Fishing & Mushroom Hunting

We headed up to Cherokee Marsh yesterday, hoping to catch a big catfish or two.

Looking down the channel from the launch towards the main marsh

Looking down the channel from the launch towards the main marsh

The little Sea3horse survived winter.

The little Sea3horse survived winter. And the underbrush is finally just starting to green up.

We were out for a solid 4 hours, but sadly no cats. Mostly panfish seemed to be biting, and softly. Some other sort of fish were jumping, though, and clearing the water. Spawning probably. Maybe the sheepsheads or carp? We aren’t sure, we never got any of them to bite. Our solitary catch last night was a very nice sized crappie.

SAMSUNG

13 inch female crappie

13 inch female crappie

SAMSUNG

When we cleaned the fish, we saw she still hadn’t spawned yet. The walleyes went about a week ago, so the panfish spawn is probably a week or two out, once the water gets closer to 50F.

In addition to our first fishing trip, we got out and hung some more trail cameras on Saturday afternoon. We found some interesting new spots, so hopefully something cool turns up. While Matt hung cameras, I poked around looking for morels. I found mayapples and fern fiddleheads, which are supposed to come up just before the mushrooms do.

Not sure if these are the edible ostrich ferns or not.

Not sure if these are the edible ostrich ferns or not.

My dad’s been out picking for the last week down in Missouri, and he says they’re nearing the end of morel season with 80F temps on the way. He’s got over 20 pounds of the things, most of them in the process of dehydrating. I told him they sell for around $20 a pound. He’s contemplating driving up to my home area in the Illinois Valley, about 4 hours north of St Louis, to continue picking, and then up here to me. We’re supposed to get some temps in the 60s and 70s, but this time with nights above freezing. That plus the solid week of rain last week makes me think this week will be a good one for mushrooms. I hope so, I haven’t had morels in ages.

Advertisements

Ice Fishing and Meat Grinding, All in One Weekend.

With the holidays in full swing, we’ve been doing a lot of driving.  Saturday was one half of Matt’s family’s Christmas get together, so we drove up north Friday night. Matt wanted to do some ice fishing on the lake that pair of grandparent’s house is on. We fished here back in August, and caught that big 9.5 inch pumpkinseed.

There was about a foot of ice, so people were driving onto the ice in trucks and on snow mobiles.

There was about a foot of ice, so people were driving onto the ice in trucks and on snow mobiles.

Our shanty.

Our shanty.

Lake panorama.

Lake panorama.

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

Two flags on the tip ups all day, and this one little northern. After that we had dinner and did Christmas stuff. Matt’s aunt and uncle were there, and we talked about sturgeon spearing with them in February on Lake Winnebago. There was a nasty winter storm bearing down on the area around Madison, though, so we left around 9 to try to beat it home.

We succeeded, barely. It began snowing on us just before we got to Madison, and when we got up Sunday morning, there was over a foot of snow on the ground. After clearing the snow, we got around to grinding up the venison we planned to use for sausage, freezing it, and making jerky. I also sealed up the deer bones I plan to make broth with.

Grinding venison.

Grinding venison.

Sealed venison bones to try bone broth.

Sealed venison bones to try bone broth.

The dogs were thrilled to get the leftover bones.

The dogs were thrilled to get the leftover bones.

GE

Making jerky.

Making jerky.

GE

Dehydrators next to deer skulls.

We also tried rendering the tallow for the first time. It came out pretty well even though it was a smelly process.

Freshly rendered.

Freshly rendered.

As it cools, the fat separates from the gelatin.

As it cools, the fat separates from the gelatin.

With the rest of the holidays on the way, we’ll be doing quite a bit of driving. Tuesday, we’re headed to see my family in Illinois. We’ll drive back that night, and up to the Fox Cities Wednesday to see the other half of Matt’s family. After the 25th, the holiday hunt is back up, so we’ll be out again after deer.

 

My Second Impression of Ice Fishing was Far Better Than My First.

Well, I have to say this feels oddly full-circle.  Sunday afternoon and evening were spent doing the activity I started this blog on back in January. We got out on the ice for the first time since early March.

Originally, we had planned on hunting Sunday evening, since the CWD antlerless hunt is going on right now. But between really wishing for a buck, and some more extreme cold weather, we decided at the last minute to head out ice fishing with our friend, M. We packed everything into his truck, and headed up to a spot he knew near Portage, Wisconsin. It was a sunny day, if cold. The high for the afternoon was about 10F, and we reached it at noon. We arrived at the frozen-over launch around 2:30, dragged our sleds out onto the snowy lake, and got to drilling some holes.

