Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bring On The ICE!!!!!

Well, it's that time of year again! The chill is gone from the air and has been replaced by the bitter cold breath old man winter. And that can only mean one thing... ICE FISHING!!!! There is nothing quite like sitting on the ice first thing in the morning with a hot coffee and a wet line. And it can't happened quick enough.

I have been out to a few lakes here locally to check ice conditions and my findings are good. We have had nice cold temperatures and very little snow, so the ice is coming along nicely. One of my favorite early season spots was about 2 1/2 inches thick, clear as could be, and hardly any snow on the lake. And with conditions like we are supposed to be having for the next week, we should have good ice.

For the past three weeks, I have been getting my equipment out from it's hiding spots and ready for the first ice that will be here soon. My rods are ready, my gear is clean and ready, and the "Bucket of Wonder and Awe" is ready for another season. Now, all that is left is the wait....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sometimes, It's a Long Hard Hunt

This hunting season has been very slow for me. With my injury that happened just three days before early goose season, getting out and about has been quite the chore. But it is always worth it. I have never had a hunt where I said "I wish I would have just stayed home". But, this past week, I came very close.

A friend of mine made his way up from North Carolina to do some Michigan duck hunting. He moved away from Michigan a few years back, but the waterfowl hunting out by him just isn't the same as it is here in Michigan. So, a couple of months ago he called me up and said he wanted to make a trip up here and told me to keep an eye out on the duck reports so we could have an awesome hunt. I was pumped when the time grew near.

He arrived in Michigan and took a quick power nap, then called me up for an evening hunt. He had always wanted to hunt the Holloway Reservoir, a place where he grew up fishing. I had never been there, but from what he described, it sounded like a duck haven. After a little research, I found a few forums that talked about the hunting out there, and there were a few success stories. Game on.

We got to the primitive launch site and dropped the boat in. It was pretty rocky, so we walked the boat the first 50 or so yards. After that it was smooth sailing. We reached the other side of the reservoir and found our spot, but the water level was very low. Time to test out the Mudd Buddy. We zipped across the remaining water until we got within 30 yards of where we were going to set up, then the mud changed. It went from sloppy mud to thick clay-like mud. So we got out again and pulled the rest of the way. We set up on a little point surrounded by cattails and a nice cross wind. After setting out a small spread, we brushed up the boat and got ready. everything was perfect and in place. But one thing was missing. Ducks. It was two hours before we saw our first birds, and they we a faint vision on the horizon. Every duck from then on followed the same flight path.

I was scanning the horizon when my buddy said to me "Hey. Wasn't that cinder block over there under water when we were setting decoys?". "I hope not" I replied. There was only about 30 minutes of shooting light left, so we watched to see if the water dropped any more. Then, he said he needed to use the little boys room. Now, anyone that has any experience hunting knows that the second you go to relieve yourself, whatever you are hunting will come out at that exact moment, stick out it's tongue and wave, then make it's way back out of sight. I told him that the second he stepped out of the boat, the ducks would come in. But he really had to go. Sure enough, the second his foot hit the water, a pair of woodies came in from behind. He scrambled back into the boat, but we were made and the pair got out of there. And that was the extend of our action. Last light came and our hunting was over.

But the story does not end there. Oh no, not at all. As we looked out of the boat, we noticed that more of the cinder block was indeed showing. The reservoir was being drained while we were in it. And when we stepped out of the boat, our boots hit ground and not water. It took almost 30 minutes to get the boat moved over to water that was float-able. As we made our way to our spread, we noticed that some of our decoys we actuality starting to tip because the keels were touching the bottom. Not good. Now for the trip out. Now, keep in mind that I am freshly out of a cast and am not supposed to be walking without a brace, let alone walking through a marsh dragging a boat. we wound up dragging (not floating) the boat probably around 100 yards or so. We finally reached float-able water and jumped in. We are now home free. Well not quite. We made our way back through the canals looking for our launch. But it was no where to be found. We drove up and down those canals, but just could not find it. Then it hit us. We had to drag the boat when we put it in because it was too shallow. And since the water had dropped, that canal was probably land locked. After some searching, we found another primitive boat launch and parked the boat. My friend then had a nice little walk to try to find the other boat launch and his truck. What a night. Then, to top it off, we were standing on the back of his tilt trailer to get the boat loaded and I stepped on one of the tail lights instead of the frame. The light had no chance against me and instantly broke.

