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Getting in shape for deer camp/Jim Junttila

Woods, water & worse

November 12, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"Did you hear the rumor that Dolly Partanen, Willie Nelsonen and Pasty Cline are playing a gigantic Hunters Ball & Booyaw at the Calumet Theatre Ballroom?" asked WW&W wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen, scarcely containing her excitement with "now that's hot!"

All three WW&W music correspondents usually perform solo with their own bands, but get together as duets and trios for special occasions. Seeing them converge in one place at the same time would be something to behold indeed. Dress code is Copper Country casual; any color's OK as long as it's blaze orange.

"To us Yoopers, there's nothing more special than deer camp," Willie said over a frosty Red Jacket Amber at Club Shute after rehearsal. "I think we all have a little animal inside of us and it's good to let it out once in a while," he added therapeutically, "Yoopers are good at it, they know what victuals and vices go best with venison."

We've hadda lotta practice. Whenever deer season opens on a Monday, the weekend leading into it becomes pre-game warm-up as hunters head for camp a couple days early. Many are en route even as we speak, eager to work out the kinks and loosen up for Opening Day. Getting limber means trimming limbs, splitting wood for the fireplace and sauna, emptying and resetting mouse traps, hauling water up from the lake and whatnot, with 12-ounce curls and ice-cold calisthenics in between to maintain proper hydration. Exercise responsibly, rinse cycles and repetitive pacing advised.

Stretching exercises are key, especially when it comes to the truth. You've gotta be in shape and on the ball, ready and steady, when your adrenaline suddenly upgrades to an endorphin rush at the sight of that trophy rack of a lifetime.

The rut peaks in mid-November, strategically coinciding with deer season when bucks and does are in the mood and in peak condition for mating. Hot does bred now will drop fawns in May and June. Baby bucks are independent in one year, does in two. A good-sized adult Yooper buck, his neck thick with the rut, will weigh 175-220 pounds. Antler size and development depends on diet, plenty of good Yooper mast; fruit and nuts that help build big racks.

While the Keweenaw may not have whitetails up the wazzoo, we maintain a pretty stable, huntable herd and you never know when you'll come upon that true trophy buck of a lifetime. I wish you hunters and huntresses fresh rubs and scrapes.

Perhaps nowhere else in the country are small, backwater towns more hospitable to hunters than the U.P., and no legal holiday is crammed with as much tradition as Opening Day of the firearm deer season, Monday, Nov. 15.

"Beer sales spike during deer camp," said WW&W refreshments correspondent Al Cohol. "If alcohol and guns don't go together, why do they call it the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms?"

On a more serious note, and in its defense, the Yooper beer camp sterotype is a drop in the bucket when it comes to economic impact. An estimated 750,000 hunters pump about $800 million into the state's sagging economy between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, with a two-week crescendo during the firearm deer season, Nov. 15-30, sandwiched between the archery season and muzzleloader and late archery seasons, and the U.P. gets its share. If you're in the sporting goods, bar, restaurant, grocery, party store, motel, hotel, gas station or casino business, it's your time to go for the gold. The state doesn't do too shabby on license fees, either. Resident firearm hunters pay $15, senior resident only $6; non-resident, $138. See your 2010 Michigan Hunting & Trapping Digest or visit When you pick up your license, ask for an application to win a 2011 Pure Michigan Hunt or go online at The $4 fee goes straight into the Game & Fish Fund.

No matter how conservative they may be, even Tea Party type beer camp provisioners stock liberal inventories, laying in emergency reserves in case you get snowed in by a surprise lake-effect blizzard nobody saw coming. You can't be too careful.

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@, even during deer camp.



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