Matt cleaning out an ice hole

Matt cleaning out an ice hole

M boring a tip-up hole.

M boring a tip-up hole.

Shanty and our stuff scattered all over the ice.

Shanty and our stuff scattered all over the ice.

I finally drilled my first complete hole through the 4 inch thick ice.

I finally drilled my first complete hole through the 4 inch thick ice.

In single digits, water freezes quickly.

In single digits, water freezes quickly.

We were in fairly shallow water, 6-10 feet or so. And the ice was rather thin, about 4 inches. Safe enough to walk around on, but definitely not the 18 inches we were drilling through last February. The rules about number of lines still holds, so we usually do two tip-ups per person, plus one line inside the shanty, jigging.Our tip ups had minnows on them, and we were using jig heads tipped with wax worms inside.

The action started inside the shanty. Matt was on some bluegills, and had the first three fish of the day, which all went back in the water.

GE GE

GE

But soon after, we had two flags on our tip ups. We rushed out to get those in, and it was more bluegills.

GEWe headed back after all that to get warm by the Mr. Heater and to continue jigging- the fish were biting! And then I finally got my first fish through the ice. Last year was a rough season, and in the first 45 minutes we’d tied, and then exceeded last season’s catch.

GEMatt would pull out a couple more fish, as would M and myself. Only 7 or so were keepers of the bunch, and but for a couple perch, they were all bluegills. The bite slacked off along with the daylight, so we called it around 5:30, and packed in our gear in the cold. It was a clear day, though, and we’ve got fish to fillet, some of them nice and big.

GE

My biggest 'gill of the day.

My biggest ‘gill of the day.

When it's this cold, the world is your ice box. Our catch, on ice just outside the shanty door.

When it’s this cold, the world is your ice box. Our catch, on ice just outside the shanty door.

We’ve already marked two fish derbies on our calendars, too. One on January 18th on Lawrence Lake, and then the one on Lake Waubesa in late February or early March. Hopefully, we can start pulling out some pike and bass in addition to the panfish.

 

 

Weeknight Hunting

Yesterday was a cold, drizzly day. I planned my day around getting some stuff done in the morning, and then heading to work at 2. While I was at the gym, my boss texted me- called off again. After the hours I put in all summer (12 nights in a row closing a couple times), and all the shift covering (closing a Saturday night, with one hour’s notice!) I did, it’s really nice to get some nights off now. So, I ran a couple errands, grabbed my gear out of Matt’s truck, and off I went.

We’ve both been having a lot of other random yahoos walking all over, ruining our hunts, right? Well, after seeing next to nothing on the trailcams in the fields (except for a turkey), I decided I was going to set up down in the trees. I did some reading up on deer movement, etc. I chose to set up on a little ravine that cuts across the parcel- running from a copse of small trees where we saw bedding sign during Spring turkey season, across an alfalfa field, through the woods, and to the neighboring Christmas tree farm, where I’ve seen the deer flee on a number of occasions.

Expertly notated in MSPaint

Expertly notated in MSPaint

I got in a little after three and set up. It’s been raining for the last 4 days, pretty much. Once I got into the brush off the access road, I saw a decent number of deer trails, and they had some prints on them, though not as many as we saw in Spring and Summer. I made my way back to the draw as quietly as I could, and set up my stool and blind against the trunk of a dead oak.

Looking southwest towards that alfalfa field.

Looking southwest towards that alfalfa field.

Looking straight across at the steeper side of the ravine and a game trail

Looking straight across at the steeper side of the ravine and a game trail

 

Parts of an old tree stand ladder. Must be and OK spot.

Parts of an old tree stand ladder. Must be and OK spot.

A lot of the trees down here are suitable for a climbing tree stand. We’re even thinking of getting a light hang-on stand and some climbing sticks to use. Hunting up in a tree down here would really be helpful. All I saw yesterday was fat squirrels. No deer. But being up in the woods, off the main path didn’t mean I wasn’t disturbed by inconsiderate jerks.

After I’d been out for a little over an hour, two guys looking to be roughly my age walked up the access path towards the back of the property, carrying squirrel rifles. Kicking leavings, walking and talking loudly. They didn’t see me. But they would walk back down the access path, and then back up and down, passing me a total of 4 times, being loud all the way.

