Monday, November 30, 2009

That Time of Year Again!

On Tuesday I am heading south to beat the cold weather coming in and will be attending the Fall Meeting of the TTA (The Transformer Association) at the PGA National Golf Resort, West Palm Beach, Florida. The TTA is a Trade Organization of North American Transformer Manufacturers and Suppliers, and my company Precision Inc, makes transformers. So what the heck is a transformer? Well, it is a very important electrical device that is in every aspect of your life. A transformer essentially transforms one voltage to a different voltage through the magic of magnetic theory. The obvious use for transformers are those that take high line voltages and step them down to 230 VAC for your house, those round things on the power poles, or like in my neighborhood the big green boxes sitting on the ground. Every battery charger has one, televisions, cell phone chargers, almost anything run by electricity in your house has a transformer. This industry, like many electronic products have seen many changes in the last 15 years. It was estimated that in 1995 there were over 3000 transformer manufactures in the United States. Today there are less than 700 as China continues to be the preferred place for electronic manufacturing world wide. Luckily there still is a need for good old American engineering!

Having been in the industry for 34 years now (I started when I was 10!) I have seen a number of interesting transformer designs related to fishing. My 2 more famous ones included a call I received from a design house doing work for a new depth finder model here in Minnesota. In most depth finder applications there is a transformer that steps up the voltage, in order to allow the transducer to generate a signal. The company had been working with a competitor of mine, however they were late in getting a sample. Time was running out as they needed to finalize the design for the upcoming Christmas season and Cabela's had ordered a bunch of them. Having the equipment, I made a sample while they waited and the rest was history. We eventually made about 20,000 units before it went to China. The transformer was for the new Clearwater Classic by Zercom. Today that transformer design is still being used. My second interesting fish project was a guy that had a unique idea for a new lure. It had a movable lip that could be controlled by a circuit inside the lure body. By programing the circuit, the lip would change causing the lure to either move deeper or shallower. I thought it was a great idea however at the time (probably 1988) I wondered how many people were willing to spend $30 on a lure! Notice any in the stores lately?

One reason we have our meetings the week after Thanksgiving is that few people or business conferences happen. This is usually super off peak time and can often book rooms and meeting places at 1/3rd the going rate. Lucky I don't golf because I hear the rates are $200 a round at the PGA. I will be going with my business partner Lyle Shaw and this year I am the Chairman of the meeting. At each fall meeting we have an economist give use his annual report and the guy is incredibly accurate, predicting this downturn over 5 years ago! Once the meeting is done Lyle wants to spend some time in Key West. Having never been there and taking advantage of some super over Saturday air fares, we are booked at The Inn in Key West, pictured here. Last year we were just south of Jacksonville Fl, and it was far from a tropical paradise. That Wednesday morning greeted us with an unFlorida like 32 degree temperature. I have been assured that Key West is the only city in the United States that has never had a frost, snow, nothing! The forecast looks like the mid 70's for a high and high 60's for a low. Either way I love palm trees and it looks great.

Of course Key West means just one thing to me.............Fishing! Lyle is not much of a fisherman however I talked him into joining me on a six hour charter with Spear One Charters. This should be a totally different experience than with Captain Dave, our guide from last year. (Here is the post if you are interested: Having checked out a number of sites I quickly learned that Key West fishing is either reef fishing, wreck fishing, or deep water fishing. E-mailing Captain Steve I asked him which would offer the best opportunities this time of year. To my surprise his response was, they are all very close to each other and if wanted we could do all three. That was enough for me! We are booked at 7:00AM on Saturday with the program to go out and catch our bait first, then fish. The different areas should provide me with a totally new fishing experience, with a number of species I have never caught before. I would really like to get a nice Mahi Mahi (also known as Dorado or Dolphin Fish) as they are simply beautiful as well as fabulous to eat. My biggest challenge is to figure out what to do with the fish once we catch them. Unlike Alaska where they have businesses designed to clean, pack, freeze, and ship your catch, Key West has no such establishments. I have some ground work to do, hopefully the hotel can freeze them for us and I have located a dry ice source just in case. It seems odd that such a well established fishing location has no facilities to assist the traveler. Maybe if I like it down there, well you never know. I may need a few days to recuperate but certainly stay tuned for what I hope will be a fabulous report from Key West! I added a couple new songs that better portray the up and coming events. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

3rd Week of Deer Camp?!?!?!