All in all, I was glad to get out and hunt somewhere new. But, I was real close to saying those eight little words....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My First Regular Season Duck Hunt/MacGyver Boot

For those of you that haven't read my previous blogs, I have been down for the count since a few days before early goose season with a broken leg. I have made it out a few times but, because of other complications, I was only able to get out a few times. And it was on a pond in my buddies back yard. It was fun, but it's just not the same as actually getting out in the field.

Well, I got a call from my friend Mike and he asks if I want to head out with him and another good friend, Randy. From my reaction, anyone around must have thought that I had just gotten a call from the Lotto Commission. I quickly told him I would love to go, and he gave me a time to meet them.

I went up to my hunting closet and started to get all of my gear together. It felt too good to grab my duck jacket, my trusty auto-loader, and my blind bag to go hunting and not just to move them. But then I came across a problem. While we were going to be hunting from shore, any waterfowler will tell you that at some point, you will get wet. I am still wearing an immobilizing boot, and it will not fit in or around it. I had to make something that would not come off and would be waterproof, and not just for a bit. The weather channel was calling for rain for the rest of the day, so what ever I did had to last. But what could pull of such a feat? Duct tape? Even better. Gorilla Tape. MacGyver, eat your heart out. I made a single layer "boot" out of this stuff and it worked like a charm. It rained all day and I even took a spill at the water's edge, yet my foot was dry at the end of the night. So, add Gorilla Tape to that list of thing's to keep in the blind bag.

On to the hunt. We set up on the shoreline of a small lake that is a local favorite for ice fishing. Mike and Randy had been out squirrel hunting and noticed a good number of wood ducks on the back side of this lake, so they decided to check it out. After a little scouting, they picked out a few good blind spots, and a new hunting spot was born. After throwing out a small decoy spread, we sat back up in the weeds and began the wait. And the majority of the night was just that. Unfortunately, we were hunting a small lake that backs up to a larger lake. And on that larger lake were some over zealous duck hunters. So, most of what came by us was moving at mach 5 and on a mission. Over all it was a good spot, it was just the wrong time. And there is no such thing as a "bad time" in the blind. There are just those that you get to pull the trigger a little bit more.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another Update

It has been some time since my last blog entry, so I figured I should put up a little update. Since the last entry, I have gotten a few new casts, putting my cast count up to eight. I guess I am a little hard on casts. I even had the nurse that put most of my casts on threaten me with a pink cast if I were to break any more. She kept true to her word. My seventh cast was neon pink, which my daughter loved.

My leg is healing wonderfully, with the only complication being that I lost most of the feeling in my left leg from the knee down. The feeling is coming back, though. The numbness is only in about half of my foot, from the middle of the foot to the toes.

I am also now out of the casts and into an immobilizing boot, which I will be in for another month or so. After that I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon to address the nerve issues. Yeah, not gonna happen. Color me old fashioned, but I just don't trust someone cutting and manipulating the nerves around my spine.

As for now, I am still pretty much out of the hunting game until I get the okay from my doctor. I was able to get out for opening day of waterfowl season. Once again, my good friend Brent came to the rescue and took me out to a blind that overlooks a pond behind his house. We didn't see a ton of birds, but I did get to pull the trigger plenty. I unfortunately shot the worst I have shot in a long time. I am going to chalk it up to the lack of practice this year.

Hopefully, I will get the okay to get out before the firearm opener here in Michigan. On a different note, if anyone has experience modifying a boot immobilizer to fit on the outside of waders, please email me.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It Feels Good to Get Out

Well, last week I got yet another new cast, and this one was going to be my salvation. I was getting a walking cast that I could actually walk on. I have had a walking cast for a while, but it was just because I kept breaking them and they needed something that could stand up to the awesome power the is me. But this one was for real. And when the doctor came in and told me, I couldn't help but grin ear to ear.

