The Great Fall Turkey Hunt

Fall turkey season arrived and I needed to wait until the deer hunters had filled their larder.  My favorite spot north of Fort Calhoun Nebraska was still available, but with the pay to hunt fields right adjacent to my favorite spot, things had gotten really lean.   

 

Wild turkey in tall winter browned grass

The nice thing about hunting turkeys in the fall is that you can shoot either hens or toms and there are always more hens available and some are really big.  In Nebraska you can harvest two birds in the fall.  Not so in Iowa.  With my favorite turkey spot moving down the ladder, it was off to a newly found place.

Last spring I had two really great experiences on hunting spring turkeys on new ground. No one hunted this ground and the landowner had given me a key to let myself in when I wanted to hunt birds.  How much better can it get than that? I had great luck last spring and was feeling very confident that I would have the same luck this fall.  

I harvested this bird around 10 a.m.  An old turkey hunter told me that most big birds are harvested between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.  He was not the biggest one I saw on the hunt, but he was respectable.  The day before I had fouled up an opportunity on the biggest turkey I had ever seen.  There are a lot of birds on this farm and they are all nice size.

I drove out one morning and got to the farm around 08:30.  I had this all to myself and I kept patting myself on the back. I pulled into the gate and paused for about 15 minutes as I have seen birds coming out of the steep hills to my left.  It can pay just to wait a little bit and see if something happens.

Nothing happened.  It pays just to wait a little bit and let the woods settle down and something might step out that would look good on the platter.  Not this time. After parking the truck, I headed back to the site where the tom was shot last spring.  The reason for this was the birds had come out of the woods and crossed the open fields to the next set of timber across the valley.  The bank is really steep in this location and I pushed myself  in between two standing trees.  My leaf suit has a lot of green in it so it was not worn this time.  I merely had on brown pants and coat and my head and face covered.  It would sure be nice to know what colors turkey could see.  

 

My hiding spot was not the best, but a hunter could see well and still be mixed in with the timber and ground cover.  This was where I shot the tom last spring.  

 

If you look to the left of the picture there is a row of trees that follows a shallow drainage ditch toward the hill in which I am hiding.  Birds had moved down that tree line heading straight for my hiding place last year.  The game plan was to be where birds were seen running in the spring.  Is that good or not?  I do not know, but it is a good place to start.  Anyway, I had the whole farm to myself and could move around to different locations.

What is amazing as I sat there for an hour was that I did not see one deer.  Usually deer are moving from the timber behind me across the fields in front to the woods to the east.  The ground is a venerable grocery store with lots of game roaming around.  The landowner hunts the deer, but no one else hunts the ground besides me.  How much better can it get than that.

Nothing happened so it was time to move.  I moved straight across from a hill with pine trees at the top and crop ground right behind that.

I have seen turkey move along the tree line at the top of the hill.  To the right of the picture you can see a pine tree. I nestled myself back in against that tree.  It was a little awkward, but being well hidden was the first order of business.  If the birds came up along the tree line, which they had done before, they would be easily spotted.  By facing uphill I would be able to spot anything moving down the tree line from the small corn field.  Getting myself really comfortable was a little difficult, but it was accomplished. 

What a beautiful day with light breezes and warm temps while sitting somewhat in the sunshine.  My eyes began to droop and I was having a hard time staying awake.  I generally bring my Kindle along and read while sitting and waiting for a bird to appear.  This time I didn’t and fell sound asleep.  I guessed it must have lasted 30 minutes, but will never know if something passed me by.  Hens will make a small purring sound and you can hear that if you are close.  That happened to me one time before along the river bottom and the birds went by me.  A shot was made after waking up on a nice size hen.  Nothing like that happened on this day.  It was time to move on. 

East of the farm house is a deep ravine, and a dam stretches across backing up water to form a small lake.  There are a number of dams along the length of ravine forming some nice looking water.  Walking across the top of the dam, tracks and droppings were spotted going both ways and so this should be a good place to hide out.  It was early afternoon when the move was made.  

 

If you look to the center right you can see the lake with the dam to the left.  Just beyond the edge of the brush, the trail is very steep and it was here and along the dam where the signs were found.  Pushing my self back into the brush, it was possible to find a spot where good visibility was possible toward the dam and in the front of me.  The plan was to sit here for an hour and see if something came out of the woods behind me or along the top of the dam.  

