Notes from the North Country

By: Lon and Lynn Emerick

It is 5:00 a.m., November 15, and through all the U.P. deer camps, the hunters are stirring with not even a moan. The chef-of-the-day rose earlier to prepare breakfast and now he awakens the slumbering crew with the traditional cry, “Daylight in the swamp!” The delightful aroma of pancakes, hashbrowns, bacon and eggs provokes the nimrods to hustle. No one wants to be late on opening day of deer season.
Although retired from active pursuit of whitetail deer, I still feel the tug of opening day excitement. But sixty years is enough—it has been, as they say, a good ride. Even more enduring than the trophies or the venison meatloaf, though, is a treasure trove of memories that ride gentle on my mind.
It is the amusing incidents afield that offer the most lasting and vivid recollections. By some strange quirk of fate, or perhaps due to a zany temperament, a number of peculiar events have occurred during my hunting adventures. Here are just three:
• The denture deer—One year we conducted a drive through a dense stand of alders and swamp oak. After battling my way for a time, I decided to relax and fire up my favorite pipe. Just as I got the lighted match and both hands on the end of the pipe, a large doe appeared. I immediately needed four more hands to sort out pipe, match, bow, bowstring and arrow, but I finally got the shot off. Unfortunately, the pipe got tangled in the bowstring and went sailing after the arrow— with my false teeth still attached. They all landed about twenty yards away. The doe seemed as startled as I to see a white briar pipe and an upper plate hurtling in her direction. She stopped abruptly and then—I swear she actually grinned at me.
• The sleeper—My grandfather was a jester in deer camp. His best joke of all time was designed to cure a hunting crony, Ed, who habitually slept while waiting in a blind. This had annoyed Grandfather for some time, and he was determined to cure his partner’s lack of vigilance. One afternoon as the sun warmed the hillside where the blind was situated, Grandfather crept up quietly and listened; loud snoring emanated from the blind. Encouraged, the Old Man carefully removed his partner’s gun and quickly retraced his steps. By that time, we all were gathered at the bottom of the hill to watch the show. Grandfather touched off a shot from his rifle. Ed emerged and raced around the structure, poking at every branch and tree. He began to dismantle the blind, frantically tossing limbs and hemlock boughs in every direction. By the time we reached the scene, Ed was on his hands and knees, digging through the snow in a frenzied effort to find his rifle. He wouldn’t speak to my grandfather for three deer seasons, but, as far as I know, he remained alert on his deer stand ever after.
• The deer whisperer—It was the second week of deer camp when, after a brief thaw, it turned very cold. The top layer on the mantle of snow froze just enough to make walking a loud, seismic event; at each step, a boot broke through the snow crust with an explosive crunch. I went out before daylight and perched on an icy stump at the edge of an old field. Not long after daybreak, a hunter appeared, stalking along the field. Every movement sounded like a giant firecracker detonating. Seeing my blaze-orange clad figure, he made his way directly toward me. I winced at his noisy approach—crunch, crunch, crunch. Moving close to where I sat in semi-amused silence, he whispered, “See anything?”
Memories are made of this. So, have a good hunt, nimrod, but more important, make it a safe one. And enjoy the process.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Ann Jousma Miller of Gladstone is the winner of the September column word-puzzle.

Editor’s Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or e-mailing marquettemonthly@marquettemonthly.org
Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central Mine, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting their Web site at www.northcountrypublishing.com

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