So I’ve been remiss in posting lately. Reticent, reluctant, reclusive. Turkey season has even come and gone with nary a peep. So what’s up?
Facebook, of all things, has been really pestering me lately about updating the blog. Today they even sent me an email. Trouble is, I don’t have anything to post.
So, things have gotten a bit haywire around these parts. Work’s been really super busy for Matt, plus work got busy for me AND my summer intensive started on Tuesday. Each class session is about a week’s worth of material, meaning I have a week’s worth of homework/reading every night, 4 days per week for the next two weeks. Plus keeping the house livable, plus my job, plus attempting to remain fairly healthy. Obviously, my time is a bit crunched. But Political Thought in Gilded Age America is pretty damn fascinating.
However, there are some movings and shakings here, too. Monday was my birthday. To mark my inevitable march towards old age, Matt got me a sweet birthday present, which I have yet to use. Hopefully this weekend:
It took me a good three days to find a reasonably priced car carrier anywhere nearby, so I wasn’t able to take it out last weekend. Plus a few days of severe thunderstorms really put a damper on my desire to be in the middle of a large body of water.
Also, Matt got all the fiberglass patching done on the outside of the hull. It’s enough of a pain to ‘glass upside down with sticky, runny resin that all fiberglassing moving forward will be done on the interior. Then we’ll lay the floor supports and go from there. I plan to make a video compilation eventually of all the steps this Spring.
In spite of being busy, I do still have my weekends, but since I’ll be writing several papers already, expect any posts to be pretty curt.
We made it back from La Crosse on Saturday afternoon just in time to not see a damn thing. This weekend was a rainy mess. It wasn’t especially chilly until Sunday evening. Saturday we both got soaked through and neither of us saw anything. In spite of the rain, there were two other cars in the parking area.
Sunday, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees over the afternoon. My hunting gear also didn’t dry overnight, so heading out late Sunday morning to hunt the gap between storms, I had a head start on my soaking. We waited out a particularly bad downpour in the truck, and then headed out. I called it for myself around 3pm in some rain, and ended up waiting in the truck for Matt until around 5. I headed back up the road to meet him at our usual spot, and saw just one deer, well past shooting light, heading up the field towards him. He never saw it though, and we made it back to the truck in 30mph wind gusts.
We had some tornado warnings up here in Wisconsin, however the storms hit worst down in Illinois. Some funnel clouds were sighted near home, but they missed my town (this time- three years ago they were hit very badly). Washington and the Pekin area, 60 miles to the southwest, were hit. A friend of mine from home found a piece of a Washington municipal sign in his back yard. Washington, apparently, was flattened. The storms also crossed over into Indiana. Hopefully those places can recover quickly.
Rifle season for us starts Saturday. There’s no hunting at all the day before (Friday). I’m hoping to make it out maybe Wednesday or Thursday night for one last bit of bowhunting until after gun and muzzleloader. Saturday and Sunday will be the days to really get deer. After that, pretty much everything lays low until the season ends. We’re heading up north for Thanksgiving and the last weekend of rifle season. If there’s a lot of Matt’s cousins and family hunting at the cabin, we plan to hunt his grandfather’s back pasture. Gun season is the time we really count on to bring home deer. Hopefully we get some.
This post is way late, as I had a burst of motivation this morning to get some stuff done, and one does not squander that kind of motivation. Especially when it occurs early on a morning that’s about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Granted, part of it was seeing ice on the inside of our old windows, and the resulting imperative to get the shrink plastic up on them, stat. But then three loads of laundry and three sinkfuls of dishes just kind of happened on their own. My motivation around the house almost always overflows.
Anyhow. Monday was Veteran’s Day. Matt had a 76 this weekend (3-day weekend). So we made it out to hunt again last night. I was looking forward to it- the temperature had dipped the night before, and most of the morning, it had been snowing. Granted, it turned out to be just a dusting, but the low over night was forecast to be in the teens (it was) and Tuesday’s high only in the 30s (it will be). We hoped like nothing else that the deer would be moving.
So, I took Matt’s climbing stand back to that watering hole I mentioned. Never again. First off, I saw one guy dawdling his way up the road. I think he was trying to move quietly and not spook the deer, but at 2 in the afternoon, he would have been better off moving more quickly and trying to keep the noise down than dragging out his noise-making. There’s leaves all over, and if they aren’t dry, they’re frozen. Crunchy either way. Second off- I didn’t have a great grasp on how to use a climber. Getting it around the tree was difficult and noisy. Then, I nearly fell to severe injury not once, but three times. It just sort of slid a few inches each time, sending a jolt of adrenaline through my entire body and giving me a tiny heart attack each time. At least I was only about 8 feet off the ground.
