Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nice walleye from Kieth
Thanksgiving is finally here and it will be the first that I will be without either parents.  The old house in Eleva is sold so where we have celebrated for the last 50 years is no longer in the picture.  As the old saying goes, nothing ever stays the same and definitely is a true statement.  Although most of the small lakes are ice covered the weather has turned somewhat mild in the last few days and the hard freeze of an inch a day will not return until Monday.  This is OK as after going to Eau Claire to have Thanksgiving with my wife's uncle Andrew and his family, Friday and saturday look to be relatively nice out, enough to get the boat cleaned up for it's voyage to Frankie's and get some last minute warranty work done before the spring rush.  My good friend Bruce has offered me a space in one of his heated rental units where he keeps his boat and I am definitely going to take advantage of his generous offer.  I need to work on my electronics before next year's opener and this will give me an excellent opportunity to take care of that.  The mild weather on Friday will also give me a chance to pull off my mower deck and mount the snowblower and cab.  Not a job I am looking forward to, never the less it needs to be done.  My friend Kieth is back from Alaska for his winter getaway in Brainerd!  His home is on North Long Lake and the early ice has him out fishing.  This afternoon he sent me a picture of his first walleye through the ice, not bad!!!  Makes me want to head north yet the next two weeks has me quite busy.  I know that my other friends Russ and Mark may be heading to Red to walk out for the first years fishing, probably leaving their wheel houses up at JR's.  Speaking of wheel houses our illustrious Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has decided that a Portable Ice House on wheels are no longer classified as portable therefore you need an Ice House License even if you just pull it out for the day and remove it from the ice at night.  Interesting because you did not haven't had to do this for the last 5 years and the fact is that this announcement was on Monday, 10 days before the "winter" season begins.  See the announcement HERE.  I guess I really don't expect any better for our Minnesota DNR....It's all about the money.  I have informed all of my friends that own wheel houses of this new requirement and I even called my friend Bill Lundeen to see if he can sell me one.  Yes, he has them, they are just the standard shelter license.

December 1 - 3
Monday will start a frantic week with as stated, dropping my boat off at Frankie's.  Although it seems that this boat has had more issues, which is true, it has more stuff.  I seldom had to bring my 2 previous Rangers back to the shop but I really don't mind as I enjoy seeing Frankie, Deb, Lisa, and Joe, they really take care of me well! On Wednesday of next week I fly to Scottsdale, Arizona for a 3 day convention of The Transformer Association.  It is a group of transformer manufacturers and suppliers and we discuss industry trends, the future, and learn about a number of new things.  Last year the meeting was in Naples so a bunch of us usually try to go fishing afterwards.  There is not much water in Arizona so hopefully I will get back in time to attend the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show which usually falls on the same weekend as our conference (This year it's December 1 - 3).  It's a pretty good show with a lot of good products and information but to be quite honest, I'd rather be pulling grouper out of the Gulf of Mexico like we did last year in Naples Florida. I do enjoy the conference however, even if it is with my competitors, they are truly my friends.   With my hectic schedule it looks as though I may be able to pull up the wheel house to JR's at Red Lake around December 8th,  there should be enough ice to drive on the lake by then, at least according to Intellicast!  I already have purchased some wild rice for my friend JR who really likes the stuff and keeps him smiling that he will have this year's harvest.  The fishing reports published about  Red Lake from the guys walking out to the first break are pretty good as the water clarity is stated to be around 28 inches which is excellent for this time of year.  Red Lake is quite windblown and the water get's pretty stirred up just before ice over.  Of course the clearer the water, the better the walleye bite on Red.   Have a great Thanksgiving and hopefully I will get a chance to post from Scottsdale, or at least while I am waiting for a plane somewhere!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fast Week

