Muzzleloading season runs Dec. 4-13.
For more info visit Michigan. gov/dnrhunting.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org, even during deer camp.