I clunked around and made so much noise that I doubt I’d have seen anything anyway. To top it off, that particular stand doesn’t bolt together or anything to pack it out- I didn’t tie up the straps or something, and it slid apart. And smacked against the backs of my legs so much that I had to hunch forward and take baby steps out of the dark woods. Adding insult to injury was the guy walking out, while it was still light, smoking a cigarette.
Anyhow. I finally got the stupid tree stand out of the woods and to the truck. I’m never using it or any climber again. I’ll keep hunting on the ground, even. By the time I reached the truck, I was ready to cheerfully set it on fire and melt it into slag. So, I stuck it in the truck, and trudged back up the path to meet Matt. He’d not seen anything, but he had swapped out the SD card in a trail camera. When we got home, we checked it. And finally- a deer showed up.
Not helpful that they’re near his stand location at dark. But with the height of the rut coming, maybe he’ll finally get lucky. Plus, once gun season starts, all the deer will be running around in a panic, so one might happen by his stand then, too. As for me, once we get back from the Ball this weekend, Matt promised to get me a set like his so I can sit in a tree, too. And I’ll hunt a south-facing hillside towards the back of the property. Maybe I’ll get lucky, too.
He’s even planning not to drink very much this Friday. Which, for anyone familiar with how USMC balls generally go, should be astounding. Last year, I had to push him down to the lobby on the luggage cart the next morning. He played a punching bag machine so hard he punched off his medals and bent the stack. The year before that, he crashed a random wedding at our hotel, and nearly ruined his dress blues with pizza. I had to tell him about all three the day after. So, he’ll be relatively coherent the next day just so we can hunt the peak rut. He’s that serious about it.
I have off Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Given how much I’ve been working this summer, I planned to get a ton of things done during this downtime. Duck season starts Saturday, and deer is ongoing. If I don’t do it now, it will never get done.
So. I spent my Wednesday chipping away at my (still growing) to-do list. I picked up around the back yard- dog poo, lawn furniture, sticks, dog toys, dying flowers, the works. I mowed, front and back. I treated the lawn for bugs and fleas, bathed the dogs, scrubbed the bath tub and bathroom. Plus, doing laundry, washing dishes, and making a short run to the grocery store. I have more to get done Thursday (organizing the hunting room, cleaning under the bed, going through my closet/dresser, running to Goodwill, cleaning Matt’s truck). By the time I was hungry, it was about 6pm. I was going to make myself a nice dinner, and enjoy a glass of wine.
Yeah, that’s my homebrew. It’s good. This particular bottle didn’t really carbonate. There’s the tiniest suggestion of fizz to it, which isn’t all that bad, really. It reminds me of a nice pinot noir. I’m no sommelier, though, to be going on about tannins and floral notes, though. So, I made a pretty tame dinner of acorn squash and chicken, and had a very healthily poured glass of wine.
Matt came home in the middle of it, and decided to start getting his decoys set up for the duck opener. So, my livingroom, my nice clean livingroom (albeit in need of a few passes of the vacuum), is populated with a flock of artificial waterfowl.
At least they’re all nicely rigged now, and won’t tangle horribly like last year. I have to work Saturday and Sunday morning, but Matt’s plan is to take a couple of the other recruiters with him, to get out in the field for a day, shooting. They do spend entirely too much time cooped up in the office.
Late Friday night, we began the trek up north for a hunting trip. I got off work and home around 8:45, and we left the house by about 9:30. The drive to Matt’s grandfather’s hunting land takes about 4 hours. We got there and in bed by around 2.
Last Saturday was the duck opener in the northern zone of Wisconsin, and Matt’s brother had been scouting the creek on the land the night before. His quote was, I believe, 300 ducks. Shooting time on opening day is 9:00 am. We were up around 6:30, getting things in our canoe, when Matt’s brother and his friend showed up with a canoe of their own. They’re duck hunting newbies like us.
We got the canoes in, and followed Matt’s brother upstream. This particular creek had at one point been a Class A trout stream, until the DNR seeded it with wild rice, slowing down the current and forcing silt to settle. It’s now a swampy little creek. Sad for the trout fishing, but the ducks just love the wild rice.
