Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grousing at Club 10

Last weekend I was invited to the annual grouse hunting tournament at my cousin Don Schmidt's hunting cabin in Alvin, Wisconsin.  Cousin Don is my mothers sister Pat's son and mom hadn't seen her in a while.  Pat and my dad always had a nice friendly rivalry on game day, arguing about Brett Favre's ability and who would win.  It's something that made their Sunday's much more interesting.  Pat lives in Antigo, Wisconsin about 40 miles northwest of Wausau and my brother Steve and I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone, drop mom off at her only surviving sister's place while we continue another 90 miles to the Michigan border and spend the weekend with Don at Club 10.  Club 10 is an interesting place to say the least.  Don's Grandfather on his dad's side had an opportunity to buy 40 acres of hunting land located about a 1/2 mile south of the Upper Michigan border, just north of Alvin, Wisconsin.  The year was 1944, the war was still going on when  the land came up for sale, one could buy it for the back taxes totaling $76.  Well, in 1944 $76 was still a lot of money and Don's grandfather could not afford to buy it himself.  Many of the men in the area were farmers and spent most of their spring, summer, and fall working the land.  As soon as the ground froze it was not that uncommon for these men to head for the north woods and work in the logging camps, cutting wood all winter.  It was here that his Grandpa found 9 other guys to chip in about $8 each to obtain the property, hence the official name...Club 10.  It took another year to build the cabin that still is in use today.  Although today the cabin is about an hour from Don's house (he lives in his grandfather's old homestead) back in the 40's it took the entire day to drive their model A's up the dirt roads to the cabin.  Today the original galvanize siding still covers the cabin, salvaged from an old barn.  There is no water or electricity as it is 2 miles from the latest power line, but a generator gives some comforts of home.  Situated in the middle of the Nicolet National Forest, it definitely is isolated.  Today Club 10 is owned by the descendants of the original owners, has a legal set of bylaws and has become a fixture in the area.  My first picture in my cousin Don standing on the steps of the cabin and the local bar owner Dennis sitting on the Green Bay Packer Chair.  Don, thanks for the great time.

After arriving Friday night Steve and I were introduced to the gang.  Don has a Ruffed Grouse hunting tournament on the second weekend of October which usually attracts 30 or so guys.  The guys are mixture of local farmers, construction workers, business owners, all who have hunting cabins in the region.  Don offers prizes for the most grouse shot, prepares a fabulous prime rib dinner after dark, and provides a perfect setting to share all of the stories associated with Club 10.   This is the big woods, full of large maple, hemlock, aspen, and white pine which stretches for miles.  Steve and I decided to walk into the woods as it appeared to be prime grouse country yet were somewhat hesitant as we forgot to bring a GPS.  Luckily Don had one for use to use, which came in useful a few hours later.  It was pretty windy and it became obvious that walking the wood for grouse was probably not the best strategy.  The winner had his limit of 5 grouse and they were all bagged while cruising the thousands of miles of logging roads in the area.  Towards the end of the day Don gave us a tour of the area in his Polaris Ranger and we did get to shoot at an actual grouse, but that was about it.  It was a good excuse for some exercise, seeing cousin Don, spending time with my brother Steve, and getting my mom up to see her sister Pat.    This picture proved interesting to Don as he arrived on Thursday night.  Apparently a bear had visited the cabin and had decided to chew up the post that held up the entrance light.  I was hoping I didn't run into him while walking the woods with my 12 gauge loaded with light grouse loads.  If so the score would have probably been Bear 1 Dave 0!

This week has also been the peak of our apple cider making operation.  With the help of my neighbor Lory, his wife Lyn, and my wife, we have pressed almost 18 gallons of fresh apple cider during the last 4 days.  We are getting pretty good at it as our team work can slice up and grind 10 gallons of apples and press out 6+ gallons in about 2 1/2 hours.  My press can really put the pressure on and we have an excellent yield, about 60% of the ground apples turns into cider.  I have been feeding the pomace (squeezed out apples) to the bees and it doesn't last long.  I have picked about 20 bushels of apples so far and estimate at least another 6 - 8 bushel need to be harvested.  I am amazed at how clean the apples are and for sure it has been my best year ever.  Here is a picture of my neighbor Lory and Lynn putting the pressure on the cider press as the juice runs into the pail.  It a gift from heaven for sure.  Autumn is moving fast as the leaves are now off the trees and the weather is finally cooling down.  Losing a number of trees to wind storms, I need to get out an buy a replacement this weekend and get it planted before it freezes.  The perch haven't inhabited the shallows on Mille Lacs yet however the walleyes have been going strong.  There are few weekends left for open water fishing yet I have so many things to do, so little time!  Oh well!

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