Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving seems to have crept up on me in record fashion this year.  With dad gone my mother hasn't the energy or desire to have a house load of people, even her favorite sons, so Thanksgiving will be at my sisters.   I do understand my mothers thoughts on this as living in Minneapolis, it's a full 2 - 3 hours away for any of our family to share the feast in Dayton, so we get out of having to do much of anything other than drive to Wisconsin and bring a dish.  If you have been a fan of "Fishin' With Dave" for a while you know that I am an avid Green Bay Packer Fan.  You would have to be living in a cave not to know they have not missed a beat since entering the playoffs and winning the Superbowl last year.  Knock on wood the Packers are 10-0, the only undefeated team left in the NFL.  It is really interesting how complete the transformation from Brett (who?) Favre to Aaron Rodgers has been.  Of course as the 2008 NFL season began almost everyone in Sconnie was upset with Ted Thompson, the Green Bay general manager who let Favre go in favor of Rodgers.  By the same token most were sick of his retirement antics however one could argue that he still was one of the best despite his game ending interception against the Giants in the NFC Championship game.  You know the old saying, a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush!  Well, when Favre retired again from the Jets then unretired to play for the Vikings all bet's were off.  In 2009 the Vikes went 13-3 for the season, including 2 wins against the Pack and Aaron Rodgers.  Well, the Vikings went down in typical Favre style as he threw an interception in overtime to allow the New Orleans Saints to go to the Superbowl.  Deja Vu!  In the meantime the Packers continued their development and have won the last 4 games against the Vikings who continue to struggle finding an identity.  As beloved as Brett Favre was to the Packer fans, his attempt to stick it to us by signing with the Vikings and the success of Aaron, most of us have really discounted his decisions.  After his first retirement, the Packers were going to retire his number at the first game in 2008.  I suspect that they will eventually put his number up in Lambeau but I think it's going to be a while! The Packers play the Detroit Lions on their historic Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit.  It's a little too early to get cocky about it and certainly the Lions are capable of beating the Pack.  Never the less the Packers make the down time between soft and hard water a lot more interesting and fun.  GO PACK!!!

Amongst other things like putting the boats away and settled for their long sleep and breaking out the ice fishing gear is the development of the fruits of our labor, slowly fermenting in Lory Brasel's basement.  Lory decided to get into making wine this year and together we bought some equipment to perfect this age old craft.  With an abundance of fruit this season, there was no shortage of varieties to make.    Here is a nice and colorful picture of our wines sitting in carboys, finishing off their fermentation.  From left to right they include raspberry, pear, wild grape, plum, and chokecherry.  The raspberries, pear, and wild grapes come from my property and the plum and chokecherry is from Lory's.  Not shown is 5 gallons of apple wine that we pressed a few months ago.  This picture was taken about 6 weeks ago, you can see the foam on the top of the wild grape wine as it continues to ferment.  Lory has since re-racked the wine into smaller carboys and will be ready to bottle next week.  These wines tend to be very dry and will require us to sample each one to determine just the right amount of sweetener if needed, a tough job but someone has to do it.  The picture does little justice as the wine is very colorful ranging from a deep Cabernet color to a rose to a pleasant chardonnay hue.  Obvious these wines are not as sophisticated as one would buy in a store but it's like anything you do yourself, it always has that special aura about it and I can't wait to open our first bottle.

The weather doesn't look like it will start to make ice until next week where the highs will be in the low 30's with the lows in the teens.  With the Ice Fishing Show starting on December 2  I would bet there will be walkable ice somewhere by next weekend, a great start to the season.  I still have a lot of work getting my gear ready and luckily it's fairly organized.  New line, re organizing the tackle box, charging the camera and Vexilar, it's a whole new season!  Have a Great Thanksgiving and do give thanks for all that we are fortunate for.  I have added 2 Thanksgiving songs for the holiday, enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deer 1, Dave 0

