Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Hole Fished

First Ice
Determined to get out on Saturday I lined up my neighbor Tom as we decided to try a lake north of Cambridge Minnesota called Lake Nunya.  With the below zero temperatures earlier in the week the ice had to be at least 4 inches, easily enough to walk out and drill some holes.  Saturday was very nice temperature wise, in the mid 30's so there wasn't a need to drag any houses out and simply fish out in the open.  Stopping at St. Francis we loaded up with crappie minnows and waxies as the latest 2013 test nets showed Lake Nunya being full of 10 - 12 inch crappies.  Arriving at the lake and using my cell phone Navionics map app showing the deepest part of the lake was about 1/2 mile walk across the ice so we took off.  There were a couple of guys on the ice which was a good sign, hopefully they were catching fish.  I had brought along my ice spud to test the thickness as we walked but it soon became apparent that the ice was quite solid, measuring around 5 - 6 inches. Arriving in the area we wanted to fish I noticed a guy had drilled a bunch of holes about 25 feet apart for a long ways across the basin.  Deciding it would be a lot easier to fish the ready drilled holes I walked up and first asked how's he doing then asked if he'd mind if I would fish his holes and his response, go ahead and have at it.  There must have been over 30 holes over a 1000 feet, I started fishing each one (hench forth my title for this week).  The lake is about 8 feet deep and because it's part of a small creek flowing into a larger river, there is plenty of oxygen to prevent any winter kills like we had last year.  Fishing from 2:00 to 5:00 I marked only a couple of fish that didn't stay on the screen long enough to even give the impression there was a chance to coax it to bite.  Having completely struck out, we headed back the half mile across the lake to the truck.  A quick stop at the Gander Mountain in Blaine forced me to buy a  Custom Jigs and Spins Pro Slender Spoon in the gold/sunrise claw pattern which looks like it would be a great color for Red Lake or Lake of the Woods.  I guess one can never have enough baits in your tackle box!  After putting my stuff away for the night ended up fixing the fuel leak in my tractor.  Being nice out I decided to take a spin around the neighborhood and ended up at Mike Claffey's place where I met 2 other friends Wade and Shaun Lind.  Telling of my fishing adventure of earlier in the day they were flabbergasted.  "You went to Lake Nunya, that's our lake?" to which my answer was nope...and what's Lake Nunya.  Wade says that it's what we call the lake when someone asks where'd ya catch them......Lake Nunya Business!

Slender spoon
It's interesting that the above picture of the lake looks alot like it was done in black and white.  Actually it was taken towards the end of the day and it was pretty gloomy out as the temperatures were in the upper 30's.  We had just tied a record for consecutive days below freezing for November at 12.  The early cold weather has made it interesting times for ice fishing as it's been a number of years since we have had walkable ice this early.  The further north you go the thicker the ice is yet it's still not enough for me to feel comfortable driving my ATV out.  Even at Red Lake there has been guys going through the ice on their machines.  The long weekend was looking like we might get up to Red Lake to haul up our wheel houses and try for some walleyes before the December 1st slots and possession limits change but that has fallen apart.  The nice thing about Red Lake early in the season is that one doesn't have to walk very far out to get to the first structure break and catch walleyes.  Russ was talking about going to Lake Winnibigoshish and I am waiting for a report from him to check out plan B.  Plan C is maybe head towards Alexandria and try to locate some nice bluegills or crappies. Everything is sort of up in the air and it may be Thursday night before I know exactly where I'll be fishing.  I am looking at possibly bring my ice house up to Red Lake on either December 13th or at the latest December 20th as long as my brother Steve can get away or my friend Keith Holtan can get off work.  It will more than likely depend on the weather as we have lots of plans but time does fly.  Decisions, Decisions..........  I guess the good news is that in years past we were not even getting out until after Christmas and in fact one year my friend Pete and I were hammering the walleyes on the north end of Mille Lacs through December 6th before the lake started to freeze.  Anyway, for anyone going out, just be careful!