With my Minnesota deer hunting experience being somewhat lackluster, I decided to reward myself with a trip to hunt in Wisconsin. My late brother-in-law still has 40 acres north of LaCrosse as well a ready made stand waiting for someone like me to occupy. I can only remember a warmer hunting experience about 25 years ago in Roseau Mn when the temperature was near 60. The weather this year has sure been unusual. October was one of the coldest on records and November is looking to be one of the warmest on record. I guess everything tends to even out in the end. With warm November weather comes fog and Saturday morning was no exception. As thick as pea soup, visibility was about 20 feet. Usually fog means that the deer are simply bedded down for the day. With early morning temperatures at around 30, the condensation on the trees made it appear as though it was raining out. Luckily my my stand was fully insulated with a roof! Don't let that fool you however, there were holes created by squirrels as well as other animal gifts scattered on the floor. I don't think the stand had been used in a few years, however it was comfortable. The picture is the view out of the main window. Overlooking a small valley, the foreground includes about 7 acres of black walnut trees planted about 8 years ago. These trees are about 5 inches in diameter and will be worth a fortune 30 years from now. Beyond the walnuts is an erosion control pond, half full of water and the edges trampled down like a cattle pasture. Heading in my general direction are deer trails wore into the ground like cattle paths. About every 20 yards there is a tree with one side tore to shreds by a buck polishing his antlers. Right below my stand was a walnut tree literally destroyed. It takes a pretty nice buck to inflict that kind of damage to a tree that size. Unfortunately none of tree wreckers decided to show up on either Saturday or Sunday. The good news has to be they are there and it is just a matter of time.

Hunting in Wisconsin is much different than in Minnesota. Half of Minnesota is north of Wisconsin so the deer hunting season starts 2 weeks earlier. Minnesota divides the state into 4 zones, with different regulations for each. Within the zones are management areas dictating harvest levels. Zone 1 allows hunting for 2 full weeks, 3 weekends, where as some zones only allow 2 days of hunting. Unless you want to pay for an all state license, you are stuck hunting a specific zone. Wisconsin on the other hand opens it's season the weekend before Thanksgiving and runs 9 days. You are allowed to hunt the entire state however like Minnesota, there are management areas for identifiy special regulations. One advantage of hunting in Minnesota is it occurs during the peak of the rut. Bucks can be easier to harvest during this time as they have other things on their mind besides survival! Although the bucks can be in rut by the time Wisconsin season begins, the majority have finished. Unfortunately many big bucks, like last weeks post are killed by cars as the deer are really running in early November. Certainly both states brag of massive bucks taken each year during their respective season. I will certainly get back and try to find that buck making the insane rub.

My friend Dewey of What's Dewey Doin'? made a comment about deer hunting when he was a teenager. It reminded me of my first day's deer hunting. As stated in last years post, my dad would usually go up north with the boys for deer hunting leaving me to wait till he gets back. My first deer hunting adventure was with my late uncle Dewey Anderson. Eleva is in the picturesque bluff area of what is called the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. This is an area extending either side of the Mississippi River which was untouched by the glaciers during the last ice age. I was 15 at the time and Dewey invited me to go with him. His family included his wife Shirley, daughters Debbie, Susan, Anita, and Laura. No boys! Up until his unfortunate passing, I became the son he never had. We hunted on his in-laws land, a large bluff south of town. Back then there was little in warm clothing relying on cotton long john union suits, wool shirts, and a ton of socks. Of course even if you were cold it was wise to keep your mouth shut if you wanted to go back out again the following day. They might have been the good ol'days but they certainly were colder. That area was part of a small section of the state that allowed buck or doe the first 2 days with buck only after the first Sunday. Other areas were allowed to harvest a doe via a "party permit". You needed 4 hunters to sign up and if you were drawn, you could shot an extra deer via your party permit. This was an old hold over from the days when a group of hunters would harvest a deer for camp meat however there was a need to control the harvest more effectively. Few shot does back then but for a young man it offered a better chance to bag a deer. As a contrast to today, many areas of the state require you to shoot a doe before you could harvest a buck, coined "Earn a buck" program. Also back then the first 2 days were shotgun only, making it more difficult as well. I did not shoot anything that first year but am thankful to my uncle Dewey for his kindness taking his nephew out on his first real deer hunting experience.
And with that I leave my friend Dewey with a picture just for him, as he loved the last one like this! For the rest of you, you will have to check out the posts of my favorite blogs to understand. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2nd Week of Deer Camp