Well the Minnesota Deer Hunting season ended on Sunday with the venison in the freezer.  The last few years my success while deer hunting has been better than the state average of around 40% of hunters filling their tag.  Bagging a deer has it's plus and minuses.  On plus side there is nothing better than fresh venison tenderloin chops, fried in butter, with onions and garlic, it doesn't get any better.  The minus side it quite frankly it's a lot of work!  Field dressing, dragging out of the woods, hauling it home and hanging it in the pole barn is only the beginning.  The fun really starts when the butchering begins as I am one of those guys that are leery of dropping it off to have it processed.  Besides being to cheap to pay someone to do what I am pretty good at, if it isn't too cold out and one can convince a neighbor to help me it isn't too bad of a job.  Oh well, maybe next year.  One of the things I would really like to do is harvest a trophy deer, something I could hang on the wall.  Having deer hunted for 40 years now I can only remember once when I saw a respectable rack on a deer and then I could not get a good shot off.  Being a responsible hunter means you don't take the chance to wound an animal if you can help it.  Oh well, other than that time the largest buck I ever shot was a small 6 point buck (3 x 3 for you western hunters) with about a 10 inch spread, nothing to write home about, that's for sure.  On the other hand I have friends that seem to have experienced a number of trophy bucks in their lives.  My Uncle Jerry is one of them as I have a couple mule deer rack mounts of his earlier years hunting out west.  They are impressive to say the least.  Leon Lambert, my good friend from Pueblo, Colorado is another guy that seems to have no shortage of large buck mounts, a Boone and Crockett elk mount, and a number of trophy pronghorn mounts.  His house looks like a museum of natural history!  Another is my good friend and fishing partner Lory Brasel.  He hunts near his home town of New York Mills, MN on his step father's land.  Although it is a small piece of property, it is a natural funnel for deer coming out of the river bottoms into the fields above.  Here he is pictured with a beautiful 10 pointer (6 on one side and 4 on the other), a nice addition to the 2 he already has hanging on the wall.  It's ironic that the biggest deer I have ever seen in the wild was about 15 years ago.  Back then I would often fish the fall trolling bite on Mille Lacs till midnight or 1:00 in the morning.  One night arriving home around 2:00AM I turned on my big halogen lights in the back of my house only to see a huge 10 point buck with an even larger 12 pointer right behind it.  Oh well.

I shoot a Remington Model 6, 30-06 pump action rifle.  My first deer hunting rifle was a sporterized 30-06 military gun with a simple 4X scope, it must have weighed at least 10 pounds.  I bought it from my boss at the time for a whooping $75.  Although extremely accurate, it was a bear to carry around and I needed to look for something more practical.  Lee's Taxidermy in Prescott Wisconsin was probably the best place at that time to buy a gun, something I soon found out.  Having only $350, I was determined to get a simple Remington 760 pump, a sling with hardware, some shells and a case.  The owner suggested I get the Model 6 instead, it was a fancier, nicer gun with a Monti Carlo stock, special checkering, and a unique cartridge end mounted in the receiver.  Stating I didn't have enough money for the gun but he must have either felt sorry for me or really wanted to get rid of that gun.  The price was $340 for the rifle, $15 for the sling, $10 for the mounting hardware, $365 + another $17 for tax.  Having only $350, he told me to take the gun and pay me later if I could.  As I left a pretty happy new gun owner he yelled out "Hey, you better sight that gun in" and handed me a box of shells to boot.  I ended up buying a scope from my good friend, the late Pat Holmes.  His company was the rep for the company that made all of the 1 inch aluminum scope tubes for Burris.  He got a super deal and I was in business.  4 years ago I was sighting my gun in and the first shot was 6 inches high, 4 to the left.  After adjusting and shooting another round it was now 6 inches low and 4 inches to the right!  I adjusted it back to where it was and the third and fourth shot was a bulls eye.  The next year a deer came by my stand, one that Jack had hit in the leg.  It took me 6 rounds to finally I finally put the deer down.  Knowing something was amiss and because the scope had a lifetime warranty I sent it back to Burris.  A couple weeks later they called stating the springs were weak causing the scope to be off, they could not fix it, the model was obsolete, and they would offer me 75% off any scope in their lineup.  Because most of my shots are under 50 yards I took their 1.5x - 6x model, quite a bargain at $200.  After carefully mounting the scope I bought some Federal Premium 165 grain Sierra Boat Tail bullets to sight it in.  Man, I had trouble as they were all over the target.  10 years earlier a worker at our plant loaded me a bunch of shells that were dead one, 2 inch patterns.  Talking to my in house gun expert Brett Jelkin, he believed that the factory loads were not ideal and he would load me up some shells to try.  He set the bullets a little further out so there wasn't as much "jump" when the bullet hits the beginning of the barrel and did it ever make a difference.  My first 3 rounds yielded a group at 1 1/2 inches, pretty impressive.  Brett does an excellent job as his shooting knowledge is second to none.  He even sent me this ballistics chart with the solid bold line being my loads while the dotted lower line is a standard factory load.    Although I was definitely ready, I never did get a chance to put it too the real test.  The good news is that everything will be ready to go next year. 

