STEPHENSON, Wis. -- It's like being in northern Canada, only it's much closer and overall less expensive.
Even with high the price of gasoline, it is somehow easier for me to swallow the price of self-propelled road trip after years of tolerating grabby, feely security personnel at our country's airports. I have always realized the security people have a job to do protecting airline passengers, but when it comes down to it, no explanation in the world will convince a supervisor that one of my 4-piece fly rods, in my small carry-on case with expensive fly line on a reel, is more of a threat to a big northern pike than anything or anyone else.
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So I drive if I can, and stop frequently to refresh myself.
This area in northeast Wisconsin has quite a few Illinois transplants. Those who now make the woods and waters their homes-away-from-their-birth-homes aren't overly concerned about the retirement scenario, or worried about their stashed pensions being infiltrated by tax laws.
On one of my recent backoad drives up here I had to brake sharply to avoid two mature, wild turkey hens and their brood of recent hatchlings. They, too, headed into the pines for safety. Lucky them.
I, on the other hand, envisioned myself minding the deep fryer, lips smacking and drooling. In my opinion, nothing an oven turns out can match the juiciness of a turkey cooked to perfection in a deep fryer.
All of that wildness is up here all of the year, but especially once the small game season rolls around, it takes on a unique appeal. And it's always been like that, especially when it's grouse hunting time.
I may sound a tad melodramatic, but on every trip to northern Minnesota and here in northeast Wisconsin, I treasure the nightly sky shows.
This kind of stuff is a commonplace thing for the locals, who rarely turn their eyes skyward. But for a citified boy like me, every time I see strings of constellations and planets without a layer of pollution or ambient light below them, I can't help but soak it all in and then ask myself, Why am I not one of those transplants?
There are so many outdoor avenues to explore here for both fishing and hunting.
Caldron Falls is where I caught my first muskie decades before the late Art Mercier introduced me to outdoor broadcasting. Crappies taken from that reservoir fed a table-full of guests who couldn't get enough.
The Peshtigo River, with places like High Falls, Twin Bridges and the like gave my late father and I invaluable markers of life's lessons.
And when my father took me on the Menominee River the very first time, I could easily imagine back then the long-gone native tribes plying their canoes through the current and rapids. They hunted the bear and wolf while we observe and listen to the nightly arias of lobo and his pals.
Even though you can spy cell phones hanging from belts and shirt pockets up here, it is still important to realize that this country, like so many other semi-wild regions, serves as a relief valve for us more civilized folks.
The mink and ermine still swim the shorelines on the Menominee. The occasional moose still crashes through the elder trees. Large numbers of bald eagles still glide to the tallest tree available with a big fish in tow, and the whitetail deer have continued to beckon hunters into the ritual of the chase.
These are the treats of the outdoors that make the drive worthwhile. These are the gems that call to us, their tone sweetened by the knowledge that we've avoided an embarrassing, personal pat-down and the scent of aviation fuel.
The sound of an eagle screaming or a loon beckoning to a potential mate is on a need-to-hear basis, without x-rays and luggage penalties.
•Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.