Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Mille Lacs Ice, as far as one can see!
Another Thanksgiving is upon us, this year arrived much quicker than the last one.  I guess having spent a Saturday afternoon in the emergency room give one a lot of time to think about the things that we are thankful for.  Good health is right on the top of that list!  It's been interesting since the neurologist gave me a clean bill of health with the simple suggestion to take a full aspirin each day, my bouts of short lived dizziness have all but disappeared.  Lasting between 10 seconds and a minute, it was a common once a day occurrence but now it's been over a week.  Maybe it's just all in my head!  The other thing to be thankful for is early ice.  Every year we are subjected to different conditions, the earliest I have been safely ice fishing was November 17th while in the late 1990's we were still fishing from the boat on Mille Lacs, all the way to December 6th.  I still remember how we hammered the walleyes on the north end of the lake fishing the sand drop off with nightcrawlers, quite the experience.  On Saturday my wife and I drove to the Onamia VFW to help celebrate a friends 50th wedding anniversary and spend time with our friends Bill and Kathy.  On the way home, just past Chico's Place the car thermometer hit -1 below zero and it's been cold every night since.  Even this morning I had 2 degrees above with one exception, the wind was calm.  With the last 4 days of big winds, even with the low temperatures the wave action delays the freeze, especially on a big body of water like Mille Lacs.  Well, last night she tightened up as the picture shows ice as far as one can see.  I have heard of 4 inches in the bays were the water has been calmer the last few days but fully expect that by Sunday there should be walkable ice on the pond.  The weekend plans are to head up to the deer hunting camp and remove my ladder stand.  With this cold weather the swamp will be frozen making it much easier to drive the ATV back into the woods to haul it out as it's quite heavy and bulky.  That should leave some room to hit a local lake on Sunday with the hopes of getting some panfish.  I have all the gear ready, it's just a matter of getting out.  I did buy a Thorne Brothers custom panfish rod at the Ice Fishing Expo a few weeks ago, coupled with the new Clam inline reel and 3# Sufix orange Ice Line it looks like it should work very well.  Hopefully I'll have a report early next week.

They just can't leave them alone!
So what's not to be thankful, well how about the assault on my trees by the local whitetail bucks needing to scratch their horns.  Our house is situated on 5 acres of land, just a lot off the Mississippi River.  Ever since the day we moved in the deer find the garden, the apples, and the trees are fair game in there quest to be deer.  Over the years I have lost a number of trees to these antler rubs, enough to think that I would know better than to leave the bark uncovered.  The problem seemed to go away during the last few years so one forgets.  Hopefully this tree will make it as the scrape is only on one side and does not encircle the entire tree.  Either way it will show some damage and maybe 10 years from now that damage will have weakened it enough to blow down in a good storm.  Wherever the outcome, I'd still would have liked to see the deer that did this and maybe need to find my trail cam and take some pictures.  When I first moved in we saw big bucks all the time however they seem to be more nocturnal these days.  With the ground frozen and a wetter than normal fall, the garden cleanup will just have to wait till spring.  Most of the leaves are finally off the tree yet it's too cold to chop them up with the mower, that will have to wait for spring as well.  I finally removed the mower deck from the John Deere and installed my snow blower, hopefully we won't have to use it for a while.  The chains and back blade are on the Ferguson as that's ready to go for the winter season.  With a few odds and ends to wrap up, I think we are set for the winter.  I'd still like to make some vension sausage with the trimmings from the early November deer hunting success, maybe a good snowstorm project.  I am also planning on trying to fish more with my friend Kevin and brother Steve.  They seem to always do well with the big sunfish as one has to travel a couple of hours anyway to find them, I might as well join them.