This morning it was 10 degrees and the small potholes and swamps were froze over. My guess is the surface temperature on Mille Lacs has to be in the high 30's.  Hard water can't be far behind.  My friend Keith is back from his summer in Alaska and I am determined to meet up with him a couple of times out on the ice.  In the meantime my neighbors boy, Ryan Przymus stopped by with a couple beautiful pictures of a 17.5 and a 15.5 inch crappies he got in Nonyhoa Lake.  When I asked him where that was he said.........Non yhoa business!  He promised he'd take me there and I am looking forward to it.  He also promised to send pictures however I am still waiting and will post them when they show up.  Those were impressive to say the least.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deer Hunting Family Style

The 2011 Deer Hunting season so far has been just that, hunting.   Having strategically located my stand in a “can’t lose” spot, Saturday morning Jack and I were greeted with nothing less than gale force winds, sometimes gusting to 35 miles per hour.  The swamp I was in did not have the big 16 to 20 inch diameter poplar trees of Rich’s place so I had to settle for something less sturdy and as I found out, more susceptible to the whims of the near hurricane.  The fact that my stand is 20 feet tall to the chair added another aspect of excitement to a rather unsuccessful opener.  There were times that I swear the only thing holding that tree up was the ladder portion of my stand.  I always wear my harness just in case the unfortunate event would see me falling out of the stand, I’d be saved.  As the wind increased my thoughts ventured to whether or not it was a good idea as if the tree went down I would be securely tethered like a flag to a flag pole.  Apparently I survived.  The greatest thing about deer hunting with Jack is all the great people we meet.  What impresses me the most is how they have involved their entire families into this great tradition.  Friday night was spent at Rich’s place, having our traditional steak feed and reacquainting ourselves with those we spent the hunt with last year.  There was no shortage of young hunters as Brett’s son (featured last year), his friend Brennen, Chris with his 3 super smart boys, Kevin, his dad Eugene and his boy Austin long with Ken.  I love to engage the kids on the ways of the world as we shot a few rounds out of my pistol and spent the night arguing which gun was the best for deer.  Unfortunately I did not get a picture of our group this time, something I regret.  I did however snap this picture of our hunting host for this year, Loren Tolama and his fine bunch of children and grandchildren.  Sunday’s wind was an exact repeat of Saturday’s weather and during the afternoon the Tomala's called and said were coming over to see how we were doing………….. 3 truck loads! Loren is the guy on the right side of the picture and is the big kahuna of this bunch of dedicated deer hunters.   On the far right is Nathan Tomala, a senior at Pierz High School who is playing this week for a chance to go to the Minnesota State Football Tournament.  In between is his parents, uncles, and 4 of the most interesting young hunters I have ever met.  They spent an hour with Jack, Ben and I discussing everything that is important in life like deer hunting, football, and whatever makes the kids smile.  A couple of weeks ago Loren took Ben in the John Deere combine to pick corn while letting me get on the old Farmall M and pull the gravity box over to the edge of the corn.  I think I could have stayed there all day.  If you measured wealth not by money but by family, the Tomala's are definitely one the "richest" families I know. 

