Whitetails by water.
The network of lakes once provided travel corridors for Ojibway and fur traders who were likely either too intimidated or too wise to navigate the jungles of spruce, pine, aspen and birch--not to mention the countless bogs--that characterize the area's solid ground.
As a child, I was fortunate to accompany my dad on several canoe trips to the Quetico, and though these adventures targeted pike, walleyes and smallmouth bass rather than the big game that inhabits the area, I was impressed by the efficiency of travel provided by a canoe.
Not only were we able to move quickly, quietly and relatively easily over long distances with a substantial load of gear, we could access remote parts of the park that would have been virtually impossible to reach over land.
The lesson overlapped from my fishing expeditions into my hunting strategy. Those who pursue white-tails are familiar with the adage that it pays to "get off the beaten path." In general, the point is that few hunters venture more than several hundred yards from the trail or the truck, whether they like to admit it or not. By doing so, they tend to hunt areas that receive substantial hunting pressure--areas wise, old bucks endeavor to avoid.
But for the sake of this column, let's take the age-old adage literally. If the intent is to access ground seldom hunted, where mature bucks like to hunker down when the shooting starts, sometimes it pays to get off the path and onto the water.
To be clear, regulations vary from one state and province to another regarding shooting a deer from the water (or, for that matter, shooting one that's in the water). So before you consider hunting from a canoe or other watercraft, check and double-check all of the applicable regulations. And be sure your craft is properly equipped with safety gear--which you in fact know how to use in case of a problem on the water.
In many cases, hunters are permitted to use a canoe as a mode of transportation. So if the situation calls for it, consider the option of traveling by canoe across a waterway to access land tough to reach by foot. The benefits are, at least, threefold:
* You can travel farther, faster and quieter. With a modicum of experience, a hunter can load his or her gear into the hull of a canoe, paddle silently and cover a mile or more in a fraction of the time it would take to navigate to the same spot over land.
* You can go where most hunters can't or simply won't. If there's a WMA or other public hunting venue with sizable water features in your area, take a close look at a topographical map of the area. Chances are, you'll find pockets of prime, secluded cover bordered by water. Many of these spots will require either a long overland hike to access or the negotiation of tricky terrain such as steep draws or nasty swamps. If you can get to them by water, you just might be the only hunter there.
* Finally, consider the benefits of a canoe after you've shot the buck of a lifetime. Why spend hours dragging the beast through the woods (perhaps damaging his cape in the process) when you could load him into the canoe and paddle out with ease?
To be sure, a canoe is of no use on many of our whitetail adventures. But every once in a while, you'll discover a hidden gem of a hunting spot that provides a great opportunity if you're willing to get off the beaten path and onto the water.
RELATED ARTICLE: CANOE CRITERIA
Picking the best canoe for your scenario isn't always as easy as it sounds. While hunting might be one use for your boat, it's likely that it won't be the sole purpose--or even the primary purpose--of your investment. As such, it's important to look for a canoe that can meet a range of needs and fill a variety of roles. Old Town's Penobscot 164 is a perfect example of a well-rounded, reliable canoe that's just as useful on a Saturday afternoon crappie excursion with your 9-year-old daughter as it is on a backcountry tour or DIY whitetail adventure. Designed to be durable and tough, the Penobscot 164 is constructed with three-layer polyethylene, and its hull design is adequate for running rivers or tracking well on longer-distance paddles.
Weight: 75 lbs.
Max. Load: 1,200-1,250 lbs.
BY PATRICK HOGAN, EDITOR