Sometimes in this day with television pros, the instantaneous immediacy of the internet, the various electronic gizmos, the perception we afford our kids of “everyone’s a winner” or an expectation of success resulting from those little league years too many folks walk into the outdoor world with similar demands. It can be seen when all deer must be big bucks and anything less is unacceptable or on a fishing outing if a limit of walleyes are required or fishing was poor and must be able to find fault or caused by a poorly a managed resource. Too often in trying to keep current with the times this becomes all too obvious forcing me to simply stop, head outside and just sit down and reflect back on times past.
Deer hunting, tournament fishing and turkey hunting immediately pop up like turning the crank on a jack in the box playing Pop Goes the Weasel. Deer hunting was something I began while in college. Dad had never hunted Whitetails having no interest so the opportunity wasn’t there as a kid. My aunt, Ivy had earlier purchased 2 tax forfeit properties just outside Gemmel in northern Minnesota. One had an old house on it. It seemed obvious there must be deer there so after reading Outdoor Life and Sports Afield articles on the sport my assumption was that I was ready to go build a stand or two and thus become a deer hunter. Years earlier Ivy had part of that 80 logged with 10,000 pine seedlings planted along with a dynamite created wildlife watering pond. In the center was a clearing so on that first trip walking in on the field road in search of a stand location the obvious became oh so apparent – I knew absolutely nothing about anything related to hunting deer. Even so after a number of 360 degree turns armed with a small saw, hammer and nails the site selection was made. Four trees close together would serve as the legs, small logs cut to length the bottom and another nailed a bit higher as a seat. All this overlooking the clearing because surely deer would be milling around in the opening throughout the day. I couldn’t have been more wrong from every direction. First, the stand was difficult to climb into when dressed for a fall deer hunt, the bottom too small to move on, the so-called seat was an absolute but-killer sitting longer than 15 minutes not to mention all day long. Oh yea all the deer tracks left in the clearing weren’t made during the day but under the cloak of night but as you now know I was oblivious. That first year I tried to hunt never even glimpsing a deer and on the second year too. It wasn’t until the third season in that same location but in a rebuilt and more functional stand I sat suddenly hearing leaves crunching behind me exactly like a man walking. Crunch, crunch, crunch the rhythm was more of human steps than what a deer must sound like, or so I thought. Never a pause just the sound shielded from sight but coming closer and around the pond. Getting ready just in case I stood leaned against the tree and raised the semi-auto 30 cal carbine borrowed from my Uncle Curly and waited. I remember my heart pounding so hard and sounded so loud inside my head that the left hand slid inside the red coat to hopefully shield the sound and then in an instant it happened. About 15 yards to my right a buck, a huge buck stepped into the clearing and stopped. Just as suddenly the shakes were gone, the pounding sounds from within were silent and then it was just the two of us the buck, the first deer I’d ever seen while hunting and me. Quietly I pressed the safety, lined up the iron sights behind the front shoulder and squeezed. The shot was deafening and in the next instant the buck dropped where he had just silently stood. A few minutes later with the deer motionless I emptied the rife and climbed down. Then as quiet and quickly as possible 3 shells back in that old 30 cal I walked looking at that magnificent animal feeling a huge amount of excitement and a bit of regret for the animal. Staring at him would require another first – field dressing the buck. Again thinking I was prepared I took out the Outdoor Life page carried for now the third year that diagrammed how to gut a deer. What followed wasn’t near as easy as the pictures on the page made it look like and although done my return to the old house left no doubt in dad’s mind (not hunting but the camp cook or so he called himself) that I had shot a deer because from head to toe blood could be seen leaving that blood sweet odor to be smelled too. Looking more like a self-sacrifice than deer hunter he smiled.
I tell you this story because there is really no substitute for actual personal experiences in the outdoors. If you require the biggest, the most or always require successes to validate your outdoor trips you’ve totally “missed the boat!”
Do you remember your first deer? How about the most recent hunt? What can you recall to make it very personal? Go ahead use the memories to relive that special moment. It’s priceless don’t you agree?
P.S. The first bass tournament is worthy of telling too but another time!
