Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heading South!

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend and enjoyed their time off. We are in that 3 - 4 weeks of the year where although it is not impossible to go fishing, one might risk too much by finding some thin ice. After driving to Wisconsin on Thursday I decided to take my tree stand down on Friday. The swamp was good and froze making that chore much more easier than it was setting it up. Most of our guys leave their stands up throughout the year however I like to keep my equipment in great condition so I take it down, clean it up and put it away. There was some snow in the woods and wouldn't you know it, there were plenty of tracks under my stand from the week before. Oh well, as Ed Enos once said, you can't make track soup!

The rest of the weekend was spent getting my ice fishing equipment ready. As usual, I just had to add to my collection of stuff needed to enjoy sitting on the ice all day. Cabela's had their customer appreciation night last week and I just happened to stroll by a underwater camera at a super deal. As well, traveling to Wisconsin this weekend allowed me to investigate a number of baitshops for the fabled Purist ice jig. I was able to get a number of different sizes and colors that if nothing else, makes my tackle box look pretty! (Never mind they are a pretty good on panfish). Last year I decided to sell my older Otter portable shelter and get the new insulated Thermal X from Fishtrap. Although somewhat heavy this shelter is fully insulated and really holds the heat. I switched to the Buddy Heaters as the older Mr. Heater type kept destroying my pants, coats, fishing line as well the Buddy Heater has a low oxygen sensor, which is something I always worried about. It could be -10F outside and the Thermal X keeps it nice and toasty inside. The St. Paul Ice Fishing Show is next weekend and affords one the opportunity to see the latest and greatest innovations in this sport.

Speaking of nice and toasty, I will be returning to Jacksonville Florida this week for our annual fall Transformer Association meeting. We have these meetings the week after Thanksgiving as this is one of the slowest times of the year for resorts and we get to stay at a 5 star place for less than half the normal rate. Our meetings are at the famous Ponte Verda Club and Inn, south of Jacksonville. The picture is one looking out of our room, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is simply beautiful. While it will be 10 degrees in Minnesota, I will sleep with the windows open being serenaded to sleep by the sounds of the waves. We were there in 2006 and while touring Augustine, I wondered in a fishing shop to inquire about the local fishing scene and what was going on. I made it my goal if we ever got back, I would try to fish the area. My meetings actually start on Wednesday afternoon so I decided I would have a few hours in the morning to get out. After searching the internet, I ended up booking with Capt'n Dave, as he sounded like a great guy. I called him to discuss fishing and the plan is to fish the breakwaters of the Jacksonville harbor. They extend into the ocean about a mile and is a magnet for redfish, speckled trout, drum, and number of species I have never caught. Being the optimist, I checked with the resort to verify if I could put my fish in their freezers, which will not be a problem. With a little luck I will be enjoying blackened redfish next weekend. Either way I will post a report of my fishing in Florida, which I am really looking forward to, and certainly has to be better than the last couple weeks of Packer scores, uffda!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving and Ma Donna

