Michigan

5 Comments

img_1240-1

Back at the goal again.  It’s been a while, so to refresh you loyal readers (Mom) I’d like to shoot a squirrel in every state.  Sometimes I travel just for the squirrel, but mostly it’s a side trip during another family escapade.   Recently, I tried to turn a trip to the Big Apple into a New England hunting foray,  but after asking about flying into NYC with a shotgun, I found it was not such a good idea and jail time was a real possibility.

The only squirrel open for hunting during August in Michigan is the Red.  About half the size of a fox squirrel, they make a weird almost tropical bird-like noise and are mean little turds. They don’t hibernate and will run off the much bigger gray squirrels from their 2-5 acre territories.

I hunted just off the North Country Trail in the Hiawatha National Forest where the southern deciduous forest transitions to boreal in the Upper Peninsula.  Impenetrably thick undergrowth make seeing the squirrels on the ground nearly impossible, and the mosquitos–slow and clumsy compared to the mosquitos in Matagorda–made it necessary to bathe in DEET before heading out.

I hadn’t walked 20 minutes before a flash of fur bounded across my trail into the dark green ferns and disappeared into a jack pine thicket.  I stared intently, but couldn’t detect movement.  I began creeping down the trail again.  After about 5 steps, strange high pitch screaming harried me from behind.  I turned and the little buck was berating me just 10 feet off the ground,  tail quivering with hatred.  I silenced him with my trusty Ithaca 20 gauge double barrel, and it felt nice.

I could hear more in the woods screaming at me, but with Michigan now crossed from the list, I opted to return to the lake and resume catching yellow perch with the boys.

I love the Upper Peninsula and the Great Lakes.  Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald played in the background as we journeyed from one outdoor activity to the next. Food was surprisingly good at the taverns, and the only fast food we saw was in Grand Rapids. A good thing.

My buddy Jeff over at Homestead Dad gave us the inside scoop on must see spots.  The first one we hit was the glass bottom boat at Kitch-iti-kipi.


Jeff mentioned the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore of Lake Superior and surely it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.   Definitely worth seeing.




We paddled Lake Michigan in our kayaks and splashed around Lake Huron, but Lake Superior proved too cold to paddle.


We looked for Petroskie Stones and Agates while Gichi Gumee sneaker waves wet my shoes and made us shiver.

All in all, fantastic trip.

Snapper Fishing on the New Buccaneer

1 Comment

Snapper 1.jpg

 

My middle son, he’s not much of a morning person.  A deep sea fishing trip sounded fun to him, but getting up at 4, not so much.  Quite the conflict for his 8 year old brain.  After a bunch of encouragement where I used the term “gigantic” “whopper, and “big old shark” and he brightened.  The thought of a whopper revved him up and so we got up early the next morning and got after it.

 

 

I looked at this trip as a chance to learn as much as a chance to haul in some fish. I talked to the deck hands, what appeared to be the owner and then a few of some “regulars” who appeared to have their whatnot in order.

Here’s what I learned:

1. I’m glad we used the dramamine and bonine. I took both the night before and morning of the trip. Redosed around noon. The boys just took the dramamine on the same schedule and did great. We also thought eating dill pickles helped the little nausea we experienced.  Didn’t puke, bark charlie, talk to ralph about a buick, quote O’Rourke, toss cookies, blow chunks, shout groceries, or vomit one time.  Others did.


2. Learn to vent a fish so you can keep the right fish. Many people on the boat were keeping 16 inch fish when plenty of fish 20+ inches were to be had.

3. Bring plenty of cash. I brought enough to tip the deck hands, but not enough to pay for filleting the fish. No biggie, I wanted to show my 5 and 2 year old the fish anyway.

4. Big baits are good for big fish and they are not always on the bottom. We caught many of our biggest ones halfway to the bottom. I even caught one big one free lining sardines for king fish.
img_1208.png
5.  Expect tangles. Just relax, take your time, the fish will still be there and just get untangled and back to fishing. But, learn to recognize if you are playing tug-o’-war with another fisherman.

6. Snagging a spot in the AC on the way out was definitely smart. I would recommend bringing a dvd player or other diversion to pass the time on the trip out and in.

7. A pair of gloves would have been nice, and I forgot them.

 

All in all we had a fine time and Keegan did great.  The battles between him and the snapper were epic.  He was glad he came and I was proud to see him push through his trepidation.  A fine time had by all.

 

 

Youth Hunt in the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area

4 Comments

Oliver is one lucky little hombre. He wasn’t drawn once, but five times to hunt various state parks and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).  In Texas over 700,000 acres are divided into 47 different WMAs. Controlled by the Wildlife Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife, these acreages are representative of nearly all ecological regions in Texas. Biologists use each area to study wildlife. The public can use it to hunt, and that’s what Oliver did.

The Las Palomas WMA, specifically the Arroyo Colorado Unit, is in a region known as the “brush country” of south Texas. It is a veritable sea of thorns. I’ve hunted in it before, but this area is a little wetter.  There is abundant wildlife due to the large amounts of cover and food.  Further west water is a rate limiting factor, but not here.  Cameron County has these things called resacas. Either coming from a contraction of rio seca meaning “dry river” or from resecar meaning “to dry out”they are naturally occurring diversion channels off the Rio Grande.  Except they are usually dry.   The brush around the resaca is dense and blood thirsty.  It’s not hard to imagine the blood shed when old General Zachary Taylor fought his disorganized and bloody battle in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma against Mexican General Mariano Arista on May 9, 1846 in the Mexican American War.

The picture shows where we hunted and the aerial photo was taken during much wetter time.

Snow melt from Colorado used to cause the Rio to flood and fill these with water.   The Rio Grande doesn’t swell much any more and so what’s left over is a big dry river bed with only a few areas of marsh and fresh water.  These and the senderos make for animal highways.   All kinds of critters make their way up and down and across the resaca, like turkeys:

and this bobcat I called up by kissing my finger:

and a whole lot more.   A scorpion visited us, fiddler crabs burrowed just outside the door to the blind, and we almost ran over a blue indigo snake.