Jack and I finally got to our deer hunting destination last weekend up by his cabin near Hilman MN. Usually we have our stands up the week before opener but this year was kind of messed up for us. This weekend was special as the group was tasked with spreading a portion of Rich's ashes around his stand, which was his request. I decided that the Friday night steak supper tradition had to continue. Cosco is the place to buy steaks and I picked up 4 New York Strips at least an inch and a half thick. Using the same recipe, marinate the steaks in Tabasco sauce, hot buffalo wing sauce, and hot salsa, they turned out marvelous as always. Along with a nice large baked potato and sauteed mushrooms with onions, we were all stuffed by the end of the meal.

Because my stand was not officially up, I hunted out of Jack's stand for most the weekend. The trails through the swamp have gotten pretty wet and mucky. Borrowing an old trick from my cousin Greg I donned hip waiters, carrying my bibs in my backpack, pack boots in a garbage bag, and gun in tow, I would finish dressing at the stand. I could leave my boots and bibs in a garbage bag over night so the load back would be easier. Half way across the swamp my right boot stuck in the mud and the momentum of my load kept going forward. So much for staying dry! Lucky the day was in the low 50's and I stayed pretty warm. I am a guy that likes to stay out in the field all day, breaking for lunch around noon. My meal of choice are military MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) and they are not bad. Saturday's menu was meat loaf and gravy, mashed potato's, crackers with grape jelly, chocolate chip cookies, cocoa drink, and a couple of Tootsie Rolls. They come with a meal heater that when water is added gets hot enough to heat both the meatloaf and potatoes to a comfortable temperature. Although I ate well, the deer did not cooperate very well. There is a lot of standing corn in the area and I am sure the deer are well aware of this. Reports of an eleven pointer shot just across the road confirmed the big buck sightings earlier in the week. The weekend ended as Rich's brother Bobby, Jack, Brett and his son Trent, and myself trudged to the center stand to say a final tribute to our friend. Spreading Rich's ashes to the four corners of his life, we said our final goodbyes.

The albino buck that Brett shot last Monday still is pretty amazing. He brought it to a taxidermist, who is going to make a nice shoulder mount out of the deer. Brett gave me some more pictures and I decided to post another one of this beautiful animal. Notice how light the hoofs are. Although they are very pretty, albino deer seldom live more than 2 years as the lack of pigment makes them easy targets for predators and the sun's ultraviolet rays take a toll on their eyesight and many eventually go blind.

The most unusual story sent to me this week was the nice buck my friend Scott Semingson bagged. This massive 12 pointer was taken by Scott in Buffalo County, Wisconsin. I am sure Scott would have preferred to have this next week during the real hunting season as he nailed this trophy with his car. According to his brother Rick, this is compensation for about $6000 worth of damage to his vehicle. I guess its a dandy any way you look at it.

This week I may try my luck hunting in Wisconsin. It is suppose to be quite warm this weekend again and might prove more successful than my Minnesota hunt. I was in Denver this week and caught a dandy cold so we will have to see. On a side note my good friend Jeff King, of Alaska fame has finally joined the blog world. I have been suggesting he try it as his life is very interesting living and working on the Kenai River. His blog, references his location on the Kenai at Mile 14, measured from where the river meets the Cook Inlet. Jeff is quite the philosopher and writer. He is a legendary guide on the river with his business King's Budget Salmon Charters, and I look forward to keeping up with his adventures. Written today, Jeff's second post gives the real sense of being there with him. His e-mail invite stated it was already -15 below zero yesterday! It's interesting as when it's cold in Alaska, Minnesota is warm and visa versa. We could use alittle of the cold here to get that hard water fishing going. I invite you to check in with Jeff often, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Friend's Successes

