Archive | December, 2007

2007 Outdoors Highlights

December 31, 2007


As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on my outdoors experiences of 2007. All in all, it was a great year, filled with lots of forays into the woods and waters of Minnesota and beyond. Here is a summary of the year’s great moments:

My sons Andy (left) and Joe

Ice fishing on Upper Red Lake
After going more than a decade without hitting the frozen water, I decided to give it a try in January. I’m glad I did. I took my Dad, Ray, and two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, to Upper Red Lake to spend several days in an ice-fishing shack. My very first fish was a beautiful 14-inch crappie, my biggest ever. Each of the boys also caught a big crappie each. Plus, we caught some nice walleyes and were able to take home our limit of two each. I’m going back to Upper Red Lake on New Year’s Day to try it again. I plan to write my monthly outdoors column about the trip. Stay tuned!

Spring turkey hunting
For the first time, I hunted wild turkeys in three states: Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota, in that order. I hunted in Missouri with Father Joe Classen of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He took me to his prime hunting spots, but the birds were quiet and elusive for three days. Still, it was a fun experience. Then, I came back home and hunted in Wisconsin, first with Joe and Andy and then with my friend Jim Rienhardt on land his family owns. Both hunts were successful. Andy shot a nice bird the first week in May, then I followed with another a week later. Needless to say, we’ll be back in Wisconsin this spring. I only hunted one day in Minnesota, this time with my brother, Paul. We had fun, but couldn’t pull a bird in close enough for a shot. We’ll both get another try at Minnesota birds this spring.

More walleye action on Upper Red
I went fishing twice in the summer on Upper Red and had fantastic action both times. In May, I had to go to Bemidji to take a photo to use on the cover of the 2008 Minnesota Catholic Directory. So, I took my wife, Julie, with me and we went to Upper Red after I got done with the photos. We fished from shore in the Tamarac River, which flows into Upper Red, and caught about 50 walleyes in about five hours and took home our limit of two each. Where else can you do that well fishing from shore? Then, in June, our whole family went back up to Upper Red so that I could write a story on the winner of The Catholic Spirit Kids’ Fishing Contest, Maddie Weathers of St. Elizabeth Seton in Hastings. She caught her first walleye ever and everybody caught lots of walleyes. It was a phenomenal trip and I plan on going back again this year. And, special thanks to West Wind Resort for donating the grand prize of two days and nights at the resort for Maddie and her family.

Bass bonanza
This was my best year ever for bass fishing, one of my all-time favorite outdoor activities. I hit the lakes very hard over the summer and had some nice fish to show for it. I equaled my mark for biggest bass ever with a 20-incher I caught on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis in August. That followed a 19 1/2-incher I caught in July, also on Calhoun, which is proving to be my top lake for big bass. In all, I caught at least a half dozen bass that went 19 inches or longer, the highest single-season total of my fishing career. Can’t wait to hit the lakes again this summer!


Big Sky adventure
I bagged my first antelope and mule deer ever during a hunt near Great Falls, MT with my father-in-law, Bob Guditis, and my brother-in-law, Jerry Gray, and sister-in-law, Jessica Gray. We saw lots of animals in our October hunt and it looks like we’ll be going back next year, probably over Thanksgiving. That’s prime time for hunting deer and elk and I’m hoping to try for my first elk ever.

Fall walleye excursion
This year was the fourth annual fall walleye trip to Lake of the Woods with my friend Pete Wolney, a classmate of mine at Totino-Grace High School (1979). This was our best year ever for big fish. Pete caught a 28-inch walleye, plus a 25-incher, while I pulled in a 24 1/2-incher and a 24-incher. Pete has caught the biggest fish all four years, while I have caught the most all four years. I guess that’s a good balance, but I told Pete it’s my turn to catch a wall-hanger next year. Actually, I had a big one on this year, but it got off. That’ll give me something to think about ’til October comes.

I’m thankful for the many times I was able to enjoy the outdoors in 2007 with family and friends and I pray I will have many more opportunities in the coming year!