The success of this hunt started with my efforts back home. I applied to as many hunts as possible in the “youth” category boosting our shot at getting drawn. It will make for a lot of travel, but I dig travel hunting.

The next and most important thing I did was give Jimmy Stout, the head biologist for the unit, a call. He gave us lots of info and seemed like a swell dude. He verified the hunt was an assigned blind hunt, because the Arroyo Colorado Unit is only 700+ acres and answered all my queries.  There hasn’t been a wild pig killed since 96, but deer and javelinas were plentiful.  Oliver and I were both pretty stoked about his chance to shoot a “stink pig.”

When we arrived Jimmy guessed it was us despite having not met. He went through the rules and regulations, assigned our blind, off we went. A nice fella close to retirement named Alex took us to the blind and got us tucked in.

This is the view of the blind from where I spread a little extra corn. 

 

A circle of corn, hopefully to attract a whole herd of collared peccary, aka Javelina.  

 

After spreading the additional corn, we were quiet and in the blind at 9:45. Then, at 10:02 this happened:

I’ve been bear hunting, I’ve chased elk, and I kill a bunch of birds, but this is by far my favorite hunt to date.  .

Earlier I made up scenarios of a javelina coming from the left, right, behind us, etc.

TPWD has a nice cleaning station, and the guts are just thrown over to the alligators in the arroyo. But don’t fall! 

We drove back to the check station and they guys thought something went wrong, because we were back so quickly.  Nope things went really well.

A couple of admirers came and offered up there opinions and congratulations. 

Next weekend we are hitting the Chaparral WMA looking for some more javelinas, a fat doe, and possibly Pumbaa.  Stay tuned.

 

Tremendous Ten: 10 Reasons to Rodeo

2 Comments

 

 

004

Last week I got to take my buddy from New York and his Panamanian wife to their first rodeo.  The night before, I took my two oldest boys. Entertainment wise it doesn’t get much better.  There’s danger, speed, power, and finesse.  Beer, bulls and BBQ.  A dose of comic relief and Americana as well. Here are 10 reasons you need to check out the rodeo for yourself.

1. Bull Riding. Ken’s wife, knowing I’m a pretty typical Texan with rural roots, asked if I ever rode a bull.  Of course not I told her, and she asked why.   “I enjoy living.” After the first ride, she understood why. Still, its my favorite.  Bull riding is really three events in one: 1) the challenge of getting the bull to behave while the rider mounts up, 2) the fight between brave, if not psycho, young men fighting to stay atop the spinning 2000 pound wrecking ball of beef, and 3) the battle between the raging bull and the bull fighters over the unseated rider.  Heart pounding stuff.IMG_3983

IMG_3981

 

IMG_4002

Looking for an anger release…

 

IMG_4004

Too bad they don’t use any muscular bulls.

2.  Clowns.  My all time favorite is Quail Dobbs.  There are funny clowns and working clowns, and sometimes funny working clowns.  Barrel-men have form fitting barrels they will get in to distract the bulls and be silly.  Bullfighters are agile athletes who protect the rider once they dismount (elective or otherwise).  The way these guys to jump in the middle of the bulls face is an art.

130

Bull rider coming off

131

Rider crawling to safety

132

Bull spins around to kill the crawling cowboy

133

Leaping into the animal’s face, our clown high steps past while slapping a horn.

3. Vendors.  The culture of rural Texas, and no doubt America, is on display at your local county fair and rodeo.  Western themed artisans will be on hand selling you everything from bullwhips to rattlesnake skin boots, belts, and wallets.

4. Future Farmers of America.  Most of the time, a livestock show will be held concurrently.   The stock don’t look like the animals in your average pasture.  A show steer is to a pasture steer, what an NFL linebacker is to an accountant.

020

My friend’s son’s steer. Lotta junk in that trunk.

 

019

Not a baaaaaaaad goat.

.

IMG_3892

Another friend sporting his bunny belt buckle with pride. Each winning rabbit sold for over $1000.  I’m in the wrong business.

5. Barrel Racing/Rodeo Queens.  The rodeo isn’t only about men though.  If the ladies in your life like competition, barrel racing features women on Quarter horses racing around three barrels for the fastest time. Definite athletes, there were also a couple women ropers.  If Frozen is more your girl’s thing, a pageant of sorts is held and a local beauty is selected Queen of the rodeo.  She often carries the flag and banners of local sponsors in between events.  She has a court of princesses and gets to dress up in girly whatnot.

022

Her Majesty Saddling Up

021

Her Grace takes the time to mingle with her fans.

6. Carnival Rides.  Yes, there are carnies…but as long as you keep your wits about you, a lot of fun can be had on the rides.

006

A typical “carny” child.  Notice the aggressive behavior displayed: teeth bared, hair unkempt, shoes (when worn) appear on the wrong feet. I wouldn’t feed or make direct eye contact.

IMG_3888

The view from the Ferris’ Wheel.  Next to Pabst Blue Ribbon, the best thing to come out of the 1893 World’s Fair.

7. Food.  I’ve been to many different county fair and rodeos, and each has its own spin on the food.  All of them have funnel cakes and corn dogs, and at most of the Texas ones you’ll find BBQ, fajitas, and deep fried everything.  Being a coastal county, Matagorda had a seafood truck and alligator as well.  I even snagged a gyro one night. 005

8. Saddle Bronc and Bareback.  Classified along with bull riding as a “rough stock” event, these are different than bull riding in that a cowboy has to “mark out” his ride.  This means the cowboys feet are in front of the horses shoulders before the horses front feet hit the ground. If not, the rider’s disqualified or “missed him out.”  These rides create a bunch of work for chiropractors so I enjoy them as well.

