In Search of the Elusive

February 24, 2000

After finishing graduate school I was given the opportunity to live in the woods of Northern Michigan. Part of that experience was sharing my confines with the wildlife. Sandi (my golden Lab) and I were caretakers of 150 acres of private land completely surrounded by National Forest. You might think the area would be rife with critters.

It probably was, but they were elusive, seldom seen. Besides, in the winter, few creatures wander through snow covered meadows. Occasionally we would come across a rabbit, hear an owl, and find numerous tracks in the snow.

I however, was preoccupied with some of the more elusive visitors that left their tracks and calling cards night after night.

Day after day we went out looking. Some days I thought I might walk Sandi’s legs off. After our walks she often flopped down on the braided wool rug in front of the fire and slept for hours. During the night, she traded her spot on the floor for a bit of my queen sized bed that she owned a piece of. The lower left-hand corner was hers. I slept on the right side of the bed.

This night she would have to sleep alone.

I had decided to change strategies. If you can’t find the elusive ones, let them find you.

The recreation field lay about a quarter of a mile down the road from the cabin. It was approached through a dense stand of mixed birch and aspen. The field was shaped in a half circle, bounded on the south side by a fairly steep hill. To the left the cedars of the swamp were as thick as a jungle. The hill was covered in scrub oak and an occasional scattered pine.

Through the middle of the rec. field was a path. The path teased me. It was their path, their route to the top of the hill. I knew they used it frequently.

I remember the conversation with myself. “You really are nuts. Lost it buddy. You have been out here in the woods too long. “

“The cabin is nice and warm.”


“You are going to freeze your ass off. “

“We’ll see won’t we. “

Maybe it was the challenge of it all. I think I just wanted to “win.” I had been searching for a month or two, and the tease had gone on long enough.

I gathered my gear.

I am sure Sandi wondered what in the world was going on. I told her I would be back in the morning.

Ok guys. Let’s see you get past this. I lay my tarp down on the snow. On top of the tarp I laid my foam pad. I had carried the down bags over my shoulder so they would have a chance to fluff up.

I stuffed one of the down sleeping bags inside of the other.

Double Down…

No it’s not Vegas.

I had never tried this before, but I had it all figured out. I sat on the edge of the bag and removed my boots, and left them on the tarp. Cotton is a poor insulator so I got rid of the jeans that left the long underwear. Wool sweater, turtleneck, down jacket. I was set. I figured my ears would be ok with a wool hat.

It was not that cold, probably in the range of 25 degrees.

I slept like a baby. I remember, because I almost did not wake.

I lay so that my face would face the dawn but it was not the light that woke me. I heard a snorting which I had never heard before. I woke and turned my eyes toward the sound.

Standing with two does was one pissed off buck. He snorted, and pawed the ground.

I probably would have been ticked too, if my path were blocked with some big blue cocoon.

They ran south across the field and up the hill.

I smiled, closed my eyes and went back to sleep.


In the end, it often takes extra work to find that which would elude you. I have always found that it is worth the effort.