Sitting on the Stand
My computer went goofy on me this week and I finally got it fixed.  It is simply amazing how much it has become an integral part of our lives, unfortunately.  So last weekend was the end of our deer hunting in the zone which we hunt, Zone 2, so I decided to head back up with Jack and Ben to try and bag some venison.  The good new was that the cold weather during the previous week had been cold enough to freeze the swamp and one could easily walk out to the areas that we hunted when Rich was still alive.  It was pretty good as on opener one would have needed hip boots and a lot of ambition to trudge through the swamp, which was as full of water as I've ever seen in the 10 or so years I have hunted this property.  There are a lot of deer around as Brett had planted a wildlife plot and 8 or so deer, mostly does and fawns, would come in every afternoon/evening to partake in the feast, even though there was a lot of standing corn in the area, apparently deer love the sugar beets he planted!  Deciding to show up for the Saturday afternoon hunt I walked out to the island where I used to put my stand and sat on the one facing the Northeast, we call Bobby's stand (Rich's brother from Seattle who hunted with us those last years Rich was alive).  It was very nice, the temperature was in the low 30's and we had a dusting of snow which made it easy to see anything coming.  Unfortunately nothing came other than a few small flocks of Tundra Swans flying by.  Sitting there till dark, 12 foot up in the tree, is quite a bit better than sitting in a ground blind as I did the previous week.  Admittedly it was warmer but at least I could see quite a ways.  The fresh snow also gave us some indication of any deer movement however there were few if any tracks around my stand.  Often times the second weekend of hunting is not as good because there are less people pushing the deer around.  At sunset I met Jack and Ben, who were sitting just south of me and we walked out of the swamp.  Brett had shot a nice doe Friday evening and we told him that we would tag one if he had the opportunity however there were no shots that day.  We got up about 5:30 on Sunday and headed back to the stands.  Sunday morning was quite quiet yet I did se fresh deer tracks in my footprints in the snow as I walked out.  It appeared to be exactly what Brett was seeing, a doe and 2 fawns.  Leaving at noon, we went back to Jack's cabin as he was heading back in the afternoon, I decided to stay and hunt the evening.  Jack has a nice stand in a good location so I decided to use his for the duration of the hunting time.  I arrived at the stand around 2:30 and hunted till 5:15 before walking out.  I knew Brett was still out there so I waited for him, he returned to say he had shot a nice doe around 2:00 but nothing else came through.  He tagged it, I loaded up and headed south.  As stated, it was nice to get back in the swamp but I guess this year I was one of the 70% of hunters that don't bag a deer each year.  No big deal, the important thing is to get out with Jack's son Ben and get the next generation interested in hunting.

Pete's Pail of Fish
The next thing on the agenda is ice fishing!  My friend Pete has been out with his friend Dave Genz fishing somewhere north of Highway 2 in Minnesota.  Apparently they nailed some nice 12 inch crappies and a few good sunnies on there trip.  Pete told me that Dave will be on this week's show, John Gillespies Waters and Woods fishing with Dave on the Mississippi not to far upstream from where I live.  I guess it might have been more productive fishing than hunting but you can't be in two places at once!  Oh well, I have a pretty full schedule the next 3 weeks, the snow blower needs to get mounted to the lawn tractor, the shed needs cleaning, Thanksgiving is next week, I need to bring my boat back to Frankie's on November 27th to get the scratch on the bottom fixed as well as the rod locker lid replaced.  On the 29th I head to Scottsdale Arizona for a 3 day convention for the TTA, the Ice Fishing show is on the weekend I get back, December 2nd and 3rd.  Reports have Red Lake ice at about 7 to 8 inches so by December 8th I'll be ready to haul up the house for a couple of months of great fishing!  They upped the limit of walleyes on Red to 4, of which only 1 can be over 17 inches, which is fabulous. I know Mark and I would like to fish on the Reservation for trout like we did last year, that was fun.  The wheel house is pretty well set to go, I need to check the air in the tires and straighten things out a bit but that won't take too long.  Winter is here and even though it is somewhat mild, at Red Lake they are averaging highs in the low 20's and low's in the single digits, just what the doctor ordered, making ice!!!  I might even get Pete to take me with for some early season crappie fishing.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Deer Hunting Success

Flock of Migrating Sandhill Cranes Passing Overhead
My measurement for deer hunting success these days consists of whether I even get a chance to get out in the woods any more and has little to do with if I actually shoot a deer or not`. Oh well, I usually have enough friends that have been successful and quite honestly get enough venison to satisfy my cravings. Last week's post talked about making my late brother-in-laws absolutely fabulous venison bologna recipe and it looks like neighbor's Pete and Todd have enough to supply the deer meat with me supplying the recipe, know how, sausage stuffer, smoker, and vacuum packer, it looks like we are set for a fun day of bologna making.  As stated, Rich's land is really wet, the wettest we've ever seen. Like the last 3 years we hunted Jack's neighbor's land, Loren's.  Loren is Jack's neighbor at his cabin on Platt and is a fabulous guy.  There is quite a few deer around however I think that if we want to get serious about hunting his land, we need to make some decent tree stands as the ground blinds are nice yet the view is limited.  Admittedly the ground stands are nice, especially this year when it snowed about 4 inches on Friday night then rained all day on Saturday.  Actually the snow had collapsed the roof of my stand when I arrived on Saturday however it didn't take long to pop it back out and get the heater started.  It's pretty comfortable inside and I had a nice view of the clearing in front of me.  There was a lot of standing corn in the area and was little shooting in the morning.  We saw fresh tracks in the snow as we drove in along the corn however heading to our stands, we were the only ones making tracks.  Of course with the fresh snow on the ground, anything walking did not make any noise so it was difficult to hear anything.  Except around 10:00 Saturday morning, a God awful racket was to the north of me coming closer.   They were much louder than geese so I stepped outside to see a flock of 51 sandhill cranes come flying over.  They are beautiful birds and it was interesting to watch them, they would fly a few hundred yards then pick up an updraft where they took advantage of it as the entire flock circled to gain altitude.  They did this a number of times before I was unable to see them anymore.  The cold weather has frozen the swamp so it looks like we will be able to hunt the high ground by Rich's (Now Brett's) this weekend.  Maybe I'll actually have some venison to contribute to the bologna making party!  If anyone wants the recipe let me know.