061

See his turquoise chaps clearly ahead of the horses withers, clearly “marked out.”

9. Horses.  I grew up riding horses, so sometimes I find myself immune to their allure.  County rodeos give you a chance to get up close, pet and talk to the owners about their prized steeds.  If you know the dog family down the street, or the old cat lady next door, (or if you are the old cat lady– Hi Grandma!) horse owners are no less fanatical about their transportation pet and are happy to tell you all about them.

018

This color is known as appaloosa, and would make a fine rug….I mean pet.

1o. Seating.  It’s easy to get seats within inches of the action.  I prefer near the chutes where the rough stock action takes place.  Yet, there is a risk of getting dirt and other stuff thrown on you. Emphasis on the “other stuff.”

IMG_3992

Not, mud.  One of the dangers of being too close. You’ve been warned.

This year’s rodeo rocked. Before the last ride of the night, the bull wouldn’t cooperate in the chute.  Alternating horns and legs kept hanging up and it took a good ten minutes to get him and the rider squared away.  Each minute the bull stayed in the chute, the louder and more pissed off he got.  Finally, pried free with a 4×4, away they exploded not 50 feet from us.  Luckily, the rider was not hurt, despite his spur getting hung up in the rope.

If looking for something manly to watch, cancel that dinner and Rom Com date and find yourself a rodeo, Podnuh.

 

A Covey of Quail

Leave a comment

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/669/47099588/files/2014/12/img_28031.jpg

I studied the scaled feathers of the quail, remembering my grandfather. He was good a quail hunter, and I loved hearing him tell hunting stories. Spending nearly thirty years in Abilene, he killed many quail in West Texas places like Coleman, Throckmorten and the Matador Ranch.    These were the first quail I’ve killed in 23 years.

quail in the san augustine

Keegan and I were just getting our stuff unloaded in preparation for an evening dove hunt.  Guns still in the truck, a large covey of quail erupted from beneath my son eliciting a humorous squeal and jump from the five year old.

“What were those daddy?” he asked.

“I think those were quail!”

My last quail hunt was with my grandfather in Olney, Texas when I was 13.  We had an amazing hunt, killing limits three days in a row.  If quail populations ever rebounded to those levels, I might not chase any other game.

I watched this covey glide and land fifty yards away next to a wild rose bush. I quickly retreated to my buddy whose land we were hunting, and made sure it was ok to shoot these quail.  Keegan and I ambled our way to the rose bush.  Word quickly spread of the quail and Michael’s son joined us.

We neared the rose bush, and I slowed our pace.  I was bookended by a five and 6 year old each about 5 yards from me.  I did not want an accident to happen.  Within a few feet of the rose bush, my heart was racing.  I knew that with each step I took, an explosion of feathers could take place.  Nervous anticipation, not unlike opening a can of biscuits, resulted in me holding my breath.  Sweat trickled down my face.

My boot crunched a live oak limb, and up flew four or five quail.  Emptying my gun, I missed completely because I aimed at the center of the flock rather than a single bird.  I laughed in relief,  thinking my grandfather would have slammed them. When two more got up, I calmly nailed the first, but missed the second.  Then, as we looked for the first one, I jumped another and killed it as well.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/669/47099588/files/2014/12/img_28021.jpg

Since he died two years ago, I’ve found myself thinking about my grandfather each time I dove hunt. My grandmother gave me some of his hunting gear when he died–a field jacket, hunting bucket, and an old camo cap bearing the name of some Dallas law firm’s First Annual Dove Hunt. As luck would have it, I was wearing his cap and jacket.  I like to think he was with me and perhaps had a hand in the covey of quail showing up at my buddies place for the first time.

 

IMG_2804

After showing my buddies, we resumed dove hunting.  The dove were pouring into the live oaks from all directions. I was shooting well and soon my barrel was hot.    Meanwhile, my little boys/bird dogs wore themselves out chasing down the falling birds, while I loaded shell after shell.  Though,  I could have killed 50,  I was more than happy with my limit of 15.

IMG_2815

Limit of mourning dove and two bobwhite quail.

Unlucky for me, Papa Dave didn’t live in the era of selfies and hero shots after every hunt.  But they did take some pictures.  I love old hunting photos and thought you might enjoy some of these from the 1970s.

EPSON MFP image

One of the few quail hunting pictures I’ve found of him, but typical. Hunting with his two sons, and a host of friends.

 

EPSON MFP image

You did not want to be a thirsty dove if Dave Spencer was sitting by your pond.

EPSON MFP image

Pheasants weren’t safe in Kansas either.

EPSON MFP image

I’m not totally sure what they were hunting, but I bet it was a good time.

EPSON MFP image

I want this station wagon.

 

IMG_2826

Pretty cool bowl of birds to clean.

 

 

 

 

 

A Fat Doe

2 Comments

“So what do you want me to Shoot C-note? One doe? Three? A spike?” I asked Clayton.

He and his wife just welcomed a new baby last week, and I waited all the way until the umbilical cord was cut before hitting him up about a deer hunt at his family’s awesome ranch.  Cause you know, right after your baby is born you’ve got just tons of free time.

“Shoot a cull buck or a doe.”

And with that, he left me overlooking a green rye field at 3:00.  At 3:10 a giant (by Andy Standards™) 10 or 12 point came galloping from behind me.  I sent Clayton a text telling him about it and he said to take a picture through my scope. But it was moving so fast, I couldn’t get it lined up.  Soon it was gone.  I probably should have shot it, because if you are going by the King Ranch Cull Buck Definition, and not the Andy Standards™,  it just might have been a cull.  Maybe.  Actually, I doubt it.

Nonetheless, to my right appeared just what I was looking for: four fat doe.

049_zps3ebf195a

And on my left, about 250 yards away a few more appeared.

