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By the time I get to Phoenix, she’ll be waiting/Woods, water & worse

November 19, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"She'll find the note I left hanging on the door," I sang to myself as I left my firearm focus group at the White House and headed north on my annual Keweenaw buck poll and deer camp tour.

"Who's she?" you wonder. "Who'll be waiting?"

It's not just she, but all three; Holly, Judy and Arbutus, three of the best whitetail record keepers and buck pool bookies an outdoor reader could hope for, all lined up like ducks in a row within a mile of one another along US-41 in Phoenix. The Cliff View, Vansville and Phoenix Store, respectively and collectively, are critical hunter intercept survey and venison booyaw stops on my way to Lac la Belle, then onto Camp Frimodig on the north shore of Lake Medora, Copper Harbor way.

"I've got 29 signed up so far," said Arbutus Peterson at the Phoenix Store midweek. Her daughter Sue Gherna was her very first registrant on the board with a nice 7-pointer first thing in the morning on Opening Day. Unaccustomed as I am to that kinda immediate gratification, I was pumped just hearing about it.

"That's what makes Jim's deer camp research so thorough," said WW&W political correspondent and huntress Sarah Palinen at the Cliff View, "We get a second opinion, even a third for good measure; primary, secondary and tertiary stats and projections, heavy on the anecdotal input; The kinda real-world and factional stuff that WW&W Opinion Dynamics Polls are made of."

Local and regional Yooper hunters and MDNRE check points are reporting a lotta 8 and 10-pointers with above average antler development.

"The biggest buck I've heard of so far was a 12-pointer shot by George Twardzik," said Judy Rota, veteran buck poller at Vansville, a venerable Keweenaw venison venue. Bonnie Dyni, Ahmeek, shot a 10-pointer with a 12-1/4" spread, Roger Perreault, 8-point/14-3/4" spread, Bruce Harter, 8-point/12-3/4" spread, Mike Harter, 8-point.

"We've got a good buck pool going," said Holly Leskinen at the Cliff View Inn, a popular hunting spot where the cabins are usually booked with bucks hanging from the trees out back, just the way they like it. The parking lot is the best wildlife viewing spot in the Keweenaw, with bucks sticking outa the backa more pick-ups than not.

But don't take my word for it, stop by all three and see their big buck polls and pools for yourself. They're all nice places, and they all offer refreshments.

"There is no downside," said WW&W adult beverage correspondent Al Cohol. "Deer season is a Godsend for beer and spirits vendors."

Other successful Keweenaw hunters playing big buck bingo: George Twardzik whacked a 12 point/200-pound wallhanger, Dano Goldsworthy, 11-point, Jack Sprietzer, 10-point, John Simila, 8-point/165, Rich Jamsen, 8-point/170, Chris Spagnotti, 7 point, Kristin Tober Werner, 8-point, Kim Tober Bates and Kelly Tober both shot spikehorns.

"Everything you read in this column may not be true, but it's guaranteed fresh from the first weeka deer camp," asserted Palinen. "There aren't many places where camp culture is so pervasive and all-consuming as the U.P; We cater to hunters like nowhere else."

Hunter-friendly backwoods bars are pretty easy to spot with blaze orange banners the size of billboards brought to you by Bud, Labatt Blue, Leinie, Miller, Molson and Old Mil all proclaiming "Welcome Hunters." That kinda overt hospitality is hard to turn down; wouldn't be right, or polite.

The Bear Belly Bar at Lac La Belle Lodge is no exception and threw an exceptional Hunters Ball & Booyaw last Saturday night. Our own singin' Sheriff Ron Lahti and the Keweenaw Roadkill Band performed for a packed house.

"The paparazzi don't give a hoot aboot anything that happens this far north and back in the boonies," WW&W border reporter Sue Sainte-Marie said. She was right; we didn't have to elbow, high stick, trip, cross-check or shove any other photojournalists, reporters or media types outa the way to get a shot of the band and one more for the road, although she did break trail for me through the festive, vocal crowd. It's what you get for hitting it where they ain't and being Michigan's northernmost outdoor writer.

"We may be northa the law, but we're not above it," Palinen said eloquently. "We're a fun-loving, law-abiding buncha Yoopers and yahoos, but we've got the kinda personal responsibility to police ourselves. Moral compasses work pretty good northa the 46th parallel, must be the magnetic pull of the north pole," she theorized.

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



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