The second I got home, I started making the plan to get out. My brother in law was out hunting, so I called him to make sure that we weren't going to be hunting the same land. He told me he was actually heading in and going to grab his son, and that they would swing by and pick me up. Rock on.

So I gathered up all of my gear and waited. I felt like a kid in bed on Christmas Eve. I must have gone through my gear a dozen times while waiting. Then I heard the car pull up in the driveway. The closest thing I can use to describe my actions was they were similar to that of a dog that knows it's master just came home from work. I had completely forgot about my leg. I had not taken any pain medication as I did not want to go into the woods with a firearm while feeling those effects. But, for the moment, the pain could not have any farther from my mind.

As we are getting ready, my brother in law got a phone call. It was his work, and guess who was called in? Well, it looks like it's going to be just my nephew and myself. We can do this. So, my wonderful wife drops us off in the back of 7 Lakes State Park, and we make our way into the woods. I can feel my heart pounding to the point where I can hear it. We cross the wood line into the woods and pick out a nice log to sit on and wait. After about 25 minutes, we move to another spot. After another 25 minutes and nothing, we move again. The rest of our night went about the same. We would wait 25 minutes or so and move to the next spot, seeing the occasional hunter and a few crows. By the end of the hunt, we had made it all the way to the front of the park, and we only saw one chipmunk.

The next day, I was in more pain than I had been in for a long time. And it was more than worth it. Not only did I get a young hunter out, but I myself felt like a new hunter going out for the first time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Quick Update And A Realization

For those of you that have been following, I had an incident that left me with a cast that will be here for most of the hunting season, if not the entire season.

Well, I now have my third cast on. It's a walking cast that I can't walk on. Kind of a cruel joke if you ask me! But I destroyed my last cast, so that had to give me something that could survive my daily abuse. On the good side, it is healing according to plan. So, as of now, no surgery is needed. Thank God for that!

To make things easier, and to make sure that there is no movement of the bone fragments, I have been put in a wheelchair that I am using 90% of the time now. At first, I had this idea that I would be more able to head into the woods with my new wheels. Well, I had a rude awakening the other day. I went to a local carnival with my family like we do every year. And moving around on the pavement was not bad. But when my daughter wanted to go to the kids game tent, everything changed. It was on a grassy lot next to the parking lot, and let me tell you, soft ground is a whole different ballgame. Every divot became a little wall that I would have to try to maneuver over. Every little soft spot seemed like I was sinking in tar.

I have said a lot in the last few weeks how much respect I have now for those men and women that have life challenges (the majority much worse than mine, and permanent) and still get out and enjoy the wonderful gift of the outdoors that God has given us. And I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I can't help but give more praise to those men and women. I find out more every day about how hard things can be and how many things I have taken for granted.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Hard Hunt

In my last installment, I expressed how I was feeling about my situation and how it is affecting my hunting lifestyle. Now, while I still have those feelings, I am also in awe. When it comes down to it, my plight is rather small. I have a broken leg, and nothing more. I can still move around with the use of crutches, or a wheelchair, if the going is rough. And, although I will be in this state for the majority of the hunting season, come next season (God willing), I will be healed and in tip-top shape for my hunts.

What put me in awe was a group of people that I met last year at a hunting expo that I had a booth at last year in Imlay City, Michigan. The group is called Wheelin' Team 457. Their mission statement is, “to provide the physically challenged with indoor and outdoor sports and recreation”. They also strive to spread awareness. Now, the gentlemen that I met weren't in a cast like I am. They were limited to the use of a wheelchair and two of them had slightly limited use of their arms. And they were talking about a goose hunt they had been on! We talked for a bit about what they do and hunts they had been on. You simply can't help but be inspired. These guys have the passion that hunting is really all about.
And they represent that passion. They embody the true spirit of hunting and sportsmanship.

I used to take for granted how easy it was to simply go out for a quick hunt. To know what will be involved every time you hunt, and that it will never get any easier, and still have the drive to do it time and time again is something I can only hope to have for the remainder of my days.

