I Can Explain.

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.

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Trail Cameras, June and July 2014

Last Sunday, Matt and I headed on over to check our trail cameras. We’ll probably get one more good check on them before hunting season starts. We got some images, though there aren’t as many good ones as the last time we checked them.

So, we’re still only seeing two different bucks. We didn’t get a good image of their antlers, but a month ago they looked pretty good. Hopefully we can get out soon and check out some new areas to hunt- I have some serious reservations about hunting this area again, even with how much time we’ve dumped into it (almost three years).

One positive is that on the way home, we found a new spot to duck hunt in. One that won’t require a mud motor to access, and which will hopefully be less populated than Mud Lake. Wisconsin opened an early teal season this year, so we hope to make use of the new spot.

We’re also at the month-and-a-half mark until Matt can go up for bear season.

Trout and Trail Cameras.

Sunday afternoon, we headed out to check our game cameras after a month of leaving them alone. Mostly, it was Trail Camera Images Starring Squirrel and Leaf (one camera had over 700 images. 690 of moving leaf), but we got some pretty good images.

And since we were out that way, it meant trying our hand at trout fishing again. Which also meant Matt getting one trout, losing one, and me getting none. However, I did find a hole in each wader. The bright side is that I found said holes long before the icy water of duck season would be a problem. Now I have even more reason to upgrade to chest waders. Plus, my line broke at the spool, so I spent 15 or 20 minutes in thigh deep water, trying to re-rig my ling with one hand. A lot of agricultural run off goes into this creek, so a lot of it is silting in. I got stuck with both legs in soft, knee deep, sucking mud. Matt’s trout was a nice one, though. I just don’t really enjoy fishing Black Earth Creek.

Looking west, downstream.

Looking west, downstream.

Matt's little rainbow.

Matt’s little rainbow.

Wild Food: Venison Kebabs

Matt had a leftover turkey permit for this week for our part of the state, since he didn’t make it up north to hunt. We only made it out Sunday morning, and heard the birds, but didn’t really see any. For all that the weather is more comfortable for turkey hunting in May, the whole, light-at-4:45 bs is a bit too much for me. I’m happier being chilly in April, but able to sleep until 5:30. Speaking of sleeping, I’m low enough on sleep this week from work and also waking up at 4 to turkey hunt that I managed to literally pass out while sitting this morning. I was getting some micro sleeps, so I re-positioned to being propped on my elbow on the ground. I woke up 30 minutes later curled in a ball on my side, head pillowed on my pack. I must have needed it.

So, since I was so tired today, but sick of not eating at home (dinner at work everyday. Yeesh), I threw together these awesome, quick cooking venison kebabs. Also fulfilling my personal goal of eating more veggies.

The small, long muscle from a hindquarter, squash, onion green pepper.

The small, long muscle from a hindquarter, squash, onion green pepper.

I keep them round, but I've seen it done up pretty fancy as a zucchini ribbon.

I keep them round, but I’ve seen it done up pretty fancy as a zucchini ribbon.

Always soak your skewers.

Always soak your skewers.

Meat cubed and in a - apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, and canola oil.

Meat cubed and in a marinade: apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, and canola oil.

Veggies cut up in their marinade- salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and canola.

Veggies cut up in their marinade- salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and canola.

Skewer assembled

Skewer assembled

Place on a piping hot grill.

Place on a piping hot grill.

Cook 'em until the veggies are just charring a bit.

Cook ’em until the veggies are just charring a bit.

 

Tasty, fast, and they’ll be good cold on a salad later this week. I had mine with a roasted sweet potato. Matt got his own meat-only skewer. I’m so glad the weather’s warmed up enough to grill comfortably.

Springtime Slump

Things are a bit slow around these parts lately. I never did get out the last two days of my turkey season, work had me come in. I’m debating getting a leftover tag for mid-May, if there are any. But that will be a break period between one semester and an accelerated summer course I’m taking, and work should be getting nuts about then. Matt didn’t head up north this past weekend since they still have snow and ice up there. He has a leftover tag for down here for the second-to-last season.

I39 Southbound. Wind turbines at Paw Paw.

I39 Southbound. Wind turbines at Paw Paw.

SAMSUNG

I spent the weekend back home visiting my family. The weather was much warmer and my nephew is getting huge. My invitation to hunt down in Illinois was renewed, and I got my first sunburn of the year.

Besides that, our fishing season opens back up this coming weekend. We have a wedding to attend Saturday evening, but I’m working on Matt to head out Saturday morning to fish, and probably Sunday as well. We’re a little wary to take the poor old jon boat out. The transom has begun to sort of fall off, and it leaks. Matt’s got his eye on a new G3 boat.

Speaking of boats, Matt cut out and glued together the transom for the big boat. We had to special order marine-grade plywood at our local Home Depot. It’s two pieces of 3/4 inch plywood glued together with Liquid Nails.

