Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deer Hunting Time

Left X = new spot, Right X = old spot
Saturday marks the beginning of the Minnesota Whitetail Deer hunting season.  It's always a struggle when you do not belong to an organized group as the guys I hunted with have long since scattered with the exception of my good friend Jack Taylor.  He and I have persevered for the last 10 years when we finally found a home on Rich Allen's 160 acres, south of Jack's cabin on Platte Lake, MN.  Platte Lake is about 10 miles west of Lake Mille Lacs and with his cabin, it offers a great place to base our hunting from.   Our good friend Rich died a couple of years ago leaving our hunting paradise in jeopardy.   We last hunted his place in 2010, I did shoot a nice tender yearling buck, yet 2011 brought uncertainty as we found another area that had promise.  Although Rich's land did not sell, in honor of our good friend I did host our deer hunting steak feed at Rich's house.  Our conflict on where to hunt didn't help anything as last year's hunt was less than successful but at least we got out.  Well this year Rich's land is still available and his nephew Brett has insisted we come back.  With the dry summer to our surprise the swamp is quite manageable, why not!  Brett had invited a few others so this year I decided to move west a bit as Brett has the area east of me covered pretty well.  As the picture shows, my previous stand was in an island of large Poplar trees surrounded by swamp, the X on the right.   There is a nice trail that runs through the small strip of swamp grass and into a grove of large tamarack trees.  Deciding that my old stand is somewhat cutoff I moved it west into the tamaracks where several trails intersect.  It puts me at least 300 yards away from anyone, well hidden, maybe that giant buck will finally walk by.  Having never shot any buck over 6 points and 12 inches, I would like to get a nice one before I leave this world, this could be the year.  Our steak feed will continue in Rich's memory and with a little luck I will have a great report for you next week.

Matt's Colorado 5 x 6 bull elk
People continue to send in their hunting pictures or should I say "trophies" to me, most worthy of the associated bragging rights!  Today I am in Colorado visiting customers while traveling with one of my coworkers, Brett Jelkin.  Brett is a great hunter yet after 17 years of living near Ft. Collins, he has yet to figure out where to bag a trophy elk.  It can take a lifetime of learning along with just the right conditions to get that 6 x 6 everyone is looking for.  Of course you can do what my friend Big Dave Pedersen did, pay someone a good chunk of money, yet that seems so wrong when you live right here in elk country.  Driving up from Pueblo this afternoon one of our associates, Matt e-mailed us a picture of his 5 x 6 elk he had shot earlier this month.   Hunting in the southwestern area of Colorado known for their big elk Matt scored big with a nice bull.   I haven't got the full story on the hunt however I am looking forward to hearing the details for sure.  When did you shoot it, did you call it in, how far back were you, are you having the head mounted, is it your first big bull?  I'd love to put one of these on my bucket list, maybe sooner than later for sure.  Whatever the story it's a great picture and maybe I can hustle some meat out of him!

HDS10 Gen 2
For me this is transition time.  We actually had pretty good weather up to a week ago but as things go it has turned much cooler.  It seems like it only takes a week to go from 60 degree days to 40 degree days.  With night time temperatures in the mid 20's the small swamps and ponds often have a skim of ice on them in the morning.  Safe ice cannot be too far behind as the forecast shows no significant warm up in the next couple of weeks.  It was still nice enough to get the oil and lower unit grease changed in my 115 Suzuki this week.  I was very surprised how clean both oil and lower unit gear lube looked.   In my lower unit I have started using Amsoil 100% synthetic Marine Gear Lube and after 3 years it still looked like new yet it was time to replace.  At the same time I traded my 2 year old Lowrance HDS10 for a slightly used HDS10 Gen 2 unit.  Lowrance's new technology using faster microprocessor is supposed to make it significantly faster, something I have already concurred, what a difference and I can't wait to try it out in the water.  Along with changing oil, I trapped a couple of pocket gophers trying to make my yard their winter hibernation home.  My neighbor Otto has a really smart one as it's alluded my traps for almost a week know.  I still think he's coaching these little pests! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making Sense