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Merry Christmas to landowners

December 26, 2007


On the Saturday before Christmas, I made an important trip with my two oldest boys, Andy and Joe, that is becoming an annual tradition. We made visits to landowners who have given us permission to hunt and gave them a Christmas gift. I think this is an important part of the hunt, as important as scouting.

We were able to give the landowners sticks of venison summer sausage that we had made at a local meat market here in St. Paul called Stasny’s. The landowners seemed to appreciate the gift and I sure hope they do. We have enjoyed success on their land and I want to do everything I can to make sure we don’t lose the privilege to hunt.

I don’t believe it takes much to maintain good relationships with landowners. Simple gestures like making a personal visit to say thank you can go a long way. I wish more hunters would do it.

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Good eatin’

December 20, 2007


Earlier this week, I made venison stew and brought it in to share with my colleagues at The Catholic Spirit. To my delight, people loved it and a large crock pot full of stew disappeared in short order.

I really enjoy cooking and eating what I harvest and, whenever possible, sharing it with others. I’m thankful that my wife and kids like fish and game, for the most part. So do my coworkers. Fortunately, I have lots of fish and game still in the freezer, so there will be many more delicious meals to come.

As I reflected on the joys of cooking and eating game, I recalled a disturbing article I read recently in a local outdoors publication called Outdoor News. One of the paper’s columnists discovered that some people in a small town where he hunts have engaged in the practice of shooting deer that they see from their vehicles and leaving them lay in the fields.

When he questioned some folks about it, they merely said they enjoy shooting animals that they see. To me, this is not sport. My simple slogan is, if you’re not going to eat it or give it to someone who will, don’t shoot it. The exception would be if it’s a nuisance animal like a coyote.

I believe this is one of the principals of stewardship that people of faith should follow. God gave us an abundance of fish and game. Let’s thank him and glorify him for this by putting the creatures we harvest to good use.

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Fourth hunt’s the charm

December 17, 2007


My son Andy shot his first pheasant on Saturday at a game farm in Wisconsin. He was invited to the birthday party of his ninth-grade classmate, who lives on 20 acres near Hudson and deer hunts on his family’s land.

It’s been a tough fall for Andy. He did not get an antelope in Montana, he did not get a deer in Minnesota and he did not get a pheasant last weekend down in southwestern Minnesota.

I felt bad for him. While I don’t believe it’s important to be successful every time, I’d like my kids to succeed at least some of the time. So, this was a nice ending to the hunting season for him. I’m proud that he made the shot, but prouder still that he kept at it the entire fall and never complained. Not sure I would have taken the lack of success so well.

The success aspect is thought to be important by experts who analyze youth hunting and fishing participation trends. Simply put, the more success kids have, the more likely they are to continue doing it, the experts say.

I agree, yet I think there’s value in coming home empty handed sometimes. It builds character. The good news is Andy doesn’t appear to be losing any enthusiasm for hunting. He’s already looking forward to next year. So am I.

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A time for nostalgia

December 13, 2007

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I just finished reading an essay in the January edition of In-Fisherman magazine called “50 Years Loving Walleyes” by editor-in-chief Doug Stange. It is an Izaak Walton-type description of a lifetime’s worth of memories chasing his favorite fish.

I highly recommend the article for those who love fishing and, especially, for those who have enjoyed fishing throughout both their childhood and adult years. Winter is a great time for warming our souls with memories of great catches and great experiences on the water.

And, don’t forget to give thanks to the God who created the water and the fish that swim therein. We are extremely blessed to have an abundance of fish and lakes to enjoy, plus the prosperity to buy boats, tackle and even lakeshore cabins.

Then, there’s having the freedom and the time to fish wherever we want. One thing I especially appreciate is the fact that all water in our Land of 10,000 Lakes is public. It belongs to us, which means we have access to almost every lake. There’s no having to ask someone’s permission to launch our boat, like we hunters have to do to get on private land. I fished about a half dozen lakes this year and I’d like to do so again next year. Thanks be to God I have the ability to do so!

