By: Bruce Ter Beek.
It has been almost ten years ago since I first contacted Gary Morgan at Wild Game Dynasty and scheduled my first hunt with him.
In my previous article for Wild Game Dynasty I wrote about my first deer hunt with my dad at age ten. He taught me to be a steward of the land and of our game resources, to hunt ethically, and how to practice conservation. For nearly the next six decades November 15th was our “new years day” as we prepared for the next season. After his passing, hunting alone wasn’t very satisfying but after contacting Gary I found a renewed excitement.
This year I arrived at Gary’s East Lake Lodge mid morning on the day before the season opener. After unpacking my gear Gary told me he planned to have me hunt the same location I had hunted two years before. He had marked a new trail into the site which shortened the hike by almost ½ mile. Neither of us knew how important that would become. The blind was positioned where two old tote roads intersected giving me a 100 yard shooting lane down each one. The wind would be in my face. There were active scrapes in several places in both shooting lanes.
The set up looked perfect.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning, I settled into the blind about forty five minutes before day light and prepared for an all day sit. Over night an inch of fresh snow had fallen. The day dawned with a light wind blowing, the temperature at 24 degrees, and overcast skies.
As daylight slowly crept through the woods, the forest began to awaken. An owl hooted in the distance. Soon chickadees and nut hatches flitted through the trees. Blue jays flew down to the bait and back into the trees. The jays were soon replaced by downy woodpeckers.
About 8:30 I began to think about pouring cup of coffee. As I was about to pull out my thermos, I detected motion at the far end of one of the tote roads. A doe stepped out. For the next twenty minutes she would cross and recross the tote road while slowly working her way toward me. As I watch her advance I spotted the outline of another deer where she had first appeared. It moved into a narrow opening and I saw tall tines appear! All thoughts of coffee were put aside.
The buck stepped out and slowly began to walk toward the doe. She was standing at the bait pile which I had previously ranged at seventy two yards. He stopped about five yards behind her and stood facing me. My sights settled on
his upper chest and my Winchester .30-30 dropped him in his tracks. The doe bounded off about thirty yards, stopped and looked around; but my attention was focused on the buck. As I walked up to him I realized he was HUGE. He had a wide dark chocolate colored rack and a heavy body. He weighed 179 pounds field dressed and had a 17 ¼ inch spread. This deer was my 36th and by far the largest Michigan buck I have ever harvested.
Realizing I had no cell service I hiked back to my truck and texted “Gary: Big buck down. Need Help”. Gary responded and arrived within a half hour. Together we hiked back to the blind. Gary was amazed. He said it was the largest buck taken in the last several years! It took almost ninety minutes to field dress it and skid him out to the truck.
Hunting, like so many experiences, is about making memories.
Filing the freezer is wonderful. But the camp experiences can make eating tag soup satisfying. This year I shared the opening week with the Smith family—two brothers, their sons and a son-in-law. Their booming laughter and practical jokes filled the cabin. The daily banter making lunch asked do you put mustard on the ham or on the bread? Which cheese is a better choice? And similar debates kept all of us entertained. I had met Jeff Smith and his son-in-law Adrian the previous year. When Gary told them I would be joining them again, Jeff replied, “Great! Have him bring his buffalo chicken dip!”
Jeff brought venison back straps and tenderloin to camp. He cut them into cubes and wrapped them with a half strip of bacon. After broiling them medium rare, he topped each cube with a dapple of barbecue sauce. He prepared 60 pieces—only six were left at the end of the meal.
My buffalo chicken dip was to be the appetizer course. As the broiled venison was being prepared, I began to feel the pressure. Would my dip stand up to the main course? I prepared a double batch. Canned chicken meat was combined with grated sharp cheddar, cream cheese, ranch dressing and a liberal helping of Louisiana hot sauce, baked and served with corn chips. The exact recipe is a tightly held family secret. This dish is a staple in my son-in-laws Wisconsin deer camp. It takes center stage in a buffet featuring cold shrimp, salads, deep fried pan fish, and other goodies the night before the season opener. The buffet is their camp’s tradition. Like the main course, there were no left overs of my dish.
After four days hunting in the UP, I drove across to northwestern Wisconsin to hunt with my son-in-law and his family. We had our traditional buffet but we also prepared Jeff Smith’s venison recipe for our third night in camp.
That’s what I mean about making memories and sharing experiences.
Oh, by the way, next November I will begin my eighth decade, and I have already book my next hunt with Wild Game Dynasty.