015

I decided to go ahead and shoot one of the mature does.  She stumbled forward and died quickly.  Meanwhile, a nice young 8 point came out of the woods to inspect the strange noise.  I took this opportunity to mess with my friend. He’d just texted me to pass on the spikes, when I shot.

IMG_2797[1]

 

Of course I didn’t shoot the young buck, who inexplicably stayed down wind of me playing around just for the fun of it.051057

 

054

So then I guess he finally winded me and decided to leave.

 

 

 

 

 

But not before I took some more scope pictures.

064 062 061

 

It was now 3:30 and we decided to we decided to get an early start on the skinning.   The doe was conveniently located next to the road.  We took the hero picture, loaded it, skinned it and were on our way home in no time.  The next day she was freezer ready

090

My first go at fancy butchering.

Clayton and I have growing families and our free time is limited.  Still, it’s important to sneak away and have a good time.  This Christmas, I’m thankful for my pals who have time to slip away and do manly things with me.

 

 

The Most Expensive Deer

10 Comments

 

IMG_2272After hunting all day Saturday and until 4 on Sunday, I load the family up and drive the 6 hours home.  At the 5 hour 50 minute mark, about 11:30 at night, out jumps a buck from the oncoming traffic lane and waylays my SUV.  Susan and the boys transition from deep REM sleep to ear piercing screams.  I brace for a shower of  glass that never comes. Side airbags deploy.

IMG_2274.JPG

I neither tap the breaks nor swerve.  Cruise control maintains my speed and I slowly gather my wits.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  We are less than 10 minutes from home, on a highway that dissects a couple thousand yards of San Augustine grass, which isn’t exactly prime deer habitat.

IMG_2275.JPG

The Expedition is running fine, but my driver side light doesn’t work.  With 140,000 miles and airbags deployed, I figure it’s totaled.

The irony is not lost on me.  Turnabout is fairplay.  I get it. Officially, the buck caused $12,700 worth of damage–or roughly a guided Dahl Sheep Hunt.  I now have another reason to fill my freezer this fall.

IMG_2277

The inside smells like poorly butchered deer.

 

On a happier note, the next night my dad proves half camo and a Ricola hat is all that is needed to exact a certain measure of revenge on Bambi’s dad.  IMG_2281.JPG

Anybody else hit a deer before?  What’s your most expensive roadkill?

Bloody Church Clothes

10 Comments

“Andy you really don’t have to go to church if you don’t want. What if you kill something tomorrow? Just skip it.”

“No way dude. I’m doing both. I need church.”

I wear myself out.  Like most, I have priorities I must attend, and fun stuff I want to do.  Conflicts arise.  My opportunities to hunt are growing smaller as the needs and desires of my family grow larger.  The temptation to place the fun stuff ahead of what’s important is ever-present and the easiest solution is to either drop the fun or change my priorities.  Those options suck.  So I choose wear myself out, and get both done despite the above internal conversations.

And so I found myself climbing into my stand at 6:15 on Sunday morning last weekend.  The wife and kids went to my mother in law’s place, and I to my parents.  Sitting in the dark, I scroll to my free bible app, and do some reading.  Yea I know, a hunting sin.  But I like to read while I hunt. As daylight approaches, I put in my earbuds and listen as a Mike Rowe sounding guy narrates one of Paul’s letters to the early believers.  Nestled among the limbs of a large pecan, Middle Lilly Creek on my right, Indian Hill and Graveyard Hill to my left,  I scan the horizon for a herd of pigs or perhaps one of the big bucks we’ve seen on our game cameras. Meditating on life’s meaning while deep in the forest with a gun in hand is spectacular.

IMG_1811

At 7:15 AM a nice young boar appears next to the creek, moving from right to left. I chuckle as I aim my rifle, thankful one’s made its appearance so early.  The unhurried pig walks casually, nose to the ground and disappears behind a limb in front of me. He emerges, and I aim for the neck, sigh, and fire.  I hit a bit forward, behind his ear, but it resulted in instant death. He didn’t take a step.

So here it is, a quarter past 7.  I’m a 75 yards from about 12o pounds of unwrapped organic, free range pork.  3/4 mile from the ranch house.  Bible study starts at 9:45 and it takes 15 minutes to get to church.  The race is on.

IMG_1821

7:37 I forgo normal field dressing being so close to the truck.   I am sick of my tailgate getting bloody, and decide to drag the porker to the buck pole.  When I shot my bear, I worried dragging it would damage its fur.  Not even close with that rugged and thick skin.  Same truth applies to pigs.

IMG_1822

7:50 I pull up to the house and we get the pig lifted onto the buck pole. Only a small section of the shoulder showed signs of being drug, namely a small patch of fur was gone.  It did get a little dusty.  It’s still much better than a bloody tailgate.

IMG_1825

8:45  I’ve gone through two of my Piranta blades because I snapped them in half.  Importantly, I’ve yet to cut myself despite moving quickly to get it processed.  I’m going to look into the Bolt from Havilon to see if it’s a little more sturdy.  Pigs are tough to skin.

IMG_1828

 

IMG_1830

9:06  Took longer than I thought, but the skin is off. I went all the way past the nose because I plan to make some head cheese. Dad come’s out dressed and ready, but I’m not quite done and still have to gut it.  I tell him to take off and I’ll meet him in class.

9:25  The pig is in the cooler.  Now for a quick shower. No time for more pictures.

9:45 Class has begun.  I stop and purchase five bags of ice, covering the porker completely.  I have 6 hour drive home, and have to work Monday so it needs to cool fast.  It’s about 80 degrees now.

9:50 I am seated in class.  I’m rewarded with a thought provoking lesson.   For all intents and purposes, I appear like any other Sunday church goer.  Except for the feint smell of pig and the blood on my pants.

IMG_1832

 

By 8:00 PM I have the pork wrapped in cellophane and butcher paper and labeled in the freezer.  I’m exhausted, but happy.

