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Enjoying the weather!

September 29, 2014

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I was able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather we had over the weekend. It started with trap shooting Saturday afternoon at the home of a high school classmate and friend, Tim Kiminski. I had organized the event as a fundraiser for Trinity School at River Ridge, where my two youngest kids, Claire and William, go to school.

We had a fabulous time, then went to a wild game dinner at the home of Al and Anne Nicklaus in Burnsville. We had lots of good food, including two of my specialties — venison cheeseburger on a stick, and wild turkey/wild rice casserole. Anne added her famous venison pot pie, and Al offered a pheasant appetizer. By the end of the night, I was stuffed!

Of course, we talked hunting quite a bit during evening. Al showed me his new bow, and I drew it back to check it out. To my surprise, the draw length was perfect, and the peep sight on his string aligned perfectly with my eyes. Amazing! I could hunt with that bow. At the very least, I plan on taking some practice shots with it.

Yesterday, I took my son Andy down to Red Wing to work on deer stands. We moved two of them to what I hope will be better spots. The weather was a little warmer than I would have liked, and the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible. They swarmed us from beginning to end, and it felt like I had 100 bites on my body by the time we were done. Thankfully, one of the landowners had some repellent on hand, or I might have needed a blood transfusion.

The good news is, we got the two stands set up. Now, all we need to do is cut some shooting lanes. I will go back and do that in the next few weeks. I may wait until the leaves fall. Sometimes, with the leaves gone, visibility is much improved, and I see that I don’t have to do a lot of trimming. It’s not as critical for gun hunting as for bow hunting. Shotgun slugs go through small twigs and branches with no trouble, whereas even the smallest obstacles can deflect an arrow enough to miss the deer.

I’d like to get out and bow hunt soon, but I’m more interested in sitting in the stand in late October and early November. That’s when the rut really picks up steam, and that’s when I want to be out there.

Give me a day in the 30s or low 40s in early November, and I’m confident that the deer will be moving. Can’t wait!

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Deer hunting in Europe

September 25, 2014

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I got a very intriguing email from my son Joe this morning. At the moment, he is in Rome working for the University of Dallas as a Rome Assistant. It’s a great job, and he is having the time of his life. He got the news he had been selected shortly before his graduation from the school in May. He got an English degree and was magna cum laude.

He is just a bit sad that his time in Rome means he will miss deer hunting this season. I have been trying help fill some of the gap with updates on my fall bow hunting experiences. Plus, he has been surfing YouTube and has found some videos, including on one hunting fallow deer in Hungary. I found it fascinating, and I think any deer hunting enthusiast will, too.

One of the practical benefits covered by the expert hunter in the video, Max Hunt (how’s that for an appropriate name?) has to do with arrow flight. Some slow motion video footage shows his arrows traveling in a clear spiral pattern closer to the release point, then stabilizing farther away. He notes that his groups aren’t as tight at 20 meters as they are at 25. I haven’t done as much testing at those ranges as he has, but I have noticed that I seem to shoot very well at 25 and 30 yards, sometimes better than at 20.

I was always puzzled by this. Now, based on the video footage, I have a little more insight on this. That alone was worth seeing the video, but there was some fun hunt footage, too, as he goes after a trophy buck. For those who want to see more of Max, they can go to his website. I plan on surfing it real soon.

Sure would be fun to try hunting in Europe. Joe holds out some small hope that he might get to do it during his year in Italy. I sincerely want him to get that opportunity!

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Archery season underway!

September 18, 2014

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I was pumped up for the archery opener on Saturday. Sept. 13 was the opener for both Minnesota and Wisconsin. This year, I decided to buy an archery tag for Wisconsin, which I got for half price because I am buying that license for the first time. Wisconsin started this policy a few years ago, and I decided to cash in this year.

That decision is rooted in the severe restrictions in place for Minnesota this year. Most areas of the state have a one-deer limit for the entire season, which means if I harvest a deer with my bow — any deer — I cannot tag another deer in any zone with a one-deer limit. I could, however, party hunt or hunt the few zones with higher limits.

