Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goodbye to My Fishing Friend

As I have written before, getting older means that eventually you will lose some of your good fishing friends.  Of course as we age, so do our friends and it's just part of life.  Last Friday morning I received one of those calls that one never expects, my friend Russ died last night of a massive heart attack.  The problem is that Russ had just turned 40.   The suddenness of it all is somewhat overwhelming however.  Russ was married to our good friend Jessica, a new opportunity, yet our relationship did not start out exactly seeing eye to eye.  I suppose the 15 years of age difference and our backgrounds was enough to create some differences however one could see a good man underneath all of those defenses.  It took a few years and as time passed  found that we had more in common than not.  Often I would bring a new bait for him, a left over pedestal for his boat, a software program to share.  One thing that Russ became hooked on was fishing.  Having done little ice fishing and limited open water fishing, I was probably a bad influence on his fishing budget.  An ice auger off Craigslist, a end of the season ice house, a used 16 foot Lund with a 25 hp motor.  All those things that a guy definitely needs!  As time went on I took Russ to Mille Lacs, both ice fishing and open water fishing.  He has never experienced big water angling and it was interesting to see his reactions the first time we drove 5 miles off shore to fish a special area in the middle of the lake.  Russ had a blast.  Here is Russ with his son Cage. 

I had posted this picture last year when we had a chance to hit Mille Lacs.  It was the largest walleye he had ever caught and although it wasn't the most successful day, we had fun.  One of our favorite lakes to hit in the winter was Pelican Lake, just down the road from his house in St. Michael, MN.  A shallow lake, 12 feet at it's maximum, it is full of nice sized crappies and sunfish.  We could hit the lake in the mid afternoon, catching a nice mess of fish and be back by 7:00 in the evening.  I would like to think I was a good mentor to Russ.  Teaching him how to fish using a Vexilar FL-8 to the proper way he should interview for a job to helping him stay focused on having the confidence to forge ahead.   It probably explains why these things hurt so bad.  You invest time in a friendship, looking for a lifetime of sharing those rewards and sometimes it simply doesn't turn out that way.  God bless Russ and his family, I will miss you my friend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Great Hunt

One of the interesting things about blogs like Fishin’ With Dave is that fact that you meet people that have never crossed your path, yet they become an interesting part of your circle of friends. Neenahpete certainly fits into that category as well the son of an engineering contact, Bruce Buratto, whom I met only over the phone and through e-mails. Bruce resides in western Massachusetts and we have worked on a couple of transformer projects however over the years we have traded fishing tips, ATV stories, and the differences between how things are done “out east” verses in Minnesota. Bruce has a son, Matt, who is one of my followers and an avid outdoorsman as well. Seeing my less than stellar spiked buck on last weeks post, he had to send me a picture of his successful archery hunt this year. This picture is Matt posing with a nice respectable 9 pointer. Rather than tell you the whole story, here is what Matt e-mailed to me: Today I decided to move to a different tree on a wood road that my father and grandfather made years back. I saw a small four point buck and a doe yesterday and a couple others the previous week. They all seemed to be going up the same ridge. Yesterday I noticed a bunch of scrapes on some trees just below the ridge. This is what ultimately prompted my stand location change to right behind the scrapes. For once it finally paid off. The deer came walking up the wood road under my stand. He was less that 10 yards away and never new I was there until I grunted at him to stop him. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. Before we know it we'll be on the ice. I can't wait!  Well, Happy Birthday Matt and great job.  Some guys wait years to nail a nice buck like that, heck I only have to look in the mirror!  What is even more exciting is to see Matt carry on traditions and experiences that both his father and grandfather participated in.  In this day of computers and video games, it is a refreshing to see his pictures and listen to his stories.   The amazing thing to me is as such a good looking young man like Matt, I imagine it's difficult to find time for the outdoors when you have all the girls chasing you.  Thank God I never had that problem!

Matt's last sentence was "Before you know it we'll be on the ice"  Well Saturday produced a good old snowstorm dropping 10 inches of heavy wet snow in the area.  Last year we did get our first snowfall rather early however it didn't last.  This one could stick around for a while.  This is a good omen for early ice.  As stated in a previous post, my earliest foray on the ice was November 17th with Earl Taylor.  Fishing North Center Lake in Lindstrom, MN there was a good 4 inches of ice covering the lake this early.  Although the small ponds and swamps have a thin coating of ice on them now, we will need some more cold weather to get walkable ice.  Next week shows highs in the mid 20's with lows in the single digits so we can't be too far off.  With the weekend approaching it will be good to get my gear out and tune it up.  I am predicting a great year for walleye on Mille Lacs.  The earliest I have been on the pond was the weekend after Thanksgiving.   Early ice is always one of my favorite times and I am looking forward to a little hard water.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Opening Day Success

