Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's nice to share...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

Thank God it's Friday!!!
Well folks that's all I got done of my blog yesterday!
Sad, eh?

Back when I worked at Perry Drugs a group of coworkers and I would go Bow hunting each year.

On the far Eastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, lies a 122 sq. mi. bit of land named Drummond Island.

The St. Mary's "River" connects the Great lakes of Superior and Huron through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. The river is a mile wide between the mainland and Drummond Island, and almost 2 miles between Drummond and Canada's Cockburn Island farther East.

Accessible only by boat or ferry, hunting on Drummond was restricted for many years and allowed only by special permit.

A couple of very mild winters allowed the resident deer population to much so that the Dept. of Natural Resources opened the island to "regular" hunting seasons in 1989.

One of my coworkers brought this to our attention and it was decided that would be where we would bow hunt that year. That first year, 5 of the 7 of us were successful!!!

We pre-booked for the next year...

We stayed at "Johnson's Cabins and Charter" on the NW side of the Island on Scott Bay. The Johnson family had 14 cabins, and 2 mobile homes they rented out. The eldest son ran ran a salmon/walleye charter during the summer months, and guided bear hunters in the fall.

Drummond Island is 80% public lands, and Johnson's was perfectly situated across the street from a logging road that offered access into the interior of the island.

In a time before the proliferation of ATV's you're only way in/out was by foot. We had scouted the area pretty extensively the year before and about half our group decided to hunt that logging road while the rest planned to drive 2 miles up the road to a more remote location.

I was in the group that walked up the logging road.

We had arrived a couple days before the season opener, picked our spots and hung our treestands in preparation for opening day.

I was using a "climbing" style tree stand, found a beautiful little spot on the edge of a clearing where 4 game trails converged before leading out into the field.

I'd gone up the tree, cleared the little bit of branches and things that would obscure my line of sight and shooting lanes. Then back down the tree. I left the stand attached to the tree, hidden among the brush at the tree's base.

Opening morning, an hour before dawn I was out and up my tree waiting for that "Big Buck" to come by.

Oh well, that's why it's called "hunting", not "shooting".

Noontime found us back at the cabin for sandwiches and a rehash of the mornings events. I'd not been the only one skunked that had everyone else.
But they'd all seen deer...everyone that is but me. Again, that's the breaks.

A quick nap after lunch and at three I was back at my tree and began my climb.

Those of you unfamiliar, allow me to explain how this works. First of all, you can not climb with your bow, so you tie a cord to your bow that allows you to pull it up once you're in the tree. The stand consists of two separate pieces, the "seat" and the "stand". Both lock around the tree. The "stand" attaches to your feet with straps, and to the "seat" with a cord. You step inside the seat, hook the stand to your feet, lift the seat to a comfortable sitting height. Sit on the seat, tip your feet forward/downward and lift your legs rising the stand up the tree, place the base of the stand back against the tree, rock back on your heels to lock the stand against the tree then stand and raise the seat up the tree again. Repeat until you are as high up the tree as you want to be. Trying to be as quiet as possible!
Then pull your bow up to begin your hunt. 

This is not a speedy process!

So, I get all the way up my tree, pull up my bow. Roll up and store my cord and nock an arrow.

Only then do I get a chance to look around.

As I do I notice, not 30 ft. away...another hunter up another tree directly across from me on the same game trail.

When I looked at him he just shrugged...


This Bozo couldn't have cleared his throat? Or coughed? Or said SOMETHING?!? 
Instead he let's me struggle up this tree and then just shrugs?!?

Well, I was not going back down the God damn tree...

So I motioned to him, showing the trail as a dividing line and then two fingers to my eyes showing I would watch, then motioned to the left side and indicated myself. Then repeated indicating he should watch the right. As 2 game trails came from each way, converging on the one we were sitting on, this gave us each a 50/50 chance...not perfect, but I figured we could discuss it after the hunt. He gave me a "thumbs up" signalling his assent, and we set in to watch.

It was just turning dusk when the "snap" of a twig caught my attention. As I watched two doe's slowly made their way into view, coming in from one of the game trails on my side. About 50 ft. behind them a spike buck was following. Not a "normal" spike, but instead his antlers were palmated, wide and flat like ribs not narrow and round like antlers.

For their part, the does kept stopping and looking back at him, letting him close the gap. Instead of continuing to where the trails met, they turned at about 20 yds. and started back up the other trail.

I glanced over to the other hunter who gave me the "thumbs up" encouragement.

As the buck passed behind a tree, obscuring his sight of me, I came to full draw and waited for him to step clear.

He took a cautious step, then another...and I released.

The arrow sped across the intervening space and I watched the fletching disappear into his side just before his last rib. Quartering away from me the arrow transected his rib cage and out the other side.

The bucks rear legs went out from under him as he tried to leap away and he went down hard. In a moment he was back up and bounding away, crashing through the brush dead on his feet.

"That was the coolest fucking thing I've ever seen," I heard over my shoulder "perfect shot nailed him!"

"Thanks" I replied as I began to reverse the process to come down out of the tree. He came down out of his tree as well.

As I finally stepped out of my stand, the other hunter was there and offered his hand.

"I'm Jeff," he said "dude I'm so sorry about putting my stand so close to yours, I didn't even know it was there."

"No problem, it was hidden in the bushes. You had no way of knowing...I'm Joe by the way."

"Least I can do is help you find that bad boy and drag him outta here." Jeff offered.

"Well, I'm not too proud to take you up on that..."

We chatted amiably as we followed the blood trail.

Seems Jeff and his buddy were up from Ohio for a week, staying at Johnson's as well.

Turned out making a friend! My tag filled, I helped Jeff out the rest of the week...loaned him my climbing stand so he had two and could chose which spot he wanted to hunt out of without having to tear his down and move it.

Jeff and his buddy, Mike I think his name was ended up hunting there the same time we did over the next three years...

Talked on the phone prior to the season each year, just to make sure everything was set. Then one year I called and the phone number was no good....when we checked in I asked the Johnsons if they had made reservations, and was told no.

Never heard from Jeff again. That was over 20 years ago!

I hope he's was a pleasure to share those times with him! 

It's nice to share...miss him!

Be Well Folks!

Beastly Bear


  1. What a great story, except for the killing part and the disappearing friend part! How sad!
    You do weave a good tale, though, I'll give you that. 💙

    1. Thank you Jo, I appreciate that! I did try to gloss over the parts non hunters would find the most distasteful.

  2. So I take it you found the deer up the trail aways? Have you tried looking him up on Facebook and google?

    1. JoJo, yes I filled my freezer that year. To tell the truth I couldn't tell you Jeff's last name to save my's been over twenty years. Honestly there are days I think I'd forget my own name if people stopped calling me by it! Lol.

  3. Congrats on the buck but sad about your friend. I hope he is well too.