2012 Mille Lacs fall census results
 Last weeks post lamented the fact that my recent outing on Mille Lacs produced not so much as a single fish, not even a rock bass.  While there has been spotty reports of guys doing fairly well on the north side of the lake, I haven't spent the time to figure out what the exact pattern the fish are responding to.  For the most part, it isn't that necessary.  Over the years I've figured out the fall trolling bite, where the fish have traditionally been, as well as adapting to some of the changes that Mille Lacs has thrown out there.  It also involves new techniques like lead core trolling, looking in areas that may have been hot 15 years ago but is no longer the go to spot, trying new baits including those that you might have forgotten.   I am not a guy that measures success by the number of fish caught rather whether or not I figured out where the fish were, what they were biting on, and did I have a good time.  It has not been that unusual for me to drive up for the evening bite, spend 5 hours on some key areas, catch a few fish, and head home.  Honestly, it's not that hard in October.  On Monday the Minnesota DNR released their report on the fall netting census they do every year to assess the health of the walleye population on Mille Lacs and the news certainly gave an excuse for my lack luster performance last week.  As you can see by the graph, test nets set out in September were the lowest catch rates in 40 years.  Generally the black line represents more inshore, shallower locations and the red line represents nets set out into the deeper waters.  Each year they use this survey information to determine the "safe harvest" levels for the following year.  This year it was 500,000 pounds of walleyes with the estimate of 400,000 pounds taken by the Native Americans (80,000), sportsman (160,000), and release mortality (160,000).  One of the problems identified is that the spring netting targets too many male fish disrupting the normal spawning success.  I am not that smart and I try to remain politically neutral with my blog but if you see me and offer to buy a beer, you will certainly get an ear full!  Either way we are certainly in for some changes at Mille Lacs for the 2013 fishing season.

Two beautiful river walleyes
 Luckily there are guys out hammering the walleyes.  One of them is my friend Pete Mlinar, master guide on the upper Mississippi River.  Guiding under River Run Guide Service, Pete is by trade an accomplished electrician.  After the 2008/2009 economic downturn Pete packed up his truck, hooked up the boat and drove to Alaska seeking  work on the North Slope.  After spending 18 months working the oil fields, he's finally back and I have to admit, in fine form.  Pete is a master at fishing the river with redtails and chubs, the bigger the better.  I have fished smallies with him many times and I have to admit, we've done well.  Fall is his favorite time as he's a true river rat, fishing the Mississippi River from Brainerd to the Coon Rapids Dam.  Pete runs a River Pro Jet boat and can hit 45 mph in 3 inches of water.  With the river really low, he's probably the only guy that can get to these walleyes.  I can't tell you where he got these but I can assure you that anywhere on the river is probably good right now.  Maybe there's still time to get my jon boat out and hit a few of the deeper holes behind the house.  These walleyes are schooling up for the long winter, and with the water level at near record lows, it wouldn't be too hard to find a few that are hungry.  Along with this picture, he also sent me one of a nice 19 inch smallie.  All these fish are really fat and sassy.

So last weekend was occupied with taking wedding pictures for my friend, Mark Applen's daughter Jackie.  It was a frantic weekend as we first drove to New York Mills for the funeral of my friend, Lory Brasel's mother.  Back home by 5:00, at 6:00 we were at the Daytona Golf Course to take pictures of the wedding rehearsal.  Saturday was the big day as my wife and I snapped over 1500 pictures of the big event.  Sunday morning we were invited to a brunch in Rogers, MN to unwind from the previous days events.  Later on Sunday, and with the weather being perfect I loaded up my motorcycle with a new alternator for my tractor and delivered it to River Falls then returning before dark.  It was a nice day to ride, probably the last one of the year.  This weekend is deer hunting prep time as my friend Jack Taylor and I will set up our stands for the Deer Opener on November 3rd.  The year is flying by for sure!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trolling Empty Waters

Guido's first trip to Mille Lacs

With the end of October quickly approaching one has to take advantage of the good days left.  Tuesday was one of those days, 70 degrees, light winds, and a new moon.  Now, full moon fishing in the fall is all the rage on Mille Lacs however few if any pay attention to the new moon.  Both periods offer some mystical effect on fishing and if you have ever been to Alaska it would soon be obvious that the entire fishing schedules run around these moon cycles or tides.  It's important to understand the effect the moon has on our waters as it's gravitational pull, combined with the sun, regulates how much change is happening.  The moon gravity actually pulls the earth's waters towards it, causing it to bulge as the moon passes by.  As well,  our own Earth's rotation causes a secondary bulge at the opposite side of the world.   This causes the water to cycle high and low about twice a day (actually 12.42 hours between).   As well, the sun has the same effect however it's not as strong of influence, yet adds to the process.  So a full moon is the time when the sun is directly opposite the moon and is evident when the sun sets in the west the bright full moon is rising in the east.  In Alaska we know that the salmon run stronger on the highest high tides to conserve energy as they make their way up the rivers.  Here in Minnesota the effect on the water at high tide is minimal as even in a large lake such as Lake Superior, the change is only around 1 3/4 inch at the highest.  That doesn't preclude the theory that fish are affected and are more aggressive during this time.  Where the new moon fits is explained by the  fact that the sun and moon are lined up, therefore both having an additive effect on the water change, which in it's monthly cycle, causes the greatest effect on this change each month.  If you look at the left sidebar you will see 2 gadgets, one of the current moon phase and another that displays today's peak fishing times.  They are all intertwined by the changes which are caused by these cycles.  One factor that helps in a full moon is the additional light available after sunset, the walleyes are very sensitive to this, which gives them an advantage, yet in my opinion the gravitational pull has the greater effect.  Therefore the new moon, where the sun and moon are lined up to create the greatest effect should be pretty good fishing, right?

