Friday, December 19, 2008

First Ice!!!

Well, the time is here to start fishing the hard waters of Michigan! I headed out to a local lake to test the ice and see if my season of ice fishing could start. I ventured out on Little Seven Lake in Seven Lakes State Park and was happy to find 4+ inches of good, solid ice! It was only an hour or so until dark, so my time was limited. I popped a hole in the ice, set up and sat down. For the next hour, it was all I could do to keep my hands warm because I never had enough time to get my gloves on! Now when I went out, I didn't think I would find good ice, let alone find a hot-spot on the first hole. I was pulling gills up as fast as I could put the line back down to the bottom. Out of the 30 or so fish that I caught, 15 were definite keepers along with a 15 inch bass, my first taken through the ice. But, I didn't feel like cleaning any fish that night, so everything made it back to the hole.
A couple of days later I went out to Big Seven Lake and found a solid 5+ inches of good ice, but lady luck wasn't with me that day and I went home with an empty bucket.

Then this past weekend, I decided to take my two youngest out on the ice with me. I was also accompanied by Mikey from the Up North Journal. We decided to hit Little Seven Lake again and try our luck. I got my kids set up and, at first, the bite was slow. We really didn't have any action for the first hour. But then things picked up and the spring bobbers on the end of our rods were starting to earn their keep. In between bites, the kids were taking turns spinning in circles on the buckets and making snow angels, as well as a quick game of "fishball" (it's just like football, just with a frozen fish).

Every couple of minutes they would come back over to the poles and fish for a second before finding another game to play. One of the times they came back to fish, my daughter, Caitlyn, was holding the rod and the tip bent right down. She fought and fought like it was the last thing she was going to do. After a minute or so of reeling, I saw the flash of silver in the hole. When she finally pulled that fish out of the hole, I couldn't have been more proud. My daughter had pulled her first bass out of the ice. At only 12 inches, we had to let him swim away, but not before a picture and alot of praise. Later that night, I cleaned the fish and tried a new recipe. But that will have to wait until next time...

The kids and their catch from our day on the ice

Caitlyn and her first bass

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another Recipe: Disturbed Duck (or goose)

After posting that last recipe, I decided to start to put some more up from time to time. Here is one of my favorites. I got it from my good buddy Mike at the Up North Journal. The original recipe came from one of the forums on This is a very simple recipe with very few ingredients. And it can be done with eaither duck or goose breasts. I changed the recipe a bit, so here is my version of "Disturbed Duck"......

Disturbed Duck

Here is what you will need.....

1 duck breast
Teriyaki (I use Veri Veri Teriyaki)
Soy Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Olive Oil
Any kind of instant rice or noodles (I like the chicken flavored rice or the teriyaki rice)

Start off by taking a duck breast and clean it off really good. Then cut it into thin strips (approx. 1/3in. x 3in.). Then mix 1/3 cup Teriyaki, 1 tsp soy sauce (I use the low sodium stuff), 1 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce, and 2 tsp olive oil in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to medium and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Start your rice or noodles per directions on the box. Put the breast strips in the sauce pan with the teriyaki mixture and cook on medium heat until you start to see the strips turn grey and blood just starts to come out of them then flip them over. Cook only for another 2 minutes or so. Duck is very easy to over cook, so watch it carefully. If you want, after you flip the breast strips, you can add a variety of whatever you want. Broccoli, sesame seeds, onion, and water chestnuts all work well. Use your imagination! Let it cool for a minute then pour it over the rice or noodles. You can make this as lavish or as simple as you like. I really enjoy these right before I go on a hunt because it is simple and quick, but very filling.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Great Salmon Recipe: Maple Salmon

Over the past three weeks, I haven't been feeling 100%, so I haven't been out in the field a whole lot. Then, I have spent the better part of this past week getting various tests done, most of which required fasting. As of last night, I hadn't eaten in almost 48 hours, but I was still restricted because of another test, and could only eat off of a very limited menu. No meat, vegetables, butter, dairy, fried, or fatty foods. I was not very happy with my choices, but then I noticed at the bottom of the list that I could have fish! Rock On! So I dug up some old recipes and found a great one that is simple and delicious....

