Flashback to days as a nimrod

ESCANABA — One of the common questions I like to ask someone being interviewed is how they got started in outdoors adventures? Most of the time the answer of what sparked their interest settles in having been influenced by a relative. Almost every one of them can recall stories of days gone by that are most memorable and a leading force behind their carrying on the traditions of hunting, trapping, fishing and all the other great outdoors activities we enjoy here in the Upper Peninsula.

That’s the way it was for me.

In order to start off properly as a real hunter, my father wanted me to learn from the best. He had taken my brothers and me out, but we had no clue of what to do. He grew up with trapping and hunting as a necessity rather than sport recreation. Instead, he picked my uncle, who at the time was a game warden stationed with then the Michigan Department of Conservation (MDC) out of Newberry. His name was John Arduin.

Now Uncle John was a legend in any outdoor circle. He was a career trapper and one of the last two professional trappers employed by the State of Michigan in that capacity. At one point the job was eliminated, but not before he would help make history in the Upper Peninsula. He was born and raised in Hermansville where he honed his skills as a trapper and hunter. After his job as a trapper for the State of Michigan was dissolved, the MDC re-hired him as a conservation officer, a job he held until his retirement with honors from the state.

The pine marten (Martes Americana) was at one time resident over most of Michigan. By the late 1920s it had become very rare. In the MDC 4th Biennial Report (1927-28), a one sentence comment on pine marten and fisher indicated: “They are so nearly exterminated in Michigan that there appears no chance they will ‘ever come back’.”

Extensive logging of marten habitat and a the high value for pelts back in the early 20s worth $200 each and taken by trappers had lead to a final conclusion in the 1933-34 MDC Biennial Report that stated, “It is believed that Marten and Fisher are practically extinct throughout the State.”

The MDC launched a program aimed at re-establishing the marten in the Upper Peninsula. Eight martens (five males and three females) were released in the Porcupine Mountains in 1955-56. Two were purchased from a fur farm in Perkins, Michigan, and the remainder from Ontario. Those six marten were caught during an expedition 200 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie in the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve in Ontario by game biologist Ellsworth Harger, then predatory animal control officer (trapper) John Arduin and conservation officer Bruce Andrews, both of Newberry.

The success of the first attempt landed a commitment for another expedition that brought 26 more marten to the U.P. All were planted in a specific area of the Porcupine Mountain State Park. The story shared in MDC Report 2199 of 1958 describes the adventure that has details better than most fictional accounts could produce. The final result was a nuclei of the marten population that is now appreciated across the UP.

On my father’s request, John took me on my first bird hunt where I shot a grouse. He showed me how to look for sign and when to take a shot. After the hunt, he showed me how to breast out the bird and my aunt Mary then fried it in butter and pepper, served it with bisquits and solidified my want to do more.

A few years later, after he retired, Uncle John took me out to deer hunt. He had moved back to Hermansville and brought me to a place called the “Fox Farms” just outside the village. I was given directions of where to watch as he set me on the side of a ridge. Being alone for the first time and not at all familiar with the terrain, I was told to “stay put and do not move!” John and my father then left with a commitment to pick me up several hours later. I was able to absorb the sounds and signs of nature in the area and actually did see one deer, a doe, which brought about my first taste of “buck fever” and inability to take a shot.

Fast forward to last Saturday and the 12th Annual U.P. Trapper’s Workshop that took place in Hermansville. I was interviewing Bob Whitens, one of the event organizers, while the first of several demonstrations was under way. I couldn’t help but notice the guy giving the presentation on weasel trapping had a style and dialect that immediately reminded of the days of old and the hours of conversations with my outdoors mentor, Uncle John. I asked Bob who this was and he told me Eugene Arduin, John’s brother.

When he finished his talk, I introduced myself and spent the rest of the time there reminicising about his brother who’s been gone for nearly 40 years. We shared the many stories I learned from John, some nostalgic regarding the characters of the early days of Hermansville and others related to hunting and trapping. Just like his brother, Eugene recalled the old timers of his youth and affirmed what I was told as a kid held true and lessons on outdoors recreation had come from the best in the trade.

I came away with a rekindled exuberance. I know what I’ve been able to enjoy through my years of outdoors experiences. I still hold and treasure those whom I’ve been able to cross paths with through the years afield and wonder if what I’ve done will some day be recalled enthusiastically by someone who today is climbing their own ladder of experience.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Trails & Tales Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.