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One happy hunter

December 10, 2007


I had an unexpected encounter with a deer hunter on Saturday. Our family was delivering Christmas gifts for Project Angel Tree (see story in this week’s Catholic Spirit), which provides a way for prison inmates to give presents to their children.

We arrived at the house of a Hmong family in St. Paul to drop off gifts for two children. There were three generations present in the home and we were surprised to see two whitetail deer head-and-shoulder mounts in the family’s small living room. It turns out they were shot by the grandfather, who, obviously, is a skilled hunter. If his English had been better and if we would have had more time, I would have talked more with this gentleman and gotten the stories of these two successful hunts.

I did manage to find out that he shot the deer in Wisconsin. After we left, I couldn’t help but ponder the ugly incidents between white hunters and Hmong hunters that have taken place the last two years. It’s really a shame. I have met a number of Hmong people, including hunters, and they seem to be very gentle and mild-mannered overall. I believe that the violent confrontations in the woods could have been avoided.

Emotions often run high in the field like they do on freeways during rush hour. I will try to keep the image of this older Hmong hunter in my mind should I ever encounter a Hmong hunter in the woods, which I have. When I told him I admired the nice bucks on his wall, he flashed a huge smile. I couldn’t help but be excited for him and hopeful that he will enjoy many more deer hunting seasons in Wisconsin.

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Giving thanks still in season

December 7, 2007


I made an important phone call earlier this week. It was to a landowner on whose land I shot the deer pictured on the intro. of this blog. Though the conversation was brief, it was a necessary part of the hunt, one which, sadly, too many hunters forget.

I told him thanks for letting us hunt. My friend Bernie’s son Dan also shot a deer on this man’s farm near Red Wing. It was his first and it was something to celebrate. I relayed the story of our success to the landowner and let him know how much it meant for us to be able to hunt there.

I hope the privilege continues next year and beyond. I think it helps all hunters when we use good manners and take the time to say thanks to the landowners who make our hunts possible. A small gift is a good idea, too. I asked him if he would be interested in some venison summer sausage and he said yes.

I plan on dropping by with some. A brief, in-person visit makes a difference, I believe. Last year, I spent the Saturday before Christmas making the rounds to landowners and dropping off gifts. Amazingly, they all were home and seemed to enjoy the gifts. I hope to do the same this year. It’s one way to enjoy the outdoors at Christmas time.

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In need of prayer

December 4, 2007


I got some sad news today from my friend Father Joe Classen in St. Louis, MO. Gene Kopp, who was one of our hosts on our turkey hunt last spring in Missouri, has cancer and is not doing well, Father Joe informed me today. He is in need of prayer, which I plan on offering today in the adoration chapel at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, my parish.

Gene is a delightful gentleman who, along with his brother Glenn, welcomed Father Joe and I to their farm to hunt turkeys and share in a delicious afternoon meal after the hunt. Their hospitality was warm, gracious and very much appreciated. I have had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people during my experiences in the woods and waters and Gene is one of them. Ditto for Glenn. That is precisely why this news especially saddens me.

Relating with landowners can be a challenge for hunters because it often doesn’t take much for a landowner to get turned off and start turning away hunters. I try to behave in all the right ways when I’m afield, but I do worry about making mistakes that will upset the landowners.

Gene and Glenn put me at ease from the very beginning and sent a clear message that I was welcome on their farm. On our second morning, Father Joe and I got to their farm before sunup and went out hunting without talking to Gene or Glenn. Later, we split up and I eventually made my way back to the farmhouse, where the two men were sitting on the porch. Upon seeing me, they immmediately got up to introduce themselves and ask if I would like a cold beer. It was hot, I was thirsty and my answer was quick.

I believe God honors such generosity and I pray God, in turn, will be generous in His love, mercy and healing power to Gene and Glenn during this time.

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