Maple SalmonIngredients:
1/4 cup Maple Syrup (if you want, you can cheat and use imitation)
1 pound of Salmon (I use fillets, but you can use stakes; just keep them under 2in. thick)
1/8 tbsp Ground Black Pepper
1 clove Garlic (minced)
1/4 tsp Garlic Salt
2 tbsp Soy Sauce

Mix together the soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper. In a shallow baking dish, place the salmon and coat with the syrup mixture, cover, and place in the fridge for 1 hour, turning once. Preheat the oven to 400F. Then, place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.

Simple as that. Easy and oh-so delicious. And it's healthy to boot!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Great Waterfowl Weekend

A couple of weekends ago, both of the Mikes from the Up North Journal and I spent most of the weekend waterfowl hunting and it was great! We started out Friday night on Lake Ponemah on a little island that I have never hunted off of. Every time we have been out, someone has been out there, so we just go somewhere else. As we are first getting set up, I noticed a couple of mallards making their way off of the island, right where we were about to set our blind up at! Well, at least we know that there are ducks here!

After about 30 minutes, our decoys are set up and the blind is finished. We plop down and get ready for the onslaught. Nothing. It wasn't until an hour later that we heard a flight of geese coming in. With the gun mounted camera rolling on Big Mike's gun, Little Mike and I are laying in on the goose calls (well, I'm putting as many clucks out as I could manage while Little Mike throws out his champion calling skills) and they are coming right for us. There were three groups in the incoming flight, and the last group was looking promising. They started to veer towards us but they were not going to commit, so when they started to come overhead, we let loose. The lead goose dropped, but the rest kept flying. And that was pretty much the end of that night of hunting. But, around here, one is better than none. And, after reviewing the video and audio, we came to the conclusion that it was my bird. Add some more to the freezer.

The next morning, we headed out to another local lake that is only a few miles down the road from me. Big Seven Lake is in the middle of Seven Lakes State Park and is definitely our local waterfowl hangout. We were out on the water by 5:30am and set up with about 20 minutes to spare before first light. Right off the bat, the ducks were flying. This was going to be a good morning. After a few fly-bys that snuck past us, we had a pair fly in and circle around. They decoyed a little short and landed on the outside of the spread and swam in. When they got within range, we jump up to get them flying, but they just sat there. So we started yelling. They just sat there. Then we started throwing sticks. They just sat there. What was going on?!? No matter what we did, they just sat there and stared at us. So, we got out of the blind and started splashing towards them. Nothing. It wasn't until I got about 15 yards away did they even start to get up. I took one and Little Mike took the other. A mallard and a hen to start the morning off. The rest of the day was action packed. Birds were flying all over the place. We called a few in, but for the most part we were pass shooting. Or should I say pass missing. We didn't get anymore birds that day, but it was still a good day.

The next morning we headed out to the same place. Set-up was done with 20 minutes to spare again. Right at first light we had a flight of Wigeon come in from the west and they came in fast. They decoyed perfectly. Little Mike took the first one in. When he brought it up, it was perfect. A good sized body, perfect color, and just a few pellet makes in well hidden areas. With in the first five minutes, he decided that this one was going to be mounted. A while later another flight came in and Big Mike drop the middle one like a rock. We are pretty sure that Little Mike got one, but he managed to fly off. After two trips out in the boat and a walk around the island, we couldn't find him. But it wasn't from a lack of trying. We now had a Black duck to add to the count. After that, it was another day of throwing steel. I think in the next year, I'm going to join up with a sportsman's club that has a trap course.

So, all in all it was a good local weekend with some birds put in the freezer.

"Little" Mike and I
This is the Video "Big" Mike made of our waterfowling weekend....enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The History of Obama

O.k. I know that this blog is supposed to be about my hunting and outdoor adventures, but this is one that I just couldn't pass up. I was talking with some of my co-workers today and we got on the subject of politics. I was blown away by the fact that some of the avid hunters here are Obama supporters! I kept hearing "He's a sportsman!" and "He doesn't want to take your guns" and "He just wants stricter laws for inner cities and it won't affect us". Well, I'm not going to sit here and tell you who to vote for. There are enough ad campaigns out there to do that. What I will do is show you a view of Obama's past voting history and how he has felt about guns...

Obama's writing was on the 1996 document, a political questionnaire which was filed when Obama was running for the Illinois state Senate. A Chicago nonprofit, Independent Voters of Illinois, had this question, and Obama took hard line:

Do you support state legislation to:
a. ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns? Yes.
b. ban assault weapons? Yes.
c. mandatory waiting periods and background checks? Yes.