In Eleva Thanksgiving for the Anderson Family was quite an affair. My Grandpa and Grandma Anderson were the focal point for our family in the 60's and you could be assured of a fabulous meal that last Thursday of November. My Grandma Myrt was quite the lady as Grandpa Roy had a severe stroke years earlier and wasn't much help in the kitchen. The plan was always to meet at their house about 11:00 in the morning and feast away. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins would join in for the thanksgiving meal, and there were quite of few of us. It's these times when I was young that developed my close relationships with my Uncles Keith, Dewey, Loren; aunts Dorothy, Shirley, and LaVonne, as well as all my wonderful cousins and remain to this day. Thanksgiving at Grandma's was in the true Norwegian tradition. It marked the beginning of the Lefse and Lutefisk season. Lefse is one of my favorite things to eat and was always served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is simply a soft potato based flat bread that is wonderful with butter and sugar, rolled up and eaten. Lutefisk is another story! It is generally baked or boiled and served with melted butter. Often it is added to the lefse for what we call a Norwegian Taco. Lutefisk is a strange preparation of dried or salted Atlantic Cod fish that is soaked in lye, who's origins can be traced back to the 1500's. Although it sounds horrible, many foods used lye in their preparation and presevation as it was difficult to make fresh protein last long enough to store for later or transport. Drying and salting Cod was a preferred why to preserve the fish and in order to eat, it must be soaked in water and sometimes lye! The lye gives it a jelly like texture as it cures the flesh. In my opinion it has a musty odor when cooked, one I never got use to. Of course we also had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumkin pie with real whipped cream, all homemade. The joys of fresh cranberry relish and real whipped cream is a rare treat these days. The picture is a traditional Norwegian serving of Lutefisk, Lefse, cranberry relish, potatoes and of course the Norwegian flag.
One of the reasons dinner was serve early is so everyone can get to the other side of their families to do it all over again! I wasn't so lucky as my mother's side lived 250 miles away in Milwaukee. To compensate I would end up going over to Ma Donna's house Thanksgiving afternoon. Ma Donna is the name of my good friend Kevin Aiona's mother. She lived across from the church and always had time for us kids so we just called her Ma Donna. Kevin along with his older brother Brent were constantly hunting so Thanksgiving in the Aiona house was no ordinary affair. More often than not one could walk into her kitchen and see a roaster filled with a venison roast surrounded with a rabbit, couple of squirrels, a possible partridge, and maybe even a duck. Mashed potatoes were served with with a wonderful gravy from the wild feast. Dessert was usually a sweet potato pie. Donna could make that pie taste like the best pumpkin pie you ever had. She never had a lot of money so she used the next best thing, the bounty of her sons and her heart. Between the lefse, the smell of the lutefisk cooking, and Ma Donna's special menu, Thanksgiving was always a special time. My Grandpa and Grandma are gone, as well as my dear Uncle Dewey, however I am blessed with having both parents still alive, Ma Donna is still cooking, and Kevin remains the dearest of friends. I hope you have a lot to be as thankful for as I do. Have a great Thanksgiving and pick up some lefse for your guests, maybe they will have a story or two to tell someday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hootie and the 10 Pointer

Well, after having nothing to report from this weeks deer hunting I decided to tell the story of Hootie's big buck. Hootie is a regular visitor to my blog, often e-mails me, and after seeing my last weeks post about my lack of luck, he decided to send me a picture of his first deer from last year. Talk about unfair, Hootie is 12 years old whereas I have hunted for almost 38 years and haven't even come close to a trophy like this!

Hootie is the son of a very good friend from Eleva, Big Dave (he is featured in one of my earlier post holding a walleye). He lives up on Mockingbird Hill, north of town and has one of the most spectacular views in Wisconsin. His family once lived in Colorado Springs but longing to get back to his roots in Eleva he bought some land that his late father dreamed of and built a Colorado mountain type home. Hootie and Big Dave hunt Dave's brother's farm just a few miles from their home. The country around Eleva is quite hilly and has ravines and valleys which are surrounded by wood lots of oak, maple, aspen, birch, ash, black walnut, and basswoods. Big Dave has a stand on a side ridge that they call Pikes Peak and overlooks a valley and the next ridge. This was Hootie's first year to deer hunt and Big Dave wanted him to get started right. As they sat in the stand overlooking the valley Big Dave reminded Hootie that he was not allowed to shoot across the valley which was about 200 yards away. A doe came out across the valley and Hootie wanted to take it right away but Big Dave reminded him of their agreement. Is wasn't long before this big buck came out across the valley as well. Hootie could see it was a big one so he asked dad again if he could take it. Big Dave realized that this was no ordinary buck and if they did not take a shot it might get away. He looked at Hootie and said, OK you can shoot however wait for me and I will back you up. This was just what he wanted to hear and before Big Dave could even get his scope on the deer Hootie pulled the trigger. Trying to get the deer in his scope he saw the deer drop in his tracks. Hootie had nailed the buck with his .243 rifle at better than 200 yards, a shot many veterans would have a hard time making. As you see he is pretty proud of that deer and deserves to have that big smile on his face. I wonder what he will do for an encore!