Thanksgiving is Thursday and a time to give thanks to of families, friends, our health, and country. Getting older puts these things in greater perspective as one becomes more aware of the limited time we have to be thankful.  God Bless.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Second Week of Deer Camp

View From the Stand Late Saturday Afternoon
Well, we are done with deer hunting in Minnesota as Zone 2 ended on Sunday, November 15th.  It is still open for another weekend in Zone 1, just east of where I hunt yet mentally I have moved on to ice fishing.  I do like venison as well as the process of butchering it but this year was pretty cold and busy so not having to deal with it isn't the worst thing in the world.  Somewhat undecided as to what I was going to do last weekend for hunting, my mind was made up when Jack Taylor called and asked if I would bring his son Ben up with me.  That was a good enough excuse to leave a little early and hunt Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.  Ben was pretty excited as his mom was going to go up Friday night but decided to stay home, meaning he wasn't going.  Arriving at Jack's house by 11:30, we stopped at Cabela's to get some gloves and it was a good thing I had him along. Forgetting my reading glasses in the truck I needed Ben to tell me the prices of the items I was interested in.  With the cold weather upon us the goal was not to have cold hands on the stand. We arrived around 2:00, just in time to get the warm clothes on an head for Brett's.  He had earlier called to tell us the swamp had frozen over and getting back to my traditional spot would be easier.  Well it wasn't quite that way as the swamp had areas of standable ice yet it was still unfrozen under the snow.  Inching my way back was like walking a tightrope working hard to avoid the areas that weren't so thick, I managed to get a little wet yet stayed dry enough to get to a stand.  Saturday night was very nice as I took this picture from the stand.  There was some fresh tracks under the stand yet by 5:00 nothing had come by.  Not wanting to walk through the swamp in the dark, I headed back through the maze of solid ice, open water, and muck.  Unfortunately the trip back wasn't so forgiving as I broke through over my boot landing on a solid piece of ice.  Although I didn't get too wet, it was enough to rethink Sunday morning's hunting stand.  Not wanting to walk back out in the dark I chose a stand near the road, not to difficult to get in but not the ideal spot either.  Waking up at 5:30 I was in the stand by 6:15 and was it cold!  I lasted about 90 minutes before it was time to leave.  Packing up I headed back to Jacks cabin, enough of deer hunting for this year.  We did measure the ice in front of the cabin which sits on the east side of Platte Lake and found over 5 inches. Heading back in time to catch the Packer's play with the Philadelphia Eagles like a cat plays with a mouse!  My bet with Carl was a good one and I look forward to a trip to San Jose, CA to collect.

A Great Addition to the Tackle Box
Last Friday night Tom McAtee and I went to the Ice Fishing Show at the Blaine Sports Complex. One of the first of the year, there were a lot of new gimmicks and ideas to  mull around.  One of my favorite tools for cleaning fish is the Filet Claw, a great tool for holding fish filets when taking the skin off.  Made of stainless steel it has a claw like edge on one end and is bent up on the other to make handling a breeze.  It's one of those simple tools that really works and I never go anywhere without one.  It was interesting to meet the owner and his wife as we talked about business, his successes, and the future.   I love innovative things, I have 2 of these and decided that my ice house needs a dedicated one as well. Check out the link above and get yourself one, they are the real deal!  Besides some well know retailers at the show, I was really looking to see some of the wheel houses on display as I'm always looking for good ideas.  Unfortunately less than half the houses on display were accessible and those that were, those showing the houses weren't too interested after you let them know you have a different brand.  Clam Corp had a nice setup and it's got me thinking about selling my 1 man Clam Scout TC and getting something a little bigger in a thermal type fabric yet stay light enough that it will easily fit in the back of my truck and I can load myself.  Looking at the Clam Dave Genz Legend XL Thermal and will probably pull the trigger on one soon.  Although I have a big 2 man Clam X2 Thermal, it's really heavy and tough to load unless I bring the trailer.  This is OK for Mille Lacs but around home and on the smaller lakes I need something more portable. With 4 inches of ice already on the lakes I'll probably go out on Saturday afternoon as Sunday is the Packer/Viking game.  My last time in Wisconsin brought me by Louie's Meats in Cumberland and I purchased a couple pounds of Packer and Viking bratwurst which will be served at neighbor Tim's for lunch.  Here's hoping Aaron get's his 3rd 50 point plus game in a row!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter is Here!