On a different note, I am hopefully getting a wheelchair that's big enough for me (that's a whole other story) so I can get out into the woods here in the next week. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Early Season Blues

We all have our "thing". For some people it's shopping. For others, it's gambling, or alcohol, or newborn babies, or any other number of things. It's that thing you live for. The one thing that, no matter how bad things are going, will lift you up. Make you whole. For me, that one thing is waterfowling. Now, don't get me wrong. I love hunting and the outdoors. But there is just something about waterfowling that makes me whole. I would even venture to say that it borders on a religious experience.

And nothing has driven that thought home any farther than this week. If you have read my previous blog, you know that I had a mishap with a deer blind and broke my leg. So here I sit. First two days of early goose season. I should be in a blind with good friends. But I am not. And, from what they and their pictures tell me, this is the beginning of an awesome season. Mike and his group have put down more that 30 birds in the last 34 hours, one of them with a band. Now, I don't want this to sounds like I am angry. I find some comfort in knowing that they are out enjoying the sport that I love so much. But I can't help but to be jealous.

In the last 48 hours, I have felt a void that I have not felt in years, not since I started hunting. I guess it is true about what they say about "not knowing what you have until it is gone". And it's not even gone. It has simply been delayed. I know that the cast will be off by firearm deer season, so I will have some regular season waterfowling to do. And if my cast "modification" idea works, I might even be able to be in field by mid next week. But that is still a week away. A week of a two week season.

To pass the time, I have tried to read up on decoy spreads, shooting tips, and any other information I can bring up on my computer screen. If I can gain more knowledge about the sport that I am missing, the I will be all the better when I recover. But I still find my mind drifting to despair. I know you probably think this sounds like a little kid throwing a tantrum. And you would be right. That's what I feel like. Our adult lives are based on what we can control. Your entire being revolves around what you make happen, be it the littlest detail or a life altering decision. And while it was my bonehead move that put me into this predicament, I fell as if I have lost all control. Like maybe there is something I am missing. Something I can be doing to make this better. But in the end I know that I just have to be patient. When this is all said and done, there will be more seasons. This is not the end, but it sure does feel like it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting Ready For Deer Season; Season is Already Over

This past weekend, I headed north with a friend of mine (and two new friends) to work on some property that we are going to be hunting this year. Now, for those of you that know me, I have never shot a deer. In fact, I have never even seen a deer while deer hunting. When I am small game hunting, I dang near trip over them, but never when I am chasing the great Whitetail.

We started off by tilling up a few small plots (maybe 1/3 acre) that had been planted with clover earlier, but he didn't remove the oak leaves before he tilled, making it very acidic. Unfortunately, about half way down the trail, the drive belt snapped on the tiller. So, the rest of the day was up to us and our trusty rakes. Fun. After the leaves were picked up, we laid down a hefty helping of lime, followed by more clover, another random blend, then some neutral fertilizer. On to the next plot.

The next one wasn't nearly as bad. No leaves here. The clover here is coming up pretty well. The problem we were having was lack of sunlight. We had to remove some trees, but which ones? The problem we faced was the types of trees we were dealing with. The majority were white oak and cedar, with a few poplar in between. The poplar can go no problem, but the white oak and cedar are two major attractants for deer. So, after careful consideration, we cut a select few, making a few funnels with the fallen trees as we go. Now it's time to cut the shooting lanes for this plot. Next to this plot is the shooting house called "the condo", mainly because of the room you have to move around, and the Lay-Z-Boy chair that has replaced the overturned bucket. Part of this trip was to install another window on the one side so you would also have a shot into the food plot about 40 yards away, as well as the on in front of the shooting house. After an hour or so of clearing, we are good to go. But just to make sure, we all pile into the shooting house to check for ourselves. And it is in the next 30 seconds that my season ended before it even started.