Obama was asked by interviewer Leon Harris “You support the D.C. handgun ban, and you’ve said that it’s constitutional?” during a Feb. 12 interview on ABC’s affiliate in Washington.

“Right, right,” replied the Illinois senator, nodding his head.


“As president,” Obama said in response to the ruling, “I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne.”

“Reason” magazine’s Jacob Sullum noted that Obama’s response highlights his “peculiar view that the extent of an American’s constitutional rights depends on where he lives.”


During Obama’s time on the board of the liberal Joyce Foundation, he “oversaw the distribution of $18 million to gun-ban groups, including major funding for the Violence Policy Center,”


As a member of the Illinois Senate, Obama voted for a bill to ban and confiscate assault weapons that the NRA said was so poorly drafted that “it would have also banned most semiauto and single and double barrel shotguns commonly used by sportsmen.”


Obama also has supported legislation to ban gun stores within 5 miles of any school or park, which the NRA plausibly argues could close down 90 percent of all existing gun stores in America.


Obama voted to make homeowners guilty of a felony if their gun is stolen from their home and then used to harm anyone, thereby making it dangerous for any law-abiding citizen merely to own a gun.


Obama has proposed banning inexpensive handguns, so-called Saturday night specials, that poor women and men could afford for self-defense, according to NRA document .tion. He also has proposed a 500 percent increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. To the extent that he favors any right to keep and bear arms, it appears to be only for the rich, not the poor.


Principles that Obama supports on gun issues as stated in the 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test Jul 2, 1998

Ban the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons.
Increase state restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms.
Require manufacturers to provide child-safety locks with firearms.


Barack Obama wants to re-impose the failed and discredited Clinton Gun Ban

From the Independent Voters of Illinois/Independent Precinct Organization general candidate questionnaire, Sept. 9, 1996


Obama voted to ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting

United States Senate, S. 397, vote number 217, Kennedy amendment July 2, 2005


Obama supports local gun bans in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities

David Wright, Ursula Fahy and Sunlen Miller, "Obama: 'Common Sense Regulation' On Gun Owners' Rights," ABC News' "Political Radar" Blog,, 2/15/08

Obama voted to uphold local gun bans and the criminal prosecution of people who use firearms in self-defense

Illinois Senate, March 25, 2004 SB 2165, vote 20


Obama voted not to notify gun owners when the state of Illinois did records searches on them

Illinois Senate, May 5, 2002, SB 1936 Con., vote 26


Obama voted against a measure to lower the Firearms Owners Identification card age minimum from 21 to 18, a measure designed to assist young people in the military

Illinois Senate, March 25, 2003, SB 2163, vote 18


Obama favors a ban on standard capacity magazines

“Clinton, Edwards, Obama on gun control,” Radio Iowa, Sunday, April 22, 2007


Obama supports mandatory micro-stamping

Chicago Tribune blogs, “Barack Obama: NIU Shootings call for action,” February 15, 2008


Obama supports repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits information on gun traces collected by the BATFE from being used in reckless lawsuits against firearm dealers and manufacturers.

There is more information out there folks. This is just some of what I found. Do some digging. Find out who you are voting for. And don't let an expensive t.v. ad make up your mind for you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Hunter Added To The Ranks