Pretty Much Says it All!
This week has been very stressful as I lost my phone while in Costco picking up steaks for last week. Losing a phone is almost as bad as losing your wallet these days.  With the help of my friend Welly we were able to lock up the phone via the internet and locate it.  I have learned that this "location" is not very accurate and is based on how well it is receiving a GPS signal.  Well my wife happened to call Costco on Sunday and even though we went there on Friday to see if they had it, apparently the left hand doesn't talk to the right hand very well, I think they did have it but what the heck, I got it back.  It is a pain to unlock it as you basically have to start all over again, uffda.   Then on Saturday I called my wife via my OnStar in my truck............more good news, the well stopped pumping water.  This happened in 1999 and e had the pump replaced, that one lasted 7 years, this one was going on 19 years, I guess that's double the original.  I called the guy and he came out on Tuesday morning, did a few things, pulled the cover off the well and VOILA there was a dead mouse laying on the wires it chewed on. I guess that was a fitting ending to it's life but the good news was the fix was relatively easy.  A new splice, some adjustments to the cover so this would not happen again, and $200, we had water again.  That sure beats filling the toilet tanks by hand or paying $2000 for a new pump to be installed. So everything is almost back to normal again.  It looks like I will be back up with Jack and try my luck deer hunting this weekend.  the latest satellite pictures show Upper Red Lake pretty much froze over and the temperature tonight will be around 5 above zero so it won't be long now!  I guess the picture above says it all.

A beautiful lady for sure!
As a parting note there was some sad news from my home town of Eleva this week, our good friend Joanne Strong passed away this weekend from Pancreatic cancer.  Joanne was what Eleva is, a beloved resident who was a dear friend when I grew up in town.  As a teenager I worked at Wenaas Mobil and Joanne always had something wrong with her car like a flat tire or the muffler was loose.  I would fix it and tell her to simply get out of here as she never had much money!  She worked at the service bar at Wagner's 66 1/2 Lanes in Eau Claire (Click on her name to see her obituary) and it was a time when bowling was actually something to do on a Saturday night.  Yes, like the obit says, she made the best Bloody Mary's as I'll never forget the time my brother Steve and I went up to bowl.  Danny Van Pelt, another good influence in my life, loved Vodka Gimlets with olives and he had graced me with acquiring the taste of them while we were in Canada with the Tollefson's.  I remember making them for him by chipping ice off the big block we bought in town before we went on the lake (Actually it was cut lake ice).  This was my choice cocktail that night.  Joanne made the best and the more I had the better I bowled as I racked up 4 strikes in a row, a spare and 4 more strikes in a row finishing with a score of around 240, the absolute best I had ever done.  I blame my good score on the gimlets that Joanne was giving me!!  Thank the Lord Steve drove home that night.  One day she needed a different car so her step dad, Stanley, Joanne, and myself (they respected my opinion) drove to Mondovi to look at what I remember was a 1965 Dodge Dart.  It was like new on the inside, some rust on the body and it was powered by the famous slant 6 engine.  I noticed some hesitation in the transmission, he wanted $125 for it, I told Joanne that the tranny sounded rough but we could put one in from the junk yard later if needed, offer him $75.  The guy took it and Joanne drove that car for at least 6 more years without a problem.  Even the last time I saw her she still remembers that day we went to get the car.  I am planning to go see Joanne one last time, unfortunately it is a cruel reminder that we are all getting older. Maybe I'll have a gimlet tonight in memory of my dear friend Joanne, I am sure that the people of Eleva will definitely miss her.  Here's to a grand Lady, Love you Joanne!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Deer Hunting Time

