Nov 28, 2016

THE LITTLE CABIN BY THE WOODS – IT’S NOT JUST FOR HUNTING ANYMORE

By: Lee Haasch

There’s a special place that I like to escape to in the fall.  I spend my entire spring and summer aboard my boat guiding anglers on fishing adventures on Lake Michigan, but once fall rolls around and the leaves start dropping, I turn my thoughts towards a little cabin in the Northwoods.  My “camping” season is actually hunting season and my escape place in a 900 sq. ft. cabin with hand-me-down furniture and dishes and lots and lots of memories!

Deer hunting has always been a Wisconsin pastime and lots of hunters trek to the Northwoods in search of meals of venison.  This has been a longstanding tradition for almost a century.   The history of deer hunting has been told many times, but a brief history and the modern transformation of a “little cabin by the woods” that I have been spending my deer hunting seasons for over 40 years is quite interesting and pretty typical of many of the little cabins in the Northwoods that hunters have used as shelters from the cold winter nights during the deer hunting season.  This little cabin, typical of most, is undergoing a transformation that many have done and many more will eventually do.  Some still see them as “used cars” in the woods and like the roughness of the shelter, but most have fallen in love with the woods and the area and want to open these up to more use throughout the year.  Here’s a little history of the Woodside Sportsmen Club and how their cabin came to be.

Over the years, the cabin has been a special place where a group of Kewaunee County hunters would meet to share a special time of comradery, deer hunting and lots of stories.  Before this hunting cabin was built in 1958, the camp already had a storied history in Florence County.  Original members of the Woodside Sportsmen Camp started coming up to deer hunt in the early 1940’s and made the trek from Kewaunee County, hauling their hunting gear and camping supplies by stake truck and carpooling to a nearby farmer who brought them back into the woods by horse and wagon, where they would stay for the entire season in army tents. 

These men actually lived off the land, with limited supplies, eating the first “camp deer” taken to make it thru the season.  They heated their tent at night with a wood stove and washed dishes in a nearby stream.  Quite an ordeal, just to bring some venison home to Kewaunee County. As their passion grew, they pooled some money together and purchased an acre of land from a farmer and built a cabin.  Each beam and board cut from their woods back home and milled, precut, numbered and hauled north to be assembled into the Woodside Sportsman’s cabin. 

The Woodside Sportsmen’s Club started with 10 original members, only one remains, now in his ninety’s; Bo, has not hunted in several years.  Other members came and left us for greater hunting grounds and today seven members occupy the camp at Woodside. Our leader is my dad, Keith, at a spry 83, and he still looks forward to the hunt each year.  Our cabin is a special place full of memories and traditions, stories come up all the time about events that are etched in the storied history of the camp about something funny, exciting or historic that happened during the camp’s existence. 

Over the years, it has become increasingly easier to make the trek up to the camp.  Modern transportation, for one, has taken the once 5-hour trip down to slightly under 3 hours to arrive at the cabin.  This opens up the ability for all the members to use the cabin more often and more hunting and even fishing opportunities.   Bow deer hunting, gun deer hunting, muzzleloading deer, bear hunting, grouse and turkey hunting, trout fishing, the list goes on.  There are way more hunting opportunities for these little cabins in the Northwoods than there was back in the 50’s when these camps were established.  And let’s not forget the other outdoor recreation activities like boating, ATVing, snowmobiling, canoeing and hiking.  This makes these little hunting shacks more valuable as year-round vacation places.

As we have transitioned in membership to add in the younger generations over the years, we have started to transform our little club’s hunting shack to a year-round vacation getaway.  I guess it would be easier to take a couple weeks and jump into all the projects necessary to do all this at once, but in our case, we prioritized our projects and are taking them one by one.  Little by little each trek north, each member has added a little “modern convenience” to the cabin.  Window replacements and soon a newer LP furnace will replace an old oil burner and eventually new flooring and newer “hand-me-down” furniture will one day complete this cabin’s transition to a year-round vacation place.

Oh yeah, the hunting.  My expectations for each season are pretty much the same every year.  We all dream of that big buck coming over the ridge, sun glistening off his massive rack, nose down to the ground following the hot doe right towards my stand, waiting for my 30.06 to bark off a single shot……   40 years and the dream still hasn’t changed.   What has changed is the hunting, from year to year the deer population has fluctuated.  Mother Nature has her way of controlling things and we just try to manage it.  Mild winters, cold winters, snowy winters, then throw in a couple years of high herds and winter browse disappears, herd numbers fall and browse comes back, wolf population, etc., etc.  Way too many variables to really have a consistent management of the deer herd everywhere.  The DNR does its best, but Mother Nature has the final say.  And this year?  Well, after last winter’s mild season, I think the deer herd has had a pretty easy go in the Northwoods and pretty much throughout Wisconsin.  During bear hunting this year, I saw more deer each day up north than I had seen in many years.  Hard to say for sure, but I just think that the 40 year dream just might become a reality this year!

From all of us at the Woodside Sportsmen’s Club in Florence County, have a safe and successful deer hunt!