A couple of weeks ago, I took a new hunter out into the woods. She has been begging me for the past couple of years, and I finally gave in and said "yes". When I told her she could go upstairs and get some of her camo clothes on, her eye's lit up. She ran upstairs as quickly as she could and came down with everything camo she could grab. Her own camo pants, her brother's camo hooded sweatshirt, and a pair of my old hunting gloves. She was ready. She was born ready. I speak to my wife on the phone telling her that nothing will happen and we are just going to a few spots that I know very well. "I know" she replies. "But she's only four. Try and be careful." she says again with a quiver in her voice. "I will. We will be home by dark." I tell her as my daughter is pulling at my pant leg, asking if we can go yet. So off we go. My first hunting trip with Caitlyn. We make our first stop at the gas station to buy supplies. "Well need food" she says. So we load up on peanuts and gummi worms and a few other candy items. Then we head over to the cooler and she stares for a second. "What do we drink when we hunt, daddy?". "Whatever you want" so she grabbed a coke and I grabbed some water. Now, off to the hunting grounds. We headed back to a wooded spot in Seven Lakes State Park not too far from our house and started to sneak in. I was amazed at how quiet she could be. This, from the girl who at times can sound like a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant. We found a log to sit on a ways back and we started the wait. She asked what we were doing and I told her that we were waiting to for the squirrels to think that we we gone. Then, they would come out and we could take them. I told her to keep an eye out on the ground and in the trees and to look for any movement. She was on high alert. Every single noise or movement, she wanted to know if it was a squirrel. She would be still for about four or five minutes, then start to get rowdy. I'd tell her that she needed to sit quiet and she would for another minute or so. I really didn't expect to see any game that day. It was more about spending time with my daughter out in the woods and getting her ready for those times when hunting would be a little more of our focus. We went from spot to spot, and we saw a lot of birds and chipmunks and other little creatures, but no squirrels. But it was still a good time out. We sat down a few times and ate our snacks and sipped our drinks and talked more than we have in a while. When it started to get dark, we were heading out and I said to my daughter "Hey, we should just camp out here. It'll be fun!" all the while knowing she would not want to and that we would just head home. Then she replied "Sure dad! Let's stay out here!". Well, I wasn't expecting that one. So I had to explain to her that we were in the middle of a state park and we couldn't just set up camp. Plus, mom might get a little mad (remember, mom is at home thinking that we have both been eaten by a bear, or worse). As we left the woods, we came across a little playground and she played on the swings for a few minutes and ran around like a little kid will. And as we got into the car, she said "I'm glad I'm your new hunting buddy, daddy.". It almost brought a tear to my eye.