Mark Applen and I are already planning the annual "go somewhere and ice fish" trip that happens between Christmas and New Years.  With the success we experienced at Upper Red Lake, it's on the top of the list for this year.  Last year's trip was hampered by late ice as we were one of the first houses out to the offshore hump a number of miles from shore.  I think this contributed to our fantastic fishing we had however this year with the early cold weather, I'm sure the fish patterns will be well established before we get there.  The nice thing about fishing Upper Red Lake is if in fact the fishing isn't that good you are only an hour from Lake of the Woods or Winnibigoshish, which can also be fabulous fishing.  I am in San Antonio next week and hope to have something written by the time I leave.  The Packers play on Thanksgiving and let's hope they do better than their performance against the Vikings last Sunday, it was pretty pitiful from a Cheesehead's perspective.  Have a great Thanksgiving and if your ice fishing, be safe as that water is pretty cold.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interesting Weekend

An "Unremarkable" Brain!
So it was an interesting weekend, one spent not doing what I originally intended of helping Jack on the last day of deer hunting, rather sitting at Mercy Hospital while getting my head literally examined.  Now I am sure that some of my friends would attest to the fact that this should have happened years ago but never the less by 7:30 on Saturday I was told to go home and relax.  Because it was 50 degrees on Saturday the plan was to work in the shed, getting the boat tucked away for the winter, moving the snow blower out, gathering all my ice fishing stuff and putting it front and center.  Getting a good start by 1:30 in the afternoon I was on a pretty good roll when I began to lose feeling on my left side lasting about 20 seconds and felt like when your leg goes to sleep then starts waking up, that feeling like pins and needles abound.  Hummm this isn't good!  At 58 years old and recent discussions about my friends mom having a stroke I immediately locked up everything and went to the emergency room.  Although I actually felt pretty good when I arrived, after describing my concerns they issued a CODE 3 STROKE and I was whisked away faster than Alex Baldwin's show was cancelled.  An IV went in immediately as 3 nurses worked on checking out my vitals, which were now normal.  Cancelling the Code 3 almost as soon as they issued it I was still in for some tests before anything else would happen.  Emergency room protocol meant that I would get the heart ultrasound and brain MRI when they could fit it in.   I've had both before and somehow knew the heart scan would show nothing.  My surgery in 2010 pretty well fixed any issue with the ticker and was more interested in the MRI.  By 6:00 I was in the MRI machine, thank God I'm not too claustrophobic yet toward the end of the 20 minute procedure it was getting tense.  With nothing to report, I was allowed to leave and had an appointment with a neurologist on Tuesday.  Keeping that appointment the first thing I learned was the MRI showed my brain "unremarkable".  Wow, I never knew!  I guess it's a term meaning that there is nothing evident to remark about, go figure.  In fact the doc complimented my on my brain's lack of little white benign spots, apparently guys my age often have many of these as opposed to my single one.  In the end it was determined I had Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), a very temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain either cause by a clot that disappeared quickly or a blood vessel collapsed for a split second.  Either way I have no evidence of anything wrong, no treatment recommended, the usual watch the blood pressure and cholesterol, and there's no need to follow up.  Well, at least now I know as it one can't help think it could have been a lot worse.  What was amazing is the compliments I got from the staff citing that most guys would have not taken the time to got through this rather simply tough it out.  We are a stubborn bunch, ya know.

Kevin's Successful Archery Hunt
So, instead of going north to help my friend Jack finish off the 2013 deer hunting season, I decided to play it safe and stick around home for the day.  It worked out for the best as it gave me a chance to rearrange the pole shed and put the summer toys away for their long winter's sleep.  One thing that's a staple for winter storage is making sure anything with a battery in it has a battery tender attached.  A battery tender does just that, tends to your batteries by first assuring that it is fully charge before going into a maintenance mode which holds the battery voltage at 13.2 volts.  At this voltage the battery stays charged but will not loose water and most have a high frequency component to them which helps prevent sulfation of the battery plates caused by holding them in a single polarity for too long.  At around $30.00 each they are a bargain.  One thing nice is my boat has a built in 3 bank charger and does the same thing, keep the batteries optimally charged and maintained as long as you keep it plugged in.  The only time my boat is unplugged is when I'm using it.  With Saturday's high expected to be only 18 degrees and the cold weather continuing into next week can only mean ice fishing is close at hand.  Sunday gave me the opportunity to put my new Clam Scout TC, a single man portable, together.  When fishing panfish and the weather is nice, I prefer to go lighter than dragging all of my heavier stuff out on the ice.  I have to give another plug for D-Rock, a Strikemaster Service Center in New Brighton, MN.  As I explained last week, the did a fabulous job on my Strikemaster Lazer so I left my old and seemingly wore out Jiffy.   I'm sure it hasen't run in at least 9 years.......have at it boys and call me if it's junk.  4 days later it's running like new and the bill is $63.36.  You can't beat that for sure as I now have both augers ready to go.  The nice thing is the Jiffy has a heavy duty transmission and can drive an earth bit, which I have. 