Another beautiful sunset from 3 Mile Reef

Well apparently not on Tuesday.  We have a gentlemen at work, Guido Viquez, who works as a manufacturing engineer.  From Costa Rica, he lives in Minnesota (Lord knows why!) with his family, was an aircraft mechanic in his prior life, and loves to fish.  He has been pushing me to take him fishing and it seemed like a great opportunity to take the afternoon off and head north.  In the past 3 Mile Reef has been my never fail, go to spot for years.  Located out in the main lake, surrounded by 30 feet of water, it is the ideal spot for late season walleyes, or at least it used to be.  Regardless of the fact that the last 5 years has not been very good on 3 Mile, it's always worth one attempt as last year my neighbor Tom and I had a very successful evening limiting out with 8 keeper walleyes.  Things have changed for sure as the water was crystal clear, enough to see invasion of the zebra mussels first hand.  I knew that they had taken over the reef however because of the water conditions, I had not been able to view the damage until now.  Wow, what used to be sharp rock surfaces, crevices, and large slabs have been transformed into a thick coating of zebra mussels and black looked like a waste land on the bottom.  It's been this way for a couple of seasons now and has it had an affect on the fishing, I really can't say.  All I know is we trolled past sundown with nothing to show for it.  I headed to Lakeside Reef thinking that the fish may have moved in closer to shore with the same success.  Lakeside Reef is actually pretty nice, has the right depths and is a constant producer of fish.  Maybe it's one of those days!  Either way Guido had a great time as it was his first time on Mille Lacs.  I reminded him that's why we call it fishing instead of catching, he laughed.  Trolling shad raps and rouges we probed from 4 - 12 feet and not even a rock bass.  We did get a few nice pictures of the sunset and it was a great time learning about Guido's country, Costa Rica, as he has offered to return the favor and take me fishing down there.  As you can see he was pretty bundled up so a trip south about March might be perfect!

This weekend my good friend Mark Applen's daughter, Jackie is getting married.  She asked if my wife and I would take her wedding pictures, something we have done in the past for others.  We are happy to do this as we will generally take about 700 - 800 photos then sort through them, coming up with about 500 good ones.  When we used film I'd simply give the exposed canisters to the bride and offer my thanks.  Today's digital camera's record everything, which requires them to be adjusted via Photo-shop or some other program.  It's a lot nicer but does take a bit more work.  I am sure Mark will reward me by going ice fishing later this year, maybe back to Lake of the Woods.  Time is running out as deer hunting is now only 2 weeks away.  This weekend might be the last warm one until next April so I might be a fool and head back to Mille Lacs Sunday night but I will check the reports first.  Bill and I also keep looking for a time to go trout fishing, maybe that will happen next week, we'll see!  My Ferguson tractor project is going well, I called the guy working on it and he has the engine back together and I expect it back soon.  I am very anxious to see how she runs.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hunting Success

Ben's 350 pound Northern Wisconsin black bear
 Dealing with Ron's passing and the abrupt change in temperature and wind put any fishing on hold for the last couple of weeks.  What's been interesting is the amount of hunting stories my friends have sent me in the last week, each one was impressive.  Because Ben sent this in first, I'll start with him.  Ben is my good friend Kevin Aiona's son.   Knowing him from birth, at the time he was the youngest person ever to set foot in my boat.  I remember when we were fishing the spring walleyes below the dam in Alma Wisconsin, Ben was about 3 years old and I had just gotten my 1985 Lund Pro Angler, complete with an actual functioning live well.  Having caught a number of fish, Ben had to go to the bathroom.  Rather than disrupt the entire trip, we opened the live well cover and continued fishing.  Today I still laugh about it as the Mississippi River wasn't much cleaner!  Ben has turned into quite a fisherman, hunter, and today owns Aiona Heating and Air Conditioning, a well respected company servicing the Eleva area.  I am sure he's finding that owning a business sometimes leaves little time to do those things that you enjoy however he has managed to get away now and then.  Having a bear tag in Wisconsin means work.  With the hunt-able population over an hour north of Eleva, one has to have contacts to help bait your stand as bears are almost impossible to hunt without.  Wisconsin also allows the use of dogs to hunt bear and if you are lucky enough to know someone, it can be quite successful.  Apparently Ben wasn't able to get anything to his bait but did get hooked up with a group that had dogs.  After tracking a nice one, Ben got the opportunity to bag this huge 350 pound black bear.  Every year someone might get one over 400 pounds but the average in Wisconsin for all bear taken is about 180 pounds.  He is having a shoulder mount done and I am excited to see it when he gets it back.  With duck hunting in full swing, archery deer approaching it's peak, you can be assured Ben will be in the field somewhere.

