Tag Archives: fishing

What place does hunting have in my life?

September 14, 2015


I have been reflecting quite a bit about my passion for hunting and the place it has in my life. With the archery deer season right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a look and reflect on the sport I have enjoyed since childhood and am getting ready to enjoy yet again.

What I have learned from my reflections is that the practice of taking to the woods in search of a game animal runs deep. I shouldn’t be surprised, given my background and lineage. My grandfather, Lawrence Kramer, prowled the woods and waters of Meeker County west of the Twin Cities and near his hometown of Litchfield. He fished, hunted and trapped, not just for sport, but to put food on the table. He and my grandmother, Ruth Kramer, lost their farm during the Great Depression, and he had to find ways to feed his family of eight children. My mom, Eunice, was the oldest.

When my mom married my dad in the 1950s, Lawrence Kramer took my dad out and taught him the skills needed to be a good hunter and fisherman. Those skills eventually passed down to my brothers and I. We got to fish a few times with Grandpa Kramer before he died in the early 1970s, and I feel proud to continue his legacy today.

Like him, I like to put food on the table, and I have been fortunate to do so many times. I never tire of a meal of venison wild turkey. And, I like to throw in a few meals of pan-fried walleye. In addition to hunting, I also like to go fishing, and I have had many great adventures on the water.

I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the sports of hunting and fishing, they wouldn’t hold much meaning without the table fare that comes as a result. That is why I will never consider myself a trophy hunter. Don’t get me wrong, I like a big buck as much as the next guy, and I have mounted two nice ones. But, I experience a deep satisfaction when my family is able to partake in a wild game dinner.

To me, nothing beats the enjoyment of knowing I harvested what our family is going to eat. That is a big reason why hunting is so important to me. Oftentimes, when our family is eating a meal that I prepared, I will stop during the meal and look around the table. When I see my wife and kids enjoying it, I am filled with pride.

I also have served wild game to my friends, and I try to invite my parents over, too. My dad loves it, my mom tolerates it, but she is willing to at least try everything I make.

With my birthday coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 22, my thoughts are turning to the potential outdoor adventures coming up this fall. I won’t be able to get out for the archery opener this year, but I hope to be in one of my stands when the whitetail rut kicks into full gear in late October and early November. That is prime time to be in the woods, and it’s a beautiful time to be up in a tree, even though the leaves will be down by then.

I would do well to appeal to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters. I ran across a good article on him on a website called The Catholic Gentleman. There is a story about his life, plus prayers hunters can pray.

Asking the intercession of St. Hubert could be as important as tuning your bow or placing a new tree stand.

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Finally. . . let the fishing begin

July 7, 2015


On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

I usually don’t wait until July to buy my Minnesota fishing license. So, making the purchase on July 3 this year is out of character for me. In fact, I bought a fishing license for Montana before I got one for my home state.

Who would have thought? In a normal year, I would start my fishing season in late May or early June. This year, I just didn’t get around to it. Plus, the weather had some wild mood swings last month, which can throw fish patterns out of whack and make catching them tough.

I decided simply not to mess with these unstable conditions and just wait. As I have learned over the years, timing is everything.

Finally, a good stretch of warm, stable weather settled in last week, so I turned my thoughts to getting out in my boat for the first time this season. Plus, my brother Paul and his two sons Matthew and Michael had the itch pretty bad.

I happily obliged, and we went to the southwest metro to fish a small bass lake called O’Dowd. It’s pretty shallow, which makes it easier to find fish. Simply cruise weed edges and toss plastic worms or a jig-and-pig, and usually you’ll connect with bass at some point.

Unfortunately, a number of pleasure boaters joined us on the lake. That isn’t always a problem, but on a small, shallow lake, it’s definitely more of a challenge.

What’s more, some of these folks think nothing of buzzing past very close at high speeds. I am continually amazed at such rudeness.

I think that was our biggest challenge on this day. Finding quiet water was tough, and boats zipped over some of my favorite spots repeatedly.

In the midst of all that activity, a few bass chose to respond to our offerings. I caught a chunky, feisty fighter that measured 17 1/2 inches. Very respectable. I know the lake holds bigger, as I landed a 19-incher several years ago. Lots of metro lakes contain bass this size, which is good news for avid bass anglers like me.

I hope to get out on the water again soon. For me, mid to late July and August are prime time. That’s when the deep weedline pattern I like so much begins to heat up. So, the best is yet to come!

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Sportshow time!

March 27, 2015


Hopefully, a turkey like this will come into range when it comes time to hunt this spring.

Hopefully, a turkey like this will come into range when it comes time to hunt this spring.

Later today, I will be heading to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the annual Progressive Northwest Sportshow. It’s on my don’t-miss list, and it runs through Sunday.

For hunting and fishing enthusiasts like me, it has a little bit of everything. I always look for booths and products related to my two greatest outdoor passions — bow hunting and turkey hunting. It’s nice to get a nice “fix” of the outdoors as we make the transition from winter to spring. Today being the first official day of spring, it’s the perfect time to go!