The weather could not have been more beautiful.  Sitting in a comfortable position again, I felt my eyes droop and soon my head began to nod.  This time the fight was on to stay awake and see if something came up along the top of the dam and up the trail.  The whole time that I was on the farm, not one deer was seen.  After sitting at this location, it was time to give it up.

The next morning I was up before the crack of dawn.  This was the last day of the turkey season in Iowa and I had waited too long to get up to this farm.  The reason was that so many birds were seen in the spring.  The belief is this would just be a “turkey shoot.”  Determination for the last day was running high and it was dark when I left the house.  It was like being on a mission.  

The plan was to head to the northwest corner of the farm and hide out at this location at daybreak.  Traffic in the spring had really been strong as they moved south to the hills and timber to the west.  

The picture below shows the first spot. 

This shot was taken after leaving the location for other places.  Nothing came through.

The above picture is the second location.  Turkeys in the spring would work along the tree line and then move up the hill to the right of the picture.  Right in the middle of the tree line and back about ten yards in the woods, a hiding place was found.  Nothing came by and no sounds were heard.  Also, there was no evidence birds had lately ever been near this location.  That was a bad call, and the clock kept ticking to the end of the season. 

The third location was where I had hid the day before.  In the spring, turkeys also came out of the woods at this location and pecked there way across the fields to the wooded areas on the east side of the farm. Sitting at this location did produce some excellent entertainment as deer just poured out of the woods to my right not more than 15 yards away.  I was downwind from them, but they knew something was not right.  One looked straight at me and you could see her sniff the air trying to figure out what was there.  

Then came the usual huff a couple of times and she would stomp her foot.  Then standing still like a statue, she would stomp her foot again.  Finally she turned and walked off and moved out to my front about 30 yards.  There she stood and stared.  Other deer came out and would stop and stare then move on.  If a person was hunting does, this would have been the spot to have been as a dozen deer came out of the woods to my right and passed by me.  That was really entertaining, but I was there for turkey.  

Look at her getting ready to give the ground the big stomp. 

There is another one that came out of the woods and just briefly stared and left. 

From this location I moved east across the dam on the ravine and tried the location there.  The pictures are up above.  By this time, I was loosing the spirit and had reconciled myself to the fact that this was a disaster, and I was skunked.   A call was made to the landowner and thanked him for allowing me to hunt his ground.  He was amazed that a really nice big hen or tom had not been harvested.  

I will be back in the spring. The great fall turkey hunt was a disaster. 

Paste the link below in your browser and enjoy.  Sent to me on Facebook.

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.   Hank

                                Bang-Bang Turkey

  • 1 turkey breast marinated in salt, sugar and vinegar for 10 minutes
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into matchstick pieces
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons red chili oil
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter, creamed with sesame oil
 

Garnish:

  • white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons scallions
 

Slice cucumber into matchstick pieces and set aside. Cook turkey breast in an oven/frying pan/on the grill. Allow to cool completely. Use a rolling pin or other mallet to tenderize the turkey breast (this is where the “bang” comes in!). After meat is tenderized, use forks to shred the meat. Combine cucumber sticks with shredded turkey and arrange on a small serving plate. Combine soy sauce, sugar, chili oil, pepper and creamed peanut butter. Pour sauce over turkey, garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

 

Its Tradition

After 17 years of hunting ducks and geese north of Tekamah, it was time for me to find another spot or quit hunting ducks altogether.  Giving up something that you have done since you were a boy is not an easy bridge to cross.  Besides the hunting experience, I grew up during the season dining on freshly shot Mallard ducks.  It’s tradition.

 

Fortunately for me, my wife is from western Nebraska and her father and grandfather also hunted ducks and geese on the Panhandle of the state and the Platte Rivers that flowed just north of the farm where she was raised.  This is a blessing for me since dining on freshly killed game was also a tradition in her family.  For her, hunting is a family tradition.

Here they come

The owner of the ground where the hunting club was located had been an avid duck hunter since he was a boy.  He grew up hunting in one of the premier duck and goose commercial spots near Tekamah.  He ran a great club and the swamp that was created by him was just one half mile from the Missouri River.  Migration traffic could not have been better.