Paddling Dragging and shoving canoes though it wasn’t any fun, but eventually we found a spot. We got one little teal that day- luckily no more than that, because finding that one duck when it fell into the rice was incredibly difficult. We need to get a retriever.
We called it around 10:30, and began to paddle back. We marked a spot that we figured would be better hunting, as the water wasn’t choked with rice here. Any falling birds would be easier to go get, and we could walk to a spot on the bank from the cabin.
We returned to the cabin to warm up and have lunch. Temps the night before had been in the 30s, and it was chilly in the morning, the day’s high was maybe 49, and windy. Brother’s friend was heading out for the day, but Matt, Brother, and I were all hunting- Brother and I for deer, Matt for turkey. Matt helped me put up my ladder stand- literally behind the cabin, over a mineral lick and some apples. Then he headed off to his grandpa’s farm, about 40 minutes away.
I got into my stand way earlier than I needed to, with it so close to the cabin. I was up there by 2:30. So, I spent the next 3 and a half hours looking around at the woods, nervously counting the piles of bear shit (my bow is not powerful enough to kill a bear, I’d only piss it off) mere feet from the base of my ladder, and trying not to doze off. The first deer I saw that night appeared right around 6pm. They were well out of range, but I still enjoyed watching them- a doe and a large fawn. They wandered around in front of me for a bit, and the doe stopped to stare towards my stand. I thought she saw me, but she probably just smelled the apples under me. They left for a while, and I saw another deer even farther away doing deer things. A skunk scurried by, and I listened to coyotes for a bit, nervous at first that they were wolves.
Much closer to dark, I was thinking about undoing my safety harness and going inside (I am not used to the cold yet- the week before, we’d had temps near 90, and all of a sudden it was 45 and windy). The doe and her fawn showed back up. They wanted apples. The fawn crunched on the mineral lick for a bit, but the doe went to town on the apples. She was picking them up and flinging them. Not to mention chewing, snorting, and gulping so loud I could barely keep from laughing. She was healthy- big, fat, and sleek. I had only brought my buck tag with me, thinking my doe tags were only good for our area in Madison- they say CWD/Herd Control, and my buck tag says “Statewide”. So, I thought I had to pass on her. Plus, she had a fawn with her. So, I could have gotten my first deer, but decided not to. She hung out under my stand for a good 20 minutes, clowning it up, until Brother pulled back up to the cabin from the back 40. I headed in, and once Matt showed up, we grabbed burgers at a bar in town. Then we passed out hard. More hunting in the morning.
We were up by 5 the next morning. We wanted to squeeze in some more duck hunting before jetting back to Madison so Matt could brief some kids about to ship to boot camp. Plus, opening weekend is this coming Saturday in the southern zone, and we know how crowded things get down here- it was nice to only have one other pair of guys hunting. It was a gorgeous day, dawning sunny and chilly at 35. A fog did spring up just as the sun came up, keeping a lot of birds on the water. Eventually we were able to do some shooting.
Brother’s friend got himself a nice teal drake. Matt got a wood duck drake. Brother’s gun jammed pretty hard, and he wasn’t able to shoot anything. But. I got my first duck. A mallard hen. A group of about 4 birds buzzed over us while Matt was searching the trees on the opposite bank for a fallen duck. Dismayed that we couldn’t call them in, we watched them fly away. But they turned, and they came back to us. She was flying directly at me. I lined my shot up, squeezed, and watched her crumple into the weeds near the bank. A smaller version of that rush I got from my first deer bloomed in my chest. I walked down the bank to grab my duck. Matt promised to mount it for me, and it’s sitting in tanning solution right now.
Not a bad start to duck season, even if I have to work during our local opener.
Normally, my new posts go out on Mondays. But we got back from this vacation on a Thursday. I’m also working all through the weekend- closing the dining room tonight, and closing the bar on Saturday and Sunday. Those two days I also arrive at work by 11 am. They’ll both be long days. I’m not too sure how much I’ll have to write about come Monday, but I had an idea. You see a lot of how-to for packing for camping. I took some pictures of my get home, get unpacked process.