 

Canoeing the Kickapoo

Leave a comment

IMG_1561-0.JPG

Oliver shrieked and convulsed and I was sure he was being mauled by a colony of muskrats or the very least a raccoon on meth. Tall weeds thrashed about on the small island where he hopped from his canoe to pick up someone’s lost Crock as part of his Cub Scout “Leave No Trace Award.”

Suddenly he broke through the underbrush relieved but still wild eyed.

“It was just a frog in my shoe. Not a snake,” he panted as he bent over to put his shoes back on.

An hour before, Kickapoo Yacht Club’s Hambone unloaded our canoes and we were off. Paddling is one of our favorite pursuits and the Kickapoo is perfect for family fall trips.

Dressed in layers, I had the two smallest with me and the frog attack survivor with his mom.

.

IMG_1588.JPG

“Kickapoo” means one who goes here and there in Algonquin and the river is aptly named.  It seems to double back every fifty yards.  At one point in the 60’s they were going to dam it up and make a lake. This bad idea resulted in a lot of families being forced to sell their farms for pennies on the dollar.  Brown trout kiss the surface as you paddle along eating insects and making gentle swirls.

IMG_1583

 

At the take out, we emptied the trash gathered along the trip.  Though a few beer cans and flip flops were discovered, this is a clean river.  No doubt the Paddler Pickup Program keeps it as such, and I applaud the locals efforts.  IMG_1606

Remote, we had the river to ourselves until a British couple paddled past us.  Otherwise the river was ours to laugh, play, and get out to explore.  Or just goof off.

IMG_1553

Float trips are one of the best ways to see a lot of country without the physical exertion that can be too much for a 2 or 5 year old. This makes a primo outdoor event for your family, even if your wife is pregnant and you have a toddler.  Look for rivers with nothing more than a class 2 rapids, if you don’t have any experience paddling rough waters.   Bring a change of dry clothes.

If in the Driftless Area and want to float the Kickapoo, I highly recommend Hambone’s operation over at Kickapoo Yacht Club.

It was a good time.

IMG_1488

 

Tag Teaming Pork

18 Comments

A new season is upon us.  My first born is now old enough to use a high powered rifle under supervision, a day I’ve dreamed about since before he was born. So my sons and I headed north last Friday for a weekend of hunting, scouting and deer season preparation.

At a quarter till 7, we were overlooking the alluvial flood plain of Lilly Creek, in what we call the Hauer bottom.  Pronounced in deep East Texas drawl as High-yer, it use to abut land owned by a German family who was at odds with Kaiser Wilhelm during the first world war.  He’d complain that German families could live off the farm land where my grandfather would turn his plow mule around.  Now, it’s the most remote area of our familial lands and gets the least amount of human pressure.  Surrounded by forest and accessed by a dry weather only road, it is where I learned to hunt. Squirrels abound in the encircling forests, wood ducks use the flooded timber as the creek rises, and predators lurk in the meadow just as I have since my middle school days. I shot my first deer here.

A short hike and we were seated in our two person tree stand drenched with sweat.  Oliver, less than thrilled by the sweltering 99% humidity, was nevertheless excited to be shooting at something besides a paper target.

IMG_1221

Our stand is in the shadows under the pine limb in top right.   This pictures was from a day or so before we arrived, regardless of the erroneous date.

 

IMG_1143.JPG

The view from our stand. The pigs in the above picture were just to the right of the barrel of my gun.

In less than ten minutes, pigs announced their presence with snarls and shrieks from the forest behind.  The first time you hear pigs doing their thing in the wild is quite an experience, which was not lost on my little man.  IMG_1139.JPG

At times it sounded like the herd was just behind us, and at others they seemed to drift further away.  We could hear them criss-cross the small spring fed creek that runs parallel to the pasture just 15 yards behind us. This went on for about half an hour.

Suddenly, a large lone boar shows itself to our right.  Black as coal, its gate was hurried.   I look to see if Oliver was taking aim, but he’s staring at me, mouth agape and pointing.

I nod to him to hurry up and shoot. He raises his gun, pulls the trigger…click.  Forgot to take the safety off.

Now the boar is about to escape behind a tree island so I fire quickly and he spins and drops.  He then stands up, growls and runs a half circle, as Oliver attempts to draw a bead.  The boar abruptly sits, and falls over.  He moves as if to rise again, and I tell Oliver:

“Choot’em!” in my best Swamp People impression.  He does and the porker quits moving.

About three minutes later, the pig hasn’t moved.  We decide to go check on him, and Oliver scurries down the ladder.  Leaving his gun with me, he doesn’t wait and gets halfway to the pig when I call out to him:

“Wait, he might not be dead.”

As if on cue, the sounder of pigs behind us let out another chorus of screams.  Oliver flies back to the ladder and was half way up and almost in my lap in no time.   We both had a good laugh recalling Steven Rinella’s recent bull moose episode.  (Which, by the way,  is one of the best moments I’ve seen in hunting television.) We waited another five minutes to see if they too were on their way to us, but I decided I had enough to clean.   We eased down and looked at our pile of pork.

IMG_1155

As excited as he was, Oliver did chastise me for shooting first.  Still, when I explained how he “finished” him, all was right with the world.  As a sign of the changing of the times, the first thing he asked after a few pictures was for my phone to text Mom the news.  I told him to call her instead and he told her and his 2 year old brother of our heroic encounter.  This is our second tag team effort, but O admitted he wants a solo kill soon.  This fall is going to be epic.

IMG_1161.JPG

We loaded  the pig into the truck and returned to my parents.

IMG_1157.JPG

As we rolled up to the house, my middle son who elected to forego hunting and play on the slip and slide with his grandmother, met us at the driveway and was equally excited to see the pig.  I think it’s important to be realistic with your kids and the outdoors.  Of course, I want my 5 year old to come hunting with me every time and become as entranced by outdoor manly pursuits as I am.  But the truth is, he had more fun acting silly with his aunt and grandmother than he would have been sweating and swatting mosquitoes with his brother and I.