As everyone piles out of the shooting house and down that ladder, someone made the comment about being careful coming down the ladder. Which is always a good idea, but how bad could you really get hurt falling from this thing? The top step is only at five foot at the most. So I start to make my way down. The, the next thing I know, maybe four foot off the ground, I'm falling. I don't know how it happened, but it did. I tried to bring my legs down, but my right foot became caught in the ladder, leaving my left leg the only one to break my fall. And that it did. The second I hit the ground, I heard the "crack!" come from somewhere in my lower leg. My buddy yells, "what the hell just happened?! Did you fall?". To which another friend replies, "yeah, he did. I tried to catch him, but it happened too fast.". "Are you all right?". Not wanting to ruin the rest of the work we still had before us, I replied, "Yeah. I'm fine. I just need to move around so it doesn't get stiff. I can walk this one off". With the adrenaline and initial shock, the pain was not bad at all, so I just kept working. But after a bit, each step became harder and harder, until eventually it was too much and I had to sit the rest of the day out. The other guys worked like madmen trying to get the rest of the work done so we could get out of there, and after a couple more hours, all of the work was done. Well, everything aside from the window because Brent forgot to bring the hinges and enough OSB (I told you I wouldn't let you forget that move :)). After that, we made our way back down south, with a little side trip to drop me off at one of the local hospitals. So, I sit here writing this on opening day of early goose season with a cast that will be with me for quite some time and my broken tibia. But all is not lost yet. I'm working on an idea for and epoxy coating and Mossy Oak Duck Blind burlap for the new cast I get next week. Wish me luck...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scouting... From Your Armchair

One of the most important pieces of the successful hunting puzzle is scouting. You can have every other aspect of your hunt down to a perfect science, but if you aren't where the game want to be, your chance of success is slim at best. And that is why every year we hit the woods and waters to observe. To try to pick up any indication of our game's everyday rituals so, when season comes, we can be in that right spot at the right time.

But where do we start? Starting is often where a lot of us have the biggest problem. Between work, family life, and many other commitments, we find it hard to go out and pick a piece of land and just start looking and even more so if you are scouting state land.

Now, there is nothing that will replace getting out into your prospective hunting areas. But you can eliminate a bit of leg work from the beginning of your scouting. And it can be done from the comfort of your home or office on a coffee break or commercial break on your favorite outdoor channel. Cyber Scouting is quickly becoming a popular form of early scouting, if not part of the norm. With programs such as Google Earth and MapQuest, You can get a good idea of the lay of the land. You can find where a field meets a a forested area, or a natural funnel in the middle of that prime deer spot. You can also see the elevation and where the good vantage points may be, along with noticeable landmarks, should you decide to check the area out further. And for those hunting state owned land, some programs show the hunting land boundaries and parking areas. Some programs also show coordinates so you can punch them into your GPS.

While this will not replace the actual footwork of getting into the woods, it will speed the process along. It can also provide that little bit of needed motivation to get out to do your scouting. I know that once I see a spot that looks prime, I want to check out the new spot so bad, it feels like waiting for Christmas morning. So pull up a chair and start scouting!

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009-10 Michigan Waterfowl Dates & Regulations

The waterfowl season is fast approaching, so its time to start making our plans on the water and in the fields. I just received this email from the Michigan DNR today, outlining this up coming season...

Michigan duck hunters will enjoy three opening days this fall as the
Natural Resources Commission set waterfowl seasons at its meeting
Thursday in Lansing.

The seasons, which were recommended by Department of Natural Resources
biologists, correspond to the recommendations of the Citizens Waterfowl
Advisory Committee, which met Aug. 8.

Duck seasons will run Sept. 26 - Nov. 20 and Nov. 26-29 in the North
Zone (Upper Peninsula), Oct. 3 - Nov. 29 and Dec. 5-6 in the Middle
Zone, and Oct. 10 - Dec. 6 and Jan. 2-3 in the South Zone.

There is an open season on canvasbacks this year as well as expanded
opportunity for scaup. The daily bag limit is six ducks to include no
more than four mallards (no more than one hen), three wood ducks, two
redheads, two scaup, one pintail, one black duck and one canvasback.

Early Canada goose season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 15
statewide, except for the Upper Peninsula and Saginaw, Tuscola and Huron
counties, where it runs through Sept. 10. The daily bag limit is five.

Regular goose seasons are Sept. 16 - Oct. 30 in the North Zone; Oct.3 -
Nov. 9 and Nov. 26 - Dec. 2 in the Middle Zone; and Oct. 10 - Nov. 12
and Nov. 26 - Dec. 6 in the South Zone, except for designated Goose
Management Units (GMU). The daily bag limit is two.

In the Saginaw County and Tuscola/Huron GMUs, the goose season is Oct.
10 - Nov. 12, Nov. 26 - Dec.6, and Jan. 2-31 with a bag limit of two.

