I was excited enough about two things to post an update.
With the way Matt’s work is going lately, we had to find something close to home to do this past weekend. And this time, we took that very literally.
So, Matt’s got his grody hobby, right? I mean, the results of taxidermy can be pretty awesome. Or pretty horrifying. And it costs an arm and a leg to get done for you. But Matt’s work is trending towards pretty damn good for a newbie. He recently finished two pieces from last Fall and Winter, and they’re up on the wall.
These are in contrast to our first attempt at hide preservation, my doe from Fall 2012.
Quite the advancement in skills. He still has a couple projects out there. I know one buck head at least, and a couple fish. Our house is going to look like a museum of natural history and hunting lodge lovechild soon enough.
This weekend was the unofficial start of Matt’s leave. It doesn’t officially start till 4 pm today, and he had to go into work this morning and Saturday morning, but we’re counting it. Sunday we got out and tried our hand at trolling on Lake Monona.
Setting things up to troll is quite the undertaking. Without the proper equipment, you’re just dragging lures behind you on the surface. Given that at one point, we were in 50+ feet of water, this isn’t really helpful. There’s all kinds of things out there to make your line go down to a certain depth, or out to the sides. We only have the two big pole holders, so we used two jet divers to sink our stuff to about 10 feet. Figuring out how to get them to stay down took more than a couple tries. Eventually, we had them tied on right, and had enough line out at the right speed to get them to stay under water. We trolled for about four hours altogether. We had one follow up when we stopped to cast for a little while, which was the most exciting thing that happened. That is, until we managed to break off two trolling lures and the jet divers when we snagged the bottom. Our line was heavy enough test that the leaders are what broke. After that, Matt cast for a little while, but when another muskie lure lost its tail as he retrieved it, we called it a day. He shook his fist and swore that with two weeks off, he would find a way to catch fish on these lakes.
After a little retail therapy at Gander (and some tackle replacements), Matt decided that we were going to catch some fish today, damnit. We went with the sure thing and put in up at Cherokee Marsh for some catfish. Fish were jumping clear out of the water as we motored up. We tried by the lily pads like we normally do, and Matt caught the first non-catfish we’ve seen up here.
Two inches shy of the limit, it went back in the water. We opted to mix things up and move away from the shallows in the pads. There’s an island in the middle of the marshy lake. Near there, I caught a good sized cat, which Matt held for the picture.
After a little bit, we motored back to the channel that leads to the launch. Last Fall during waterfowl season, there were incredibly low water levels after a hot, dry summer. We always saw huge wakes as we scared out fish. Matt wanted to try to fish right there. We set up again just before dark. I had another drum pretty quickly. It had swallowed the hook, and as I was cutting my line, I heard Matt blurt out something and lunge for his pole. It was his light little panfish pole, and the line was going out in a hurry. He fought it for a long time. It went under the boat, and I had to pull up the front anchor before he could pull it up and I could get a net under it. It was a bit too dark to take a photo just then, and we were fending off mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Matt’s pride was restored a bit, so we decided to leave the marsh to the bats and the bugs.
At 13 pounds, it’s lighter than the one I caught back in April, but that one was preggo. This catfish was definitely bigger. Matt set to skinning it to taxidermy it.
Matt plans to cut out of work early today. We may go out fishing some more tonight, but I also set out the last goose we had frozen. I had to make room for all of Matt’s frozen taxidermy specimens. There will finally be another Wild Food post. The rest of this week we’ll be fishing and scouting. We need to set up game cameras (we’re way late to that party). We’ve also got some tentative weekend plans, and given my luck, I don’t want to spoil them by blabbing them out. The last time I did that, his entire leave got cancelled.
I’ve been pretty absent from WordPress, as I still haven’t picked up a new laptop cord, and blogging on this tablet sucks. I hope to pick one up in the next couple days, as I’m off work after hitting my monthly hour cap yesterday, but if I forget, I can still put up quick, short posts of what we got done over the weekend. This is one such post, just to keep up the arbitrary schedule I’ve given myself of posting at least each Monday. If I don’t post, I feel guilty. It’s the same mechanism I use to drag my ass to the gym 3 or 4 days a week.
I’ll start with the first thing that happened this weekend. Remember those hides we were self-tanning (tanning ourselves, I suppose)? Well, after having them thump around in the dryer with old tennis shoes, they were still stiff. We left them for, what, two or three months? They still didn’t smell, so they were tanned, just not soft.
Matt ordered a bunch of taxidermy stuff from a distributor about a week ago, and when I got home from the gym Thursday it had arrived. There were a few things in the box, including a panfish mounting kit, but what we needed was the 50 pound sack of sawdust, and a bottle of stuff called Relax-R.
Matt made the water dilution the stuff called for, and once it sat for long enough, the hides loosened up. By quite a bit. Then they were supposed to tumble with the sawdust to dry things up.
Well, the motor in that old dryer was fried. So, we did what any normal people would do after a brainstorming session. We purchased a mini cement mixer. Matt located one at a local store, Harbor Freight, which sells all manner of neat stuff. Most of it you assemble at home, so it’s a bit cheaper. We got it home and got right on that.
It holds 1.25 cubic feet, which ended up being just one hide plus sawdust. We carried it out to the garage to get it going. It ended up plugged into the house because it kept blowing its own fuse. But eventually, it started turning.
We replaced that cardboard with bungee cords and a garbage bag to keep the dust in. But after going off and on all weekend, the doe hide is soft, supple, and dry, if a bit discolored.
The buckskin is in there now. I’m glad we were able to rescue these things from our amateur tanning attempts.