The unfortunate passing of my friend Earl as well our dear friend Rich Allen has changed our deer hunting plans for this year. My friend Jack has a cabin 10 miles west of Onamia, MN. We have spent the last 6 years hunting Rich's land while staying at his cabin. Earl's funeral was last Thursday and that became our priority for the week. Jack and I have decided to make our deer opener this weekend, hoping the big buck is still walking around. In the meantime I have received a number stories proclaiming successful hunts from my friends and members of our hunting party.

This first picture is of Jack's brother-in-law and my friend as well Chris (Boris) Swanson. Boris actually works about a block from me and is an accomplished tool and die maker. Boris bagged this nice buck on opening day in northern Minnesota. It was a pretty warm day as you can by the way Boris is dressed. His e-mail confirmed the buck weighed 220 pounds dressed out. Nice trophy Boris, that's a beautiful deer.

The next picture is another beautiful buck shot by my good friend Leon Lambert of Pueblo Colorado. I met Leon while he was an employee of The Trane Company, at the Pueblo factory. I had been talking to Leon over the phone for approximately 6 months when he informed me he was visiting headquarters in La Crosse, WI. Having some time available on his last day, we decided to meet in Red Wing and continue to Alma for an afternoon on the river. It was a beautiful day that April 5th and it started our close friendship that continues today. We have shared trophy fishing on Mille Lacs, ice fishing on DeWeese Reservoir for trout, and river fishing on the famous Arkansas River Canyon, west of Canyon City, CO. Leon's house is like walking into a natural history museum. A huge bull elk anchors his family room, at the time the second largest elk ever taken in Colorado with a bow. He has the proof of the first mountain goat taken in Colorado with a bow. Several pronghorn trophies adorn his walls intermixed with a mounts of mule deer racks, a 8+ pound walleye from the Pueblo Reservoir, and a stunning rainbow trout mount. Leon has since retired and has purchased a place in his home state of Oklahoma which should provide him with hunting paradise for years. I would have to say that Leon is the best whitetail hunter I know. Sometime I swear when looking at him I see antlers growing out of his head! This nice buck was shot this weekend in Kansas with his bow. Not bad for a retired guy. I hope to meet up with Leon some time in the future for a nice reunion. Maybe pig hunting or fishing stripers on Lake Texahoma, how about it Leon! Congratulations on another hunting success, although I have come to expect nothing less from Leon.

This last picture comes from my own hunting party. Joining us again this year is Bobby Allen, Rich's little brother from Seattle Washington. Talking on the phone, he sounds exactly like Rich and it's kind of nice to hear that voice again. Along with Bobby there is Eugene, Kevin, Austin, Rich's son Scott, Freight Train (Jack's brother-in-law) and Brett. Brett and Bobby are staying at Rich's all week. Well I get a call from Mary to give Bobby a call immediately. Brett had shot an albino deer. Doing as Mary asked, I called Bobby and sure enough, Brett had bagged a spike albino buck at around 140 pounds. Mille Lacs area has a good number of both albino deer as well as "piebald" deer, which are not true albinos but have white coats. Albino deer are legal game in Minnesota during the deer hunting season so it was perfectly legal. Although it does upset some people, biologist claim it is better for the herd to remove this defective gene from the pool. Admittedly I may have not taken this deer, however I am happy for Brett who now has a different kind of trophy. Of course the proverbial "Call Cabela's and see what they will offer" came up. Busy with the excitement, I told Brett I would call and find out if this was an option to sell the hide to them. A quick phone call confirmed, "Yes we buy unusual specimens however we only buy items that have already been mounted". I guess they don't want to deal with the mess! According to Bobby their immediate plan was to register the deer then stick it into the freezer and decide later. Whether you agree or not, you have to admit that it is a once in a lifetime trophy. I hope my friends luck rubs off on me this weekend.

