As we stepped out of the truck into the pre-dawn stillness, we noticed something dark lying in the road. Sometime during the night a timber wolf had marked its territory. It was then that we realized that we were no longer the lone apex predator in the woods. Somewhere in the long moon-lit shadows our canine competition was waiting for an easy meal. Our only defenses were the shotguns in our hands. The thrill of hunting wild turkey in the northern wilds of Wisconsin just intensified.
Some may ask why I left the farm fields and hardwood forests of southern Indiana to hunt around Mercer in Wisconsin’s Iron County. Yes, Indiana has abundant turkey, but there’s something about northern Wisconsin that whispers to me of adventure.
While much of the Midwest has been sterilized and sanitized by civilization, northern Wisconsin still has a raw edge to it. Black bear, timber wolves, moose, and even a growing elk herd haunt the boreal forests. Because of this, not only am I challenged to be more alert to my surroundings, so are the turkey. The question was and always will be, am I up to the challenge?
To say that excitement draws me to the Mercer area is a given. But, there are other reasons as well. Top on that list are opportunities that few other places offer.
What opportunities, you ask? Read on.
If you’re a ruffed grouse hunter, you’ve most likely hunted in or around Mercer, the sleepy little town in northern Wisconsin that’s just a hop, skip, and jump away from world renown Park Falls.
While the ruffed grouse hunting is world-class, few realize the potential as a turkey destination. Here are the top ten reasons:
- Mercer is in the middle of 377,000 acres of publicly-owned forested land. Over 70-percent of Iron County is open to public access hunting. Between, county, state, and federally owned land, there are countless places to call in a gobbler without worrying about asking for permission to hunt. http://mercercc.com/hunting/
- Mercer is ground zero for over 250 miles of ATV trails. That means you can park the truck and use your ATV to hunt for the entire trip. What few hunters realize is that many hunting hotspots are only accessible via the ATV trails. No cars or trucks can reach them and few hunters attempt to hike to them. Talk about low hunting pressure! http://www.mercerwi.com/atv.htm
- The fishing is fantastic. Suppose you get your gobbler on opening morning or just want to spend the afternoon relaxing? There are 214 lakes within 30 miles of Mercer, filled with every species of game fish northern Wisconsin has to offer, from crappie to musky. http://www.mercerwi.com/fishing.htm
- There are many ruffed grouse management areas around Mercer. These areas are specifically managed by the state and the Ruffed Grouse Society to keep the ruffed grouse populations strong and healthy. They do so by actively maintaining ideal ruffed grouse habitat, but here’s the kicker: turkey thrive in that same habitat.
- The area is mostly undeveloped and pristine. Timber wolves, black bear, white-tailed deer, moose, and wild turkey call Iron County home. While many places around the Midwest seem sterilized and tame, the boreal forests around Mercer are thrillingly raw and wild. Mercer Township has an amazingly low population density of 1.8 people per square mile.
- The paper pulp/timber industry is alive and well in Iron County. Vast areas of the county are in the early successional state of regeneration, which is perfect turkey, ruffed grouse, and white-tailed deer habitat. It also means countless miles of logging trails that dive right into the heart of these areas.
- There are many miles of maintained walking trails through the forests that allow hunters of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels access to great hunting.
- The turkey population is growing in Iron County, so while you’re out grouse hunting, you can also be scouting for great turkey spot for the next spring.
- Mercer has a public archery, shotgun, rifle, and pistol shooting range that is free to use from sunrise to sunset. http://mercercc.com/directory/listing/northwoods-wildlife-wetlands-club
- Mercer is populated with hunters and anglers that love to share their playground. They welcome their kindred spirits with open arms. The local sporting goods stores, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local office of the Wisconsin DNR are willing and able to help anyone fulfill their vacation dreams. If you need shotgun shells, lures, bait, maps, ice, or just advice, it’s all readily available. http://mercercc.com/directory/categories/shop/
Lisa Heberling of the Mercer Chamber of Commerce says it best. “You can be in the middle of nowhere, just five minutes from town.” It doesn’t matter what you love to do, at Mercer, you’re never done playing outside. http://mercercc.com/