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Wind storm drives change in plans
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We (including Brian, Jason, Darin and his friend, Aaron Marty) have been talking about this adventure for months. No, make that years. In 2005, we had it all planned out - a muzzleloader deer hunt to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior. Back then, however, tags were more limited and the only options were a couple of islands where only someone under the influence would go.

We gave it up with a promise to make the trip another time. Fast forward five years, and we are still frustrated with events beyond our control. This time it looked like a go with compatible work schedules and moderate weather conditions, including mild temperatures and calm winds throughout October.

Then, the roof blew off. Gale force winds have driven waves on Gitchigoomie (Ojibwa for Lake Superior) to 20 feet high or more, according to our water transportation connection out of Bayfield. "The boat won't be leaving the dock this week," he informs.

Our fascination with the Apostle Islands is as much about the history and lore of the place as it is the hunting. It was in these waters 35 years ago on the night of Nov. 10 that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in a storm that came up quickly with deadly results. To add even greater eeriness to the situation, it was 35 years to the day before that disaster when a similar storm on Armistice Day, 1940, killed more than 150 duck hunters on the Mississippi.

These events struck home when weather reporters out of Madison referred to the sinking of the "Mighty Fitz" when describing record-setting low pressure systems causing winds in the 60 mile-per-hour range here with punishing winds and driving rain storms to the north.

Jutting out into Lake Superior, the National Lakeshore area is comprised of 22 islands including Madeline, a frequent stop for tourists to the northland during the summer. We had planned to venture to one of the more remote islands, however, out of sight from the mainland and where we might have the entire island to ourselves.

Our goal was to tent camp on Oak Island with its more than 5,000 acres of heavily forested land and almost 12 miles of trails. It reigns as the highest point on the Apostle Islands with grand views of Lake Superior and the famous Hole-in-the-Wall archway as an added attraction.

Instructions from National Park Service staff were full of warnings, however. "Bring enough food to last a few extra days," she advises, "in case the water is too rough for pickup."

Bears can be another problem. While the Park Service claims Stockton Island has more bears per square mile than any other place in the country, Oak has a high population as well.

There are food lockers at each of the camp sites to store supplies, but we won't need them, according to Brian. "We'll just stash a few cookies under Marty's pillow."

The deer population is rather sparse, we are told, so we should not be surprised if the hunting isn't the best. Nonsense! We all agree, they have no idea what kind of hunters they're dealing with here. I make no mention during the flurry of e-mails, however, that I am the only one of the group who has ever shot a deer with a muzzleloader.

With tags purchased, transportation arrangements made and spouses resigned to the inevitable, cancellation comes as a big disappointment. The muzzleloader season on the Islands ends Oct. 31 so there will be no rescheduling.

Let there be no mistake, however. There is a sequel to this article. With zestful anticipation, we will surely make the trip one day - bears, nippy late-October temperatures and windswept shorelines be damned.

- Lee Fahrney is the Monroe Times outdoors writer. He can be reached at (608) 967-2208 or at