Big Dave's Wyoming 6 x 6 Elk Bull

Next is my good friend Big Dave Pedersen.  Also from Eleva,  he and his wife Mindy own Pac Basic, a packaging company in Eau Claire.  Like Ben, I have known Dave for a long time, his dad was Pastor Pete, who presided over Eleva Lutheran Church.  Dave is another great outdoorsman and is quite the fisherman and hunter.  One of my best Mille Lacs fall trip was with Dave, we left work one weekday afternoon in September and within a couple of hours casting Rattlin Rouges must have caught 15 walleyes including a couple over 28 inches. Dave often travels to Idaho with his friends to archery hunt elk with my uncle Jerry.  This year Big Dave did a fully guided trip into the Wind River area of Wyoming with 5 other guys.  After driving 18 hours the guides loaded up the horses, all 27 of them for the 8 1/2 hour trek 24 miles back into the high country.  There they would set up camp, hunting daily in the surrounding area.  Dave shot this magnificent 6 x 6 bull a couple of days into the hunt, a trophy for sure.  Once it was packed back to camp he spent the rest of the time helping others as well as fishing the mountain streams that were full of large rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout.  He claims that the fishing was excellent, worth going back just for that.  The total tally was 5 bull elk with the 6th guy passing on a nice one, looking for something bigger.  Dave has the cape and horns in storage, debating whether to do a full shoulder mount or a European style mount.  I think he should do the full mount!  Nice job Big Dave!

Brett's "goat"
 The third trophy comes from my friend Brett Jelkin, who is also an engineer in our Loveland Colorado facility.  Brett loves hunting as well as competitive shooting and probably puts more 10 times more lead through a barrel in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.  An avid deer hunter, Brett hunts both Colorado and in his home state of South Dakota, he also tries to get an elk every chance he gets.  To get a Pronghorn tag in Colorado is a waiting game.  You need to apply, accumulate preference points, hoping that one day you'll be one that is chosen.  This year was Brett's opportunity as it would be only the second tag in 14 years and as he would say......a goat tag for the Pawnee Grasslands, northeast of his home in Windsor, Colorado.  Brett took me prairie dog shooting in that area one year, something I had never done.  My longest kill measured 346 yards with his modified 243 caliber rifle.  It's an interesting place covered with scrub cactus and sagebrush.  Posting on a fence corner near a windmill and water tank it took about 45 minutes for this buck to show up.  Antelope are quite wary and he bagged this one as it was trotting away from him, a 165 yard clean shot.  Brett is probably the best shooter I know and will not take a shot unless he is 100% confident.  Of course it paid off with a nice 14.5" base to tip, 9" inside tip to tip, and 15" at the widest spread, maybe he doesn't think it's huge but I'm impressed!  He has promised me some antelope steaks and I'm going to hold him to it.

The weather is predicting the first real rain we have had since the first of August.  They are saying over an inch, we'll see but we sure need it.  Everything is popcorn dry and I am getting concerned about the amount of soil moisture for the tree's, assuring their survival over the winter.  The garden is hard as a rock and I doubt it would be much fun rototilling it.  My tractor is being fixed and hopefully it will be available before the ground freezes, I'd like to try the disc out on the garden.  The next 2 weekends are full with weddings and celebrations as I have volunteered to take pictures.  Hopefully I can squeeze a trip to Mille Lacs in there somewhere.  The water temperature should be perfect!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Loss for Words