I wanted the opportunity to harvest more than one deer, so I decided to buy the Wisconsin license. And, I crossed the St. Croix River to hunt in Wisconsin on the opener, and again yesterday afternoon.

The opener was very unusual, in that I was dressing for November rather than for mid-September. I got invited to hunt near Baldwin by Deacon Jake Anderson, who is on the path for ordination to the priesthood in May. He and I had talked about bow hunting together on his family’s land, and he was kind enough to give me the opportunity to hunt with him on opening day.

We had worked on putting several stands up two weeks beforehand, so we had some options for the opener. Deacon Jake took a stand where he had been successful in previous years, and I took a new one he just put up this summer.

Turns out, he had the hot stand. He saw six deer on opening morning and five or six more that evening. He had several small bucks come into bow range, but they weren’t big enough. A nice doe and her two fawns came in close, but not close enough. He uses a recurve, and his maximum distance is 20 yards. These deer were at 25.

Meanwhile, I had very little action at my stand. I saw something move across the clearing to the west, but couldn’t positively identify what it was. I think it was a deer, but saw it through some trees and didn’t get a good look at the body.

Yesterday, I went to another spot that is near Prescott. I had set up a stand the week before with another guy who hunts the land. He had shot a nice deer in this area, so he suggested I try setting up there.

We found one nice deer trail running along the ridge, and we threw up a ladder stand that I had brought. I think deer will move along this ridge, especially during the rut.

This time, all was quiet except for a handful of squirrels and two nice tom turkeys that walked through. I think they were about 20 yards away, and it would have been fun trying to take the shot. But, the nonresident turkey license is another $70, and I decided not to spend the extra money. I will definitely keep this property in mind for the spring, though. The landowner said there are lots of turkeys on the property, so it would be worth checking out.

Would have been nice to see a deer come walking past my stand, but I’m not discouraged. The early season can be challenging, as the deer mostly feed and bed down during this time. Once the rut kicks in, most of the deer, especially bucks, are on their feet a lot more. So, sightings usually go up, as do shot opportunities.

I look at early season hunting as mostly a tuneup for the rut. In fact, I got some valuable information while in my stand last night that will help me on later hunts. Seems the strap I use for my safety system was too short to go all the way around the oak tree where I had positioned my stand. I have a longer strap at home, but didn’t bring it. This morning, I put that longer strap in my backpack so it will be there the next time I sit in this stand.

I also was able to screw a metal post into the tree for my bow hanger. I don’t like doing it in the dark when I come out for a morning hunt. Now, it’s all set for the next time I hunt. I also have trail tacks put in so I can find the stand in the dark.

As I drove home, I imagined what it will be like hunting this property during the rut.

I’m sure looking forward to November!

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Lunker muskie on board!

August 25, 2014

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Father Paul Shovelain helps a young angler pose for a picture with his catch.

Father Paul Shovelain helps a young angler pose for a picture with his catch.

I was enjoying the celebration of my nephew’s baptism yesterday when my phone alerted me to an incoming text message. It was from Father Paul Shovelain, and there was a photo attached.

I know this newly-ordained priest well enough to know that a text message and photo during the summer could only mean one thing — a fish story!

And, sure enough, it was. I asked him to email me more details of the story, plus the photo. I was happy to see his message in my in box this morning. Father Paul is now assigned at St. Peter in Forest Lake, and the story involves a young boy in the parish. Here’s what Father Paul had to say:

“Matthew and I were out fishing for bass on Saturday, August 23. I have gotten to know Matthew’s family quite well during my first two months at St. Peter’s and they let me keep my fishing boat at their dock.

Matthew and I went out fishing for bass and did have much action for the first hour. Matthew mentioned that he wanted to try his dad’s favorite spot, so we drove over to it and put the anchor down.