Dad's New Hunting Buddy!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

1st Duck Hunting Trip to Fish Point of '08

My morning started at 2:15 a.m. Man, it's been a while since I've seen this time of the morning. My warm bed is sitting there, trying to persuade me back to it's comfort. But not this morning. This is the morning I have been waiting for all year. This is the morning I head to Fish Point, a managed state game area by the Saginaw Bay. I head downstairs where all of my hunting gear is ready and waiting for me. It was all organized and arranged the night before to help ease the excitement and give me something to do before it was time to sleep. 2:50 a.m., the car is packed and I'm on my way to meet my hunting partner for the day, Brent. Brent is an electrician that was contracted to work at my school. A couple of talks about hunting and I knew I had found a new hunting partner. 3:30 a.m. and I am in the Meijer parking lot switching all the gear from my car to his. He is as excited as I am. Inside the truck, Lilly, Brent's golden lab, sits waiting. This is going to be her first trip out. 5:00 a.m. and we are in Unionville, where Fish Point is located. We drive around a bit to see if we can hear any ducks or geese that maybe found a nesting spot for the night outside of the refuge. Nothing. So we head over to the headquarters and register. We are party #31. After we get registered, we head to the maps and the number charts to try to make a more educated decision about where we want to hunt. The number charts are put up every Saturday morning and they tell you how many ducks and geese have been taken in each spot up to the current date. We made our list of the top 20 and waited. It was hot in there. It was the first open weekend at Fish Point, and the crowd that gathered inside affirmed that. 5:30 hit and they started to read off the rules and regulations for the areas, then they started to call party numbers. Fingers crossed. It seemed like they were reading forever. Well, we're not in the first 10. Or 20. Or 30. Man, this is getting bad. We were picked 65th. Well, do we want to see what we can get or try one of the open marshes? Most everything is gone, but we decide to go with an area of newly flooded corn in an area that hasn't been hunted that hard. 5:55, we are in our spot and it's looking nice. About 16 inches of water atop a corn patch about 120 yards long by about 25 yards wide. We start setup immediately because we only have about 20 minutes until first shot. We throw the decoys out in a sideways "J" pattern with our mojo in the middle front and the geese on point. My new Heron decoy is at point and slightly off to the side. Hopefully, he works out the way I had planned. We turn the mojo on and check the time. It's two minutes after first shot! Load up and sit back. I position myself on my swamp seat and wait. I can hear the other hunters around trying their best to swat whatever is flying by out of the air. With our eye's fixed on the horizon, we wait. I look down to grab my water bottle and take a sip. As I look back up, two mallards right overhead, now flying out of range. Damn! Can't drop my guard for a second. Okay, here we go. Eyes fixed. A couple of minutes go by and I hear Brent yell, "dang it!". A small flight of three right over his side. Okay, no more playing. We discuss what went wrong in the last five minutes and re-affirm what our sentry duties entailed. I scan the eastern horizon and listen for any sounds. All of the sudden, Brent yells out "Crap! Out front!!". I spin around and there are about 15 teals landing in our spread, maybe 10 ft. in front of me. Taken by surprise, I pull up and fire. Damn! Missed! So I pop off a second one. Damn! Okay, I'm just excited. Calm down. Take a breath. Focus. I squeeze the trigger and I see one drop. Alright! First one of the season! At the same time I hear Brent take two shots and he drops them both. Lilly bounds out with Brent, but has no idea what to do with the downed ducks. After some coaxing, she got the idea. So, back into the corn and wait. A bit later, a single flier came over top, but after two shots, she was still flying. A bit later, three mallards came over top. A couple of seconds later, the duck count was one greenwing teal hen, two greenwing teals, a mallard, and two mallard hens. For a spot that was taken out of the scraps left over from the morning, we're doing pretty good. As the morning grew longer, we heard the occasional shot here and there, but the morning flight was pretty much over. It was 11:00 a.m. so we packed up and registered our ducks at the station and looked at what was left from the afternoon draw. There wasn't hardly anything left. So we decided to go to a marsh that Brent knew of. So, after a hearty all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the lamplighter cafe, we did a little exploring around the refuge. Then it was off to Brent's spot. All cattails with an opening on the east side and a trench going around the perimeter. We get about half way out there and Brent says that it's getting too hard to row so we should jump out and drag the boat. Well, after a couple hundred yards of walking through knee deep muck, I was starting to wonder about Brent's spot. But, we were already on our way so no turning back now. We finally got to our spot and I could not wait to get the decoys out so I could rest on my swamp seat. Just after getting settled in, Brent decided he was going to walk over to the cattails and see if he could jump shoot some birds. And if he missed, maybe they would fly over me. Well, an hour an a half passed and no word from Brent. So I try to call him. No answer. A couple of minutes later, I call again. No answer. After four or five times of calling with no answer, I was starting to get worried. The trench that went around the perimeter was over eight feet deep. So, I started to call out for him. No answer. Just as I started to make the call to get the police involved, I heard splashing. Here came Lilly. And shortly behind her was Brent shaking his head and a big smile on his face. I ask, "well, any luck?". And he replies "Yeah, I killed my phone". He then proceeds to tell me how he tried to cross the trench in a shallow spot. He got about half way across before he realized that he couldn't make it. And at some point in this crossing, the water was high enough to spill into his pocket where his new cell phone was (two weeks earlier, he had lost his cell phone while out deer hunting, so this was the replacement phone). So, we sat for another hour or so, and not a single sign of birds. Sunset was upon us and nothing. Then, about 10 minutes before last shot, a single duck came flying by. It was a woody and he was on a mission. He was not looking at our spread and he was making a fast break for the refuge. It was a long poke, but at about 40 yards, I drooped him like a rock. We waited until shooting light was over to retrieve him. On the way back, I opted to stay in the boat and push with the oars. That was a tiring trek for this husky hunter. When we got back to the makeshift launch, we chatted with another hunter that had camped out there most of the week and done quite a bit of duck hunting and had been out that day hunting deer. As we drove home, we were already starting to plan the next outing. The sport of waterfowling is an addicting one. It is the closest I will ever come to knowing what a drug addict must feel like. Always thinking about the next time. Always setting up the fix. Now my mind is set to the next waterfowl outing. And it can't come soon enough.
The three I brought home from Fish Point

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The One that Almost Got Away

There is a little spot where I love to hunt squirrel. It's a little track of state land that has been very good to me. And nestled a ways back in my little haven is a small pond. A small pond that almost always has ducks on it. So, if my waterfowling adventures aren't going too well, I usually make the hike back and try to take a duck there. It's the same every time. I approach from the trail coming from the south, sneak down the bank, and they get spooked and fly from the east side of the pond to the west. And as they start to fly over the west bank, I take my shot and they come down in the woods just past the bank. I go and retrieve them and all is well.