In the Allegan County GMU, the season is Nov. 28 - Dec. 21 and Dec.
28-Jan. 17 with a bag limit of two.

In the Muskegon Waste Water GMU, the season is Oct. 13 - Nov. 14 and
Dec. 1-12 with a bag limit of two.

Elsewhere in the South Zone, the late season is Jan. 2-31 with a bag
limit of five.

Hunters may also harvest other geese during the regular and late goose
seasons in their respective zones. The bag limits are 10 snow, blue and
Ross’ geese in combination; and one white-fronted goose or one brant.

Hunters are also reminded of the Youth Waterfowl Weekend on Sept.
19-20. This hunt is statewide for licensed youths 10 to 15 years of
age. Youths must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or someone 18
years or older. The adult will not be allowed to hunt waterfowl and is
not required to have a waterfowl hunting license. The daily limits are
the same as those allowed for the regular duck season.

To learn more about hunting opportunities in Michigan, visit the
DNR’s Web site at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Newest Venure: Bass Fishing!

I have always considered myself a fisherman. Never pro or an expert, but I knew enough to hold my own. Boy, was I wrong. All of these years I have spent a few weekends here and there drowning worms with the occasional walleye trip in between, and even then it was more about hanging out and having fun than fishing. Ice fishing has always been fun, but it's a whole different ballgame. Not anymore.

Two weeks ago, I packed up the car and headed to the great northern wilderness of Mackinac (Mack-e-naw) to join fellow Pro-Staffer Tim Ford and Mike and Mike from the Up North Journal for a weekend of salmon fishing. Unfortunately, half way there, I got a phone call from Mike saying that both of the boats that the charter service we were using had broke down. Bummer. But not to worry, as Mike always has a plan B. "We'll just do some inland fishing," he said. Not what I was hoping for, but it's better than sitting at home, right?

First off, I had forgotten how beautiful the northern woods of Michigan are. Whoever coined the phrase "Sportsman's Paradise" couldn't have been more right. When I stepped out of the car, it felt like a wave of tranquility ran over me.

We all gathered in the cabin and talked about what the next day's plan's were going to hold. And after we had a game plan, we headed out to the local outfitter to pick up a few supplies. While we were there, we met up with our newest field staff member, Dan Block, from Escanaba. We then headed back to the cabin and I had the pleasure of watching, for the first time, "Escanaba In Da Moonlight". If you haven't seen it, finish reading this, then get to your local video store and rent it. You'll be glad you did. And, you will see our field staffer Dan Block in the first 10 minutes! But now, onto the fishing.

5 a.m. came early the next morning, but we were all ready to go. After a bit of a drive and our usual breakfast at the golden arches, we arrived at our first lake. We fished there for about four hours, throwing everything we had. Not much happened. We landed a few small pike and a small mouth bass. We were all getting hungry and Dan had to make his trip home, so we broke for lunch. After a little debating, we picked another lake that looked like it could show some promise. We were told that there was an abundance of pike in this lake, so we switched gears and set up for predator fishing. We got off to a slow start, but after an hour or so, I got our first strike on a green BuzzFrog. A minute or so later, we had our first bass of the day in the boat. Rock on. Then about 20 minutes later, I got another hit. And another bass. Time to switch tactics. Tim and Mike start throwing out plastics. Now, I have bought plastics in the past, but I have honestly never used one. And up until that point, I had never know how to fish plastics. I had always thought that they were fished just like regular worms. That's when Mike showed me the beauty of the "Texas Rig". He handed me a Zoom white Horney Toad, showed me how to rig it weedless, and that's when the fun started. I was suddenly able to cast into places that would have brought me only headaches before. They also taught me about letting the lure drop for a second after it came over top of a lily pad. Watching it drop into the lilies and having to rely entirely on feel was awesome. Colors also play a big role. While white was hot in the middle of the day, Watermelon Seed was on fire towards dark.

