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Family carries on long deer-hunting tradition

November 16, 2012
By Karen Wils , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Waiting...watching...stalking...nerves twitching and muscles taut...

For centuries hunting has been a pastime of patience.

Hunting is the official sport of Upper Michigan. Whole families still gather to prepare for the hunt. Scouting is done. Blinds, bait ammunition, proper clothes, and foot gear are all checked off the list.

Article Photos

Karen Wils photo

Good luck hunters!

Some women, children and older folks are left at home to keep the home fires burning. From the time of the Native Americans to the modern deer hunting of today, much has changed in the ways of bagging a buck.

Bows and arrows, flint lock, black powder, Winchester, Remington, compound bows and crossbows, the evolution of deer hunting is an ever changing thing.

Let's look at how much deer season has changed just in my lifetime. In the 1950s deer hunting was purely a manly sport. The fellas donned red and black buffalo plaid woolens, smoke pipes of tobacco and roughed it. They pitched tents in the fresh snow along old logging roads and built campfires and drank strong coffee. If someone in their party shot a deer, strong whiskey was an occasional treat.

When I was a child, Dad left Mom for five or six days at a time and headed up to camp for deer hunting. The old Ford pick-up carried Dad and all of his supplies 20 miles from home, down an old rut road, and into the wilderness.

We did not hear from him again until Saturday night when he came home for a much needed shower, a little companionship and church the next morning. The only time he came home from deer camp early was if he got a deer. If the weather was warm, the whole family joined in the processing of the meat.

With many mouths around the table, Dad's successful hunts came in real handy. There were very few years when Dad did not get a deer. Camp back then was - as it is now - a simple hunting camp with wood heat and spring water. For miles there was nothing except a few farms along the country road.

Needless-to-say, when Dad came home from the hunting camp, we were all excited to see him, especially Spot the dog. The coffee pot came out and my uncles and aunts joined us to get caught up on hunting stories and the home-front stories.

Today, deer camp, like so many other things, has done away with the suspense and the waiting. Four-wheel-drive trucks keep deer hunters free from the worry of getting snowed in. Cell phones and text messages keep family at home or family across the state informed and up to date with every doe, fawn and buck the hunters see. Even before the hunting season opened, trail cameras documented each critter that visited the area.

Years ago, a hunter imagination could run away with him after finding buck rubs or scrapes. (Was it a 10-pointer, maybe a 12-pointer?) Today, trail-cams give hunters a sneak peak at their quarry.

They say waiting is the hardest part. Even with today's modern conveniences, the sound of a deer walking somewhere in the thicket, out of sight and getting closer...can seem like hours. Will it show its face? Will it smell me? Will it be a buck?

Good luck deer hunters. Be safe and successful. Enjoy the timeless world of the whitetails.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.



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