So, with the Packer's having 3 losses in a row, Sunday is with the Vikes and I'm sure it's going to be interesting, especially if the Purple win.  Thanksgiving is next week, San Antonio the week after, hopefully there will be some room to drill a few holes.  Either way, it's nice to end the week knowing that going forward I should have a few years left in me!  I'll leave you with a picture of a nice 8 pointer my friend Kevin harvested a few weeks ago.  Maybe some day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Deer Hunting

Sunday Morning's View From My Stand.
 Early November means one thing in Minnesota, Deer Hunting season.  Admittedly each year that passes it gets a little harder to trudge out to through the swamp yet it's something that once you stop you might never start again.  After moving from Eleva, Wisconsin to Osseo, Minnesota it took a few years of adjustment to get into the swing of things.  It was easy the first year to head back home and hunt however after meeting my first friend, Mark Taylor I started my Minnesota Deer Hunting tradition with Mark, his brother Jack, his brother-in-law Tim Guzek, and lead by Dale Larsen.  Dale was a co-worker of mine who grew up in Roseau, MN.  Dale was going back  home to hunt so we talked him into "guiding" us what started as our own Minnesota Deer Hunting tradition.  Those first days were pretty interesting.  We hunted in the Beltrami State Forest, 30 miles SE of Roseau, one of Dale's traditional places he went with his father.  Our first trip found us staying at the Evergreen Motel in Roseau, $22.50/night for a room with 2 full size beds.  With 4 of us staying in that room it cost us about $17.25 for each of us for the 3 nights.  Our mode of transportation was "Ol'Blue" a late 1960's vintage powder blue Chevrolet panel van, complete with a couch, carpeting, and all the comforts (and refreshments) for the 6 hour drive to Roseau.  Leaving in the morning, we'd get there about 1:00 in the afternoon, enough time to check out our hunting area, get back to Roseau for a few drinks before getting up at 4:30 to drive back out to the woods.  We always planned one meal at Dale Larsen's mother's house, something she really enjoyed as it was just like those hunting days of years ago when Dale's father and all the relatives came around for the hunt.  Saturday night was always celebrated at the Roseau VFW, the town's best restaurant.  Hunting till Monday morning, we'd drive back to the Twin Cities that afternoon.  I really like those days of hunting as we had almost unlimited areas to hunt, there seemed to be a lot of deer around, and half the fun was the 12 hours we spent on the road.  Eventually our income allowed us to move up as we rented 2 separate rooms so each one of us could have our own bed.  Luckily the 2 corner rooms were connected making it seem as one big place.  Eventually Dale stopped hunting so we teamed up with our friends Mark Mayerich and the Ullom boys who were hunting just southwest of Beltrami Forest near the small town of Skime, Minnesota.  Nothing more than a country store with a couple of gas pumps and some rental cabins, we hunted that area until a gentlemen bought a significant amount of the acreage we hunted and along with the locals basically ran us off.  Things were changing anyway as Tim Guzek had bought a cabin on Pelican Lake near Pequot Lakes, MN and we decided to hunt a little bit further south.  Although the hunting areas had much more hunters, there were still deer to be had.  I have tons of deer hunting stories, so much and so little time.  I have yet to miss one season since that first trip 35 years ago however today it's only Jack and I left.  We still have fun but it's nothing like the those first years of hunting, the best of times for sure.