Steak ala Kienitz
OK, so deer hunting was less than successful last weekend but it was still nice to get out.  Because of the extremely wet summer and the fact that we had Jack's 10 year old son with us, we decided to hunt Loren's 80 acres, about 10 miles southeast of our usual hunting grounds.  It was definitely a lot easier to set things up and walk to our stands in the morning, sometimes you just need a break from the normal.  We did scout the area the previous week and there is certainly sign of a lot of deer moving through the fields and along the edge of the woods.  The trails coming out of the woods and through the fields look like cow paths in a pasture from back home.  Arriving on Friday at Jack's cabin on Platte Lake, his son Ben and I started getting prepared for our annual Steak Feed at Brett's place.  I have posted before about this but it's always a nice reminder.  A simple recipe stolen from my friend Troy, who now lives in Montana, it doesn't seem like it would be good but it's excellent.  As stated last week, I bought about 12 pounds of boneless ribeyes and a big aluminum roasting pan. The first ingredient is Tabasco sauce, I use a small bottle and sprinkle it on each side of the meat.  Next is the Hot Buffalo Wing sauce, a big bottle of this is emptied into the pan.  the last thing is adding a big jar of Pace Picante Sauce, hot.  The meat marinates for about 4 hours before we fire up the flip flop grill and cook them to a delicious medium raw state.  Along with baked potatoes, mushrooms, and a glass of zinfandel, it's a meal fit for a king. Besides myself, Jack, and Ben were our good friends Eugene and his son Kevin, Brett, and Jack's brother-in-law Steve.  Stuffed to the gills, we headed back to the cabin and were sleeping by 9:30 as 5:00 comes pretty fast.  Saturday morning we woke up to a very strong west wind, something that usually keeps the deer laying down, and being a full moon doesn't help either.  This year I did a ground blind and it was very nice as it provided protection from the wind and because we were hunting the edge of the fields, it really wasn't too bad.  By noon I decided to move my blind to the opposite side of where Jack was set up as he had seen deer move into that area but was too far to shoot.  I stayed there both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning and only saw 1 deer.  At least I
First Snow of the Season
was comfortable.  In the meantime the deer I saw walked right in front of his blind and he got a nice video.  Ben wanted him to shoot it but Jack said it was too small, which didn't make Ben very happy! I decided to leave Sunday afternoon as a significant snow storm was bearing down on Dayton and I wasn't very prepared. The boat needed to be tucked away, the leaf vacuum system and mower deck needed removing and replaced with the snow blower, the tractor needed to be pulled into the shed, with little time before the snow was forecasted to start. Working till 11:00 that evening I was able to get all of the tasks done just as the snow began to fall.  We were predicted to get 8 - 12 inches and this time the weather man was very accurate as I had about 10 inches to deal with on Monday night.  These first snow storms start out as wet heavy slush then as it get's colder, tends to get more fluffy.  It was still difficult to shovel as it was very wet underneath and my blower wants to dig into the soft ground and mix some dirt with the nice white snow.  In addition to getting everything cleaned out my friend Mark's ice house that sits next to mine was sold and needed to be picked up Tuesday, that area needed to be cleared anyway.  Not complaining as Mark brought over a bottle of Booker's Straight from the Barrel Bourbon, incredibly smooth but being straight from the barrel, it's about 120 proof! Either way we toasted the beginnings of a new ice fishing season that's soon upon us.

Showing off at TCF Stadium
So last week I forgot to post my Sunday adventure, going to TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota's campus for the Vikings game against the Washington Redskins.  Not much of a Vikings fan, I had never been to that venue, it was nice out, and the tickets were free from my neighbor Pete Sipe so what the heck.  Along with Pete and I were his son Rob and our good neighbor Tim Kuntz, a fanatic Vikings fan.  With the temperature predicted in the 40's I decided to dress for the occasion wearing my warm Green Bay Packer sweat shirt and a Stormy Kromer hat.  Walking around the stadium to check it out, I had Tim take this picture of me on the top deck overlooking the field with the skyline of downtown Minneapolis in the background.  A far cry from Lambeau Field it should be interesting as the Vikings play the Packers on November 23rd at home, we'll probably watch it at Tim's.  At least they sold Leinenkugels Beer there.  I am still waiting for my Rattlesnake Rattle Reels that were ordered from Bill, he took off to Arizona to bring his mom to her winter residence and a well deserved vacation, I guess it will be after Thanksgiving now.  Beyond that I'm ready to go and with the recent snow, the temperatures are not predicted to get above freezing for the next 10 days or so......we might be on the ice sooner than later.  The first of the ice fishing shows start on Friday and I definitely plan on spending some time there as well might sneak out on Saturday or Sunday to see if I find a nice buck to shoot.  Beyond that it's the inbetween time of year as we wait for the lakes to freeze.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Deer Hunting, Ready or Not