Well, after an unsuccessful hunt early last year, I decided to make my way back towards my secret little duck pond. And as I crept down the bank there, as always, were a few mallards swimming on the east side of the pond. I got into position then stood up, and they took off as according to plan. They reached the other side of the pond, I pulled up, squeezed the trigger, and BOOM! The mallard hen trailing the others did a nose dive into the woods. Perfect! I was giddy as a school kid as I made my way towards the other side of the pond (I still get the same feeling that I got with the first animal I harvested every time I take game) and into the woods. And there she was, just waiting for me to collect her. I got about five yards away, and she started to move. Heck. I winged her. Oh well, what's done is done, so I'll go finish the job. I took a step then BAM! I'm on the ground cursing the root I had just tripped over. Then, I look up, and she is making her getaway. I raise my gun and squeeze the trigger to take another shot before she can make it to the water and, wouldn't you know, I had the safety on. Now cursing my self, I take the safety off, but it's too late. She's in the water and swimming away. So, there I stand with my gun in hand, staring at the duck I winged swimming in the middle of a pond, and no way to go out and get her. This will not do. Now, I had pulled the trigger, so it was my responsibility to retrieve this animal no matter what. But how? That's when the light bulb lit up. I have an inflatable raft in my trunk! Awesome! But the car is a 15 minute walk away and I don't want her wandering off and then I won't be able to find her. So, I sprint back to the car. Keep in mind that I am in my full hunting wardrobe complete down to my 1000 gram Thinsulate hunting boots. Also keep in mind that I am 6 foot tall and weigh in at a robust 310 pounds. So, I get to the car and I am now drenched from sweat. I open the trunk and pull out the raft and one small oar and start to make my way back. To save time, I get the brilliant idea to inflate the raft as I am running as to save time. After almost blacking out a few times, I finally make it back to the pond and my prize is still waiting for me. Rock on. I finish blowing up the raft and think to myself "funny. I remember this raft being a lot bigger". The raft I had was one of my kid's pool rafts. I look on the bottom and laugh as I read the label proclaiming "100lb max". This should be fun. So I take my boots off along with most of my hunting gear because I know how this is going to end up. I put the raft into the water and start to ease myself down onto it. As I settle down I wait for the water to start coming over the sides, but nothing. This might work after all. Then I push off , and it just gets bad from here. The moment I leave the safety of the four inch deep water, I feel the cold rush of water all over. Now, imagine this. A rather large hunter in a little red and grey play raft in the middle of a pond, legs dangling in the water (so I can keep my balance, and because the raft is only about three feet long) with one paddle chasing after a downed duck. It was quite the sight. And every time I would try to paddle, I would have to reposition the way I way laying to be able to row on the other side. So, amidst everything else, I was spinning in little half circles. I was in that water for almost 20 minutes before I caught up to that duck. When I finally did, I ended it quickly, then headed back to shore. I couldn't help but laugh as I paddled back in. I sat on the bank for about 30 minutes drying off in the sun and contemplating what had just occurred.

The one that almost got away

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Duck Hunting Fish Point

One of my favorite activities is waterfowl hunting. It's a little more social than other forms of hunting and when the action starts to pick up, there is nothing like it. There have been times while I'm sitting in a deer blind, it's below freezing, I've been in the same sitting position for four hours and I think to myself "it would be really nice to be home right now". I stick it out because that's a part of hunting. But I can honestly say that I have never felt that for even a second while waterfowl hunting. Even last year while I was up at Fish Point by the Saginaw Bay. By 8a.m., I could no longer feel my feet. By 10a.m., I was numb from the knees down. But it was worth every second, even though I didn't take a single shot the entire day. But back to the point of my story.

Fish Point contains more than 3,000 acres of flat farm fields, diked floodings, and coastal wetlands and prairies. Biologists manage the water levels and vegetation for the benefit of waterfowl and other animals that rely on wetland habitats for survival. And with the tremendous variety and abundance of waterfowl found here, the Fish Point area has been called the “Chesapeake of the Midwest”. While there is plenty of excellent hunting in this area, part of the state game area is a wildlife refuge and is off-limits to the public year-round. Unless, that is, if you volunteer for the Fish Point volunteer work weekend. Those that participate in this maintenance and upkeep event get a tour through the sanctuary, something most everyone else in the general public will never see. They have an observation tower and wildlife viewing trail to enjoy the wildlife when you are not hunting. There are also a few private lodges for those that would like a more guided experience. The lodges offer the basic from just a blind to hunt out of to fully guided hunts which include your decoys set, a dog and even lunch brought out to you in the blind.

