There's only a few days left before the orange-clad, gun-toting army of deer hunters hits the woods in hopes of knocking down some nice bucks, and things are looking up in the northwoods.
After a rather uneventful few weeks of scouting, fresh buck sign started showing up. There were a few antler-rubbed trees and scrapes encountered during a short hike around a couple of hunting blinds earlier this week, and it's always heartening to know bucks are working your area.
And even though the trees I found that had good sections of their bark rubbed off were on the small size, trophy bucks could still be roaming the area.
This fresh buck was found in northern Marquette County earlier this week. (Dave Schneider photo)
At least that's what an old wildlife biologist told me several years ago when we were discussing buck sign. He said don't be fooled by an antler rub being on a smaller tree - it could be a small buck or a monster. However, he added that what you really want to encounter is a larger tree being shredded by a buck because then it probably is a deer with a big rack.
Then again, I could scatter trail cameras around where I hunt and see what's cruising through, but that's one scouting tool I've gone without, so far. It's not that I don't think they are valuable, they certainly will show you what's been through your hunting area, but I guess I enjoy the old-fashioned way of scouting - getting out in the woods and seeing what's going on.
In addition, a few friends of mine have gotten all excited after viewing big bucks on their trail camera and then waiting, and waiting, and waiting for that trophy to walk in front of them. A few have actually seen and bagged the buck they were waiting for after seeing it on the camera, but nearly all ended the season frustrated at not seeing the big one and some even let a few other smaller but nice deer go.
Many of the photographs are also taken during the night when it's illegal to hunt, and I wonder if any of those hunters get tempted to .... nah, deer hunters wouldn't do that.
In the end it really doesn't matter how a hunter scouts prior to the season, seeing that you never know what you're going to encounter until the hunt actually begins. Maybe that huge buck the hunter down the road from you has been seeing on his or her trail camera decides to check out the does in your spot while you're on stand, or maybe not.
Similar to many other outdoor sports, hunting has that mystery about it that makes it so intriguing that loads of pleasure and "success" can be achieved without actually shooting a deer.
That said, it's even more enjoyable to knock a whitetail down and get a winter's supply of venison, and perhaps even a nice rack for the camp wall.
Although I'm obviously pretty well wrapped up in thinking only about the fast-approaching hunt, there's a few other deer hunting related subjects on my mind.
For one, hunters are reminded that coyotes are no longer off limits during the firearm deer season. This change in hunting rules this year is being greeted with loaded guns by many deer hunters, particularly those who have been seeing more and more coyotes roaming their hunting areas each year.
The Big Bay Sportsmen's Club is even offering a predator hunt that kicks off on the opening day of the firearm deer season. The cost is $20 per person and registration must be made by Sunday. Registration forms are available at Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming, Dunham's and Gander Mountain in Marquette and Cram's General Store in Big Bay.
For more information, call David Nivens at 345-9242, Vince Bevins at 345-9599 or Stephen Childers at 345-9500.
Also, for those hunters who do get lucky enough to bag a deer or two and don't need all the venison, there's a great organization working to put any excess venison into the hands of needy residents of the state.
Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger is the organization and it's been working to get venison to those in need since 1991. The group works with licensed venison butchers across the state who process deer that are donated by hunters. The processed venison is then distributed through food banks, include two that operate in the U.P.
U.P. processors involved in the effort include Soderman's Processing in Gladstone, Viaus Market in Escanaba, Sonny's Market in Channing and Love Farms and Processing in Rudyard.
More information on the program can be found on the organization's website at www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.