There were a couple other boats around, but they were fishing for panfish. On two of his first three casts, something was hitting Matthew’s topwater bass jig. He thought it was a northern and I was fishing on the other side of the boat, so I didn’t pay two close attention.

On his fourth cast, a massive 44-inch muskie hit it and Matthew was able to set the hook. He thought it was a northern at first and I exclaimed, “No, that’s a Muskie!”

I just wanted to get the fish in the boat, but I only had a small walleye/bass fishing net. After a few minutes, he got it close to the boat and I was able to net the fish, and it curled around in the net.

We got it in the boat and we were just thrilled! I had never handled a muskie before, so we drove over to another boat, and he jumped in with us and showed me how to handle it.

Meanwhile, Matthew was yelling, “I got my first muskie!” His dad, about 100 yards away on their dock, heard him and took the pontoon out to meet us. We got pictures, and then the fishermen that showed me how to hold it gently coaxed it back into the water.

I didn’t have a tape measure or a scale, but based on the pictures, Matthew’s dad thinks it was about 44 inches and 20-25 pounds! That was one memorable fish!”

Congratulations to Matthew. No doubt, he’s hooked for life. My first muskie was a 45-incher I caught on my very first evening of muskie fishing. Like Matthew, I, too, caught it on a topwater lure. I haven’t done much fishing for muskies since then, but Matthew’s story makes me want to try again.

I’m sure this will be a summer Matthew will never forget. As for me, I’m hopeful that one day I will be able to get out fishing with Father Paul. We’ve talked about it for years. Maybe, we can do it this fall.

Who knows? Maybe Father Paul will take me to the spot where Matthew caught his muskie.

Or, he might adapt the seal of the confessional principle to what goes on in a fishing boat and, thus, not divulge the location of the muskie strike.

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Some walleye for the frying pan

July 15, 2014

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As readers of The Catholic Spirit now know, I had a successful fishing trip to South Dakota’s Lake Oahe last month. I was invited to participate in the Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament, and I gladly accepted.

The walleyes I brought home have made for some nice fish dinners. I decided to deep fry some in beer batter for the guys in my men’s group. I have been experimenting with some recipes in the hopes of finding a real winner.

I decided to go back to a cookbook I had used the first time I tried deep frying fish. Lo and behold, I found a recipe I had handwritten on one of the pages. Years ago, I had tweaked the recipe in the book and came up with something good.

So glad I stumbled upon it! I went with it again, and the fish tasted great. In fact, my friend Mike Altendorf, an avid fisherman himself, said it was the best beer-battered walleye he had ever eaten. What a nice compliment to hear!

Over the Fourth of July, our family went up north about 20 miles inland of Lake Superior. We were invited to stay at the Franciscan Brothers of Peace new Spiritual Center, which features a beautiful main cabin, chapel and smaller cabin on a small lake that just happens to have walleyes.

We took out the brothers’ pontoon boat and went on a search for walleye. I had talked to someone from the local DNR office who knows about the lake and has fished it himself. He gave me a few tips, and we headed out on Sunday evening, July 6.

After raining off and on throughout the weekend, including during the afternoon that Sunday, the skies finally cleared in the evening. We anchored on a nice dropoff, with the wind blowing into it.

Just minutes after starting to fish, each of my oldest two boys got a bite but failed to hook a fish. Then, the bobber I had set up for my daughter Claire went down. I tried to set the hook, but didn’t connect. I reeled up to check my leech, then cast it out again. Seconds later, it went down again and I landed a plump walleye that was about 15 inches long.

Claire ended up catching two more walleyes of similar size, giving us three for the night. I pan fried them the next night shortly after getting back home. They were delicious. Too bad we didn’t catch more to save for later. But, that just means we’ll have to go back up to the brothers’ cabin someday!

In  the meantime, we are going to have venison fajitas tonight, which are always delicious. My oldest son Joe is going back to Dallas tomorrow so he can go to the Rome campus of the University of Dallas to work as a resident assistant.

