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!