For opening day of deer hunting this year I returned to my hometown and my home marsh, which I have not hunted for years. Located just outside of Beaver Dam, Shaw Marsh is 900 acres of public wilderness surrounded by an ocean of farm fields. It’s mostly cattails, but it has scattered uplands and woods and I know that piece of land like no other.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one. Like I said, it’s just outside of town so it’s convenient for many, especially during the gun deer season.
This year was no exception.
On opening morning, on my way to the parking lot I passed a line of 20 hunters, perfectly spaced, on the side of the highway, waiting to drive the marsh.
I had to make a new plan quickly and I headed to a different section, much farther into the marsh, on an island in the cattails. It was the next closest parking area and I didn’t have much time, but it wasn’t a bad plan B because there was a chance that crew would push deer toward me.
I arrived at the alternate spot and basically had that section of the marsh to myself, though I could see scattered orange in the distance across the cattails. The marsh was well surrounded.
I heard the first shots just after first light. The massive drive had kicked something up and for the next hour I waited, hoping to see deer fleeing from that early morning disturbance.
Nothing developed and a silence took over the marsh like the cold, crisp morning that coated the cattails in frost.
I figured it wouldn’t be long before that crew arrived to drive the part of the marsh I was on, so I decided to walk it myself.
No, I didn’t kick up a deer. But, I wandered onto the very spot where I shot my first deer. I passed through cattail paths where my dad took me hunting for the first time ever. For pheasants. I roamed along backwater creeks and hidden ponds that I’ve watch fill up with wood ducks in the fall. And I visited the pines under which I’ve harvested turkeys.
The memories flushed like roosters from a fence line and they were as thick as the brush through which I walked, and as I continued to hunt it almost became tough to demand anything more from Shaw Marsh. Over the years, it had already been so fruitful for me.
When I reached my vehicle it felt like I had been gone for years.
Soon, as I had figured, hunters were making their way up the road ready to take over.
That was fine by me, I had already harvested all I needed and I never felt more thankful while walking away empty-handed.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]