This past Saturday afternoon I decided to sneak into a tamarack swamp that’s located on the northwest end of a massive (for west-central Wisconsin) public hunting area. The property encompasses nearly 20 square miles, and it’s surrounded by private lands dotted with corn and alfalfa fields.
My hope was I’d intercept deer headed to a picked cornfield. I found a spot to sit on the ground at the edge of the swamp, and bundled like the Michelin Man, I waited for deer to arrive. The area had received 6 inches of snow that morning, and it looked picture-perfect as the sun began to sink in the west.
And that’s when I heard it. At first I couldn’t decipher the direction of the blaring single-note siren, but when it fired a second time, I was almost sure it came from the direction of my parked pickup.
What the hell? was my only thought as I quickly gathered my gear and started hiking/trotting the couple hundred yards from my ambush location back toward the paved county road. I was afraid the sound was from a tow truck, and I didn’t exactly like the idea of my ride being taken away on this brutally cold evening.
From a distance of 75 yards I could make out the pulsating blue light of a sheriff’s car; it was parked 20 yards behind my pickup. Not sure why he was there, I began waving my arms to catch his attention as I pounded through the knee-deep snow. Had he given me a ticket? Why? All I knew was I didn’t want him to drive away without having a chance to ask him a few questions. After all, I’d parked in this exact location dozens of times (more than 50 probably) during the past 30 years.
“You deer hunting?” he asked as I climbed from the ditch and onto the gravel shoulder of the road.
“Yes, sir” I replied, setting my crossbow down on the tar and taking off my backpack chair. “Did I do something wrong?”
He went on to explain that due to the current road conditions, I shouldn’t be parked on the shoulder of the road (perfectly legal under good conditions), and he’d like me to move my pickup to one of the five parking areas along the north edge of the public hunting area. The nearest one was a half-mile down the road.
It was clear he wasn’t giving me a ticket, and he thanked me for hiking out of the woods. He also made it clear that he’d called a wrecker to remove my truck, but now that I was moving it, he’d cancel that request.
So I shook his hand, wished him Merry Christmas, and headed down the road to some private land I have permission to bowhunt. I still had 40 minutes of legal hunting time remaining.
And while I’d love to conclude this tale with a happy ending, I can’t. In fact, I was almost done hiking into my Plan B spot when I noticed I’d forgotten my quiver of arrows on the ground back on the public land. Damn! And not only that, I couldn’t simply go back and park my truck on the shoulder of the county road to retrieve the arrows before dark. So I had to drive several miles to my parent’s house and then ask my wife to join me in my arrow-finding mission. Frustrating to say the least.
I don’t fault the sheriff for ruining my hunt; I guess I should’ve known better. And this weekend, I’ll be sure to park in one of the designated spots and hike a bit farther. After all, with all the holiday calories I’ve consumed, I can use the exercise.