Hopefully, this will be a nice sendoff meal for him. We’ll all be sad to see him leave, but excited that he can be in Rome for the upcoming school year.

Who knows? Maybe, I’ll figure out a way to go there and visit him!

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Time to go fishing!

June 6, 2014

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Now that the spring turkey hunting season is over, it’s time to think about fishing. I will have my first chance of the year to get in a boat this coming Monday.

I have been invited to Lake Oahe in South Dakota for the annual Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament. It’s a fundraiser for seminarians in the Diocese of Sioux Falls, several of whom are studying here at the St. Paul Seminary.

My research online revealed that Lake Oahe is an excellent fishery for walleyes. That’s good news. I actually will be a contestant in the tournament, as well as a guest of the diocese. I don’t care much about how well I do in the tournament. I’m just hoping to bring home some walleye for a fish fry and meet lots of people, including Bishop Paul Swain.

I leave Sunday afternoon and will stop at Blue Cloud Abbey on my way out. I will take a tour and hear the history of the abbey. If it works out, someday I would like to stay there overnight. Perhaps, I can come out again and do that. There is a Bishop’s pheasant hunting event in the fall, which is very enticing.

For now, I’m setting my sights on catching some walleyes. I filled the spools of my reels with fresh line, so I’m good to go. I will be assigned to a boat for the tournament. Not sure if I will find out Sunday night who I will fish with. Sounds like a serious tournament, so most likely every person bringing a boat is a skilled angler.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a contribution to the live well. I haven’t gone fishing since last summer, so I may be a bit rusty. But, I’ll try to catch on quickly. Stay tuned for the results of the tournament!

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Wild turkey hunt is awesome!

May 14, 2014

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Thousands of Minnesotans have had their minds on fishing in the last week.

Not me. Instead of a fishing rod, I was carrying a shotgun in the woods of Minnesota and Wisconsin enjoying one of my favorite activities — wild turkey hunting. My hunts in the two states went exactly seven days, and I was able to fill all three of my tags with nice longbeards.

It doesn’t get any better than that. The birds proved cooperative and willing to come in to my calls. I enjoyed some exciting action, with gobblers sounding off in response to my calls, then working their way toward my position, gobbling all along the way.

Three times, I witnessed the excitement of birds showing up within gun range and then pulling the trigger to complete the harvest. Here’s an account of each bird that got a ride home in my car:

Bird No. 1

This bird fell on May 6 in Minnesota on the first day of Season E.

This bird fell on May 6 in Minnesota on the first day of Season E.

My hunt began May 6 in Minnesota, which was the E Season. I started off on a familiar pair of properties near Cannon Falls, getting out of my car in the dark before dawn and walking along a long ridge. I didn’t hear much gobbling on the roost — only birds far off on neighboring properties.

But, I was not discouraged. I know birds go back and forth along the ridge, so I started at the far end and proceeded to work my way down.

About halfway down, I heard a gobble below me in the field. I got even with the bird on top, then started calling. About 75 to 100 yards ahead of me, a tom gobbled and started coming my way. He then dipped down to the bottom of the hill and started gobbling. A second bird did the same thing.

So, both birds were down the hill from me, and didn’t seem interested in coming up the hill. I figured I was in for a long wait, so I grabbed my water bottle and took a drink. As I turned back toward the ridge, I heard something run through the woods.

I knew instantly it was one of the birds, but I couldn’t see it. I figured he must have poked his head up over the hill when I had turned away, then saw me. As I pondered this, I heard as four-wheeler coming toward me at the bottom of the hill. It stopped right where the birds had been gobbling. Then I heard some banging, and eventually a chain saw started up.

Game over for this spot. I don’t know if I spooked the bird, or if it saw the four-wheeler coming. No matter. It was time to move. I walked the rest of the properties and didn’t hear a gobble, so I left and went to a different property where I had permission to hunt.