After putting on some gloves, both boys pitched in and helped me breakdown the carcass.  I used the gutless method for the first time and though I didn’t do it quite right, I can see the method has potential.  Keegan was as excited about helping to clean the pig as Oliver was to shoot it.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have predicted he’d be into it so much.  That’s the magic of fatherhood, special moments are often spontaneous and unexpected.

IMG_1164

 

IMG_1166

 

 

 

IMG_1171

 

IMG_1178

My oldest is a little more hesitant about getting messy. My 5 year old has no such qualms.

Alive at a quarter till 8 and cooling in the ice chest by 10, I found butchering the pig in upper 90 degree temperatures not as unpleasant as I had expected.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Saturday morning I slept in.  We shot bows, did some scouting and the boys rode horses with their aunt.  The flood gates opened around 5:30 and without rain gear, we chose not to hunt.

IMG_1197.JPG

IMG_1186

I stumbled upon this dude while scouting. I couldn’t find its head under the grass. Any idea what kind of snake this is?

 

They boys found time to do some trick riding with their aunt.

IMG_1213.JPG

IMG_1214.JPG

We estimated the pig to be about 160-180 pounds, my biggest to date.  Packaged and frozen, I brought home about 85 pounds of meat including the bones.  I hope to shoot many more, and all signs at the farm point to being a great deer and pig year.  Hunting season is upon us my friends.  Rejoice!

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

10 Comments

IMG_0966.JPG

It’s been awhile.  Work stuff, unexpected knee surgery, a brief bout of vegetarianism–it all led to me taking a hiatus from most things I enjoy.  But last week we ventured behind the pine curtain to my family’s land in Northeast Texas, and now I’m officially rejuvenated heading into my favorite season of the year.

The first order of business was to put my boys onto some big catfish.  River Monsters and the A-Team have been the majority of my kids’ TV diet this summer, so an interesting fascination with catching freshwater fish and vigilante justice has consumed my oldest son.   Growing up fishing the salt water, fresh water holds the same allure as salt water once had on me as a child.

Armed with our medium sized surf set ups, Abu Garcia 5000’s on stiff 7 foot rods, I thought we might have been over-gunned for the catfish in this pond.  Thinking we’d be reeling in 2-3 pound fish, I was pleasantly surprised when screaming drag proved me wrong.   We caught the first two on a synthetic bait used to catch whiting, sheepshead and other salty fish on the coast: Shrimp Fishbites.  These baits, though pricey, taste good to fish and last more than one hook up.  Cut into smaller portions they’d be deadly on spawning bluegill as well.  My dad  also scored a bucket of the something nasty from the local bait shop that made my hands smell like dead minnows for about a week.

It’s really time for me to get a GoPro.  My iPhone video is weak but demonstrative:  

As you can tell, I had to quit filming at the moment of truth.  In the next video, you can see the thematic influence Mr. T has had on my boy after a summer of watching the A-Team on Netflix.

 

IMG_0964.JPG

 

IMG_1112.PNG

Enough for a fish fry

 

IMG_1025.JPG

I haven’t filleted many 10+ pound catfish. This was more like a butcher job. I found on the others it was better to go ahead and gut them before filleting.

IMG_1064.PNG

Captain is 48 inches and ways 45 pounds. This channel cat is 24 inches and 9.5 pounds.

We also started getting ready for bow season and checking the game cams.   I shot my bow at fifty yards, and was happy with the accuracy.  Though, with my elk hunt falling through, I’m going to turn my focus to local game, shorter distances, and smaller targets.

Rocking Chair Buck

This guy has me excited.  If you look closely, it seems to have a pair of tines that swoop backwards.

We tried out the new stands placement, seems to meet the little tree elf’s approval.

IMG_0982  IMG_0985-0

Another cool thing we discovered is that Oliver grew into his youth rifle.  I have been coaching him about the mechanics of shooting and emphasizing slowly pulling the trigger so that it would be a surprise when it fires.  He did such a good job, I thought it was accidental at first.  But the target showed he was nearly perfect on his first shot.  My goal for him was to be just on the paper.  So I did two quick shots first, to make sure it was reasonably on target.  Turns out, his shots were much better than mine.  One of my lifelong dreams and most anticipated moments is the day I get to watch my boys take their first big game animal.  Now we are a step closer.  

photo

My shots were the lower two on the target.

 

This fall is shaping up to be an exciting one.  We are returning to Wisconsin for fishing, hunting and general outdoor recreating as well as cruising back to North East Georgia for some mountain time.  Of course dove and squirrel season will need some attention.  Also,  I’m getting to duck hunt with none other than Hank Shaw, my favorite food writer and chef.  Incredibly, he is coming to my home town to hunt ducks and geese and I get to tag along.  Moreover, he’s going to be doing a cooking school, about which I’m pumped.

What cool events do you have planned this fall?

Dirty Mouth

4 Comments
Image

Another fish that was biting were the lovely little toadfish.  Gruesome little buggers, they snapped at us as we tried to get the hooks out.  Apparently they like muddy bottoms and eating children’s souls.

Heavy rains are good, unless you want to fish near the mouth of the Colorado river on the gulf.  My plans of catching limits of specks in “trout green” waters under industrial sized lights were foiled by mother nature’s decision to empty several inches of rain the week prior to our trip. I managed a lone speckled trout in a week of fishing, but I must admit my efforts were not strong once it became apparent the water would remain the color of a good Cajun roux.  Even crabbing was weak, though we managed more success than we did with trout under lights.

Image

Luckily, Atlantic Golden Croaker, or simply croaker, were hammering dead shrimp and my boys stayed busy reeling in one after another.  The biggest went about 2 pounds, but most were in the half pound to pound range.  Fine table fare.

Image

Crabs were really slow, so we almost didn’t have enough but on the last day a small herd of crabs made their way into our pots.  We ended up with about a dozen keepers with about another dozen stone crab claws.

