Dear Fish Diary:
Not too long ago, I wrote about how to make up excuses to go fishing. I was trying to help you by giving you reasons to get out and enjoy the lakes and streams with your rod and reel. I was coming to your aid and filling your head full of twisted methods to justify putting off your priorities. I wish I could take my own advice. It seems that just as soon as I come up with a good excuse to go fishing, I’m sidelined with an excuse not to go.
The older I get, the more my non-fishing life takes over. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I was always under the understanding that as we age, we should have more time and opportunities to go fishing, not less. In my youth, I wasn’t a touring songwriter, a published book author, a homeowner and the worst of the bunch, a photographer. Back then, I’d just bam… load up and go. Now, by the time I’m loaded up to go, it’s already dark, and my bam has turned into a yawn.
Even when I have the best intentions, something totally out of the blue will distract me, and my ambition to hook a lunker will be replaced by, well, in this case, a white deer.
So, tough decision here, go fishing or grab my camera and hunt down the white deer that’s suddenly in my area? Let’s look at it statistically and systematically. The DNR expects roughly 92 million walleye to be caught in Michigan waters this year. When I Google a question such as, “What is the estimated bluegill population in Michigan?” I get no real answer, but I see 53 million search results to my question. When I ask what the northern pike population in Michigan is, I get a bit over 78 million search results, and again, no real answer. I did find that there are an estimated 23 to 27 million salmon and trout in Lake Michigan alone.
Why are those numbers significant? By comparison, our state has an estimated deer population of around 2 million. Studies I’ve researched vary between 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 30,000 fawns will be born all white. Now bear with me; math isn’t one of my strong points, but it appears we have more fish than deer. If my calculations are accurate, I’m estimating that there are probably less than 70 white deer roaming in our state every year, and that’s less than one per county.
To take this to the next level, I’ve unsuccessfully hunted a white deer with my camera for years. I’ve driven 100s of miles to scout places where someone has reported one, only to get skunked. In the meantime, I have caught a few bluegill, walleye, trout and pike. The point is, it appears the fish will be there when I’m ready, and the white deer will not.
I’ve photographed white robins and white squirrels while it seems that everyone has seen a white deer but me. The way this freak of nature eludes me, I can see why it’s called a ghost. Just in the past couple of months, I have been contacted by several people who have seen one in my area. Two of my former photography students have photos of it. To rub it in deeper, my son-in-law, who really isn’t an outdoor person per se, sent me a cell phone photo he took of it. Here I am, the professional outdoor writer and photographer, coming up empty. This type of failure only makes me more determined.
To make matters worse, I have the number 53,000 running through my head. That is the number of deer estimated to be hit on our roads yearly. I also know a spectacle like this will draw a lot of attention and many times, not good attention. More people means more traffic and more opportunities being ruined by new onlookers scaring it away.
Luck is not necessarily one of my attributes. My first encounter with this animal came after I had just finished a speaking engagement where I gave a funny presentation on my frustrations of 40 years in the field as a wildlife photographer. I decided to take a drive on my way home and circle the area where many of the sightings had been reported, and there she was. Here is the kicker, I didn’t have my camera. I recorded a short video on my cell phone and touched off a couple of horrible photos as darkness moved in. I simply chalked it up as just one more frustrating episode I can add to my speaking presentation in the future.
Finally, I would be chastised no more as I played a hunch. On a rainy day, I figured it was a prime time to venture to the area not far from my house. Cold rainy days keep the people away, and fewer people will mean a greater opportunity; wow, that’s brilliant outdoor intuition. Although it was raining and low light, I finally got off a few shots with my good camera of this elusive spectacle. Although the images aren’t perfect, they are still better than my cell phone shots, and all I had to do was sacrifice a few walleye.
After reading some of the old history on white deer, I’ve seen it written many times that it is bad luck to shoot one, not shoot one with a camera, you know what I mean. Many old tribes even claimed that you would die if you killed one. A lot of old wives’ tales and lore are associated with these animals, and the stories seem endless and timeless. Although it has been legal in Michigan to hunt them since 2008, many states have laws against harvesting white deer. I have to admit that in all of my countless hours in the outdoors, this encounter is truly a memorable, remarkable and unique experience. There are a lot of varied opinions on whether or not one would harvest one of these unique animals. The feeling that came over me when I finally stood face to face with one for the first time, hoping I’d have more future encounters. I will keep at this until I get the photos I really want because I doubt this opportunity will ever come back around in my lifetime. Until then, I guess the walleye can wait.
The only bad thing from this white deer episode is that I can no longer use the tagline, “I have as good of a chance catching a fish as I do seeing a white deer.” With seeing and photographing the elusive white deer finally behind me, I can now focus on the remaining three things on my photo bucket list, a unicorn, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. If you happen to encounter any of them, please contact my tip line.
Funny Fish Stories Wanted:
Strangest thing you’ve ever caught. Send me a short description of your “best or worst” fishing day, the worst fishing-related adventure, or the strangest thing you’ve caught. You don’t have to write the entire story, just briefly outline what happened. If it has some humor to it, I’ll be getting in touch with you, and we’ll work on the completed story together.
Contact – Woods-N-Water News columnist Ron St. Germain by calling 517-626-2814, e-mailing DaPhotoDude@aol.com. Visit the author’s Facebook page www.Facebook.com/BearwaveBooks