Our clubs leader now deceased.  He is missed. 
 

This was gentleman hunting at its finest.  Sunken pits with heat and comfortable seating was available.  The best part of hunting there was the dogs.  Several of the club members had outstanding dogs and we never lost a cripple.  The really nice part of watching the dogs work was a hunter never had to get out of the blinds.  Forty acres of open water was supplied by a pump that was controlled from inside one of the blinds.  By turning on a bubbler during the coldest of weather, we would always have open water.  As I write this today, it seems like all the tradition I have enjoyed and known throughout my life is slipping away.  Buy my book from Amazon or Lulu and read about  “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman.”

My good friend John

The club was managed on a professional basis and only one person would call the shot.  Everyone obeyed the owner’s rule which was safety first and we will all have a good experience.  I never dreamed that this might all come for an end and I would lose a good friend who sat next to me in the blind many times.  Two years ago he died of cancer.

A good day for Mallards. 

The club was managed last year by one of the members who lived in Tekamah.  Everyone held deep respect for him.  The shooting last season was terrible.  Pam and I were in Japan on our yearly tour and I was able to text a close friend in the club who kept me informed.  Getting back during the middle of November, I had it all planned.  However, the weather was so nice the birds never left the Dakotas and when they did it was all over.  Last year I went fewer times than I had ever done in the years I was a member of the club.

Junior bringing in a really nice big goose. 
 
 

A new arrangement was made by the family with some of the members, but I and several of the long standing club members just felt that the loss of a good friend and fellow hunter brought everything to an end for several of us.  

 

So having said that, a few of the old guard and myself decided to look around at hunting at one of the commercial sites in Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.  Turning to the internet, the search was on.

 

The ducks all come over South Dakota on their way south to Tekamah and so a check was made of spots on the flyway south.

 

The first state that was looked at was South Dakota which is a fisherman and hunters’ paradise.  The state has it all from fishing the Missouri River System to hunting for big and small game.  The eastern part of the state is known as the “Prairie Pothole Region.”  This area was scarred by the glaciers and has created lakes and pothole all over the area and is a major destination on the flyway south. It also is a major breeding ground for various types of waterfowl.  Because I fish the Glacial Lakes Region, I am familiar with this country.

 

Licensing for me was a problem.  The state is divided into four zones and you pick the zone you want to hunt in and then apply for a license.  There were a lot of lodges, but this just seemed too weather dependent for me and my friends.  One of the many spots also featured pheasant hunting.  South Dakota has outstanding pheasants.  All the outfitters were guided and all showed excellent results from previous hunts.  There were fully equipped lodges to the hunting spot only and you supplied your own food and lodging.

 

Next, I took a look at Missouri.  I found a few places south of me along the Missouri River.  One lodge provided outstanding services from a first class lodge, meals, and everything supplied.  You would bring your gun, clothing, and ammunition.  It was over my budget as I also hunted elk in the fall in Idaho and had an outstanding experience.

Since my wife is from Sidney, Nebraska, we have traveled I-80 across the state many times a year and especially in the fall.  We have always noticed the large flocks of ducks and geese west of Kearney, Nebraska to the state line.  There is a definite weather shift as you go west due to the increase of the altitude change.  The air gets dryer and seems to be more like Denver weather.  Snow will not necessarily hang around a long time.  Also, there has been a shift in farming practices along the Platte River bottom lands.  The crops previously planted were primarily winter wheat, but now has shifted to corn, beans, and wheat.  Corn is candy to ducks and geese.

Checking out some hunting spots along the Platte River, I found some people at Paxton, Nebraska that operated blinds along the Platte River.  I am very familiar with that area as a close college friend of mine has farms south of Paxton.  When my wife and I drive out to Sidney, we stop and have lunch or dinner with them.  Therefore, my first call was to Ed to find out about the owners.  He came back with really good recommendations.  

Central Nebraska Outfitters (http://www.centralnebraskaoutfitters.com/) was the outfitter we decided to work with.  After contacting Jim Martinosky the owner, I liked what I heard and then contacted a couple of club members that I had hunted with over the years to see if they would go with me.  One could make it and the decision was made.  There is no lodging, but Paxton has a Days Inn and we get a special rate for hunting with Jim.  The motel has a room for cleaning birds and if we do not want to do that, they have people in town that will clean them for us at a reasonable fee per bird.  The motel also has tags and freezer facilities for us to store game until we leave.  This is gentleman hunting and for me that is tradition.