Wow, the time seems like it is in hypermode these days.  Besides being behind with almost everything, deer hunting was upon us last weekend, November 6 and 7th.  As everything lately, it seems as though last year was just yesterday.   Once again I had the pleasure of hunting with the same group as in the last 6 years.  Hunting my remembered friend Rich Allen's land, it was Jack, Brett and Trenton, Kevin and Austin, Eugene, and our host Ken.  Arriving Friday, it was exactly as predicted, WET!!!  Receiving record rainfall in September and 3 - 5 inches 2 weeks ago, the lakes, creeks, rivers, and swamps were filled to the brim.  I hunt the back part of Rich's land and the real only way to get back there is trudging through the swamp.  In year's past Jack and I would take our ATV's and crawl through the peat and alders.  The problem this year is the fear of getting stuck, as well, we are not as adventurous as we once were.  This means donning on the hip waders and making your way through the tangle of clumps, brush, and holes that challenge the boot height.   Arriving on Friday the first order of business was to check out how bad it really was and make a decision if we would even expend the energy.  Walking back to the stand, it was about as I expected.  I had left half of my stand in the woods last year, meaning to come and get it once the swamp had frozen.  Great idea but like a lot of great ideas, sometimes you just don't get to them.  There it was, just were I had left it a year ago!  Luckily I had removed the pads and armrests as the 25 foot nylon ropes attached to the stand were missing all but about 6 inches.  I guess the mice must have found it great bedding material.  Faded but functional, I decided to endure the walk and hunt in the tree I have gotten to know over the years.  My ladder stand is nice but a pain to set up, even with 2 guys.  With the ropes gone, Jack and I used our collective heads and got it in position.  Standing almost 18 feet high, it's a balancing act to put that top strap around the tree to secure.   I had brought the straps but had grabbed the wrong ones, dang it.  It's too high up to take any chances so I headed back to my truck to retrieve the right ones.  That second trip out there had me thinking if the right decision had been made!   Everything set, we headed back to Rich's for my famous marinated steaks.  This has always been a tradition we started and it may well be the last time we will do this at Rich's as Mary has the place for sale.

With Daylight Savings Time still in effect for Saturday morning, I took my time wading to my stand.  Wearing hip boots, I have to carry my warm boots in a plastic bag stuff my bibs, gloves, a change of socks, and extra pair of pants in case I trip on the way out, as well as a book, a MRE (thanks Tony), hand warmers, knife, camera, and water into a backpack.  It took about 20 minutes to walk 1/4 mile, I got to dry ground, changed, and climbed the stand.   In the stand for about 45 minutes something caught my eye, a nice spike buck was walking right in front of me.  I am not on trophy ground and was looking to refill the freezer with some fresh venison, down he went on the first shot!  I guess the trouble I had sighting in my new scope was all forgotten.  Of course now the work begins!  Not wanting to drag the deer out through the swamp, I waited till sunset when Brett volunteered to come by and help.  Although it wasn't the worst thing I had done, it took all we had to pull that deer through the swamp.  Luckily I have a medium size plastic sled that makes it much easier.  The top picture is my little spike buck, small but nice and tender!  As stated, this is probably our last year hunting Rich's forcing Jack and I to check out a couple of areas for next year to see if any hunters were around.  Skipping the morning hunt, we discovered a couple of nice spots where it appeared as though no one was hunting the area.  Deciding to see how the other guys were doing, we headed back to Rich's to discover Brett had a small doe down.  A number of us were available to help him so I dragged the sled back out and we pulled her through the swamp.  Here is Trenton, Brett's son posed with the deer.  Neither were trophy's but satisfying never the less. 

A couple of parting shots.  One of the things you commonly see in the rural areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I am sure many states as well, all the road signs seem to have at least one bullet hole in it!  From shotguns to rifles to pistols bullets holes, one thing's for sure, there is no closed season on signs.  Here is a good example of this as we stopped to check it out.   I guess I remember participating in that sport 40 year ago as well.  I am writing this at 38,000 feet over Nevada.  Flying to San Jose, California for a Medical Trade Show the plane has WiFi on board.  $12.95 for the flight, about 3 hours worth, is pretty reasonable.  I can check my e-mails, finish a much past due post, and generally keep myself entertained.  Amazing world we live in today.  My stand is still in the woods, waiting for the freeze and hopefully I get this done soon.  The loss of 35 pounds really made a difference this year.  Carrying around that big bag of potatoes inside my body really dragged me down and I felt great all season.  I am sure at last years weight, I probably would have not gotten this deer.  This is sort of a transition time of year, hopefully ice fishing is not to far away.