The Liquid Nails had a 7-day cure time, so we'll use something else to glue anything else on the boat.

The Liquid Nails had a 7-day cure time, so we’ll use something else to glue anything else on the boat.

GE

 

And then there’s not much else. The outlook for the week is chill and rainy. 40’s and rain almost every single day. I’m sort of glad I soaked up too much of that 70 degree sun on Saturday.

Monday Morning Turkey Report.

I’ve spent the better part of the last five days working my way closer to the turkeys on our public land spot. Things were going really well all the way until Saturday. Saturday morning, we set out and got parked about 20 minutes before sunrise. We got to our spots, and waited. At dawn, 6:09 on the dot, I heard a hen drop from her roost, land, and do a bit of quite clucking. Maybe 15 yards from me considering I could hear her footsteps. Minutes later, a bigger whompf as a tom dropped to the ground. He made the world’s softest single gobble, and I never saw them.  We called our hunt around 8:15, and quickly discovered the reason for our difficulties that day: the third pull-in spot had one SUV parked on the gravel near the road, and two pickups that had actually driven down onto the field and parked on the treeline at the bottom of the hill, more or less directly behind where I had been sitting. Small wonder the birds’ schedule was disrupted. As we left, we took a look at the part of this land parcel that covers the marshy headwaters of Black Earth Creek, and spied the turkeys sitting several hundred yards from the road on the edge of a private field/pasture.

Sunday morning I had to work, and Sunday afternoon we had yard and housework to do in the the lovely 75 degree weather. That was a wash. This morning, however, I dragged myself out of bed before daylight again. Luckily it was 59F, even at 5 AM. Downright balmy. However, my Monday morning hunt was spoiled for much the same reason as Saturday morning’s- that SUV was parked and someone was on the back side of my hill again. And once again, the turkeys were over in that private field.

To some positives. Saturday, Matt had a hen milling around in front of him for a solid 15 minutes. Someone was screwing around in the woods, though, and scared her off- she flew right over my head. And Monday morning, I watched a hen from quite a ways off. So the turkeys are still using this area, I’m just betting that all the people running around this weekend have them all out of sorts. I’m ready for it to cool back down and keep some of these people at home. I have two more days on my original permit.

The hen in front of Matt on Saturday.

The hen in front of Matt on Saturday.

Meleagris Gallopavo: The First Encounter

This morning I’m coming off the first three days of my Spring turkey season. So far, I’ve watched a herd of deer get absolutely terrified by my turkey decoy spinning in the wind (Wednesday), I’ve spooked the entire flock (yesterday), and then watched the turkeys come off their roost and do a bit of grazing, about 200 yards away from me (just this morning around 6:15). I’m giving myself points for at least getting to watch the birds this morning without scaring them off. Tomorrow morning, Matt will be going out with me. I have until next week Wednesday to bag a bird unless I want to purchase extra permits.

As I sat on a composting pile of leaves and clover straw this morning, one of the things I was thinking about (besides hot coffee and doughnuts) was my very first encounter with wild turkeys.

The first time I ever was aware turkeys could be wild and not just on the table at Thanksgiving was when I was little. I think I was maybe 6 or 7 or so, and we still had the wooded lot my parents owned, which I’ve described before. We were out there one Saturday in early Springtime, and both my parents were doing some clean up work.

This old picture is probably in the right age range for this story. Me and my kid sister Jo

This old picture is probably in the right age range for this story. Me and my kid sister Jo

 

What’s important to know here is that wild turkeys had been hunted out of Illinois in the early 1900s. The last wild turkey sighting in Illinois was 1910. The state began reintroduction projects in the 1950s, but that was mostly in the Shawnee National Forest, some 4 hours to the south of where I’m from. So, not even my dad had ever seen a wild turkey. Or probably even his dad. The last relative of mine whose name I have and who may have seen a wild turkey, or at least been around when they were still in Illinois is my great-great Grandad Herbert Robert Ellis, or his dad Reuben Robert. Possibly my great-great Grandma Priscilla or her dad and brothers- they all hunted, too, down south by the state line with Kentucky. But I digress.

Unbeknownst to us, our local conservation club had signed on for some repopulation efforts in our part of the Illinois Valley. They had done some wild trap-and-release with moderate success, but for some harebrained reason, they also decided to hand raise some turkeys. But they didn’t limit human contact with the birds.

That brings me back to, well, me. Me and my kid sister, wandering and playing while mom and dad did some clean up work. We were towards the back of the property in the trees. In the Springtime, there would be a massive hatch of ladybugs. They would cover the entire ground and the bases of tree trunks. One such hatch was happening that day. Suddenly, we look up from our play to see a big, dark shape moving through the trees. It had two legs, and it bobbed its head as it wove between the tree trunks. It pecked the ground eating ladybugs. It was also coming right for us. Somehow, we had the presence of mind to calmly walk away in an attempt to escape, instead of running in terror at what was obviously some sort of dinosaur come to devour us.

