Got a chance to check out the Northwest Sportshow Friday afternoon. It was about the only time I could make it, and I’m glad I did.
Though I only was able to spend about two hours, it was well worth the trip. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Re-connecting with old friends. Early on in my rounds, I bumped into pro bass fisherman Gary Lake. Years ago, while at Sun Newspapers in the western suburbs, I met Gary and wrote about him in my fishing column. I had the pleasure of fishing with him a few times, and I was able to learn some things from him. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, so it was good to run into him. We both agreed to get out on the water this summer. That will be fun!
I also saw Steve Carney, a fishing guide who also is from my days at the Sun. I have kept in touch with him, and I read his weekly columns in Outdoor News. He’s a straight shooter who tells it like it is. If he does well on the water or in the woods, he says so. If he doesn’t, he says that, too. I have always liked that about him, and respect him a great deal for it. He said he had his best ice fishing season ever this winter, which followed his worst bow hunting season ever in Wisconsin. I told him I might be able to help him with that. I suggested we talk more about it on the water sometime. I sure hope he takes me up on that!
2. Discovering the Big Green Egg. Recently, I had heard about a form of barbecue grill called the Big Green Egg. It has been around for while, but I only have heard of it recently. It’s a charcoal grill, but quite a step up from my Weber. For one thing, you can seal it tight so that the moisture stays inside. That means meat won’t dry out so fast. Second, it has a thermometer mounted in the lid so you always know what the temperature is. And, it’s easily regulated by adjusting the air vent on top. Finally, it uses real charcoal, which gives the meat better flavor.
I learned all of this from a booth run by a store that sells Green Eggs: Kitchen Window in Minneapolis at Calhoun Square. Not only does this store sell the Green Egg, but it also teaches people how to use it. The down side is that these are very spendy grills. There are four sizes, from small all the way to extra large. The large costs $800, which is mighty steep for a grill. I’m not really in a financial position to buy one now, but owning one is now a dream.
Getting a few fishing tips. I’m always on the lookout for tips that will help me put more fish in the boat. I talked with a guy from Pure Fishing and we got on the subject of swimbaits. I first heard about these from In-Fisherman Magazine a few years back. Basically, they are a soft plastic crank bait that you put onto a large jig head and reel in at a steady pace rather than lift and drop it from the bottom. According to editor Doug Stange, all species love these baits, especially walleyes. I have dabbled with them a few times and caught some fish, but always wanted to use them more.
Mike Baumgartner, a Pure Fishing rep, gave me a few tips on how to use them. Like Stange, he said swimbaits can be dynamite at times. He uses them throughout the summer and into the fall. He says once you are set up correctly, they are easy to fish. In fact, he often takes novices out fishing with them, and they catch as many fish as he does.
The key, he said, is to fish them in weeds. That is where they are most effective. And, that is where walleyes spend a surprising amount of their time. And, in many cases, these fish are untouched by other anglers, who frequent rocks, sand and gravel. So, you’re getting unpressured fish that are in the weeds for one reason – to eat!
That short encounter made me really want to give them a try this summer. Mike has had success on Leech Lake, where there are lots of large cabbage beds. The nice thing about swimbaits is you can cover lots of water. But, there’s one important rigging tip – use a wire leader. Mike says pike love swimbaits, too, and you’ll get bit off many times and lose lots of baits unless you use a wire leader. Amazingly, that piece of hardware does not scare off walleyes.
No turkey tips
Here’s the surprise of this year’s show – I did not get any turkey hunting tips. I always enjoyed visiting the AmmoCraft & Gobbler Specialties booth owned by Ron Becker, who has a store in Hopkins. But, he stopped coming several years ago. Fortunately, I was able to buy a call from him that is my No. 1 call for turkey hunting. It is made by Quaker Boy and is a very simple push-button call that has proven very effective for me. In fact, I called in two toms with it last spring. It’s called the Pro Push Pin Yelper and sells for about $20. For me, it has been worth every penney. It has brought in several birds to gun range, and it is very easy to use. That is very important when you have a gobbler closing in and are so nervous your hands are shaking.
That’s exactly what happened to me last spring when I called in a nice, double-bearded gobbler in Wisconsin. He responded to a yelp from my box call, then cut the distance in half minutes later and gobbled again. That’s when I pulled out my Pro Push Pin Yelper and hit him with some soft calls, clucks and purrs, which are feeding sounds. He gobbled immediately, then circled to my right and entered a field, where he gobbled again.
Knowing he was likely to keep coming and end up in shotgun range, I grabbed the call to give him one more hen vocalization. When I looked down at my hand, it was shaking. Still, I was able to work the call just fine, and gave him another brief series of clucks and purrs. He gobbled two or three times, and came right in. My shot was only 20 yards.
I shared this story with Ron, who got a kick out of it. With the Wisconsin youth season coming up this weekend, I hope that my son, William, will have a similar experience. He has yet to shoot a bird, but I’m hoping he’ll get his first one on Saturday.
Q: What’s your favorite turkey hunting story?