September 26, 2012 - Most folks don't know who Jodi (Raab) Spieles is, but there are probably a lot of Michigan hunters and trappers who will undoubtedly recognize her face.
Jodi (Raab) Spieles, a 1985 OHS graduate, is on the cover of the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest with a six-point buck she shot in the UP. (click for larger version)
That's because this 1985 Oxford High School graduate is featured on the cover of the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest, a rules-and-regulations booklet published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Spieles, 45, appears on the cover with a six-point buck she shot, the .30-.30 Winchester rifle she bagged him with and her two sons, Ben, 11, and Conrad, 7.
The photo was taken at the 50,000-acre Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula. Spieles' family, which includes husband Jon, have a tradition of camping out there every year for the entire firearm deer season.
One day last November, a DNR photographer showed up and asked if he could take some photos of her with her buck. Eight months later, Spieles is somewhat of a minor celebrity in hunting circles.
But she wasn't surprised to see it because her husband works for the DNR as its head naturalist and "he heard through the grapevine that we were going to be on it."
"I think we heard about it the third week of July and it came out the second week of August," said Spieles, who lives in UP community of McMillan.
Spieles shot the year-and-a-half-old buck at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in the same blind she's been using for the past 13 years. She intends to make it 14 seasons this November.
At first, she wasn't going to shoot him because his right antler was kind of flipped down over his face.
"I wondered what was wrong with him," she said. "I decided to shoot because we didn't have any deer down yet."
"He took three steps and stopped, then I shot him again and he went down. It was one of those weird ones that didn't know what hit him at first."
Spieles discovered the problem wasn't the buck's antler, it actually was his skull.
"The whole skull was broken around the antler," she said. "We were thinking it could have been sparring with another buck in that area. Just a mile away there was a monster 10-point shot. Maybe he was sparring with him."
But that didn't matter to her because it's all about putting some meat on the table.
"My favorite is the backstraps," Spieles said. "We cut them into big chunks, cook them whole (using either a grill or broiler) and then slice them into little pieces, so they are rare in the middle. That's the way we like it the best – with a garlic, rosemary rub."
A backstrap is a loin of meat that is almost entirely devoid of sinew and fat. It basically runs along the whole spine of the deer. It's primarily used for steaks and is considered a delicacy.
Spieles noted that the reason some people don't like venison is because it's either been overcooked, which leaves the meat tough and dry, or it's not been processed quickly enough, meaning it's been left to hang too long and gone bad.
Spieles began hunting as a young girl with her parents, Jim and Coleen Raab, who now live in Dryden. They hunted from Metamora to Remus, near Big Rapids.
She shot her first deer, a young buck, at age 18. She took him with a bow. "I've always preferred the bow," Spieles noted. "The deer come in closer; you have to be more still."
Since then, she estimated she's bagged somewhere between 15 and 20 deer. Her biggest was a 10-pointer taken in Tahquamenon Falls State Park in November 2002.
"I love to be outdoors and I think deer hunting is enjoyable because it forces me to sit down and relax," Spieles said. "It's very peaceful sitting in the woods. I think that's what I look forward to most."
She really enjoys how hunting and fishing are always family-bonding experiences.
"There's not a Saturday we're not packing up lunch, and possibly dinner, because we're going to be gone all day," Spieles said. "Last Saturday, we went salmon fishing in the Two Hearted River and caught seven coho salmon."
"It's one of the things that's so wonderful in our lives," she added. "We're always together in the woods."
But it's the annual deer season camp-out that she enjoys most. All they need for two weeks is a tent, a wood-burning stove, some cots and each other. "We have Thanksgiving there," Spieles said. "I cook the turkey on our Weber Grill. We have Thanksgiving in the tent. It's a great tradition."
It also doesn't hurt that Tahquamenon Falls State Park has been a lucky place for her and her husband. "When we lived up there, he and I both shot trophy bucks, so we always go up there to hunt," she said.
Admittedly, there aren't a lot of female hunters because the sport has traditionally been a guy thing. But Spieles encourages women of all ages to give it a try.
"You don't have to get a deer as long as you're out there enjoying it," she said. "There's no right or wrong way to do it."
The biggest thing is to not get discouraged when learning how to shoot.
"The first 20 times you shoot, you're not going to be very accurate because you're just getting used to it," Spieles said. "Some women feel like they can't do it when that happens – they can't get a good shot and so they give up. But it takes a long time, especially with firearms, to get used to it and to be able to relax and be accurate with it."
She advised women to not let anyone tell them they "can't shoot straight, so they should forget it. It takes a while to be comfortable firing a weapon."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.