We hurry away, it follows us. We hurry a bit farther, it still follows us, and it’s getting even closer. Finally, we give it up and run in terror, my full-blown dinomania convincing me that the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park is about to commence. We find my mom picking up some litter up closer to the road.

“MOM MOM!” we screamed, “THERE IS A GIANT BIRD AND IT’S CHASING US HELP!”

My mother eyed us skeptically. We always had been imaginative children. “There are no giant birds in Illinois.” she said, “Now go and play, your father and I are busy”.

As she turns back to her task, dinobird comes strutting around a brush pile. Mom drops everything in her hands and hollers at the top of her lungs “OH GOD JOHN GET OVER HERE THERE IS A GIANT BIRD AND IT’S CHASING THE GIRLS!” Not only had mom never seen a turkey herself, but a few bad experiences with mean roosters and parrots have given her a lifelong fear of birds.

Dad came running. I mean, giant terror birds, right? But he’d seen pictures, if not the genuine article. When he sees dinobird, he laughs. “It’s a turkey!”, he exclaimed.

Dinobird reduced to a holiday dinner course, it was much less frightening. We assumed it had been hand raised with little to no fear of humans. It was probably looking to be fed, honestly. However, after that, it was all we could do to convince my dad not to wring its neck and toss it in the pickup truck. Funny, considering how desperately I want a gobbler in the back of the truck nowadays.

 

Spring Turkey Mini-Movie.

Who doesn’t love a little stop motion animation? The way the Primos DPS cameras work is to take photos at set intervals during the daylight hours. An advantage of this is they will sometimes capture pictures of animals at a distance farther than a traditional triggered game camera will. They also have a pretty wide viewing area. The down side is that they don’t shoot at night, and that they produce an ungodly amount of data to sift through on a program that’s wonky at best. They also store images in .jpx format, more or less unviewable outside of said wonky program. However, we’ve gotten 3/4 of the Primos Cameras cleared, and the images of animals flagged, converted to jpg, and I put them into Windows Movie Maker today and set them to a bit of music with some other images. Enjoy!

We Actually Had Decent Luck With Trail Cameras.

Yesterday we collected the trail cams we put out two weeks ago. I’ve gone through all the images from the traditional trail cameras, and I have some I’d like to share. So, those first. Near Matt’s stand location (which has a high probability of being my stand location):

Near my stand was a completely different story. Mostly one of a very busy squirrel, and a couple of raccoons.

Can you spot the squirrel?

Can you spot the squirrel?

We thought they were deer at first.

We thought they were deer at first.

But nope, just a pair for raccoons.

But nope, just a pair for raccoons.

Additionally, we put up a camera in the creek bottom where we found deer bedding sign last Spring. Unfortunately, it captured 4 images of nothing in particular. But we did find this on the ground.

SAMSUNG

 

We still have reams (and reams and reams) of pictures to process through from our Primos DPS cameras. I’m talking 24,000+ pictures. Per camera. And there’s 3 of them. So far, we’ve gotten through most of two of them, and caught a couple images of turkeys here and there. However, we had them set on a 30 second interval- there’s probably a lot we missed, but this way we were able to leave them up for two weeks. Matt hopes to trawl through all the thousands of photos in the software that came with the cameras. It’s clunky and weird anyway, but this poor little netbook makes it even slower and clunkier. Any photos we glean from that will get posted here, as well as used to determine where I’ll sit for turkeys come Wednesday. Oh yeah: two days until turkey season for me.

Deer and Turkey Expo

This past weekend was the Wisconsin Deer and Turkey Expo. Since we went fairly early on Saturday, there was a line out the door and a huge crowd inside until about 2pm. I entered at least two gun raffles (which I haven’t won, if my lack of phone calls on the subject is any indication), and probably 3 hunting trip raffles (of which two are safaris). I have never won a thing in my life. But there were some cool booths and it was neat to get out and wander around and touch their stuff.

Beyond that, we got the floor of our garage scrubbed, which was very badly needed. Sometime this week I hope to pick up a floor squeegee to get it again. We have several incredibly warm days ahead of us, hovering around 60. There will be a flurry of activity that requires warm ground and weather to do- I have to till and enlarge my garden plot, get it fenced, get my beets, onions, and leeks in the ground, seed some trays with my non-hardy veggies, clean the yard back up, and Matt’s going to get back to work on the Ditch Boat. We need to locate marine-grade plywood, and pick up a bunch more resin to treat the interior wood structure. He also needs to touch up the last of the fiberglassing of the hull that was cut off by the cold last Fall. This all while my job is finally picking up again for the season, and while my turkey tags are about a week out.