I have found yet another venture to get me into the outdoors, and I am better for it. I also learned more important lesson about bass fishing. When setting the hook, one of the most important elements is reciting a certain word that somehow complete the act of setting the hook. So, in ending, BOOYAH!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My First Tukey Hunt

Some people might call me a green horn when it comes to hunting. While most people get their start in the outdoors at a young age, I did not hear the call of the wild until later in life. So, to me, some of what I experience in the woods is done so through virgin eyes. I experience the same wonderment and awe that is felt by a child on their first hunt. That is the reason I never turn down the opportunity to hunt something new. And most recently, that new thing was turkey.
And, as most of my new adventures, my good friend Mike Adams was there to show me the way. Our first morning, we make our usual stop at the golden arches, then head over to the hunting grounds. As we are getting our gear on, I hear the distance thunder of a gobble. Commence adrenaline application. Now, we are hunting in an area that I thought I knew well. Yet, as we head in, I'm already noticing new things. As we entered a large, open field, we hear the thunder again. I can feel my heart starting to beat faster. But we are a bit behind schedule, so we start to pick up the pace. As we head into the woods, we hear a few more gobbles, and we start moving even faster. At this point, we are being less than stealthy. After debating a few different spots, we settled down in front of a fallen oak tree with Mike sitting on a crook in the top of the tree and myself kneeling behind it.
That's when we heard them sound off. We had thought that we were within maybe 150 yards of their roosting tree. We were wrong. Somehow, even after all the noise we had made coming in, we had made it to within 40 yards of their roosting tree! And they were none the wiser. Mike started in on the calls and then we sat in anticipation for a second or two before they started to talk back. It was game on. They made their way to us in no time flat, sounding off the whole way. My heart felt like it was going to start breaking ribs. Then, when they got about 20 yards away from us, they stopped. We were rushing in so quickly to set up, we did not notice the flooded timber between, directly in front of us. And turkeys are not fond of water. They would look at our decoys, then pace in a small circle, then stare our decoys down again. And the whole time this was going on, I was in a position where I could not see a thing! This went on for about seven hours (it was really more like ten minutes).
It was at about this time that I was starting to feel the pain of sitting perfectly still for so long in a kneeling position. I quietly asked Mike let me know when it was clear for me to move, and he just kept telling me, "not yet". After what seemed like another seven hours, he whispered, "Okay. You can move now. Just try to keep low," as the turkeys were looking for a way around the water. So I quietly hopped over to the other side of the tree. And that's when I saw my first turkey up close. I mean, I was close enough where I could see their eyes. I was two seconds away from going into total meltdown. I just wanted to pull that trigger so bad, I could taste it.
But I did not have a good shot. Mike could have possibly taken one, but he said he wanted to see me take my first gobbler, so he declined.
That's when nature stepped in. On a ridge about 150 yards off, a hen started to yelp. And that was it. Check and mate. Those toms were off like a rocket. Turkeys 1 and Hunters 0.
So, we go to check out another spot down the road. On the way there, we saw a tom in a small clearing off of the side of the road. We quickly pull over and set up in a field not too far away from the other, and Mike starts in with the calling. We listen, but hear nothing. After a little looking around, that tom is no where to be found. Off to the next spot.
We took a small drive to see if we can spot any in a field that we normally see them in. As we pass, time stops. There he is. A boss tom that would be a prise for any hunter. Just standing there in all of his glory. We spin the truck around and head up to an old access road to start our hike in. This is going to be tough, as the land we saw him on was private property, so we are going to have to call him to us. And big turkeys, just like every other prize animal, don't get to be that big by being stupid. They are smarter than the rest. That's how they have made it this long. After a nice hike up the back of this property, we find what looks to be another old access road, and our target is at the end of it and just off to the side. So, once again, we set up. Mike starts in with the calling. He threw everything he had at him. Nothing. This one lives for another season.
I went out again with Mike, once with his son, and a few times by myself, with the same results as that first day. But I learned a lot, spent time with good friends, and most of all, it was quality time spent outdoors!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Second Annual Houghton Lake Ice Fishing Trip