So what does deer camp look like?  Well, Loren suggested we pull Jack's wheel house (pictured above) onto the property to make sure we have an official headquarters to base ourselves out of.  It was kind of nice to have a place to get our hunting clothes on, cut up some lunch, and have a place to unwind for a few minutes before heading back to Jack's cabin.  It worked out really well as we cooked some locally made wild rice sausage for lunch on Sunday, pretty good if you ask me.  When I first started deer hunting in Minnesota, it was with my friend Mark Taylor, Jack Taylor, Mark's brother-in-law Tim Guzek, and myself.  We would leave Minneapolis right after work on the Thursday before opening day and drive to Roseau, MN to hunt with Dale Larsen, a guy that I worked with who was from that area.  Roseau is home to Polaris Industries and is located 10 miles from the Canadian border.  We probably started going in 1980 and would take "Old Blue", an older powder blue van that Jack and Mark's dad Earl had.  We would throw a love seat and chair in the back then loaded her with our favorite refreshments as it was about a 6 hour drive.  Arriving around midnight at the Evergreen Motel, they'd leave the room door open for us so we would not have to wake them.  Back them we had little money so 4 of us crammed in a single room with 2 queen size beds.  At about $20 a night, if we split it our cost per guy was $20, a bargain!  Those were the days for sure.   Well, Mark hasn't hunted with us in a number of years so we thought we'd send him a picture that might convince him to come and spend the weekend with us.  The last picture is our proposition, a couple of chairs, a bottle of "Easy Jesus" (E & J Brandy) and a plastic red cup already mixed for him.  I did e-mail it to Mark but like a lot of us, sometimes as we get older we simply have more excuses why we don't try to enjoy life as much as we once did.   Maybe next year.  I am planning to go up for a day this weekend and see if I can still bag a deer if possible.  The weather is suppose to be nice as last weekend the deer simply would not move with that wind.  Wish me luck! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Deer Hunting Weekend

This weekend is the start of Minnesota's deer hunting season.  My friend Jack and I have been hunting the last 8 years just south of Jack's cabin, 12 miles west of Onamia, MN.  Now that our friend Rich has passed away and the land is up for sale, we have scouted out a few areas however Jack's neighbor at the lake was kind enough to give us permission to hunt his 80 acres.  Last weekend Jack and I set up our stands on the new property.  I am back in the middle of a small swamp but luckily it is pretty dry and should not present any issues like my old stand at Rich's.  The weather this week should be nice but windy.  Unfortunately the deer tend to sit tight when the wind blows so we'll have to see.  A few years back I bought a new ladder stand and is what I use today.    At my age it's considerably easier to climb the ladder and sort of set myself into the seat rather than having to strap a stick ladder, hang a stand by a T-nut and ratchet strap, get it all aligned so I don't slip getting into it, then hope like heck I didn't fall asleep!  We are still getting together with our hunting group for our Friday night steak feed, something Rich always enjoyed.  Another interesting aspect of hunting the new land, the neighbor has trail cam pictures of a couple of cougars walking around the area.  You can be assured my gun will be loaded when I walk in.

I am way behind in posting pictures my friends have sent me so I will include one of my friend Matt Taylor and his girlfriend Christina.  Matt called me earlier this year and asked for advise on planning a trip to Alaska.  Having been there a number of times I was able to help Matt put together a nice experience.  They took my advise and did a combo out of Seward.   I am pretty sure they headed to Montague Island, a popular halibut spot, got their limit then went for silvers on the way back.  Matt said they had a blast and caught tons of fish including these two beautiful silver salmon.  If you look close, the silver Christina is holding has some pretty big marks on the side, more than likely cause by a salmon shark that prey on these fish.   I really enjoy sharing my experiences and advise with my friends, especially when things turn out well. 

Off to deer camp, hopefully da thurty pointer will be in my sights on Saturday morning!