Trenton in his stand.
As we have for the last 10 years, this year was back at our dear friend Rich Allen's place soon the be Brett's place.  It's still fairly wet yet passible as I returned to my traditional stand location on the small peninsula of large poplar trees that extend into the swamp.  Hunting with me was Trenton, Brett's son who was sitting in the stand right at the point.  A nice 8 pointer was shot off that stand last year so it has some great potential. Trenton is a great kid and proved to be a trooper as he stayed on stand all day, both Saturday and Sunday.  Although I couldn't see him from my stand, it was good to have someone nearby in case I needed help.  Saturday was opening day as we were greeted with 20 mph winds, low overcast clouds, with a touch of snow falling off and on all day.  The air temperature wasn't too bad but the wind pretty much put any damper on deer movement for the day.  Sunday was quite a bit better as around 4:00 in the morning the wind died, the clouds disappeared and the temperature was still reasonable.  I do enjoy sitting in  my stand most of the day, maybe getting down for a simple stretch, a little walk to get the blood circulating again.  I had dragged my large tub sled out to the stand as I typically use hip boots for walking then carry out my bibs and cold weather boots, changing before I climb 18 feet up into my stand.  The tube comes in handy if I do happen to get a deer, I have something to drag it out through the swamp.  About 11:00 on Sunday morning I had exhausted all of my remaining food stashes, was somewhat bored with the wait so I brought my HDS 12 Touch Manual with me, a great place to get familiar with it while I waited.  Hearing something I looked down and a small doe had walked within 30 feet of the stand.  Deciding this might be my only chance I grab the rifle as the manual dropped out of my lap and hit the bottom of the stand.  Damn, that wasn't good!  Well the deer was dumber than I was and ended up hanging from the garage.  I'm one of those guys that the averages tie into the success rate in Minnesota for deer hunting, about 34%.  I seem to bag a deer every 3rd year and this year marked 2 years since I had bagged one.  The deer wasn't very big but it did remind me of the time Mark Mayerich had shot a very small deer in Roseau.  After registering it he asked the guy what to do with it (referring to the tag) to which the guy a loaf of bread and make a sandwich!  That was still pretty funny.  Helping my neighbor Pete, he has allowed me to bring my deer over to his heated garage for a comfortable place to butcher it.  With 10 degrees on Tuesday morning, it was a lot better than doing it in my shed.  I did take a picture of the deer hanging in his garage, I'm not telling which one was mine but I'm sure you can guess!

Vension to be cut up.
With lows of 10 degrees, the ice is not far behind.  The Champlin pond has skimmed over and the ground is starting to freeze.  The weekend is supposed to warm backup into the 50's, maybe a reprieve allowing enough time to finish the last of the yard work before it gets to late.  I got a feeling Saturday is going to be crazy.  The mower deck needs to come off the lawn tractor and the snow blower needs to be mounted.  The boat has to be moved back for the winter and the snowmobiles brought forward.  I have a Strikemaster Laser Power Auger in a 9 inch model and was beginning to start hard, even after I put a new gas tank on last year.  I decided to bring it into D-Rock in New Brighton, an authorized Strikemaster service center.  While driving up hunting they called me to let me know it was ready and the bill was $66.  I asked if they did anything as nobody does work for that kind of money these days.  Sure enough, I picked it up on Monday as they installed a new carburetor kit, new spark plug, cleaned it thoroughly, and reassemble like new all for $66.  If I knew it was going to be that cheap I wouldn't have waited so long.  Dropping off my 30 year old Jiffy auger, we'll see how they do with that.   My plan is to go back up for a day to hunt with Jack, maybe on Sunday, trying to help him get a deer. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knocking at the Door

