Dreaming of Buck Island

by Scott 

"With the end of the season comes countless hours of longing to be back in the woods with bow in hand and the chase in your heart."

-Fred Bear    

The 2014 whitetail season is over for me. I found some success, had a blast and learned more than I could have expected. I tend to be a goal setter, the type of person that internally sets a goal and then fixates on reaching it. When you imagine this you picture a good thing. In reality, a laser-like focus on a specific challenge can exclude many important parts of life such as eating, drinking, bathing and other social niceties. I have been bitten countless times by this personality quirk but nevertheless I have decided to set some hunting goals for the new year. To accomplish these goals, it is going to take some planning, but I have time, and for now I am in the daydreaming stage.

2015 Hunting Resolutions

  1. Three deer in the freezer.

  2. Rachelle harvests her first deer.

  3. Kill a buck with my bow.

If my mind had a “minutes watched” counter I would probably have multiple lifetimes worth of daydreams of hunting. Countless hours… days spending mental energy to keep the plot of several threads of hunting memories, plans and dreams moving forward. I am not sure what causes this fixation. Maybe it’s the the excitement, or the satisfaction, of problem solving or maybe something that isn’t quite describable. In any case, some would say I suffer from, but I would say I ravish, in this daydreaming. I would bet that many of you can relate so I am going to take the time to share one of my recent threads.

A little less than 10 years ago I moved to Wisconsin from Michigan to enter the working world. When I moved I left behind a network of family and friends involved in the hunting sports. This network afforded me gear, land and expertise to make hunting much easier. After the move, it took me almost a full decade to get back into hunting. In spite of the multiple warnings I received about high hunting pressure I didn’t fully understand the scope of the challenge until I faced it first hand. I had never experienced a noontime push across 1,000 acres involving some 30 hunters. I had never seen 20 deer run by my stand in less than two hours. I had never faced the type of competition that comes with this heavy pressure.

Going into whitetail season, the minimum goal I set for myself was putting meat in the freezer and I was at least partially successful in doing so. However, I am not the type of guy that is happy meeting minimum expectations, in fact even meeting maximum expectations often times isn’t enough. After experiencing the blaze orange army, part of me was dejected but another part of me was excited. I now understood the difficulty of the challenge and I had made the stakes personal.

This led me to start researching whitetail hunting with more vigor than ever before. I focused my efforts on learning how whitetails respond to pressure and how the public land hunter could judo throw this pressure to his or her advantage. I mostly confirmed what I already knew or expected. I have to get to the areas where 99 percent of hunters are not willing to go. I spent days scouring Google Earth looking for swamps, thickets and long hikes from the parking areas. I found a couple of nearby public land opportunities that fit the bill. They were a decent hike from the car, they involved navigating several thickets through a swamp. But for whatever reason these areas didn’t excite me… Something seemed to be missing. That was until I found the area I deem “Buck Island”

I should be clear… I have never actually stepped foot on Buck Island. But this post isn’t about realities, it’s about dreams. The hard reality that I have yet to shove off only fans the flames. Buck Island is located on a piece of public land that is about four times longer than it is wide. It features a “convenient” paved road running longways directly down the center of the land with ample parking locations. This probably sounds great to the average hunter but to me, it might be the worst case scenario. Almost every inch of the land is accessible to the hunter willing to walk three-fourths of a mile.  Almost every inch…

The northern side of this area is bordered by a river which runs along the length of the property. This river is unique in that it is wide, almost a mile in some spots, and it is shallow. That results in countless river islands - all public lands -  but most are not huntable due to their small size. I know this because I visited several during a canoe trip where we battled windy conditions and rental equipment. Because of my preconceived notions, I overlooked Buck Island during my pre-scouting. It took late season hunting hardships for me to locate it.

On the other side of the river is private land made up mostly of agriculture but not much cover. This means that deer feeding in the fields likely have to cross the river to find cover. I was looking for likely crossing points to set up a late season ambush. I zoomed in close with Google Earth and started scanning the northern edge of the river. I found a spot where the river was at its closest to the agriculture fields and sported several prominent game runs viewable via satellite. Another feature was that the river was shallow. Shallow enough that it looked like three parallel streams more than a river. Immediately across the river was an area of thick cover and what appears to be good bedding areas. I thought to myself… “Scott how did you miss this spot… late season? You should have been here much earlier!”

Then I zoomed out and discovered a slight problem… The northern edge, that looks like three streams, was the edge of an island.  A island one mile long and a half mile wide. To land on the southern edge I would have to cross 300 yards of fast moving, deep, murky and ice cold river. My first thought was “damn, there goes that spot”. My second thought was “Eureka! If I was a heavily pressured buck this all inclusive island retreat is where I would November.”

 Rupert has his own dreams about shed hunting

Since that Eureka moment the daydreams have not stopped. I have researched kayaks and canoes, light weight saddle stands and takedown tradition bows. I have picked out three hypothetical stand locations to deal with the most common wind direction. I have imagined forging the river in early spring with Rupert in search of sheds and buck bedding. These are all dreams. I may land and find the island devoid.. Or worse, instead of sheds, I may find ladder stands. Instead of buck bedding I may find the discarded packaging of hand warmers and scent lures,  I may find anything…

So for now I’ll keep dreaming… While I dream, I’ll train for the crossing, I will plan the perfect approach with the correct gear and, when the time comes to hunt, I’ll be ready.

Fred Bear was right, most of us spend countless hours of longing about the hunt. But what Fred Bear also knew was that it took just has many hours of preparation. Will you be ready?