8 reasons why Northern Michigan has better hunting than Iowa....
8 Reasons why hunting Northern Michigan is still Awesome
- Family Tradition: For many families in Michigan, such as my own, hunting northern Michigan is a family tradition. The trek north is taken by less and less hunters every year for that magical 24 hours we call “opening day. “ As for the generations before us though, almost every hunter in the mitten traveled north when that second week of November came around. Starting in the 1950’s, my Grandpa Crawford would travel 8 hours north to Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula for deer camp, accompanied by many fellow hunters. That tradition was passed over to my father, and even though we no longer go all the way up to Iron Mountain, an opening day not spent in Northern Michigan doesn’t feel right. These days, my dad and I, accompanied by a few hunting buddies, travel 4 hours north to Presque Isle County for deer camp to hunt the elusive whitetail. It’s still a family tradition to me and many other of my fellow Michigan hunters, and you can bet as long as I walk on God’s Great Earth I’ll be traveling north for deer camp.
- “Deer Camp” Experience: There are deer camps all over the great state of Michigan, but there’s something about a Northern Michigan deer camp that sets it apart from the rest. As a Northern Michigan hunter, you feel more connected to the roots of Michigan whitetail hunting; knowing that the generations before us took that drive up 131 and highway 75 to hunt their favorite blind. Many northern Michigan hunting camps still do it the old fashion way; no electricity, no running water, cooking their dinners over a fire, telling stories about their day in the woods, and if they’re lucky a buck on the buck pole; now that’s a deer camp.
- Colder Weather: Here’s a fact; it’s colder in Northern Michigan. Cold weather = better deer movement. We don’t use our deer camp up north for just gun season; we like to head up every weekend we can during October as well. I live in Southern Michigan; Barry County to be exact, so I am well aware of the weather we have had the past few years in Southern Michigan during the first few weeks of bow season. Highs in the upper 60’s and low 70’s, with lows in the mid 50’s; not your best weather for deer movement. By simply taking the 4 hour drive north for the weekend; we have spent the first few weekends of October hunting in temperatures in the mid to high 40s; which is much more comfortable, and the deer activity during daylight hours is much higher. In addition, when gun season does come along, we have spent the last two opening days hunting with a little bit of snow on the ground. What’s better than a white background on opening day?? In my opinion, the answer is nothing.
- Different Landscape: Now so far, it probably sounds like I don’t enjoy hunting southern Michigan, and I must say that is far from the truth. I spend many days in a tree stand in Kent and Barry County every year, and have had some of my best encounters and shot some of my best bucks in southern Michigan. I must admit though, the southern Michigan landscape can get quite boring; cornfield after cornfield, bean field after bean field. Now those cornfields and bean fields produce some of the best bucks in the state, but at the same time it can be very refreshing to hunt a different landscape once in a while. I go from hunting over cornfields and bean fields around here, to hunting tall grass fields covered in cedar trees, and swamps so thick with white pine and cedar that you spend all day just creating one 75 yard shooting lane. There’s nothing better than watching the sunrise with your cold breath and smell of cedar in the air.
- Different Species: Even though the goal is the same, to hunt and harvest a whitetail deer; nothing keeps you on the edge of your seat more than getting the chance to see a different kind of game that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to see while hunting southern Michigan. At any moment, look to your left and you could see a 400 pound black bear come walking out of the swamp, look in the air and you could see a bald eagle flying overhead watching over the landscape, look in the stream next to your blind and you could see a family of beavers making a home, or if you see a tree without bark I can almost guarantee you that there is a porcupine hovering overhead. The different amount of game that roam the swamps and fields of northern Michigan is simply breathtaking and can make your sit in the blind much more enjoyable.
- Regardless of the myth(s), the deer population still thrives in Northern Michigan: I’ve heard it all; “Most of the deer have headed south because of the better food source,” or “ The harsh winters have severely decreased the population,” or “Northern Michigan has been over-hunted by the past generations leading to a decreased population.” There are multiple other “myths” out there that have led to many hunters in the mitten to stay south, but I have physical proof that they are just that: myths. On a typical hunt I see anywhere from 10-30 deer. Yes, we are lucky and stumbled upon some great property, but just driving for an evening stroll around the surround area and surrounding counties, we see hundreds of deer in the fields. I remember one evening specifically; it was late august and we had just got done with a day’s work at the property preparing for bow season. We decided to spend the last couple of hours of daylight just driving around to do some deer watching; we saw thousands, let me repeat that, THOUSANDS of deer. We figured we saw about 3,000 deer that night. Yes the winter kills a small portion of the population up there just as it does down here, but trust me, the population thrives.
- Small Town Atmosphere: Northern Michigan is cluttered with small towns that see opening day as a holiday; schools are closed, businesses are closed, and the rest of the town is a ghost town because everybody is in their blind. Then the sun goes down, and you know where to find everybody; the town buck pole. We hunt just outside a small town called Onaway, MI, and there is a small sporting goods shop in town called Parrots; it seems every small town in Northern Michigan has an old sporting goods shop where locals can get their essentials for the upcoming hunting season. Along with those sporting good shops comes a buck pole, where everybody is proud to show off what they have harvested. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of opening day; wrapping it up by stopping at Parrots to see everyone’s success. Nobody is stubborn, jealous, or rude; everyone there is high-fiving each other and congratulating one another on their harvest. It’s an event that makes you appreciate the joys of being an outdoorsman and proud to be part of that small community. I must say, it makes it so much sweeter when you’re lucky enough to see your own buck on that community buck pole; the sense of pride and accomplishment is unmatched for an avid outdoorsman.
- The Drive Home: Personally, the northern Michigan hunting experience isn’t complete until I pull into my own driveway. The 4 hour trek home is actually a very exciting time for the 5 of us that regularly make the trip to deer camp. Especially, after the first few days of rifle season. It seems like every other truck heading south has a few deer lying in the truck bed. Whether it’s a giant buck or just a doe, you always give a wave to the other drivers acknowledging and congratulating them on their successful hunt. The drive is even more exciting when you have a couple bucks of your own in the truck bed. As a group, we always have at least 2 or 3 bucks in the truck bed, and with that we receive many fist pumps and thumbs up on our way down highway 75 and 131. Little things like that just add to the great experience of hunting northern Michigan.
Even if you’re an avid southern Michigan hunter, I encourage you to join a family member or friend to experience the northern Michigan hunting experience at least once. Whether you come back with a deer or not, I’m sure it will be one of the coolest hunting experiences that you’ll embark upon. Enjoy the cold, the community buck pole, and the stories around the bonfire while cooking your hot dog; let it all sink in because as a Michigan hunter this will be an experience to remember.
-Steve Crawford, MWP prostaffer
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