My brother normally hunts there, but he couldn’t go until the last season and told me to try it there. I pulled in about 10 a.m. and walked to a spot where he had some action last year.

It was windy, so I just started calling about every 15 minutes. About 10:45 or so, I saw a bird enter the far end of the field. A tom! I watched it work toward the edge of the woods. When he disappeared from view, I did some aggressive yelps to get his attention.

It worked. I eased up in my chair and looked over a little rise in the terrain. The tom’s head was up and he had moved in my direction. I lowered my head and decided to wait and see what happened.

It was quiet for a few minutes, then the bird gobbled. He had cut the distance by about a third and was working his way along the edge of the woods.

He continued to come my way and gobble, then he finally was just over the rise. I got my gun up and pointed in his direction, then took the safety off. Within a minute or two, I saw him come into view. He raised his head and neck, as they are known to do, and that was my chance. My Remington 11-87 sounded off, and my Minnesota hunt was over. The next day was the start of my D Season in Wisconsin, and I would be entering the woods with two tags to fill, one lottery tag and one bonus tag.

Bird No. 2

This bird was one of two that came in together.

This bird was one of two that came in together.

I got out to one of my favorite properties for opening day of my season, and heard lots of gobbling. There were lots of birds, and I was excited. But, the first bird I saw came out into a field and was not in range. He gobbled and strutted his way along the middle of the field and eventually disappeared. I then heard a second bird gobble in the woods, and thought it would do the same thing, so I turned toward the field and waited.

After a few minutes went by without a gobble, I turned my head back in the woods and looked at the opening of a food plot the landowner had planted. There was a turkey standing there only about 30 yards away. I think it was a tom, but it saw me and spooked.

Not a good feeling at all. That turned out to be the only tom that came in close. My friend, Steve Huettl, manager of Gamehide clothing, was hunting a property about 15 miles away. He had action, too, but didn’t get a bird in close. He ended up coming over to my property and hunted the far end of it.

He saw a bird about 125 yards away in the woods and worked it for an hour and a half before it finally came to about 45 yards. He took a shot and hit the bird, but it flew off after getting back on its feet. He never found the bird.

That was it for the action that day. We skipped Thursday because of the rain and came back out on Friday, May 9.

Steve found a good spot on the property he had started on opening day, and killed a nice bird at 7 a.m. He suggested I come over and try it there, as the birds were active. I had called in a jake (juvenile male), but decided to pass and wait for a mature tom. One came out into the field, but wouldn’t come in close enough for a shot.

I took Steve up on his offer and went to the property he was hunting at about 9:30 or 10. We set up my blind at the spot where he took his bird, then went walking to try and strike up a bird. We heard gobbles on neighboring properties, but none on the two we had permission to hunt.

So, about noon, we went back to the blind and I climbed in for the afternoon, while Steve went back home with his tag filled. He assured me birds would come through, and that I should just sit and wait.

Turned out to be a relatively short wait. It was very windy, so I called more often than normal so that birds could hear me. At about 1:20, I thought I heard a gobble but wasn’t sure because of the wind. A minute or two later, I heard the sound again, this time more distinct and closer.

Definitely, a gobble. The bird sounded off again, even closer this time. Then, a second bird gobbled right after this one did. Two birds!

What I often do when this happens is give them some soft calls, like clucks and purrs. I did these on a Tom Teaser mouth call, and the birds lit up after hearing that. No more calling. Shutting up is the way I get the birds to come all the way in.

I was set up in a blind only about 10 yards into the woods along a flat spot on the ridge with brush piles behind me and to my left on the edge of the field. I saw a dark shape come along the field edge in some brush right before the big brush pile.

A second bird was right behind it. They walked and gobbled as they reached the brush pile. At this point, they were only about 20 yards away, but I didn’t want to shoot through the brush pile. So, I waited.

The first bird made it to the other side of the brush pile and stepped into the clear. As I put the bead on him, he gobbled one more time, which was very cool. That was the last gobble of his life.

