ESCANABA - Deer season completes a cycle. Deer season bridges generations.
The sights and sounds of deer season - fresh, new snowflakes colliding with the old camp shingles, the scratch of woolen clothes and the smell of wood smoke - all taint this season with a rich tradition.
It's a family thing for the most part - a heritage handed down in the north woods.
Karen Wils photos
A new-born fawn rests on the forest floor. An antler shed, perhaps that of the fawn’s father, lies in the foreground.
The hard-toes (whitetail deer) and the humans have had a predator/prey relationship for over 100 years in the Upper Peninsula.
In the late 1800's the huge century-old white pines fell and the virgin timbers succumbed to the axes and the cross-cut saws.
When the second growth sprang up, so did the numbers of white-tails. The deer's range grew northward and venison fed many of our forefathers and mothers.
Yoopers have a love/hate relationship with the white-tails (much like the wolves and cougars do). Deer are the most loved, most watched, and most photographed of all of Michigan's wild creatures. It is also the most hunted.
A healthy deer herd is something that is highly valued by most Yoopers. Deer season is not just about 16 days in November. It's a whole year-long relationship.
For my family, deer watching is a wonderful pastime. In the spring seeing a little speckled patch on the ground, means a new fawn, much happiness and high hopes of watching the little fella grow up.
We watch the velvet antlered males shed their velour and polish their racks. A scrap in the mud and a rub on a sapling means the white-tails are about to go-a- courting.
When the big bucks roam, it's harvest time.
If the buck, is crafty, he may make it through the hunting season. Tired and hungry he'll settle into the snow winter yards with the does. By the end of December, his once prized antlers will drop one by one, off of his head.
In the spring several sets of his fawns will be delivered to the forest floor.
So the cycle continues for hunters with cameras or guns to enjoy.
At camp it is the anticipation that keeps the hunters coming back year after year.
At home, there is a quiet sense of oneness with nature. A special roster goes up on the fridge. As the hunters come home from camp (usually when they need a shower), the names of the successful hunters are jotted down on the list.
The hard-toes and the humans have a special bond. Fine family memories are made at camp. Men often recall dates and years by the buck they shot that season.
Women often decorate with a deer theme. Deer are printed on checks, etched in glass windows, painted on shirts, stitched in rugs and drawn on mugs and knife handles.
Have a happy and safe hunting season- another cycle completed.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.