Image

Excitement ensued when I heard a loud splash and looked over and saw my 2 year old floating face down and arms flailing and survival kicking.  Naturally, in I went.  As luck would have it, so did the iphone in my pocket.  Awesome.  I also cut my bare feet on some oyster shell–luckily the mud plugged the wounds quickly before any of the toadfish could gnaw my legs off.  Susan, my wife, comes rushing out of the cabin and as I’m standing waste deep in the water holding my crying two year old, she asks “Did he fall in?”

“Nope.”

But my little guy was fine and he soon enjoyed the fun of blowing bubbles in 15 mph winds.

Image

The cool thing about kids, fishing and vacations is that even though the fishing was a bust, we had a good time.  And it’s not about the fillets for me anymore, its about the smiles.

image (8)

 

 

 

Coach’em Up

2 Comments

20140516-150640.jpg

I’ve been busier than the men’s room at Golden Corral on chili-mac and cheese night, coaching two little league teams. After learning 23 names, managing 22 games, and having about 25 practices I’ve learned to leave the gear in my truck, don’t forget the water, and have everyone visit the bathroom before the first pitch.

20140516-084334.jpg

I think we want all boys to lead active lives and build confidence in themselves through success after hard work.

20140516-150617.jpg

In a sense, I am always coaching; be it lining their knuckles up in while holding the bat, keeping their feet floppy in the free style, reeling in a redfish, or saying the dinner prayer.

20140516-150629.jpg

I’ve found my boys learn in waves. For instance, swimming the fly is a learning progression depending on timing and the kick. But if you tell them everything they must do before swimming it correctly, they will almost be paralyzed with information overload. Break it down into simple steps and after a few short sessions, they suddenly get it.

20140515-092323.jpg

No sense trying to explain the intricacies of the infield fly rule to a 7 year old.

I get excited and have fun. Go ahead and smile, yell, and get fired up with the boys. The younger they are the more they love it and learn to feed off your energy. Encourage them to celebrate and be goofy when they succeed. 20140515-092451.jpg

It’s all about the fun. When my wife grabbed a few tennis rackets at a thrift store, obligatory sweat bands were in order. Sadly, I couldn’t find any painfully short shorts to complete the 1980s look of these burgeoning McEnroe’s.

20140515-092142.jpg

 

20140515-092128.jpg

The other night we set up a practice elk camp in the back yard, building a fire, roasting some dogs, and breaking out our new backpacking stove from MSR. The boys spread the sleeping mats and bags out, and scattered army men over the floors of the tent. You know, the essential stuff for an elk hunt.

20140516-084416.jpg

One of Davids song lyrics says “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him,” and it’s true. If you have children in your life to mentor, train and coach don’t hesitate to do so. If sports aren’t your thing, coach them to do what you like. Whatever you enjoy, teaching a kid to do what you like and do it well creates a satisfaction way beyond your own accomplishments. I’ve been on some fine hunts, scored touchdowns and caught a bunch of fish but nothing is like seeing kids you’ve taught do the same. While it takes patience and time, the reward far outweighs the cost.

Babies, Birdnests, and the Beach or Raising Kids To Love Fish Slime

3 Comments

Beaches and babies have been a big part of the last 5 years of my life. Today was fairly representative: sand castles and sand fights, trophy birdnests on the fishing reels, and an ice chest full of panfish–growing up, goofing off, and making memories. 20140308-205334.jpg

both

Fiesty Atlantic Spadefish

 

20140308-214149.jpg

150832_1567614150782_6380113_n

Can I touch it?

oliver

26022_1326229636320_3978123_n

20140308-205156.jpg

 

Boys and slimy fish are well suited.  If you have access to either, I suggest you combine them and see for yourself.

Kayaking, Kids, and the Cure for Lonely Fishing

9 Comments

It was time.  Plans were made, research was done.  Reaching out to my favorite kayak forum, I procured a pair of kayaks for the rest of my clan.  An Ocean Kayak Drifter for the oldest and Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem for the rest. Used, but well cared for. The marsh can be a lonely place, specially when you have a 2, 4 and 7 year old back home playing while you are looking for redfish.  In fact, it can drive a man to quit fishing.  But now I can see an end to the lonely times spent on the water, and we couldn’t wait for my call weekend to end to try them out.  Below is the prelude to this year’s adventures.  Come on warm weather!

1

Entry went fine

2

Handles well.

3

Little brother is intrigued–and he too wants to float.

9B71155D-B352-4AD9-BA65-FA92238880EE_zpsikg0mjqm

Looking good, but I wonder if the kayaks are stable enough for them?

4

7A31C847-4A2F-4C2E-AA8D-755BABE923C5_zpsfkftyfdk

68A2E6C7-D73C-475C-B638-FA88F3A62AE9_zpsv09fnr1g

Mom and baby jump into the fray

5

Toddler wants to paddle

79913D26-81C0-4B84-A2A3-4FEA0854D0C4_zpsku3cvegd

98D188E2-BAAE-485F-83EC-5CD167FBB902_zpsawmjwdnj

Rumors of a pirate activity

15B1C81D-D3BE-4293-8D74-E04CE225A79B_zpsffuyttyy

A hostile boarding, what could possibly go wrong?

B4EA1C89-0E25-461B-A0C0-5617FF218821_zps4xxfc1ww

554B8206-2F2C-4404-96C9-2B06F37631FE_zpsgyfkleiv

665B67F1-0F63-4927-9594-C93F73B214FE_zps8pwdgarm

8C4940F5-F619-4622-925C-6BD073839EE0_zpse8ayui0h

A Fate Worse than Legos

8 Comments

Stepping on legos and army men don’t bother me like they once did.

A while back my folks got my oldest son a tackle box for Christmas, stocked with lures, and he was thrilled.

