This season marked my 60th consecutive season hunting Michigan whitetails. When i was twelve my dad convinced my mother that I was old enough to join him and my uncle in their annual hunting trip. was I excited! camping in a tent and sleeping on a bed of straw covered with a canvas tarp. My first rifle! Dad had single shot 16 ga. shot gun with an interchangeable .30-30 rifle barrel. I wanted a lever action Winchester like his but dad insisted that the single shot was a better choice for me. Dad stressed marksmanship. He said “When you’re hunting the buck doesn’t know he is in danger. The odds are in your favor because you have the first shot. Make it count.” I carried that rifle for the next five years and killed two bucks. Dad was right.
During the 60’s and 70’s our camp grew to ten members of my family. We hunted public land. The old tent was replaced with two tents and the straw pallet was replaced by mattreses on steel bunk bed frames. The old two burner Coleman camp stove was replaced with a four burner propane range and I was promoted to assistant cook.
Our record book shows we averaged four deer annually during those early years. The early 80’s saw our average drop to two deer per year; but 1986 was the exception. That year we took nine bucks during the first week of the season. By 1996 our party had dwindled to two–just dad and I—and at the end of that year he decided hunting was to physically demanding for him to continue. I hunted alone for the next few years. In 1999 I took a nice 8 point just after daybreak opening day. It took me all day to get that animal out of the woods. This was more like work than fun. Was I getting to old? Should I hang it up, too?
I have hunted with outfitters in North Carolina, Texas, and Montana. After the past season I decided to investigate booking with a Michigan outfitter. I found Gary Morgan’s East Lake Outfitters. Gary books a small number of hunters who he guides on public land in the upper peninsula. I booked opening week with him. I plan to hunt for a week and then drive across the UP into Wisconsin where I would hunt a second week with my son in law.
The past few U.P. were brutal. Deep snow and subzero temperatures had cut the deer population by half. The outlook for the upcoming year wasn’t very promising but my spirits soared when I spotted four does and 6 point buck in a clear cut driving into Gary’s camp.
On opening morning the thermometer stood at -5 degrees with eight inches of fresh snow on the ground when Gary walked me into the blind before daylight. I settled in for an all day hunt. About 10 o’clock, while sipping a cup of coffee, I noticed movement in the trees beyond the end of the shooting lane. Minutes passed. Nothing. Then out of the cedars a huge black wolf appeared and walked up to the bait pile. It stopped and sniffed the ground around the bait. Suddenly it’s head snapped up and it stared directly at me. We were face to face about 35 yards apart. Turning, it disappeared back into the cedars. I sat in awe! What luck. Seeing a wolf in the wild during my 60th hunt. Wow! That experience alone was worth every dollar of the hunt.
The following week I sat with my 12 year old grandson, Charlie when he shot his first buck. I’m not certain which of us was the more excited. His deer marked the beginning of the third generation deer hunter in my family. I’m also sure my dad was smiling down on us as well.
I never fired a shot but 2014 was a most successful season. I can hardly wait for next November.
Bruce Ter Beek