It got dark in the trees faster than it did in the fields on the hilltop, so when I walked out, I moseyed and looked for sign. There are hoof prints, and a few big ones were a couple days old. Mostly, though, they’re smaller ones- does and yearlings, I would guess. And I saw a deer near where Matt puts his blind on my way out.

We have the weekend to hunt yet, too. Matt will be out for ducks tonight, and tomorrow I would guess we’ll go after both ducks and deer. It’s finally autumnally chilly up here, so hopefully they’re moving. If I hunt this side of the hill again, I might try closer to either end of the ravine, if I can. If not that, I may try down in the oak trees closer to the main parking area. I really am getting impatient for the rut to start, so the deer start running around like dumbasses.

Back to the Flatlands for a Weekend.

I spent the past weekend down in my hometown. I ended up driving down on Saturday morning, since I got off so late. I had been pretty excited to hunt down there. It was worse when I saw all the heads on my mom’s friend’s wall-all off this land. It’s corn and bean, with a pasture, and it’s right on the river.

So, we went out Saturday afternoon. He put me in a west-ish facing stand, on the edge of a bean field, in a huge burr oak. I had a draw at my back- a trickle of a creek running down to the local river at the bottom of a cow pasture. He said he saw deer walk back there all the time, as well as through the field.

Bean field.

Bean field.

Barn across the road behind us.

Barn across the road behind us.

Game trail

Game trail

As the sun went down, it sucked.

As the sun went down, it sucked.

Sadly, we were both skunked. Not even any eyes reflecting at us at night when we left. My guess was that the bean field recently being cut, plus some people camping on a very small campground nearby pushed them out. It was also the youth gun hunt- I heard shotguns not too far off. However, my tag is good for the rest of the season. I hope to make it down again in a few weeks to try again.

As I was driving back early Sunday afternoon, the weather was bright and clear. I hoped to get some pictures of the plains I grew up on, after putting up photos of the thick forest Matt calls home. I personally find beauty in nearly every type of landscape, and was hoping to make this a short post of its own, but a malfunction with my camera means only the two panorama shots I was playing with came out, for whatever reason. So, no stills of wind turbines or silos or combines, sadly. Just skinny little bent-looking shots of the flatlands. On a clear day, you can see for miles. These were taken just to the north of my hometown, turning east-north-west

GE

Disregard the car. I pulled off the highway to snap some pictures.

Wild Food: Seared Duck Breast.

I was unexpectedly called off work yesterday (thank heavens, golf season is beginning to wind down). So, I set out the duck breasts from the ducks Matt got on Saturday, intending to sear them. I’d read the post at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook a couple days before on how to pan-sear them.

Duck breasts, thawing.

Duck breasts, thawing.

I have three breasts here, because as I was butchering out the breasts, one of them just smelled… off. I did not feel good about eating that one at all, so I tossed it. These three would work just fine, since it’s only me and Matt.

Duck breasts, liberally salted.

Duck breasts, liberally salted.

I followed the steps to the letter. I used last weekend’s duck, because of the ones from up north, I only left the skins on two breasts. They were that badly damaged from shot.

SAMSUNG

The bits of skin on either end really do shrink right up immediately.

The bits of skin on either end really do shrink right up immediately.

My ducks were in the mid range, shading towards fairly fat. These were most likely resident ducks to the Madison area. They’d probably been eating a lot all summer and not moving all that much, never mind migrating several hundred miles on the first leg of their trip south.

The skin browned beautifully.

The skin browned beautifully.

I especially wanted to try this method because even on the grill or roasting in the oven, I hadn’t achieved that crispy skin yet. On a duck or a goose. I thought I’d been salting my birds well enough. Maybe I had, but I’d neglected to pat them dry, since up until now, they’d all had a brine or a flavoring rub on them. I won’t make that mistake again. The skin? I would make the leap to say it’s right up there with bacon. Maybe even better than bacon.

Medium rare duck, with a salty, crispy, savory skin.

Medium rare duck, with a salty, crispy, savory skin.

 

 

 

 

Up Nort’ Eh?

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.

Matt's grandad has a liter log cabin. It's cozy.

Matt’s grandad has a literal log cabin. It’s cozy.

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.

Looking out over the rice.

Looking out over the rice.

Our wind-operated Mojo ducks

Our wind-operated Mojo ducks

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.

The view from my tree stand.

The view from my tree stand.

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 too bad considering we got this many ducks all of last season.