2012 Team Walleye Captain, Ron Edberg
Over the 4 plus years of writing this blog I have lost a number of people that meant a lot to me, were close to me, and I miss each one of them dearly.  Uncle Keith, Brother-in-Law Mike, my dear friends Russ and Tom Emmons, my father.  With each one comes an explanation, I might not like it but I understand.  Uncle Keith and dad simply ran out of time, Mike contracted kidney cancer and fought a brave battle.  Russ had a weak heart (that's debatable), and my dear friend Tom Emmons could not shake a dead end depression.  Even my friend Dewey's loss of his friend Al who died in a tragic auto accident, one can rationalize as we know the risks associated with our lives.  We don't like it and we might ask why, yet we accept the circumstances as painful as it may be.  My friend Ron Edberg defies acceptance.  As my flight from Chicago landed I turned on the cell phone only to have it ring almost immediately.  It was my wife, "There's been a shooting and 394 is closed."  Assuring I don't go that way I dropped off Dwight and headed for home.  The radio news was full of speculation yet I was only paying attention to the high level.  Once home and unpacked I checked the Internet for the story when it hit me.  The shooting was at Accent Signage, 5 people were fatally shot, this is where Ron worked.  Checking the current pictures, police tape spanned across a black Ford pickup to the UPS truck parked at the dock.  The truck was Ron's.  Immediately calling Ron's cell, no one answered.  The next number was our friend Mark Mayerich, Ron's closest friend who had been monitoring the situation.  No, I haven't been able to reach him however knowing Ron, he's helping out.........yes, this sounded like Ron.  Neither of us wanted to admit the uneasy feeling we both had.  At 1:30 that night Mark called and confirmed the worst, Ron was one of those that didn't make it.  How do you understand when a employee after 14 years of employment, became despondent, put his employer in a no win situation, then decide to make it right by killing those that tried to help him.  I did not know the shooter, the excuse of mental illness is probably right, who on earth would resort to such a senseless and destructive outcome.  I have no answers.

My 23 years with Team Walleye, Ron's legacy
 Ron Edberg graced my life in the early 1980's while deer hunting with my friends Mark and Jack Taylor.  Mark was part of a ragtag group of friends including Ron Edberg, his cousin Gary Ullon, and brother-in-law Mark Mayerich.  Meeting in Skime Minnesota on opening deer hunting, I was initiated to the group via the ungrounded refrigerator that I opened while barefoot on a concrete floor!  Man, that hurt yet began our relationship that continued to last week.  The main focus of Ron and my relationship was through our annual Leech Lake Fishing Opener deemed Team Walleye.  This was Ron's masterpiece as he was an accomplished artist and graphic designer.  Along with working in the sign industry he was a genius at creating logo's, theme pieces, and everything associated with our annual trip.  During the mid 1980's I fished Mille Lacs on the Minnesota Fishing Opener yet by 1989 my friends from Wisconsin had all but abandoned me.  When Mark Taylor asked me to join them I jumped at the chance and have never missed since.  Getting to know Ron better meant being more involved with planning the big event every year.  Starting with the beer duty, I progressed to the minnow man securing the bait for the weekend, eventually being the Tournament Director planning the rules, prizes, and working with Ron on a number of things that needed to be done.  Ron worked all year on this as we all enjoyed the organization he brought to our group.  From magnetic signs, bumper stickers, certificates, log books for keeping track of fish, menu's, sleeping arrangements, it was all possible because of him.   Mark Mayerich and Ron started the DCS (Didn't Catch $hit) award a few years ago using an old clear toilet seat which had lures embedded into the plastic.  Unfortunately Ron was the first recipient of the now prestigious award and along with our Big Fish Trophy, his name will be forever etched in the nameplates.  Ron was always grateful to be part of what he loved.

Classic Ron!

We closed the final chapter in Ron Edberg's life on Tuesday night, over 500 people stopped by the funeral home including the Mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Ryback.  It was especially gracious for the family of Reuven Rahamim, whom was the owner of Accent Sign and also one of the 5 victims, to attend the service.  They had taken the time from their grieving process to show support and for most of us, an opportunity to meet the people on the other side of Ron's life.  He truly enjoyed his work and it was evident that they felt he was part of their family.  We will keep Team Walleye going, it will be our 40th year on Leech Lake without our leader.  There are big shoes to fill, expectations that will not be met, yet life goes on.  Life's is not about yesterday rather about the present.  At our industry meeting this spring a speaker talked about who we are.  It's not what people think and say about you after you are gone, it's what they think and say while your here.  There's comfort in knowing that all of his friends have expressed to Ron exactly what we still say today and forever, your a good man Ron Edberg!  If you are interested click on Kare 11 and check out the piece they did with Mark Mayerich and I as they were looking for something about Ron and his life and friends.  Also click on Minnesota Bound and watch the first segment of episode 622, it pretty well says it all.  I guess the only thing left to say is that we will miss you dearly and we will always love you.