Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan is one of my absolute favorite destinations for outdoor adventure. I've been there a number of times to fly fish for carp and smallmouth bass, and each time as I left I committed to return with a deer rifle in my hand. I finally did and was not disappointed.
Situated approximately 16 miles off the Michigan mainland, Beaver Island awaits those looking to get away from it all. There are no fudge shops, no horse drawn carriages and no suit jackets at dinner. Beaver Island is rustic and remote, yet completely satisfying. There is one grocery store, a few restaurant and bars, and endless expanses of pristine north woods wilderness teeming with wildlife.
I love the place so much my friends probably tire of hearing me talk about it. Yet my stories have intrigued a few to join me on trips to Beaver Island, and I couldn't have been more excited than to have Tony Smotherman, the Travelin' Hunter, join me in pursuit of whitetail bucks while working to highlight the island's quality deer management efforts on his Travelin' Hunter television show that airs Sunday nights on the Sportsman Channel.
Anyone familiar with deer hunting in Michigan knows you aren't likely to find the same sort of big-racked bucks roaming the agricultural lands of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa or Missouri. Northern Michigan deer for the most part don't have the benefit of feasting on high protein corn and soybeans, and a high population of hunters during the rifle season heavily pressures them. This doesn't mean mature bucks can't be found, especially if an area commits to establishing quality deer management practices. Beaver Island has done just that.
"Quality Deer Management has been a huge success on Beaver Island. We are seeing many more bucks, a much better buck to doe ratio and better fawn recruitment to the herd. All of this combines for a greater hunting experience. Each year has gotten better, and I anticipate Beaver Island deer hunting to continue to improve as more and more sportsmen buy into the idea of selective harvest and enhancing the island's habitat," said Jared Pike, a local hunter.
Tony and I hunted hard for three full days, and even though neither of us pulled the trigger on a whitetail buck, we had plenty of opportunities. Between us, we passed up 12 different immature bucks that should be roaming the island next year as 2 Â½ and 3 Â½ year olds. With about half of the island covered in public land and tags available over the counter, the average hunter can experience this hunt very affordably. There are big woods and open expanses, so you can find the type of habitat you prefer to hunt.
There is no shortage of lodging on Beaver Island. You can rent a remote cabin off the grid, but I prefer to stay in town within walking distance of the local amenities. Fiddler's Green offers very nice condos right downtown for affordable rates, and the owners are sportsmen friendly. And no trip to the island is complete without dining at the Shamrock. I eat the whitefish basket at least once a day for lunch or dinner. It's that good, and the atmosphere is fun, friendly and down to earth. Hang out and enjoy some spirits, and within a couple of hours you'll feel like a local.
Beaver Island is accessed through the town of Charlevoix. From there, you can either fly out to the island in 10 minutes with Island Airways or you can take a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride with Beaver Island Boat Company.
See you down the trail ...
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.