Not too bad considering we got this many ducks all of last season.

My hen.

My hen.

 

Not a bad start to duck season, even if I have to work during our local opener.

I’m Ready!

SAMSUNG

Archery deer tags, purchased today. Turkey tag purchased online a couple weeks ago.

So, there’s that. In addition to the statewide buck tag, I have two herd control anterless deer tags for our region (CWD). When gun season rolls around, I should pull another three tags, a repeat of last year, where Matt and I had six tags each, and the option to buy a bonus buck tag. In case we, you know, run out, or something (if only).

 

 

Opening Day, 2012. My first deer.

Bow deer season opens this Saturday in Wisconsin. I’ve requested that day off, and gotten it. For the rest of the season, my weekends are scheduled around hunting. In some places, the season has already begun. I’m beyond ready. We didn’t do much this past weekend, so here is the story of my first Opening Day gun hunt, and my first deer.

It was a Saturday in November of last year. The 17th, to be exact. It was opening day of gun season. However, we hadn’t been out for deer at first light. Throughout bow season, we’d spent the mornings on the water for ducks and geese, and the evenings in the woods for deer, nearly every weekend.  Even though it was opening day, this Saturday had been no different. Luckily, we’d moved away from spending literally all day in the blind- bird activity slacked off around 9 or 10 am, and we’d headed in about then to come home and have brunch.

Fueled up and in a change of camo, we headed out to our public land parcel. Early for an evening hunt. We got there around 12:30 or 1 in the afternoon. In spite of the land being near town, and popular to boot, I don’t remember seeing any other hunters’ trucks there. We certainly didn’t see anyone hiking in. Praising our luck, we started the hike up the hill to the back field of this property.

As we neared our destination, we decided on where we would stake out. Matt had his climber with him, and took one of the only spots we’d found with trees straight enough- Just inside the treeline on a heavily used game trail. It was on the edge of the back of the hill, where it drops down fairly steeply into some thick, brushy woods before the property ends at Airport road.

I opted to go a few hundred yards counterclockwise around the edge of the field from his location. I only had a folding tripod stool and our little ground blind in my pack. It’s this style, which makes it very portable. I had my choice of game trails coming up out of the brush down the hill.  The land here sort of rolls, so I picked a spot where I could see two of the three. It was afternoon, and I was on the west edge of a field. The trees cast their shadows over my head. The wind was out of the north-northwest at about 5-10 miles per hour. I was settled in by a little after one.

Looking south east from my blind.

Looking to my right (southeast) from my blind. Matt would have been to my left by several hundred yards.

After our very hot, very dry summer last year, we had a very warm Fall. Now, Autumn has been getting warmer and warmer since I was a kid- I remember being in college, walking to class, and it being 80+ degrees one year. In October. But the warmth really stuck around last year. This particular mid-November day was a little over 50 and sunny. I was in a blaze orange coat, with a stocking cap on. I had just hiked a mile, uphill. I was warm, to say the least.

I’m also an epic fidgeter. It’s not that I’m bored, really. I love to just sit and watch Nature happen around me. But  I checked my gun across my knees. I unzipped my coat. I arranged my pack at my feet, adjusted the height of the blind. Made sure I was low enough behind it. I took off my gloves. I did it all fairly quietly, at least. I’m working on that.

Finally, I sat still for a bit. I could hear gunshots in the distance- other hunters’ opening days turning from good to great in just moments, just by the addition of a sharp eye some luck, and a bit of gunpowder. I watched a fox run along the top of a groundswell a few hundred yards from me. Then a turkey. Minutes passed, and I watched some turkey vultures lazily circling a few times before flying away. A few crows. I listened to farm dogs barking somewhere.

My ears were itching, so I rolled my hat away from them to take care of that. Suddenly, a flash of movement to my left. I turned, with my hands still on my head near my ears. My eyes found the source of the movement, frozen at the top of the swell in the ground, coming from the trail I’d chosen to not be able to see. My brain, new to all this, shorted out on me. It went “A dog?! Who the f*ck lets their dog run during gun seas… holy shit.” The deer wasn’t the only one frozen in place.

She was upwind of me, maybe 15 yards away, looking at me head-on. I was short and slouched enough behind my blind that she could only see my head. She stomped her front hoof, flicked her tail. My heart was thundering away, but time slowed, and my breath came slow and steady. As slow as slow could be, I lowered my hands to shoulder level, and then down to the 12 gauge lying loaded across my knees. The doe turned broadside, lowered her head, and took a few steps closer on a diagonal to figure out what this creature in the shadows was. Just as slowly as I lowered my hands to my gun, I raised it to my shoulder and cocked the hammer in one motion. I took three breaths as I traced her movement closer, found the area behind her front shoulder with the muzzle of my shotgun.