The second bird didn’t know what to make of it, and he nervously paced back and forth behind my bird. I did have a second tag, and I debated whether to take this bird. I got out of the blind and crawled toward the spot where my bird lay. I had the brush pile as cover, so I was able to get closer. In the end, the other bird saw me and spooked. But, I was not disappointed. I had a nice longbeard to take home, and I would simply come back and hunt another day for my last tag.

Bird No. 3

The third and final bird was a beauty!

The third and final bird was a beauty!

I was not able to hunt on Saturday or Sunday because my nephew got confirmed on Saturday and I was his sponsor, and Sunday was Mother’s Day, which I made off limits to hunting. After a wonderful weekend celebrating the sacrament on Saturday and motherhood on Sunday, I made plans to get back in the woods on Monday morning. Wisconsin has seven-day seasons, and so I had two more days to hunt.

I went back out to the property I started on opening day. I had a slightly different setup, hoping I would be close to roosted birds. I was, with one tom no more than 75 yards away. But, he only gobbled once and then shut up.

Once again, a bird came out into the field, but he came out of the woods behind me and was out of range by the time I turned around and looked into the field. He went to a little point of woods, then strutted and gobbled at about 75 or 80 yards. I tried to entice him to come over, but he wouldn’t budge.

He eventually rounded the corner and continued on down the edge of the woods. Birds were gobbling not too far away, but nothing would come in. So, I got up and followed the first bird.

I set up on a flat bench running perpendicular to the woods and way out into a valley. This is where Steve worked the bird he shot at opening day. Birds were gobbling in the area, but once again they would not come in.

That’s when I decided it was time to move, as in go to another property. It was a 30-minute drive to the small farm I planned to hunt, but I figured a change of scenery was in order. I had shot a nice bird on this property in 2011, so I was hoping for some action this time around. The landowner said she hadn’t seen or heard birds this spring until about a week or so ago, when she heard a tom gobble and saw a group of hens walking in her meadow.

This is a great piece of property, and I pulled in about 10:30 hoping to strike up a tom. I hiked across the meadow to a tree line that sits on the property line. There was a meadow on one side and a harvested crop field on the other. Birds seem to like spots like this, so I was optimistic.

Before I even reached my spot near the corner of the meadow on the highest part of the property, I heard a tom gobbling on the neighbor’s field. The bird was probably about 250 to 300 yards away, but it was gobbling hard and I decided to try and call this bird.

I also knew that there might be birds closer that could fire up at the sound of my hen calls. That’s exactly what happened. One bird gobbled less than 100 yards away, then sounded off again a minute or two later. He was coming!

As I shifted my attention to this bird, another bird gobbled in the meadow. I felt this second bird was a little farther off, so I continued to focus on the first one.

But, the second one close the gap faster. It created a dilemma — two birds coming hot from different directions. Doesn’t happen often, but it requires some quick decision making.

The bird in the meadow gobbled again even closer, and I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if I could see him in the meadow. I was fully expecting to spot him, then I would have to figure out a way to turn toward him and get a shot off.

Surprisingly, the bird was not in view. He was just beyond a little dip that kept him from view. Quickly, I turned my body and gun toward him, knowing I had very little time to readjust my position.

I don’t think it was even a minute later that I saw a red head and neck pop up. It was him! I knew he was a little far, but I also knew my gun was good out to 50 yards. He definitely was not that far. I lined up my Hi-Viz fiber optic sights and pulled the trigger.

The bird disappeared behind the rise, but I knew I got him. I got out of my chair and scrambled over the dip. The bird was flapping, and I saw a full tail fan, meaning it was a mature tom.

In closing

These are the beards from three gobblers harvested this spring.

These are the beards from three gobblers harvested this spring.

