No shortage of wildlife on last trip of the season

Published 6:20pm Saturday, October 29, 2011

Last week I spent a few days up north closing up the cabin and spending time with Brian, my oldest son, and his three boys Trevor, Taylor and Grant. This is a favorite time of the year for them because they love to hunt and they get to spend a lot of time on our little lake hunting waterfowl.

Each morning Brian and the boys would get up before sunrise and take the boat across the lake to set out decoys and find cover to hunt from. As they were getting into their blinds they had an unexpected visitor — the resident beaver that was going across the lake with a tree branch in tow. When the beaver spotted them it dropped the branch and immediately headed toward them. As he approached he started chattering and began slapping his tail on the water in what I can only imagine was a scolding for being in his area.

The same morning Trevor had shot the first duck of the trip which dropped into the middle of the lake. As they were getting into the boat to head back and pick up the duck an eagle swooped down out of the trees as if it were going to pick it up but then turned and headed back into the trees along the shore. This had to be quite a sight to behold and it’s just another wonder of nature. Seeing wildlife in its natural environment is something we are fortunate enough to experience quite often.

The next afternoon the boys went down to the shore to put out some decoys and sit and watch for ducks to land in front of our dock. While they were sitting there Brian and I had walked down the driveway and were looking at some dead trees that we felt needed to be taken down. On the way back up the driveway we heard some ruckus in the woods and just then two deer came out of the woods, jumped over a fire pit we had put in and ran right in front of us into the woods on the other side of the driveway. It was a big doe and a yearling and they were definitely close to us when they crossed the driveway. A short time later, Taylor came running up the hill and asked if we had seen those two deer. We told him what had happened and he said that he and Trevor were by the lake and he looked up and the two deer were standing right behind them watching them. He said they stood there for a few seconds staring at each other and then the deer took off up the hill. For those of us who love the outdoors it just kept getting better.

The last two afternoons that we spent at the cabin I would take Brian and Trevor a couple of miles south of our place and drop them off at one of the many trails that wind through the national forest land. They worked their way back in search of grouse. Trevor did manage to bag one on the first day and he actually ended up getting it right on the edge of our property. The second day was not as good because they discovered that another group of hunters had walked the same trail just before them.

There were a lot of grouse hunters in the area that week and from some of the reports I’ve heard the hunting was pretty good. There is so much public land and many forest service trails that can be walked by the general public which makes this area an excellent area to hunt for grouse.

On our last full day we decided to drive to a few different lakes that we’d never visited before because they were pretty far off the beaten path. This is something that Brian and I both enjoy doing whenever we are up there. I usually reserve this time for days that are windy or rainy but this day was sunny and a little breezy and just a beautiful day to explore new territories. We always throw our ultra lights in the truck just to see if there are any fish willing to bite a hook cast from shore. Most of the lakes we visited had forest service campsites and hunting trails that you could walk. We scared up some grouse at one such site and of course Trevor had his gun along to see if he could get a shot. This was a special time that I really enjoyed spending with Brian and the boys.

The last morning the hunters once again ventured across the lake to try their luck. This was the first time that they went duckless, but they did get visited by our resident beaver once again. Brian said that he didn’t think the beaver had spotted them this time as he swam so close to where Trevor was sitting he could probably have jumped on its back.

Although I didn’t get in much fishing; the time spent at the cabin with the family was priceless. Experiencing all that wildlife in those few short days was indeed something to write about. This to me is what spending time in the north woods is all about and I told Brian as we were driving back from one of the many lakes we visited that last day it is hard to visualize how much wilderness actually exists in this part of our great state.

We put feed in the feeders on the first day and with the season winding down birds began appearing right away. Usually it takes about a day before they discover there is free food just there for the taking. There were chickadees and juncos, a pair of downy woodpeckers and occasionally a pair of blue jays would pay a visit. I sure enjoy watching the birds come to the feeders and it’s always fun to see how many different species there are.

You don’t have to be a hunter or a fisherman or have a lot of money to enjoy the natural wonders that exist in our state. Just taking a drive in the country in our area is an experience that always warms me inside and makes me feel that life is indeed pretty darned good. When I was in the service I would from time to time look out across the landscape and see something that would peak my interest and it made me wonder what was there or what it would be like to be there. This made me appreciate the freedoms that we enjoy in this country to go where we want when we want to just see what’s beyond the next horizon.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears each Sunday in the Tribune.