Anyhow. Last Monday I wrote about the salmon fishing we did last week Saturday. We stayed that night in the Appleton area with Matt’s brother and his wife. Sunday morning we hooked the camper back up, packed up the pups, and headed further north. We stopped at a little grocery store in a town along the way to stock up on food. It was a very pleasant ride all along country roads on a sunny day. Farmers were haying, and that far north, we were seeing the outermost leaves on the ash and maple trees beginning to change color- in spite of temps in the 80s and up.
For the most part, we spent the week fishing. This was another National Forest campground- Richardson Lake. We camped here once last year in June, before I ever started this blog thing up. It was rainy and chilly the entire time, and we were stuck in a tent. At the time, the jon boat had only one trolling motor on a too-small battery, and the old Merc didn’t work. We also didn’t catch any fish. Not so this time. We had the camper and the canoe. It was nice and warm most of the week. And were the fish ever biting. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, as my phone and only camera blew through its battery fairly quickly. I need to remember to turn off mobile data that far in the stix so it isn’t constantly searching for a signal.
We fished mostly there on Richardson, but one day we did go to a different lake, where Matt’s grandparents live. That’s where we caught the big pumpkinseed and the big bass. When we weren’t fishing, we were visiting Matt’s family and tooling around the area.
An Adventure in Wet Pants and Smashed Toes…
One thing I wish I’d gotten pictures of, but wisely did not take my phone/camera for was a trout fishing attempt. The Oconto river near Matt’s hometown is cold and rocky. It holds brook and brown trout. One of his old high school buddies took us down there for trout. It was rugged and beautiful. When we picked his buddy up, we should have known we were in for trouble. On the phone, he specifically requested Mike’s Hard Black Raspberry Lemonade and jalapeno beef sticks. He said without those, there would be no trout. He was waiting in his driveway in a pair of chest waders. Matt and I were in shorts and sandals. We went offroad in the Durango for a couple miles, and then bushwhacked our way down to the water. When I said rocky, I meant bouldery. And loggy. When logging was still a big thing in northern Wisconsin, they’d floated logs down the river, and you can still see some of the bigger ones. The rest are all deadfalls. We spent two or three hours scrambling over rocks, under trees, and through icy water. Matt dunked himself repeatedly. I didn’t go in over my knees until the last minute, soaking my right side. No trout, only chubs and smashed, tender feet.
Other than fishing, we did some shooting. I got in some practice with my bow and got it sighted in. We also did some trap shooting, and I got more practice with my shotgun. Based on my practice, the ducks and geese have quite the upper hand this year.
We also went coyote hunting on his grandfather’s farm. The first morning we didn’t see anything. But we went our last night there (Wednesday). It turned into a bit of scouting. We saw at least 5 deer. We also saw a flock of turkeys. Three toms, three jakes. We didn’t see any coyotes, but they did answer our calls in the distance.
However, we started to hear thunder rumbling. On the way over, we’d caught some weather advisories out of Marquette, Michigan and Marinette. We hoped it would pass north of us, but then the thunder got louder and this happened.
It poured. We got soaked. The deer got soaked. The turkeys got soaked. We were mighty grateful for the camper when we got back to the site. Our firepit was full of water, and there were a couple inches of water standing on the ground over most of the site. If we’d had a tent, we’d have been screwed. We changed into dry clothes, and waited it out.
It stopped raining, and Matt decided to throw a line in the lake. Earlier in the trip the dogs had knocked my sandals into the fire, leaving me with only my hunting boots or my leather boots. I opted not to go. After about 20 minutes, Matt shut off the generator on me and said “I’m vetoing you. Come down here”. He’d had a pretty decent bite. We pushed the canoe out for some post-storm fishing. I caught a tiny blue gill, which we used for bait. And Matt finally caught a pike. But the best thing was the light at sunset.
Thursday morning, we headed out one more time to fish. In the pictures above, we kept 32 of the fish we caught. We tossed at least that many back, and used some of the really small ‘gills for bait (only in the lakes we caught them in). Once the morning bite stopped around 8:30, we packed everything in, and headed back home.
A Return to Normal.
Three hours later, we re entered civilization and our normal lives. I work all weekend. Matt works all of today (Friday). Next month he takes over the Madison recruiting office (for the next couple years), and I have the rest of the season to finish out at the golf course (who knows how long the weather will hold). By January, I hope to be back in college classes so I can maybe get this godforsaken degree of mine an inch closer to done.