With this bird, my 2014 spring turkey hunting season came to an end. I felt a little sad as I loaded this final gobbler into my vest and walked back to my car. I ended this hunt the way I end every successful hunt — I kneel down beside my bird, put a hand on it, and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

I got to do that three times this season, and that part NEVER gets old. It was a fantastic year, and I have not only some nice breast meat from the three birds, but a trio of beards as souvenirs. Things came together nicely this year, and I’m grateful for the exciting hunts I had.

Lastly, I want to extend sincere thanks to all of the landowners who let me hunt on their land. None of this would have been possible without them and their great generosity. May God richly bless them and their families.

And, may God grant me the privilege of a return visit next spring!

Note: I can’t end this post without tipping my cap to Gamehide and its Elimitick line of camo clothing. Steve first got me a set of Elimitick pants and shirt in 2010, and it’s still going strong. I did not pick up a single tick this season, which proves once again how effective this clothing is. Exactly once in five seasons have I picked up a tick while wearing this clothing. Who knows how many were successfully repelled? Hundreds? Thousands?

I absolutely HATE ticks, so I plan on wearing Elimitick every spring for turkey hunting. And, special thanks to Steve for putting Elimitick in my hands — and for many, many turkey hunting tips that have helped me improve dramatically as a turkey hunter!

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It’s turkey time!

May 2, 2014

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Strutting gobblers like these are what every turkey hunter longs to see.

Strutting gobblers like these are what every turkey hunter longs to see.

My turkey hunting seasons are just around the corner, and I can’t wait! I am super pumped, as it looks like the weather will improve next week. My Minnesota season begins on Tuesday, May 6, and it looks like we will be in the 60s, even 70s for all five days of it.

The next day, Wednesday, May 7, my Wisconsin seasons begins. There’s an overlap between the two seasons, but I plan on driving back and forth, if need be, to fill my tags.

Obviously, the best scenario would be to get my bird in Minnesota on the first day, then just concentrate on Wisconsin after that. But, with the cold, wet weather we’ve had, I don’t know what the birds will be doing next week. The good weather should get them active.

There’s no doubt that weather plays a key role in turkey hunting. Nicer weather does seem to correlate to increased activity by birds, but that doesn’t guarantee a bird will come in. Conversely, bad weather doesn’t shut down breeding activity entirely. Yet, the 15-inch snowfall last May 2 did, in fact, keep the birds roosted for almost two days.

Thank the Lord there is no snow in the forecast for next week. I do think we’ve turned the corner on that. Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out where the birds are and what they’re doing. I’m hunting properties I have been on for the last six or eight years, so I have some idea where the turkeys might be.

What I’m really hoping is that they’ll be vocal, both in the roost at dawn and, especially, when they’re on the ground. I’m hoping to be able to slip in close to some loud-mouth toms and convince them I’m their next girlfriend.

Stay tuned for a full report on my week in the woods!

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Spring is coming!

March 12, 2014

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Reaching 50 degrees for the first time was simply glorious. I was hoping Monday morning that we would hit the mark that day. Based on the bitter cold temps of recent weeks, this was not something to take for granted.

Such a surge in the mercury got me to thinking ahead to warmer days and green leaves. In just two months, I will be toting a shotgun into the woods in southeastern Minnesota for the start of my spring turkey season. The action begins on May 6 in Minnesota, with my Wisconsin season starting the very next day.

I absolutely hope there will not be a repeat of last year, when 15 inches of snow fell on the second day of my Wisconsin season. I waited until three days after the storm to resume hunting. Fortunately, I was able to get a bird early that morning, but it was weird sitting in snow in May. In the nearly 30 years I have turkey hunted, I never have sat in snow while hunting. I have faced cold temperatures, but never snow, even though I have hunted as early as mid-April. Who would have thought I would have snow on the ground in May?

I’m hopeful that spring will be close to normal this year. For the time being, temperatures are near average, with no cold snap or polar vortex in the forecast. I definitely would like to see this huge snowpack disappear!

Beside the warm temps, another sign of spring is the annual Northwest Sportshow, which will take place 26-30 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I like to take in this event every year, and hope to make it again this year.