Now, if you want to hunt the state game area, you have to be there bright and early. The huntable property is divided up into hunting zones. There are areas of corn, flooded corn, field, and little ponds and marshes. A few of these sites have blinds set up, but for the most part you are on your own. But, to get any of these, you must enter the lotto. When you first arrive, you are assigned the number in the order you came in, i.e. if you are the first person to walk into the building that morning, your number would be 1. If you are the second person, you would be number 2, and so on. Then, at 5:30a.m. (don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure that's that time) they pick a sheet of numbers randomly from a stack of about 15 sheets. They then read the pre-printed list of numbers, and you hope for the best. When they call your number you pick what area you want and that spot is marked off. The better spots (the one's with the blinds) are reserved for parties of 2 or more. If you are a single hunter and want one of the areas reserved for 2 or more, you can pass when your number is called until everyone else has picked and, if one is left over, you can take it. But, if there is more than 10 parties, there's a pretty good chance that those spots wont last long. Once you have picked your spot, you make your way out and you are good to go! There are two hunts. One in the morning from opening shot until 11a.m. and then another that starts at 1p.m. (once again, don't quote me, but I think that is the time) until last shot. You have to enter a lotto for the afternoon hunt just like the morning hunt, but there is usually not as many people at the second hunt.

Once you are done with your morning hunt, you have a few hours to kill. The local towns of Unionville and Sebewaing have some excellent diners and shops. Don's Sport Shop‎ is a great place to check out. It's a little "mom and pops" sporting goods store with some very interesting items and more information about the local hunting and fishing then you could learn in a lifetime.
Now, of the places there that I have hunted, my favorites would be over the potholes and the dry field. The dry corn field, also called the "scatter zone", is not a popular place to set up, but I have had some good luck there on the windy days. In the beginning of the season, the birds there are pretty uneducated. But once the season hits full swing, they learn pretty quick. It's amazing to watch these birds come off the bay and the second they cross the shore line, they jump right up above 350 yards and higher. They keep their height until the get over the refuge and then they perform a maneuver that still makes my jaw drop. They go into what is almost like a death spiral and drop strait down into their haven. It's just amazing to watch that many birds flying at once.

So, if you want to try waterfowling in one of Michigan's premiere hunting locations, give Fish Point a try. It will be well worth the trip.

Just a glimpse of some of what you will see up at Fish Point. This picture was taken right at last shot

First two mallards I took from Fish Point Last year.

Here is a link to Fish Point's page on the Michigan DNR's website

Trashing the Outdoors

Not to far from where I live is one of my favorite squirrel hunting spots. This was the spot that I took my first game, and where I spend most of my small game hunting time, so this place is special to me. It is my peaceful refuge. My little chunk of paradise. And I'm sure there are others that feel the same way. Which is why it is so hard for me to stomach what I see every time I go out there. Garbage. And lots of it. It's everywhere I look. The amount of land that we have to pursue our sport on can be few and far between. Why would some people be so careless to destroy it? It doesn't take much to take your trash out with you. I am a smoker (I know, I'm hoping to quit soon) and one of the things I do is I make sure that I have a small baggy or empty cigarette pack that I can put my butts into. The same goes for the wrappers from my snacks or beverage bottles I bring in. If it comes in with me, it will surely make it out with me.
One of my favorite spots to go in my little haven is a small pond about a quarter mile back in. And next to the pond there is a rope swing hung. It's an obvious teen hangout spot. And if there is one, there are 20 or so broken beer bottles along the side of the hill. So, one might say it's the kids doing it. But walk up that same trail and you'll find a couple different ground blinds with a circle of trash around where a hunter once sat. And it's easy to say "it's not me". But, when you see this destruction, what do you do about it? Do you pick up what you can while on your trek or on your way out? It's not a mess that you made, but I believe it is all of our responsibility to help keep our woods, fields, streams, and lakes as clean as we can.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ice Fishing at Houghton Lake

Last winter, a group of friends and I decided to take a fishing trip up to Houghton Lake, Michigan's largest inland lake covering 22,000 acres. But this wasn't going to be a run of the mill ice fishing trip. We were going to ice fish for 3 days and camp out on the ice. And that we did!
We rented a "sleeper shanty" from one of the local bait shops, Lyman's on the Lake. Now, when I say shanty, that's exactly what it was. No frills. It was an approximately 6' by 14' box with a wooden bunk bed, a few Plexiglas windows, a door and six holes cut in the floor. But that was all we needed. At only $75 per night (7a.m. to 7a.m.), it was more than worth it since we could fish all night if we wanted to. Now, I will say this; it's not for everyone. We started out with 5 guys the morning we arrived. By noon the next day, it was down to myself and my friend Jeremy. The other three opted to rent a cabin.