As stated my last weekend hunting was uneventful. I sat in a number of stands on Friday night and Saturday with the woods being pretty silent. The one thing that was making noise are the Tundra Swans migrating through. Also known as Whistling Swans they make a haunting whistle as they migrate to their wintering grounds on the Atlantic Ocean bays and estuaries such as Chesapeake Bay. Sitting in my tree stand I can hear them coming from a long distance as they fly in flocks of 10 to 50 swans and are usually quite high. Over the 2 weekends I must have counted at least 60 flocks going by. They are heading for the Mississippi river backwaters where they rest from their long journey from the Arctic Ocean area of Alaska. It is an interesting migration as they stay in areas resting until the freezing water forces them to their next major resting place. One of the more famous stopping places is close to my home town in the city of Alma Wisconsin as well as in the Weaver Bottoms, downriver from Alma. If you are interested in more information check out this site as the town has taken advantage of this wonder of nature.

This week we expect temperatures in the low teens. Ice fishing cannot be far behind. Thanks Hootie for providing a story for a rather uneventful deer hunting season. I am blessed to have so many friends both young and old.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Report From the Northwoods

This weekend was the beginning of the Minnesota deer hunting season. As in the last 25 years I hunted with my good friend Jack Taylor. Jack has a cabin on Platte Lake, west of Onamia and we use it as the hunting base. About 5 years ago he befriended a local land owner Rich, who was more than happy to have a couple more guys hunting his land. Rich has turned into a fabulous friend, and in turn we have met a number of his friends Eugene, Kevin, Austin, his brother Bobby and a new guy this year "Z". I started a Friday night tradition making Steak a la Kienitz for everyone. This is a special recipe from my good friend Troy who would take thick juicy steak, sprinkle Tabasco sauce, hot buffalo wing sauce, and hot salsa on it and let it sit for a few hours before putting it on the grill. It is quite a surprise to have one of the most flavorful steaks ever. Jack brings the potatoes and Steve does the Coleslaw for a royal feast.

Rich's land is somewhat low and in a wet year it can be quite an adventure getting back to the high ground. We can get back with our ATV's but after a few trips it can get pretty hairy. I hunt in the middle of a small peninsula which has an adjacent tamarack stand with a neck down area. When I learned to deer hunt in Wisconsin we never hunted out of a tree stand however in Minnesota, it was the preferred way. My first tree stand was a homemade contraption made of plywood, hand made tree spikes and a seat belt out of a junked car. We would use screw steps until one day I stepped on one half way up a tree and it broke. After visualizing a certain part of my anatomy hanging from one of the steps I moved up to larger, safer stands and ladders. Today I have a nice 18 foot ladder stand complete with a full body harness and arm rests strong enough to allow me to sleep in total safety for hours at a time. The picture is of me 22 feet up a tree waiting for the big buck. I am not much for self portraits and this was the best out of about 10. Yes, if I look bundled up it was because it was very windy and cold.

I sit in my stand almost all day, taking an hour break for lunch. I usually have a couple of MRE's for the weekend with this years menu being Sloppy Joe's on Saturday and pork ribs with clam chowder on Sunday. Sitting in the stand is very relaxing and gives one time to reflect on the past. The first time I went deer hunting was with my uncle Dewey. He had 4 girls and was probably as excited as I was. My dad deer hunted however like many guys, he went up north near Solon Springs, WI with his hunting buddies. I could never understand why my dad did not take us deer hunting, however today I realize that this was his only time he could get away with his friends. No doubt there was many a beer consumed on those trips, much like they were 15 years ago when I went up north. 35 years ago you could really hunt anywhere around Eleva. Few if any posted their land and the deer population was a fraction of what it is today. Most of the land was owned by farmers who had better things to do than chase around a deer for a week. Deer hunting in Wisconsin always included the Thanksgiving weekend with some schools shut down for the week and everyone had the bonus long weekend to hunt. Deer drives were very popular. After the first weekend guys would meet at the bar or restaurant and discuss the days strategy. Usually 8 to 10 guys would group and head to a number of predetermined wood lots, posting half the guys around the woods and the other half would "drive" the deer towards them. This was a very successful way of bagging deer however it's surprising no one got shot. Any deer shot was destined to hang in one of your trees long enough to make sure everyone knew you were successful. Unfortunately there is no deer hanging in my tree at the moment. I will probably go back this weekend as you see in the picture, the deer are there, just need to get somewhat closer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Victory at Last............Well Sort of