Walking the aisles and seeing all the booths and gear really get me revved up for spring and summer. A few fishing pros I know come out every year, and it’s always nice to say hello to them.

I’m pretty excited about a trip I have planned for the end of May. There is a fishing tournament on Big Stone Lake on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota that happens in June, which is sponsored by the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D. I have been invited to come out beforehand to taste the fishing and talk with the organizers. I’m happy to promote their event, called the Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament.

It won’t work for me to come to the tournament, but I will get a taste of it when I come out there in May. And, hopefully, I’ll get a taste of walleye while I’m  there.

The fishing is good not only on Big Stone, but on another border lake, Traverse, plus several other lakes nearby in South Dakota. I hope to offer a full report on the fishing when I return.

I’m hopeful that we won’t have May snowstorms two years in a row. I did look up some weather history and found out that there was a big May blizzard in 1938 in southern Minnesota. Let’s hope it’s at least another 75 years before we see something like that again!

 

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Thinking ahead to spring

February 10, 2014

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Only minutes into taking my dog for a walk yesterday, I knew it was a mistake. It was really cold, and the winds started biting into my face right away. I went ahead with the full 3 miles, but the last mile was brutal.

I needed a dose of spring after that, and I simply turned my thoughts to the upcoming turkey season. No doubt there are people who are worried about turkeys freezing to death in these sub-zero temperatures, but 30-plus years of turkey hunting have shown me that these birds are tough!

I have hunted after some of the worst winters we’ve had, and the birds always seem to be present in good numbers come spring. I once talked a wild turkey biologist, and he assured me the birds can withstand the coldest weather we face, as long as they can find food.

In the areas where I hunt, it’s not a problem. There’s always spilled corn and soybeans left over from the fall harvest, plus at least one landowner I know feeds the birds in the form of spreading manure on his fields. What I learned years ago is that there’s a lot of undigested corn in the manure, and the turkeys know it. In fact, one farmer I know says the birds always come running out of the woods when they see him spreading manure.

I think bird numbers will be just fine this spring. In fact, I expect a high number of mature gobblers when I get out in the field in May. The early and mild spring of 2012 put a lot of jakes in the woods last year. Those birds will be mature this year. And, the poor weather throughout the spring cut down on the hunting and resulted in fewer birds taken, which means more survivors.

So, I think it could be a very good year. Of course, it all depends on weather. I do NOT want another spring like last year, when there was cold and snow during just about every time period in Minnesota and Wisconsin. That made the hunting unbelievably tough. I managed to get a bird in Wisconsin, but struck out in Minnesota.

As long as we don’t have a nasty snowstorm in April or May, I think I’ll be fine. I have been working on securing permission to hunt my usual properties in both states, and am close to being all set. One more “yes” in Minnesota and I’m ready to go there. In Wisconsin, I’m good to go.

Sometimes, staying on good terms with landowners and getting permission year after year is a challenge. One guy I talked with brought up some bad experiences he’s had with hunters. A hunter one year asked for permission to hunt, then brought others with him to hunt. This landowner didn’t like it, and let me know that such a tactic will not work with him.

I’m grateful that he was honest in telling me about it — and was still willing to let me hunt. He’s got an excellent piece of land to hunt, and it is adjacent to another property I have permission to hunt. One of the best spots is right near the property line, so it’s good to have permission on both properties. Plus, this landowner has a great roosting area on his land. The birds roost there regularly, and now I can move in on them.

I have done a little practicing with my calls, but not much. Some years, I have practiced very intensely, which can drive my wife crazy. I’m going to back off on the practicing this year. I certainly don’t want to be rusty when I hit the woods, but I also have learned that there are many factors that determine success, and there are things every bit as important as being a good caller. In fact, if you focus too much on calling, you can end up neglecting other important factors.

My seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin are almost exactly three months away. I cant’ wait!

 

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