PS. Make sure you listen to my theme song!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Friend Earl

The problem with getting older is that everyone around you is doing the same. Along with with the aches and pains come the realities that your friends will not last forever. My friend Earl (Mick) Taylor passed away Sunday morning at the age of 83. As I have mentioned in past posts, the Taylor's were the first and remain the best friends I have met since moving out of Eleva almost 34 years ago. Earl and Ellie, their children Linda, Mark, and Jack have been my family away from home for all that time. In fact I would venture to guess that over the years, because of location, I have spent more time with Earl than my own father. I guess when you find something good you stick with it. Through the years Earl called me his 3rd son. We were always invited to every family affair, weddings, funerals, graduations, retirements, anniversary's, you name it we were there. Earl and I had much in common however it was our love for fishing that was a special bond. We would often go out, like a couple of old friends, and he particularly liked ice fishing. Earl lived on South Center Lake in Lindstrom Mn, a perfect place to perfect our skills. He was a key member of Team Walleye and continued to fish with us at 79 years old. You do not have a friendship for this long without a few good stories!

Earl and ice fishing were synonymous. Early in our friendship he would often ask me to tag along as I shared his enthusiasm and more than likely being young, I could drill his hole through the ice easier! (Back then we drilled all the holes by hand) One day Earl called and asked if I would take him and his friend Harry Peters up to Mille Lacs. Never one to miss a chance to get out I gladly accepted and told them to pick me up by 9:00. Well in those days I had little patience for tardiness, especially when we were going fishing. Outside by my garage I had everything organized including poles, auger, tackle, and coffee. 9:00 came and went. 9:30 passed by, 10:00 no Earl, and by 10:30 I am about ready to have a heart attack! Well around 11:00 Earl shows up driving Ol'Blue (his panel van) with Harry riding shotgun. I was pretty upset but decided to go anyway. Mark had warned me about his dad's friend Harry. He was a great guy, just liked to start the day with a cocktail somewhat earlier than most of us. That day was no exception. We fished Sunset Bay on the east side of Mille Lacs as it had ice thick enough to drive on. Not the best spot however it was convenient. It was mid December and you could still see open water a few miles out. We were sitting there fishing when Harry decided he wanted to fish somewhere else, started Ol'Blue and headed for the open water. Now Earl was the calmest man I have ever known. Never one to panic over anything he simply looked at me and said "David, will you go get Harry?" Thank God Harry wasn't in a hurry. Chasing down the van, yelling at the top of my lungs, he decided to stop and see what I wanted. Harry had gone about 100 yards but it seemed like a mile. As I approached the window he asked if I wanted to go with him. "Move over Harry, don't you see the open water?" Harry moved over and we headed back to Earl. As I gave him the key in his snickering laugh he simply said "Thanks Dave"

Another time Earl picked me up in his Buick as we headed for South Lindstom Lake, right by the Dinner Bell. This was a great early ice spot, plenty of parking, and an easy walk out. We had a pretty successful day and it was getting cold so Earl went to start the car while I packed up. He came back out to help and upon returning he discovered that the car was running and the doors were locked. It was a Sunday, we were the last ones off the ice with no one around to help. Well Earl started laughing, however I didn't see much humor in our situation. Back then you could open a car using a coat hanger or similar device. Simply make a hook with the wire, fish it between the window and the weather strip, hook the lock pull and lift. I started walking around and to my surprise ran across some 14 ga solid electrical wire. What it was doing there I'll never know, but it was there! Earl was an electrician, not a locksmith, as he wondered what good that wire would do. We stripped the insulation off and in 3 minutes I had the door open. Earl looked a little surprised it was that easy but relieved, we loaded our stuff and headed home.

Earl was a Medic towards the end of World War II. He married his sweetheart Ellie, who has remained an absolute doll all these years. Mark and Jack are truly my brothers, Linda my sister, their families very special. He will be missed, like the other 3 friends that passed away this year. There are too many stories to tell about Earl and I could go on but like many things, we all have to stop sometime. As stated earlier, he was the calmest man I have ever met. No matter what the situation he always approached things in a positive light. I think our lives would be better if we were all a little bit more like Earl.