Waking up to snow!
Well, I wook up this morning to a fresh layer of snow, the first accumulations of the year.  As I stated last week, in 1991 we had 31 inches by the time it ended on November 1st, so this morning's 2 inches on the ground is pretty uneventful in the grand scheme of things.  It does represent the progression of winter and early snow hopefully means early ice, as I am anxious to get out.  One thing that is different this year is that even after a week, the leaves are stubbornly still on the trees.  I did get out on Saturday to put my tree stand up for this weekend.  We are still hunting on Rich Allen's place near my friend Jack's cabin, west of Onamia, MN.  Rich passed away a number of years ago and we sure do miss him.  Our tradition is to serve a steak dinner at his place on Friday night, a time now dedicated to reflect on our friend, his generosity, and how he enjoyed life.  You can be sure there will be a few toasts to Rich, a few stories, some deer hunting strategies discussed, and the general camaraderie I enjoy so much.  I'm not sure we'll solve anything but it is certain to be a good time.  Hopefully that big buck will walk by my stand, if it doesn't well, no big deal!
Record of jig fishing off 7 mile Flat
Digging around the office I ran across an old section of graph paper from my Lowrance X15B.  A state of the art fishing tool, it had a stylet on a belt that would pass across thermally sensitive paper and burn the image of what was under the boat via the transducer.  A precursor to today's super sharp color LCD/LED screens, it still provided images in detail that is still not available today, although admittedly they are pretty good!  The problem was that the thermal paper cost between $4 and $6 per roll, and if you ran it at the right speed, could last for over 6 hours.  Compared to what a dozen shiners cost, it really wasn't that much and gave a nice printed record of the days fishing.  I used to buy paper at a dozen rolls at a time and would probably go through 12 - 15 rolls a year as I never ran it while traveling from on spot to another.  The first picture is a shot of a jig I was working on the bottom off the edge of 7 Mile Flat in the middle of Mille Lacs Lake.  Graphs were super sensitive and you can see the jig fall almost from the surface to the bottom, watch it bounce off the bottom, and observe the fish come up and look at the jig as it rises off the bottom.  In the middle is a suspended fish, all of these were more than likely tulibee's as they inhabit the deep areas of the lake, just off the flats and throughout the deeper basin.  As a side note, I have never caught one during the summer yet if the water temperature gets over 75 one starts seeing them floating on the surface, a victim of the warmer water as Mille Lacs is about a south as their range goes.  On the other hand ice fishing can be very good because they are a cold water fish and seem to be quite active under the ice.
The day the wind came up.
The next picture is taken a few hours later as the wind abruptly came up and blew exceptionally hard.  Although I can never be sure, I believe this segment of the recorded events shows a wave that is 5 feet from peak to trough, the largest wave that I have ever experienced at Mille Lacs.  Granted, one night while fishing with my friends Eric Hayes and John Delestry, those waves were insane, yet nothing records better than the old paper graphs and the paper doesn't lie.  Another significance to this picture was my passengers for the day, Tom Emmons and Tom McAtee.  Although Mr. Emmons is no longer with us, I can still remember after riding this rather large wave I stopped the boat to put on my life vest.  Of course back then we were all invincible yet this one did shake me a bit.  Tom never forgot and through the years used this event to make fun of my vulnerabilities.  I wish he was still here to give me some crap!   Today I wear my inflatable vest 100% of the time as I've gotten quite a bit smarter than I was 20 years ago.  Funny, I still have the graph and if paper was available, I'd love to hook it up and make some recordings of the bottom readings.  The reality is the new HDS 12 has and extra SD card slot and one can simple insert any SD card and record the events of the day from the HDS's perspective.  Still unrolling the exposed graph paper kind of made one feel you just got back from a secret mission and were reviewing the findings.  Times have changed for sure.
Lory and I just finished up our last cider making day exceeding more than 40 gallons pressed this year.  I still have about 13 boxes of apples but with the cold weather, we are done.  Making wine, giving it to the neighbors who stopped by to help, freezing a bunch, we are all set for the rest of the year.  It looks like the garden tilling will have to wait till spring, I nailed my 6th pocket gopher this week, and the next week will be a push to get everything set for the winter, no small task.