There’s lots to cover, and one nice thing is the exercise I get walking from one end of the exhibition hall to the other. Hopefully, that will help get me in shape for the time when I will chase down gobblers this spring. I am hunting in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, plus I will be taking out three other hunters and trying to help them get birds.

One of them is my daughter Claire. We are going to shoot the 20-gauge shotgun she will be using Sunday afternoon, and I am going to buy sights to put on it before we go. She is worried about the recoil, but I hope she won’t be too bothered by it. I’ll be sure to bring some padding for her shoulder. I have taken her three older brothers turkey hunting, and I’m thrilled her time has come. This should be a fun weekend!

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Gorgeous weather triggers big ideas

March 16, 2015


Something happens when the thermometer rises into the 50s in March. My entire outlook seems to improve. In short, it puts a smile on my face.

And, a few ideas in my head. I acted on one of them last week. For several years, I have been wanting to do some deer scouting and stand placement in the spring. I have read about it, thought about it, dreamed about it. Finally, this year, I did something about it.

I went to the property I bow hunt in Wisconsin and set up two ladder stands, one on either side of a major trail that goes along a ridge and through some thick cover. It is the narrowest funnel on the property, and there is only one trail going through it. So, putting a stand on either side means I can hunt it in any wind. In bow hunting, that’s huge. I did some trimming of shooting lanes, too. I am not quite finished, but will go back in the next few weeks to complete the job. Then, I will be ready to bow hunt this fall.

I have more work to do, and hope to get out again this week. The job was made more difficult by the fact that I lost permission to hunt on a great metro property after two guys with a lot of money leased it for the year. I may get back on again someday, but for now, I am required to go out and remove my three stands. I did that, and put two of those stands up in Wisconsin.

I also have been thinking and planning for turkey hunting this spring. I will be taking my daughter Claire during the first season, and I am very excited about that. It will be her very first hunt. She told me a few weeks ago she wants to go, but still isn’t sure she will be able to pull the trigger on a bird. That’s fine with me. I just look forward to the opportunity to take her out into the woods.

I will hunt Season E in Minnesota (May 5-9), then the D Season in Wisconsin, which begins May 6. That has been a great time period to hunt, and I hope it will be again this year.

Sure would be nice to do some fishing, too. I met someone who lives on Big Stone Lake, which lies on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. That lake is open year round, so I could go out there any time after the ice melts. I may get in touch with him to see if that will work. I also know that the Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament for the Diocese of Sioux Falls will be in June, so I could go out there for that event. I’m sure I could both fish the tournament and cover it. That would be fun, plus I could take home some walleyes for a fish fry.

The biggest challenge, as always, is time. Life gets very busy in May, so it could get tough to squeeze in some outdoor outings. But, June is looking pretty good right now. I would like to get out on the water at some point. Big Stone is about a 3-hour drive, which isn’t too bad. If there is a boat waiting for me there to go out in, it will be hard to pass up.

For now, I’ll work on the deer stands and start looking for strutting toms as I drive around. The mild winter should mean plenty of birds this spring. Even after our harsh winter last year, I still saw quite a few, and was able to harvest three mature gobblers. I plan to have three tags again this year, maybe four. Plus, I may try to get a bird with my bow this year. I’m going back and forth on that one. I will do some more checking into that. Sure would be fun to take a tom with my bow.

What’s fun right now is letting the warm weather fuel my dreams!

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Winter: A time for preparation

January 14, 2015


Unless you like to go ice fishing or coyote hunting, winter is the off season for outdoor pursuits. But, that doesn’t mean your only option is to sit idle and dream about the big fish you’ll catch once the ice thaws, or the big tom you’ll harvest after the snow melts.

Far from it. This can be an important time for getting ready for upcoming fishing and hunting seasons. Just today, I took an important step toward what I hope will be a productive bow hunting season in the fall. I went to A1 Archery in Hudson, Wis. to have the guys there do some work on my bow. I am having a new string put on, plus a new sight.

This is a great time of year for that. First, most shops aren’t so busy, and thus have the time to help you and get the work done right. Second, it gives you plenty of time after getting the bow back to make sure it’s functioning properly. With archery, so many little things can go wrong, and almost any of them can cost you a deer in the fall. Now’s the time to get on top of equipment issues.

This is also a time to do research on new gear you’re interested in trying. Thankfully, I did my research two years ago on strings, and settled on Vapor Trail. Actually, the guys at A1 highly recommended this string, and the research I did online confirmed that this is a great product. I had one put on my bow at A1 two years ago and it has worked great for me. I have harvested three deer with this string, and I am very happy with the results.

One good thing about an archery shop like A1 is that they know good products and feel confident recommending them. The guys who work there are bow hunters, plus they talk to many bow hunters who come through the doors. If a product isn’t good, they’ll find out about it and will not recommend it to people like me.

