FAVORITES COME AND favorites go.

In my almost 72 years of living in this special part of north Wisconsin, I have had many favorites come and go. And no, I’m not talking about girlfriends, although there were several of those whom I favored before I met one that threw a loop over me 50-some years ago.

No, I’m talking about fishing and hunting places that once were among my favorite haunts, and the new favorite spots which have taken their places.

When it comes to trout fishing, Plum Creek had my heart and soul beginning at the age of 5, when I caught my first brookie a little south of where the fish hatchery used to stand.

I couldn’t begin to guess the number of hours I haunted that clear, rustling creek, trying to outwit brooks and browns, both of which, quite often, got the better of me. There were favorite holes, like the one under the leaning cedar just upstream from Wesley Sayner’s cabin.

It was there, at about age 13, that I caught a 15-inch brown that leaped clear of the water by at least 6 inches to grab a fly I had dangling from a short branch stub after an errant cast. When he grabbed it, the line popped free and after a battle, he wound up in my wicker creel.

Downstream from Uncle Neal’s cabin one evening, when it was more dark than light, I latched onto a brown of about equal size that thought a Light Cahill would make a good meal. Not too many years ago, an 18-inch brown made a big mistake when he grabbed a Panther Martin — yes, I was sinning by spinning that time — that I bounced off a dead tree trunk lying over the top of a deep cut run.

Of course, Plum Creek wasn’t the only place that became a favorite over the years. Allequash Springs was a favorite place, not just for the brilliantly colored native brookies I caught there, but for a logging operation around it that turned the woods into prime ruffed grouse habitat. As bad a shot as I am, I managed to kill more pa’tridges in a square mile or so around the springs than maybe any other place I’ve ever hunted.

The Big Valley was Mecca for me as I began my deer hunting career. Aptly named for a 150-yard wide valley that stretched for close to a quarter mile, it was the scene of my first triumphant deer season, a 1964 season that climaxed with me putting my tag on my first buck.

Over the years, the valley area was logged more than once. Today, much of it is so thick with balsam, Norway pine and second-growth timber that you’d have a heck of a time finding an open spot where you could even see a deer. Still, every now and then, I wander that country, supposedly looking for partridges, but in truth, looking for memories that are decades old.

I cut my duck hunting teeth from the age of 12 until I was well into my 30s at Rice Lake; a lake that hasn’t carried that name on official maps since the late ’60s. Now, it’s a rare time I launch my canoe there. Among other things, too many hunters have crowded me out.

In duck season, that is. When the ice is fresh off Rice Lake, you can find me spending hours lurking along one shore or another at my still-beloved lake watching migrating ducks, geese and swans during the short duration of their spring stay.

Ah, but for every favorite spot that no longer carries that distinction, I find myself with new ones taking their place. With a fishing kayak that weighs a mere 42 pounds, I can either carry or roll it into small lakes of 20 to 200 acres where rarely do I see another fisherman.

I no longer do much serious fishing, having much retreated to the boyhood joys of catching bluegills, perch and bass by the score. I find good northern pike fishing on small waters where few fishermen are willing to expend the effort to get to them.

I know that I’m probably running out of time to reach some of those places, what with a chronically aching knee that has excellent cartilage on the outside and none on the inside, along with a back that has two bulged discs.

Still, every now and then, I find a new favorite place. In recent years, one such lake has provided me and a few very select companions with some excellent smallmouth and largemouth fishing for lunkers up to 22 inches.

Another is a place my truck automatically heads for when I want a meal of bluegills ranging from 8 to 10 inches in size, along with an occasional perch or two worthy of keeping.

My favorite camping places in my early years were all within a few miles of home. My wife and I now have favorites everywhere from the north shore of Lake Superior to some beautiful lakes over Florence way and especially more little lakes in the Delta-Drummond area.

This week, my lovely wife and I are enjoying the beautiful Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior up Munising, Mich., way. We’re visiting some of our old favorite waterfalls, along with a few new ones while camping at Bay Furnace.

I reckon if I had time to think about it, I’d have a hard time deciding which I like best: old, beloved places in the woods and on the waters or new ones that have taken their place.

Truth is, I couldn’t do without any of them.