The shanty came with a 20lb tank of propane and a heater per night, and that thing kicked out some heat. I, being on the top bunk (where all the heat rose to), was as toasty as could be all night. Those that slept on the bottom bunk and the air mattress were fine right in the middle of the heat. My brother in law, Vince, was not so lucky. He drew the short straw and had to sleep on the opposite side of the shanty as the rest of us and got to sleep on the floor with only a blanket. Now, remember that the temperature at night was getting down to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit and we were sleeping above the ice. When he woke up in the morning, he was frozen...literally. The only thing we could figure was that there had been condensation from the heat towards the ceiling and ran down the wall and onto him. Over the course of the night, as the temperature dropped, his clothes and blanket froze to the floor! Needless to say, he was one of the one's to check out the next morning. It was a fun filled weekend, for sure! But, now, onto the fishing!

The fist morning we were there mainly involved us setting up, and the rest of the day was pretty slow going. We were mainly jigging for walleye, with a few tip-ups set around the shanty for any wandering northern pike that might have happened by. It wasn't until later that weekend that we found out we were in a location on the lake that the locals called "pike alley". That's a key tip; always ask the locals, because they usually know the terrain pretty well. And did they ever! When night started to creep up, the flags started popin'! We caught five or six northerns on the tip-ups right before dark, but they were all short by an inch or so. So, after a hearty dinner on the ice, we all moved in to the shanty to unwind and jig for walleye some more. After a few hours of not even a nibble, everyone else had pulled their lines, aside from me. I figured that if I was awake, I was going to be fishing! Around 11p.m., and after a few jokes about my determination to keep fishing, the end of my light action rod started to dip. I waited for a second to see if whatever had found my minnow tipped teardrop jig was going to take it and I felt another tug. I set the hook, then my rod bent to about 80 degrees and the fight was on! Finally! I was gonna bring up a walleye! And this was a good one. After five minutes or so of fighting I saw a shimmer in the water. That's when I noticed the head. This wasn't a walleye, but a giant northern pike! As I brought him up towards the hole, I heard my brother in law shout "Oh my God! I can see the tail!" as he pointed to the hole two holes down from mine! By this time, I was in disbelief. There was no way I was going to get this thing up. I was using a regular light action rod with 6lb test line and no leader. But, I tried still, and every time I attempted to bring him up, he opened his jaws and wouldn't you know, it was bigger than the 12 inch hole we had drilled! Finally, I pulled up at just the right time and slipped his opening jaws past the edge of the ice and Jeremy reached down and started to pull him out. By this time, there was no room left for blood in my veins. It was pure adrenaline coursing through me. And as he kept pulling that fish out of the hole, it just got better. It seemed like the fish never stopped. This was a trophy. As we exited the shanty with my prize, I picked him up and and just let loose. I probably sounded like a kid at Christmas the way I was yelling. Not only for the fish I had just caught, but for the fact of how I caught him. We took our pictures and said "that was awesome!!" over and over and admired the catch. We laid him next to the shanty and waited until morning to take him up to the bait shop and get the official measurement and weight to be entered in the weekly contest (I came in second, but that was fine with me!). The final tale of the tape was 37.5 inches and 11lbs 15oz.

The next morning (after we found Vince frozen to the floor) we set out our tip-ups and went at it again. The next two days were a blur of flags going up and rods bending. We caught somewhere around 45 northern pike, and only one was over the legal limit! But it was fun all the same. We had a couple of nice chats with one of the local Conservation Officers about the lake, the fishing, and a few tales he had for us. Top it off with a little horse play on the four wheelers in a foot of snow, and it made for a weekend I will never forget. I am already planning for our next trip up this year, and I think it will be even better. If you are ever in the Houghton Lake area and get a chance to do some ice fishing, take it. And if you want to try something a little different, try camping out! I guarantee you'll have a blast!

My father in law with one of the many caught inside the shanty on regular ice fishing rods. Behind him, you can see the bunks we had to sleep on.

Jeremy "admiring" his catch .

If you are interested in finding out more about fishing Houghton lake or about renting a shanty, contact Lyman's on the Lake. Tell them that Chuck from the Up North Journal sent ya!