Ben's newest addition to his Trophy Room!
Well, like everything these days it's amazing that deer hunting is already here.  What started out in the early 1980's hunting with my friends Mark and Jack Taylor, their brother-in-law Tim Guzek and myself has been reduced to simply Jack and I for the last 15 years or so.   Our first adventures deer hunting was in Roseau, Minnesota which is 10 miles from the Canadian border.  Staying at the Evergreen Motel, $20 a night for 1 room with 2 full sized beds, 4 of us slept very comfortably as the goal was to go on the cheap!  We hunted in Roseau because a guy at my work, Dale Larsen was from there and invited us up.  These were the great deer hunting times, 6 hour ride up north in Mark's dad Earl's Blue Chevy van, couch in the back with room for our gear and in those days, beer for the road! After a couple of years we started making a little more money and decided to get 2 adjoining rooms, we each had our own bed.  Eventually we ended up hunting just south of Roseau, staying in some cabins at the Skime Store.  Simple rooms built on a slab, the flies would come to life once you turned on the heat.  Hunting was good around there but eventually that faded as Tim moved away and the hunting land we were on had been bought by a country celebrity called Shotgun Red and his wife Miss Daisy from the old television show He Haw.  We had asked Shotgun to hunt his land and he had no problem however a conflict occurred between us and Red's old hunting camp, the Olsen's.  Red was in the wrong but wasn't going to put us in front of the Olsen's even though he knew that us being on the land would help stop them from assuming they could have free reign of his newly aquired land.  Busting into our cabin and being warned about getting shot ended our days in Skime.  Next we hunted around Pequot Lakes, where Tim's cabin was, those were also good times but eventually Tim sold the cabin and we started hunting the area we are today.  Things continue to change as Rich is been gone over 5 years ago, Mark no longer hunts, and this year Jack's son Ben is joining us. Speaking of Ben, my friend Ben Aiona from Eleva texted me a picture of the beautiful buck he shot while bow hunting in the area.  Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties in Wisconsin are home to some of the largest whitetail deer in the country and this 13 pointer just validates that.  Next to Ben is his son Jared, who I am told actually helped track the deer and found it (wink).  As I say every year, only in my dreams!

Well, Ben wasn't the only one sending me pictures of their successful hunt, another friend Dwight Jordan sent me a picture of the nice elk he shot last week in Colorado.  A nice 5 x 5, maybe not a massive trophy but definitely worth bragging about.  Dwight goes out west every year to hunt and for the most part he does pretty well.  I hunted a few times with Dwight up near Thief River Falls when my cousin hunted a few years back and we have stayed in contact ever since.  I know he's a few years older than me but I'd tell you that he is still someone I wouldn't want to mess with and I'm afraid if I ever did hunt with him I know I couldn't even keep up with him.  He lives just south of Hudson, Wisconsin and I have featured his family in past posts on the Blog.  He's a really great guy and often wish that I could see him more often than I do.  So with that I have bought 12 pounds of boneless ribeyes for the steak feed on Friday night, my stand is ready although we are still debating where we are hunting, in the swamp or on the edge of the field 10 miles down the road.  I can tell you the field sounds like a better option but I think there is more deer in the swamp.  It will be good to see everyone again as we toast to our glasses to Rich Allen, a very nice man who really embraced Jack and myself.  It's suppose to rain on Friday and turn cold on Sunday which is OK with me.  We might as well start getting the lakes froze over as I'm getting anxious for ice fishing.