Fast forward a few weeks. I had barely woken up, shuffling to the kitchen to brew a cup of Joe when I stepped on something. We step on a lot of things in this house of three boys under 7. This time was different. I looked down and discovered a miniature jerk bait firmly embedded in my foot. Both treble hooks buried to the hilt. One in the thick sole of my foot and the other in the thin skin just above the sole.

20130628-223448.jpg

None of the “tricks” to remove hooks work on tiny trebles.

20130628-223619.jpg

My wife had to perform surgery at the dinner table. She did admirably.

20130628-223731.jpg

20130628-223814.jpg
So do you have any hook removal tricks?

Field Trip: 5 Things to do in New Orleans with your Family

3 Comments

If you’ve never been to New Orleans–or only been as part of a bachelor/bachelorette party, or during Mardi Gras in a drunken haze of an ill-remembered reverie–you may not think it’s a family destination.  And that’s too bad.  New Orleans has incredible food, culture, and things to do with your family. Here’s one day we had recently.

1.  Stay Outside of New Orleans

Easter weekend, my family (wife and three sons ages 6,4, and 18 months) made the 6 hour drive from our house to New Orleans.  Because it was spur of the moment, we weren’t able to land a room in the Garden District or the French Quarter for the price we wanted.  Typically you are looking at $125+ a night in these areas and paying for parking, around $25 a day.  Because we decided at the last minute, prices were much more.

Normally, I’d be bummed about staying outside of the Quarter or Garden District.  However, we discovered the LaQuinta in Kenner has a bar and grill run by http://messinascatering.com/.  The red beans and rice are amazing, as is the bread pudding.  When we were about 20 minutes out, we called and they had the food waiting for us.  Crawfish Etoufee, poboys, etc. This is indicative of the magic about the New Orleans area.  Tremendous food and culture just kind of appear out of nowhere.

 2.  Visit the French Quarter

So after grabbing a couple sacks of Beignets and Café Au Lait at the Café Dumonde on Veterans, http://cafedumonde.com/locations, we headed into town.  If you stay in Quarter and are an early riser, by all means go get your beignets at the original location.  But each morning we hit Jackson Square the line was at least 200 feet long by 9:30.  And I don’t know about you, but wrangling three kids in line for 45 minutes is not good times.

I always like visiting the French Quarter as early as possible in my New Orleans trips.  Something about the wet streets, pungent odors of last night’s debauchery and funky Spanish architecture just puts me in a relaxed state of mind. It does the same to my kids.  So we drank our Au Laits and walked around the Quarter.  The sidewalks and streets are easy to push a stroller and there are a ton of neat shops and historical markers to stop and see.

On the square proper, artists display their goods, street performers tie balloons in funny shapes,  pick pockets and con artists try to make an easy buck. Never make a bet with someone who approaches you.   E.g. “I bet you five bucks I know where you got your shoes.”  The correct answers is “On your feet.”  Don’t ask how I know.

Protip:  My strategy for con artists and hustlers is simple:  offer to sell them a magazine subscription and ask for a cigarette.  They will practically run from you.

Walk

Here’s where we walked in the Quarter

3.  Visit Audobon Park

After lunch at Camellia Grill, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_Grill, the kids are antsy and we head over to Audubon Park and the Zoo.   This zoo rocks, in part because they have animals escape at various times (though sadly, not intentionally).  We’d just walked through the gates and were soon hustled into the gift shop.  The threat level was announced as “Yellow” which after some questions I discovered meant,  some animal not as nice as a bunny rabbit (ruling out an Easter bunny sighting) and not as mean as a tiger.  Somewhere in between.    Nonetheless, I felt it necessary to get the scoop from a pro regarding our safety.

Minutes turned to half-hours.  I for one, began to feel intimidated and a wee bit anxious.  Toys and gifts were being spread out all over the floors.  I could barely walk.  While the zoo keepers moved us into the gift shop for our safety, no one was looking out for the gift shop’s safety.  Mad, sugar crazed toddlers were running rampant.  Mothers were getting snippy, and I got several stern looks–from not just my wife.  I put things back down.  Thoughts of abandoning it all entered my mind, and some of others’.

Luckily, everything turned out OK.

4.  Take in a Cemetery.  

Don’t let the guide books fool you.  Some cemeteries aren’t safe.  One guide we talked to said,  “Sure the cemetery is safe, but you can’t park anywhere safely nearby.”  So I’d definitely recommend  Lafayette No. 1.   Its the oldest city operated cemetery in town and is in the Garden District which is both gorgeous and safe.  A particularly touching tomb is dedicated to the Home For Destitute Orphan Boys, where a collection of small toys graces the front in lieu of flowers.  The last child buried there died in 1849.

Cemetery

Notice it’s daylight–amp up the fun with a trip in the dark!

5.  Play in the sand, have a drink, and experience real Louisiana seafood. 

When I’m in Louisiana, I’m soaking up culture. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place than http://middendorfsrestaurant.com/.  Middendorf’s is specifically great  because it’s just out of the way enough for your average tourist to frequent.  So the people you run into are genuine.   It has a big sand beach with fences and a small fountain the kids can play in.  Bring a change of clothes or two.   The bar is accessible from the play area, allowing you to enjoy a cold beverage while letting the kids play in the sand. The fences are nice because they keeps the little guys from escaping. The food is incredible and I particularly recommend the broiled Italian oysters and thin fried catfish.  Susan likes the broiled stuffed shrimp.

Broiled Stuffed shrimp

Broiled Stuffed Shrimp

 

Oliver and Allistair

Good times had by all

sand box

Relaxed in the Sandbox

Keegan

Kung Fu is Allowed on the Deck


So these are some things we’ve done in one day in the Big Easy.  If you haven’t been to New Orleans, don’t let having a family stop you.  What is your favorite thing to do in the Crescent City?  Do you have any protips?

Al sip

Bloody Marys aren’t for Toddlers