Well, it's been a while since I have last written, so I have alot of catching up to do! And the first story that I would like to tell is about our trip up to Houghton Lake for another stay out on the ice and the adventures that come with it. This year, my good friend Mike, along with his sons (and equally good friends) Mike and Jake accompanied me on this winter camp out. We started out our trip early Friday morning with a break from the norm and went to Tim Hortons instead of our normal Micky D's breakfast befor our two and a half hour drive. We arrived at Lyman's on the Lake where we checked in and bought all of our last minute supplies and bait. They helped us load all of our things onto the shuttle they provided and we made our way out to our home for the weekend. There was a pleasant surprise this year, as Lymans added a second set of bunks on the other side of the shanty. We got set up and started to rig up our poles and tip-ups with eager anticipation to the fishing frenzy we were about to take part in. After about an hour, we started popping holes in the ice with our new StrikeMaster power auger (we HAD to get a new toy for the trip) and set our tip-ups around the shanty.
But lets backtrack for a second. Before we had left, we decided we were going to play a game called "group tip-up". The rules of this game are pretty simple. Every hour or so, a new tip-up is chosen out of the group and deemed the "group tip-up". During that time, anyone who sees the flag spring on that tip-up can get it. If more than one person notices, they can do anything in their power (within reason - we don't want any one getting sevely hurt) to prevent the others from getting it first. The first person to get their hands on the tip-up gets to reel it in.
Now, back to the fishing. It's about here is where I would like to tell you that we brought them in left and right. That it was all we could do to keep bait on our lines. But that's not how it happened. Along with us came a low pressure system that killed all the fishing on the lake. There we a few flags here and there, but none in our camp.
Combine that with the near foot of snow that came down in blizzard conditions, it just wasn't a good weekend for ice fighting. But we still had a good time. We made the best of all of the time we spent inside our shanty. We ate like kings, told and retold stories, and made some fond memories. After all, isn't that what it's all about?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Awesome Fish Recipe: Fish Crack!

Well, I have been saying for some time that I would give you guys (and gals) my wife's awesome fish recipe that I have dubbed "fish crack". It's pretty simple and the first time I made it, we had five kids over and all of them loved it (and for my kids, that's a feat!). In fact, I only got a few pieces that first time she made them. The kids got the rest! So here is the soon-to-be world famous "fish crack" recipe....

Fish Crack

(Oven-Fried Fish Fillets)
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
4 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup crushed crackers (I use Ritz)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1-ounce)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound sole, scrod, perch, blue gill or other mild-tasting fish fillets
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Melt the butter in a 9 by 13-inch pan in the oven. While it melts, combine everything else except the fish in a pie pan. Dip the fish around in the melted butter, dip each piece in the crumb mixture, and return it to the baking pan. Bake the fillets for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges if like.

These are also good fried, just not as healthy. Same process, just fry 'em for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Make sure you have the grease good and hot! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Limit of the Year on the Ice

Last weekend I was really craving some fish so I decided to go find a cure for my hunger. I headed out to Little Seven Lake in Holly to try my early morning luck. The walk out was less than fun because of the foot of snow on the ground. To make it even better, it was very warm out for this time of year, so the snow was thick and heavy. As I made the trek out to the ice, I noticed a lot of wet spots on the ice. I set my gear on the shore and made my way out with my spud. I avoided the wet spots and made a zig-zag pattern across the ice, checking every 10 feet or so. A solid 4 inches in most spots. So I went back and grabbed my gear and went out to my spot and set up. I cleared out an area of snow five foot by five foot and cut my hole. The second I broke through, water poured out, and the rest of the day I was standing in about 3 inches of water. Thank God I bought those new insulated rubber knee boots! When I finally got set up, I pulled out my trusty pan fish ice , tipped the teardrop with a waxxie, and sent it on it's way to work. I found bottom, reeled up about a foot, and let it set. Then, the first strike of the day. A nice gill. Teardrop back down the hole. This time, it didn't even have enough time to reach bottom. Another bite. And another nice gill. I repeated this process for about two hours. After the first 15, I started to get picky about what to keep. "Nothing under seven inches," I told myself. About two hours is all it took to limit out for the first time this ice season. I was home by 10am and ready to feed my addiction for fish. My wife found a new recipe for fish that I have dubbed "Fish Crack" because of it is possibly one of the simplest and best recipes I have ever had. And that recipe will be on here soon, I promise.
My Limit from Little Seven