Bringing in another duck.  Gone are the days. 

Food is on our own also, but with a big breakfast and dinner, all we both need is a snack around noon.  There are restaurants in Paxton that open up early. I know about the restaurants since I have eaten in Paxton many times.   After all, this is a farming community and people are up early to get the work done or just sit and talk about work and weather in the local cafes.

Jim recommended we plan on hunting ducks Mid-December as the birds migrate out of the sand hill lakes and pot holes around that time and head to the Platte River and the surrounding fields for food and water.  The plan is to hunt the river bottom in the morning and move to the fields in the afternoon.  It looks like we will be hunting all day, and it can’t get any better than that.

I have always experienced the best duck hunting when it was really cold in late November and early December.  On December 11th, we will be heading to Paxton, Nebraska for three days of what we hope will be some fine gentleman hunting for Mallard ducks.

AIRSFT-1_300x250

Good Hunting, good Fishing, and good Luck.  Hank

 

What to Do After the Hunt

There he is already for the skinning and being sent to the processor.
Just look at the meat on him.  We have friends that will be well pleased.

This was amazing.  The elk was harvested in the first hour of the first day and after it was gutted, skinned and taken to the processor, we had nothing to do.  Our guide said to Pam and I, ” What do you people want to do as I am yours for the next several days?”

We had to wait for rigor to set into the animal and then have it processed.  That would take a day and a half and we would pick up the processed elk on the third day from Matt’s Meats in St. Anthony, Idaho.  I previously discussed how strongly we felt about the people and the procedures at Matt’s.  This business is outstanding and the people are right there ready to help you and make sure you are satisfied with their work.

With the west entrance of Yellowstone only 60 miles away, we decided to take a drive up to the park and look around, grab lunch and then be back in time for dinner.  My first trip to the park was 52 years ago when I was a boy.  Most of the roads were single lane, and the animals were thick.  Bear, elk, buffalo, and moose were right along the side of the roads.  Signs were posted not to feed the bear, and they would go right up to your car and look for a handout.  As I remember they were all black bear and we never saw a grizzly.

My next visit was 35 years ago with my wife and son. My, how things had changed in such a short period of time.  Animals, it seemed, had all but disappeared, although we saw some buffalo at an extreme distance and a few cow elk.  There were two lane roads everywhere and we had to stand in line to get up to see anything.

Since it was late September we assumed there would be no crowds and we both could look around, have lunch, and be back in time for dinner.  Wow, this was not what happened.  The park was packed with people and at times we were stopped in traffic.  Later as we crept along there was a cow elk standing across a stream by the road, and people were stopping their cars to take pictures.  Both lanes were stopped and shortly came the park service with lights on and got the traffic moving.  After having just shot a beautiful bull elk, a solitary cow was of no interest.  Anyway, we had both seen plenty of cow elk.  Show us a giant bull and we both would get excited.

She is over there if you look real hard

Next the traffic came to a mere crawl.  Lo and behold, there was a really nice bull buffalo by the side of the road munching on some grass.  What was more interesting was there was a woman who had moved to at least within 15 feet of the animal and was taking pictures.  Other people were gathering around and we wanted out of there as quickly as possible.  They must be used to the people because I have hunted buffalo and you do not get close.

I was amazed how close people would get to these animals. 

In South Dakota when I shot a really nice bull several years ago, we stayed out 1000 yards while we stalked him to get into a downwind position.  There were three of us in the procession.  The three of us walked in single file until we were within 300 yards of the beast.  At that point the outfitter said, “You have to take him from here as we will go no closer because he may come over and stomp the living daylights out of us.”  That was my longest shot.  One thing to keep in mind; it is like shooting at a billboard.

Anyway, those people messing around that animal put their lives at risk as buffalo are not a cuddly animal and especially a big bull who may decide he has had enough of being bothered.  We were out of there in short order.