I remember squeezing with my right index finger. I remember a tremendous kick, harder than from the birdshot I’d been using in this gun.  It takes more to get a slug moving than pellets, I would think. I shook my head- shooting the 12 gauge always leaves me a little bit disoriented and shell shocked. In less than a second, the ringing stopped, and I looked to where the doe had been standing, knowing my newbie self had for sure missed, and yet hoping that I hadn’t.  At first, I didn’t see anything, but then my eyes found windmilling hooves. She’d dropped where she stood. A rush hit me then, and the joy of hunting clicked neatly into place in my head. I was hooked.

What happened next in my mind is clear as crystal. I stood and reached for my cellphone in my pocket- I had to tell my dad! But more movement caught my eye. A flash of gray and a white tail, out of range of my now empty shotgun. A buck, fleeing. He’d been just behind her. He ran a few hundred yards away, and turned to look at me. He watched me for two or three minutes as my shaky, adrenaline filled hands texted Matt (we don’t have walkie talkies) that there was a six pointer headed straight for him before he continued running away.  Next I texted my father in ALL CAPS. Judging by the deluge of text messages that came next, my father then jubilantly called my entire redneck family, and the not-redneck ones, that I had gotten my first deer. The only time I’ve heard him happier was when my nephew was born.

Matt’s frantic text came through once I had sent off the one to my dad. “DID YOU GET ONE?!”. I responded that yes, I had, but a buck was still headed to him.  A couple seconds later, I heard his gun’s bark. He texted me that he’d hit it, but it kept running. He was headed my way. Only a couple minutes had passed, and I was still standing, shaking. First things first. I opened the breach of my shotgun, expelling the spent shell. I set it down on my pack, and walked over to my deer. I was turning her over as Matt walked up.

He asked me how far she had run. I said ” She didn’t”. He saw she was shot through. At this point, it was only 2pm. He congratulated me on my shot and hugged me. We decided there was plenty of shooting time left, and no other hunters out. We dragged it to the shade of a thicket of trees in the middle of the field, so as not to throw off any other deer that might come through. We returned to our stands, but didn’t see anything else the rest of the day.

At dark, we tried to follow the blood trail of Matt’s buck, but we lost it in the brush on the back of the hill. It hadn’t been a very strong trail. We returned to the doe carcass, and cleaned it. Then we dragged it the mile back to the truck.

We would come out again the next day. Matt took the old tree stand in the hackberry thicket where we’d stashed the doe the day before. A previous owner had found it an equally good hunting spot, and put up a stand in the tallest tree. It was grown over, but it would serve. I chose a different field, almost a quarter of a mile away. I wouldn’t see anything but other hunters that day. But late that afternoon, I would hear Matt’s gun. Then a second time. And a third, and a fourth. And a fifth. All spread over about 20 minutes. After the third time, I texted “did you get it that time?”. He responded “I don’t know”. After the fifth shot, I waited until dark to pack up and head to him. Apparently, the buck he was shooting at had just been running between Matt’s stand and the treeline, in spite of being shot multiple times. After the fifth shot, it had stayed in the woods. We prepared to track it. No need. It was only 10 yards inside the treeline. Matt took the front and I took the back, we hauled it out. As he was cleaning it, we noticed a dried but recent wound on its foreleg. This was the sixpointer from the day before. He had grazed its leg, and it came back to the same field. Matt was thrilled. It was his biggest buck to date.

A low-quality picture from Matt's iPad of me and the doe once we got it home.

A low-quality picture from Matt’s iPad of me and the doe once we got it home.

I've uploaded a photo of his buck before. This is the DIY European Mount.

I’ve uploaded a photo of his buck before. This is the DIY European Mount.

What came next, I’ve covered already. That Monday was warm- 70 degrees, so we skinned and quartered the deer, then froze them. This became a problem later, when I finally began to process them. You can read about that here, here, here, and here, if you haven’t already.

I’m ready for Saturday. I want to get a deer with my bow this year. It would be another first.

One Last Summer Fling Before Fall and Life Catch Us Up.

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.

Besides Fishing…

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.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

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.

Not good.

Not good.

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.