This vacation was, I think, just a pause or a breath before we both enter a bit of a new chapter. Dealing with recruiting duty with Matt just a canvassing recruiter for the last three years was incredibly hard. The first several months of him running the office will be tough as well, particularly since he’s starting right when school does. It will be a different kind of hard. I’ll be paying down the last of what I owe UW-Madison from two years ago (yuck, I know), and saving up to pay for next spring. Our one touchstone through all of this mess will be our outdoors hobbies. Hunting, fishing, all of it. It keeps us grounded, and it keeps us together.
Every three months or so, Matt has to go away to All Hands training. Since the recruiters are generally pretty isolated out here, away from the Fleet and all the reasons people typically join the Marine Corps, it’s a combination of training updates, and a morale-boosting activity for two days. They do it in different cities all over Wisconsin, and the activities are always different, but August’s All Hands is always Family Day. Other branches and other stations do it all kinds of different ways, but here, we get cheap passes up to Wisconsin Dells. It was my first day off in seven days. We spent the better part of yesterday at the Mt Olympus theme park up there, riding waterslides, roller coasters, and go carts.
We also took the boat up with us. When it got to be about 4 o’clock, we said goodbye to some of the work buddies Matt rarely gets to see, and ducked out of the park. First stop was locating a bait shop among all the lake houses up there. Once that was finished, we found ourselves a boat launch and got on our way.
The thing about the Wisconsin River up in the Dells, though, is that it’s a major tourist attraction. The Dells are there because of the beautiful sandstone formations, and the famous Wisconsin Army Ducks were out in force.
At one point, a Duck Driver even worked us into his tour, joking that he saw the same man out yesterday with a different woman. We also had to contend with the Jet Boats.
Otherwise calm water was made pretty turbulent with all this traffic. We motored a bit upstream and anchored near a sandbar, out of the lanes these things use. The fish were definitely biting. Matt caught a green bluegill within minutes. He also caught a little largemouth bass. My one fish here was a largemouth just shy of the legal limit at 13.5 inches
While I was reeling in that fish, one of the recruiters Matt knows from another city in Wisconsin called him. He and his wife wanted to fish with us. So, we puttered back to the launch, picked them up, and went downstream, fishing near this neat island.
There were small fish jumping everywhere here. Nothing really bit, until about 30 minutes in, another Duck Tour came by. The driver went straight over one of Matt’s lines. He hooked into the Duck boat by accident. Luckily, the driver had slowed down to ask how our fishing was. We were able to shout over that we’d caught his boat, he turned around and came close to give us some slack.
After that incident, we motored back upstream to that sandbar. We fished there until dark with few mishaps. Matt caught a big sheephead carp, and kept it, intending to practice his taxidermy on it. With the small school of bluegills he’s collected, the carp, and goodness only know what else he’ll keep to practice on, we’ll have a nice little starter seascape of taxidermied fish.
I had fun on the water. The Wisconsin is a nice river, though my only experience on it was an overnight kayaking trip two years ago on a much lower portion of it, below the Sauk City dam. It’s much deeper up in the Dells, even below the dam there. Our fish finder was reading 40 feet in the channel, and there was a hole under one of those bluffs registering 60 feet deep. We didn’t get a big flathead catfish like Matt hoped for, but we caught more fish than we ever do in the Madison Chain.
This weekend turned out to be a little lackluster. Matt’s home from training finally, but our local 4H fair was last week and weekend, and they put up a tent there and have the pull up bars up and the information cards- I’m sure you’ve seen the set up before. His boss is out of town and Matt’s his second in command. He had to be there both weekend days. Yesterday, it stormed like nobody’s business. We left the fair early, but it continued to rain and we stayed in. But I did get to go look at the sheep and goats. There were lots of very nice, big cows (hello, Wisconsin), but I really just want some sheep and goats. Matt thinks I’m nuts.
To top all that off, I worked an 11 hour day on Saturday, came home, and just went to bed. Even more topping? The power cable for my laptop finally bit it. At one point, the dog had chewed on it, plus Matt took it on a deployment or two. The entire laptop’s seen better days. Hopefully replacing the cord will solve the problem, because I’m on my tablet right now. I found the WordPress app, which works better than using WP in my browser, but typing on a virtual keyboard pretty much sucks. It also means I can only use my phone to take pictures, as it only has a micro SD card reader. But- I’m off today and tomorrow, thank goodness. If Matt can cut out a little early today (he is about to leave his current position, and his replacement is here), we’re going fishing. At least yesterday’s storm broke that horrible heat wave. The fish might actually come out of the deep water.