Antique Enterprise Sausage Stuffer
This weekend is the start of the Minnesota Deer Hunting season.  It seems like just yesterday I was going deer hunting with my uncle Dewey on Gordon Sather's land, just south of Eleva.  Deer hunting in Minnesota starts 2 weeks earlier than in Wisconsin, I suspect because half the state is farther north.  In my earlier years living in Minnesota I would hunt "Up North" near Roseau Mn with my friends the Taylors, Tim Guzek, Mark Mayerich, the late Ron Edberg, and the Ullom boys.  Today it just remains Jack and his son Ben Taylor and myself hunting near his cabin on Platte Lake, 12 miles west of Mille Lacs Lake.  We used to hunt a Rich's land, basically 120 acres of swamp with a few choice islands where the deer are thick.  This year was extremely wet with over 7 inches of rain in October.  Admittedly I am getting older and the thought of trekking through the swamp before the sun shows itself has little appeal to me.  I used to wear hip boots, walk the seemingly 5 miles (actually about 1/4 mile) carrying my clothes with on my back, changing in the woods then repeat on the way out.  That was fun but today it seems like a lot of work simply to shoot a deer.  And the shooting is the easy part, it would need to be dragged out of the swamp, gutted, and hung up.  Today we hunt on of Jack's lake neighbors land, he has 80 acres of mixed woods, field and swamp that is pretty nice.  We can drive right to it, there are plenty of sign around and it is a lot easier on the body! Friday night will always be our steak feed at Brett's (Rich's place) and we will hunt hard for the weekend, with a little luck, we'll end up with something. I have rallied the neighborhood guys into pooling our resources after deer hunting to make my late Brother-in-law's homemade venison ring bologna.  He made the greatest bologna I have ever had and it was great to have on a cold winter day. 
Ring Bologn
I used to help him out where we would make a couple hundred rings at a time with the guys back home.  So inspired, I began to acquire the equipment needed to do this in Minnesota, the first thing was to get a sausage stuffer.  I remember about 35 years ago he brought me to a house in Winona, MN where we opened a door in the floor and went down into the cellar.  There he had an Enterprise 4 quart stuffer in pretty good shape and only $35, quite a bargain as these now sell for over $300.  Since I've had a friend sand blast it and electrostatically coat with a black, food grade teflon coating.  I looks like it's brand new and does a fabulous job of stuffing meat into casings.  With a pool of neighbors, we should get some venison and because the recipe calls for 50% Pork, we would only need about 25 pounds of trimmings to make 50 or so rings.  Tim and Lory have the heated sheds, Tim and I have a smoker, I have the recipe, hopefully we will be able to make something.  It would be a great for treat for ice fishing this year, nothing is better than what those guys in Independence would make.  I am looking forward to bagging a deer but especially getting the guys together and making sausage.  When we lived in Brooklyn Park back in the 80's we made about 100 rings of bologna with my neighbors.  For a smokehouse I simply bought some cheap paneling, made a big box, then put a crude wood stove inside.  The house backed up to a main highway, 85th Ave.  The meat needs about 4 hours of smoke so we sat around drinking beer till it was done.  A drive along 85th seen the smoke coming out of our homemade smoker, drove around the block to get to the house and came to the door.  I went to answer the door and upon opening it he told me that my shed was on fire!  We showed him the bologna in the box, he went away somewhat embarrassed however it was still nice that he took the time.  I still laugh!

Gouge on the bottom of the Ranger
There are a few issues that I would like to get done with my boat before winter sets in hard.  I had an appointment for last week however the dealer doesn't have the parts yet and I feel my boat is better in my garage than in their fenced in area.  There are 3 main things that need attention, first the back Ranger Logo that I damaged during opener needs to get put on.  Secondly, the Rod locker lid had delaminated and it has not come in yet.  The third issue is getting the bottom of my boat fixed.  While in Canada, someone in the boat (he knows who he is) had some important business to do on shore.  We looked for a sandy beach area near by and found one with a few boulders to be careful around.  This was at the same time that the steering went out on the big motor so unfortunately we backed right over one of those boulders and there was not much we could do about it because we had no steering.  Although the gouge is under the boat and impossible to see, it still bothers me so it's going to get fixed.  Hopefully I can get in after deer hunting and get this stuff taken care of before it get's too cold!  Speaking of cold, there is already a nice snow cover in the northern part of the state.  Forecasts for Waskish, on Red Lake show that after this weekend lows will be in the lower teens with single digit lows towards Thanksgiving.  I won't be long now before Red Lake freezes over and maybe by the first of December we'll be fishing on the ice!  Lot's to do before then but the Ice Cabin is pretty much ready to go.