That’s why I quickly took their advice in November and got Beaman arrows and NAP Killzone broadheads. I didn’t regret it. The very next day, I shot a doe with one of them, taking a steep quartering away shot that hit the mark and caused the doe to fall at less than 100 yards. A week later, I took another doe with a perfect double-lung pass through at 15 yards. She went only about 60 yards, and I saw her fall. I’m sold on them and plan to use them next year.

With all of these great experiences under my belt, I was confident when the guys at A1 recommended a one-pin sight by HHA Sports. After using a four-pin sight since buying my bow, I decided a one-pin was the way to go, primarily because almost all of the shots I take are less than 30 yards. My friend and bow hunting mentor, Steve Huettl, has shot several trophy bucks, all of them at 30 yards or less. He says he likes to keep his shots short because lots of things can go wrong on longer shots. The way I figure, if a guy like him who’s a much better shot than me doesn’t take long shots, I shouldn’t, either.

Thus, only one sight pin would be needed if I decide to keep my shots under 30 yards. There’s very little difference in point of impact from 5 to 25 yards, no more an 2 inches. So, only one pin is needed to shoot in that distance range. Having this sight will keep my sight picture uncluttered and simplify the process — I will never accidentally use the wrong pin.

The nice thing about A1 is the guys in the shop will install the new string and cables, mount the new sight and paper tune my bow. All I’ll have to do is sight it in, which I will be able to do in their indoor range. Then, I’ll have several months of shooting until the next hunting opportunity — spring turkey season. I have an opportunity to bow hunt a property in Wisconsin where I bow hunted for deer this fall. Not sure if I’ll do it, as a turkey is a much smaller target than a deer. But, I might give it a try. These will be unpressured birds, so I may have a better chance at luring them in close. I would want a bird to be no farther than 20 yards away, with 10 being much prefered. I’ll admit, it sure would be a great achivement to get a gobbler with a bow. We’ll see what I think come May.

More tips

Speaking of turkey hunting, here’s another thing you can do this winter — get landowner permission to hunt. In some cases, it’s merely a matter of picking up the phone and calling people who have let you hunt in past years. In other cases, it may be calling someone for the first time. In that case, I like to get on the phone as early as possible. Waiting runs the risk of somebody beating you to it. Plus, landowners may well be friendlier during one of the first calls they get from a hunter. Some landowners get lots of calls every year, and I wonder if they get tired of them after a while. Right about now is when I get on the phone, and the results have been great over the years.

It’s looking like I may be taking my 12-year-old daughter Claire out turkey hunting for the first time. She has expressed interest, and insists that she will go if I offer to take her. However, she is reluctant to miss school, and reluctant to get up early. Rising well before dawn is a fact of life for turkey hunters, as the most gobbling of the day starts right before sunrise. It’s a nice treat for any turkey hunter, but especially beginners. Maybe I can talk Claire into getting up early just once. But, like her mother, she is NOT a morning person. So, we’ll see.

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Beer-batter walleye: Great way to start the new year!

January 5, 2015


With my oldest son Joe nearing the end of his stay with us, I wanted him to have some memorable meals while he is home. So, last night, I decided to do one of my specialties: beer-batter walleye. Along with that, I tried something new: beer-batter cheese curds. These were none other than the authentic cheese curds made at the Ellsworth Creamery in Wisconsin. I had made a special trip there before Christmas just to get some.

Years ago, I experimented with batter recipes and finally got it right. It’s tasty and very easy to make. Here’s the recipe:


1/2 cup Bisquick

1/2 cup Shore Lunch

3 TBSP corn starch

1/2 TSP salt

dash of nutmeg

1 cup beer (about 3/4 bottle, cook gets the rest)


Mix dry ingredients, then add beer. For thicker batter, add less beer. For thinner batter, add more. Cut fish into small pieces, roll in corn starch, then submerge in batter. Allow some excess batter to drip off, and deep fry at 375 degrees. Fry until pieces are golden brown.

For the fish fry, I used the last of the walleye I brought home from South Dakota on my trip there to Lake Oahe for the Bishop’s Fishing Tournament back in June. I have had some splendid meals of fish, and now I will have to go back out and get more walleye. I’m not much of an ice fisherman, so I’ll have to wait until May or June.

One thing to note is that the fish I used yesterday came from a large walleye — 25 inches, to be exact. Would love to say I caught it, but I didn’t. People often say that bigger fish don’t taste good, but I beg to differ. This fish was fantastic. The problem with bigger fish is the fillets often are so thick that they’re hard to cook. They can be cooked on the edges, but raw in the middle. Cutting them into small pieces solves this problem. I have done this for years and never had a problem with big fillets.

That said, I generally release bigger fish so as to practice good conversation. In this case, I just wanted to bring the lunker home and figured one big fish in a lake the size of Oahe wouldn’t be a problem.

Not sure if I’ll get back to Oahe for next year’s tournament. There’s also one on Big Stone, which is right on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. I would like to go there next year. It’s a shorter drive, and people who have fished in both tournaments say Big Stone is a better lake for walleye.

I would like the chance to find out for myself.

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Lunker muskie on board!

August 25, 2014


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


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


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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It’s turkey time!

May 2, 2014


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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