Well 2 weeks ago I had discovered the mother lode of perch on Mille Lacs. I came home with 20 nice perch and a very satisfying afternoon knowing my hard work paid off and I knew where they were. On Friday I decided to take the afternoon off and try what may be my last open water fishing trip of the year. It was a beautiful day, little wind, sun shining, you could almost hear the perch screaming "come and get me!". My neighbor Tom has quite a few days left of vacation and volunteered to go with me one more time. Arriving at Lundeen's I figured at least 2 1/2 scoops of minnows, based on my last experience, and if we run out, they always hit plastic. 2 1/2 scoops is a lot of bait.

We were greeted at the landing in Cove with the docks pulled out. Although it was deep enough for the boat, getting close enough for Tom to jump in was a challenge. Having successfully secured my passenger we headed to the main lake. Coming out of Cove bay and into the main lake there is a very narrow channel that is safe to motor through. Fortunately I have this route clearly marked on my GPS as the Sheriff's office has removed the navigation buoys by this time of year. Fifty feet either way can spell a $2500 bill for a bent shaft (I know, I did this a few years back). Once safely through the imaginary channel we headed to Wakon and what was to be a fun couple of hours fishing perch. Well, I am sure that you can imagine what happened the next 3 hours. Apparently someone forgot to tell the perch to stay there. We worked the entire bay and all I had to show for it was this nice 11 1/2 inch perch. I suspect that the water temperature of 42 had something to do with the bite.

Having struck out on the perch I decided to go for broke. Although about 10 miles way, we were going to end the year trolling the same area we did on Memorial Day which was so productive. That night was fabulous with a nice 29 incher in the boat. When we arrivie there was only one other boat trolling, which should have allowed for plenty of room or at least I thought. Indian Point is a very narrow and long reef that extends straight out into the main lake. In normal years it tops out at about 5 feet, is not much more than 25 to 50 feet wide, and drops off pretty well on both sides but especially on the south edge. It is pretty easy to set up a trolling pattern, up one side and down the other. One can work the edge, top and deeper depths all along the route. Well, someone forgot to tell the other boat of this marvelous logical order of things. I ended up trolling parallel with him almost all the way to the end. Apparently he did not know the reef has 2 sides! On the return path I felt the something hit the lure and just as abruptly disappeared. I am pretty sure it was a fish yet sometimes when you catch a fishing line stuck under water, it can feel the same way. I am pretty certain it was a fish though. By the time we got back to where we started 2 other boats showed up with the same attitude about trolling a pretty simple pattern, go where you want. Oh well, on the third pass I finally got this nice 21 inch walleye. Bill has used the term describing the amount of baitfish in Mille Lacs as occurring in Biblical Proportions! Well this fish was proof. I have never caught a walleye in this lake as fat as the one pictured here. I thought I caught a football at first. The fish hit my old standby, a suspended Rattlin Rouge. Although we did not catch another walleye I felt somewhat of a small victory as I had not caught a walleye trolling all through the fall including 2 separate full moon periods. It was a nice way to end up the open water season on Mille Lacs.

As a final note to my week, please notice the blue pouch on my right hand side along my waist. This is actually an inflatable life vest. On October 30th a boat drifted into shore on the north side without a driver, the trolling motor down, and a life vest sitting on the deck. To date the fisherman is still missing and with the water temps under 42 degrees he may not show up till spring. I used to be the guy that would wear a life jacket half the time then forget to put it on the minute I start the motor. Today I put on my belt before I get in the boat and most of the time I forget it's even there. It may not be the most effective floatation device however at minimum it will give me that extra advantage over wearing nothing. I am off looking for the big buck next week.