Regular readers may recall that last year, this reporter and a few buddies planned and executed a rather adventurous far-north bowhunt, up to Minnesota's scenic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
And, while not successful in our "canoe-in" quest to bow-bag a bruiser northwoods whitetail, an exciting "up-close" encounter with one of the region's many-tined bucks provided all the fuel necessary for a return to this remote region in 2010. What follows is a photo essay of our recent spring 2010 scouting trip, which helped us lay the groundwork for what we hope will be another exciting Fall 2010 bowhunt.
Given the unusual, early spring experienced across much of the Midwest, avid Boundary Waters adventurer Chad Nelson and I planned our BWCAW spring scouting trip for mid-April, which proved to be a good choice.
Most years, this time period will find many of the region's lakes still awaiting ice-out, but our Souris River Kevlar canoe found welcome open water on both lakes and streams. At every winding turn, the surrounding forest displayed plenty signs of new foliage growth well underway.
Our remote riverside camp in the Superior National Forest led us to the edge of the BWCAW, which we accessed regularly on foot, our eyes scanning constantly for signs of rubs and scrapes, and good-looking pinch-point standsites that would act as effective funnels for the area's whitetails come October and November. Our camp was well-equipped with a large Altai XP tent from Hilleberg tents that offered plenty of room for cots and gear; even more impressive was the single-wall tent's ultralight weight and canoe-friendly compactibility.
Good maps are critical to most any bowhunt, and even more so in the roadless BWCAW wilderness. The area we had chosen to explore was several miles from the site of our 2009 adventure; to familiarize ourselves with the new region as quickly as possible, we made good use of waterproof, custom maps we designed online at www.mytopo.com.
During our scouting trip Chad and I put on about 8 to 10 miles per day traversing the edges of the BWCAW; here I'm checking out a remote beaver pond that showed some serious whitetail promise. Near this spot we found a great funnel, a narrow strip of land between this open, grassy area, and a large lake. Tracks and rubs were everywhere.
I found this right-side shed from a 3.5-year-old buck very near this remote lake; meeting up with this deer during the fall of 2010 would make for an exciting encounter for sure...if he manages to avoid the area's many wolves until then. We found plenty of moose and wolf scat as we slowly trekked our way across the region, but never made visual contact with these elusive northcountry residents.
Although we saw no moose or wolves, other wildlife was plentiful. This large river otter visited our riverside camp one night, barking his disapproval at our intrusion into his watery domain.
Waterfowl was everywhere; all along our watery trail we encountered dozens of mallards, mergansers, wood ducks, and goldeneyes. This swan was one of three that let our stealthy canoe get surprisingly close before launching into the air.
Beaver sign was everywhere, although the woods were surprisingly dry for April. Where there were serious concentrations of beavers, deer sign was sure to follow; we found plenty of sign of deer browsing on the tops of the many large trees the industrious rodents had felled.
This remote lake offered a welcome opportunity for Chad and myself to fill up our empty water bottles. Both of us carried water purifiers that we made use of regularly during our day-long scouting missions. As we filled our bottles at this particular lake, two whitetails emerged from the foliage to water as well, just 100 yards away. We took it as a good sign.
The best sound in the northwoods? I'd call it a toss-up between the haunting howls of a wandering wolf pack and the eerie, shrill call of alonesome loon. This one popped up out of the water just a few feet from our canoe as we stopped to try our hand at catching a few slab-side crappies. Only pike and walleyes were interested in our small twister-tail jigs; with the open season still weeks away we returned them quickly to the water, none the worse for wear.
Camp was always a welcome sight after our day-long scouting treks. In the end, however, we decided this new area didn't quite hold the same promise as the hunk of BWCAW real estate we hunted in 2009. So our plan is coming together. We've laid more ground work and made a few more valuable discoveries. But our focus remains the same. Access the remote, lightly hunted BWCAW come this fall, to experience a bowhunting adventure unlike most any other in North America-chasing wilderness whitetails that may see no other hunting pressure save for wolves. Just the thought of it makes my bow hand quiver.