Sometime a number of years ago I think it was my younger brother Dick who, at the end of a pheasant hunting day made up of long walks stuffed some toilet paper into the toes of dad’s leather boots as a bit of a joke. We all laughed as dad complained the next morning of his uncomfortable fitting boots. So began a long-running family laugh. Not only in leather boots but paper stuffed toes were, from time to time found in hip boots, rubber waders, tennis shoes and dad’s leather Wellington work shoes. Needless to say when my boys, Erik and Chad began to hunt the soft paper found its way into their footwear too. The laughs were always more funny for the prankster and frustrating for the recipient when boots were already laced up or wiggled into. Once I even wore the boot for most of the day before the uncomfortable fit caused me to check it out.
So began some of the small funnies around home. That is until not so many years ago when lunch sandwich-making duties came my way for the next days’ hunt. Somehow I decided, in the spirit of the tissue toes to make one lunch item much less desirable than all the rest. Not inedible or truly nasty but different to say the least. Outwardly it would have exactly the same appearance as all the others but with just one bite taste buds would give it away with absolutely no doubt that you’d been had. Items like horseradish, large amounts of mustard (none of us really like the yellow stuff), garlic or combinations that included jelly with garlic, sweet pickles (preferred about as much as mustard in our group) with horseradish would be included between the bread slices. One of us, usually not me became the obvious winner around lunch time. With laughs ‘n chuckles it soon became a bit of a tradition now looked forward to, sometimes unknowingly by one of our group.
The "Special Sandwich" has also made its way from time to time into the boat during days on the water. In one instance I waited 3 days to eat a sandwich. Chad and I had spent 2 practice days together not finding it and if the truth be known he wasn’t even aware there was a special one until tournament day. It was around 11 when hungry he reached into the cooler. After the first bite he gagged a bit, wrinkled up his face with tongue hanging out suddenly digging for a Coke. "uuggggg" was all he said before expressing his extreme surprise and displeasure as I laughed my way into a remaining sandwich I now knew was safe, finally!
So as melting snow drips from the roof and a reluctant spring still seems far away my thoughts are of days afield with the dogs, fishing trips, the sweet smell of outboard exhaust, a spring rain, the squeeking calls of a hen woodie, gobbling toms and lunches complete with "Special Sandwiches!"
With snow falling and irrepressible thoughts of spring I’m reminded that there is still
some winter related fun to be had. It might be as simple as a walk through a WMA with the dog but busting through a crusty snow surface often makes for a more difficult time so maybe that can wait a couple weeks yet. It’s a bit early too for turkey scouting and still too white ta chase snows so my suggestion – there’s about 3’ of solid ice and fish are starting to think
After Saturday Fan Outdoors last week a friend and I headed to a favorite lake. The thought was to get away from the crowd looking for some “new” fish. Alone, at least no evidence of past holes or tracks visible we punched a half dozen using the new K-drill. While drilling the only noise audible was the blades cutting ice. I’ve never realized how pleasant that silence can be especially adding to the open hole inventory by simply picking up the drill and squeezing the trigger to start. Dropping the Ice 55 ducer into the liquid ice showed a mere 4.6 foot of water under the ice. With 6 gal buckets for stools we cleaned the holes, packed eurolarva on the hooks before dropping them into the shallow water. Some biters seemed to live under each hole with a few making the 8” keeper mark but the bite was sporadic that
was until mid-afternoon under a warm blue sunny sky. Earlier we both noticed the bright red lines right under the ice in most of the holes. Moving the jigs up just under the transducer gave away the bite. Immediately red lines moved up to the bait.
Sometimes showing up midway in the shallow water column other times from the bottom coming up. It really made no difference because they bit. Much like cane pole days from a
long time agp it was easier to simply raise an arm than reel with less than 4 foot of line out. I’m sure sight fishing would have been fun but it would have required the portable set up to effectively see in the bright sunlight.
Thinking back on the day the type of bite is not at all unusual for spring fish under
ice but it was unfortunate the time it took to figure it out. In those last couple hours we probably caught 50 or so fish actually leaving biting fish behind as we left and the sun
settled into the horizon.
So as you head out next time and notice the red lines right under the ice don’t wait,
catch ‘em! The late winter early spring bite is on, well as least last Saturday it was.
Funny how sometimes the fish don’t read all the articles written about them!
and Have Fun!