Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy Time of Year

This is always a busy time and it has been no exception this year. My brother Steve called me on Friday night telling me that he had shot a nice deer earlier that day and I was welcome to share it with him. My deer hunting luck was far from spectacular so I decided to drive down on Saturday to Onalaska and take him up on his offer. Leaving around noon we stopped at a couple of relatives before making our way to his house. The strategy worked perfect as by the time I arrive he already had the deer cleaned and quartered. My plan is to use the venison to make ring bologna on Friday night and smoke it on Saturday. My brother-in-law has a fabulous recipe and I am looking forward to making about 70 rings this weekend.

On Sunday I decided to go ice fishing on a nearby lake. Putting my portable shack in the truck I stopped by Cabela's for some crappie minnows. I had contemplated going to Mille Lacs however they were in the throngs of a full fledged winter storm warning and it just didn't seem very smart. I left the house at 3:00 with the temperature of 37 degrees and by the time I reached the lake a half hour later the temp had dropped to under 17. There were a number of fisherman scattered around and an interesting amount of frozen bullheads laying on the ice. By the time I got set up it had fallen to 10 degrees and the wind was at least a category 1 hurricane! Driving to the lake I had seen a small flock of Trumpeter Swans heading north towards Monticello. Although interesting, I knew that there was a resident population of this magnificent bird that over wintered in the warm water discharge of the Monticello Nuclear Power plant. What I didn't expect was once on the ice, a constant parade of swans in small flocks of 4 to 10 birds, cruising by for the next 1 1/2 hours. My estimates were close to 150 swans which flew by at a very low altitude and noisily announcing their presence. I did a google search and discovered that as of December 11 there were in excess of 500 swans on the river. It has been reported up to 1300 swans can be in the area during the peak migration time. Not bad for a bird that was believed to be on the brink of extinction just 70 years ago. As luck would have it the only thing I caught was the these beautiful birds flying by. The fish were as uncooperative as I have ever seen on this lake and I could not even add to the bullhead morgue that was pretty well established. I hope to get to Mille Lacs on Sunday as I hear the walleyes have the feedbag on.

The swans made me think of the positive changes in my lifetime. Growing up in Eleva one never saw swans, bald eagles, white pelicans, turkeys, and deer were not that plentiful. Kevin and I would occasionally see an Bald Eagle while fishing on the Mississippi River and would be in total awe of the rare sight we had witnessed. Today bald eagles are quite common and hardly garner a response. I understand there have been recent visits by pelicans in the Eleva Mill Pond. When I was a kid I probably would not even have recognized what a pelican was. I had heard that my brother Blake who lives just a mile north of town had a bear hibernating in a culvert last year. I don't know what I would have done if we would have seen a bear in the woods when I was 12! With all the talk about climate change, pollution, water quality, and human influence I think if one looks around and understands where we were 40 years ago, we can't be doing that bad.

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