Old Faithful Inn had really changed and Pam and I recognized nothing.  We did make our way to a bench to watch the eruption of Old Faithful.  Right on time it spewed hot water.  That was a little surprising too.  Maybe there is a reader out there who has seen the eruption lately.  This one was nothing like I remember as  boy and a young man with my family.  It could not have gotten over 50 feet high and there was just a spewing noise.

I have seen better eruptions in my younger years. 

When Pam and I had visited the park years ago, the thing really spewed skyward and made a lot of noise.  Maybe this was just a weak episode and it still does its magnificent thing, but we were disappointed.  After a quick lunch and with all the people, we decided to head back to the ranch, take a nap and wait for dinner.

Back at the ranch we ran into our guide and we discussed our experience at the park.  He said he had not been there in decades as it was just too crowded.  There were some hunters at the ranch that were hunting cows, or I should say shooting cows because the ranch has an over abundance of them.  One of the hunters had crippled a cow with a gut shot and the animal could not be found.  We were invited to come along and see if we could find where she had gone to lie down and die.

At the general area we started walking among some of the tallest sage brush plants I have ever seen.  In some places they were like small scrub trees and were taller than Pam.  The area was crisscrossed with various game trails and the cow could have taken any one of them and curled up under a sage brush plant to die.

Our guide and a guide from the group sent us off in a direction they thought the animal might have taken off to lie down.  Pam and I would spread out about 15 yards apart and move forward looking under all the plants we could see.  After going about 100 yards, we would make a sweeping circle back to the original starting point.  We found nothing and not even a fresh track.  There was no blood trail since the animal was gut shot and the group would just have to find it.  It wasn’t meant to be and the animal was never found even though there was plenty of effort.  The critters of the plains need to eat too.

Back at the ranch it was getting close to evening and our guide wanted to drive around the ranch and look for big giant bulls.  We found them and it was truly amazing how beautiful some these animals were and the development of their antlers was truly amazing.

 

 

These three bulls are truly magnificent, and if you are looking to kill a really big animal this is the place to come.  Pam said, “I bet those are really tough.  The young ones eat better and for us that is what it is all about.”  I cannot disagree with that statement. 

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Orvis

Elk Meatballs

 
  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • your favorite spaghetti sauce

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk. Add bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic powder; mix well. Add ground meat and knead with your hands until well blended. Form into meatballs about the size of golf balls. Brown the meatballs on all sides then put them in a pan of spaghetti sauce and simmer, covered, for an hour or more.  We like to cook them all day in a crock pot with plenty of sauce.  A good Merlot will finish off the meal.  Serve with pasta.

Successful Idaho Elk Hunt

It was time to head west.  My wife, Pam, and I loaded up the truck and headed to Idaho on September 23rd for the Elk hunt at Juniper Mountain Ranch near St. Anthony, Idaho.  After twelve hours of driving we checked into the Comfort Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  We did not even take a map, but fed the addresses of the places we were going into the navigation unit in the truck.  After that we just let the nice lady in the dash direct us on the way.  The truck is equipped with a navigation unit from the factory.  We all know what it is like to have one in your vehicle.  

 Next morning the nice lady in the dash (navigation unit) headed us toward Jackson, Wyoming and across Teton Mountain Pass.  Now this is a thrilling experience for a flat lander from Iowa.  There is nothing to going up, but coming down the other side is frightening for people like us.  I had the truck all geared down and was still pumping the brakes periodically.  Looking in the rear view mirror the traffic behind me looked like it was backed up all the way to Jackson.  
 
When we got to a place where we could pull over, the locals went around me waving with one finger.  This must be a sign of “hello” and “thank you”, common in the state of Wyoming.  Wow, these people really drive fast down that mountain pass and we saw a lot of tail lights flash on as they rounded the curves ahead of us till they were gone.  I believe a person who wants to start a business in the area should consider brake repair and replacement. 
 

 Once to the bottom we were in Idaho and headed north to Driggs and Tetonia. Then we went west and north up the road the lady in the dash told us to take.  I am familiar with this area as I have hunted with Bob Barlow of Barlow Outfitting for elk and bear. Now here is where it gets interesting.  We were on the right road to the ranch, but the navigation unit took us to someone’s very large home and the lady in the dash said we had arrived and navigation was discontinued.  What is a mother to do. 

 

I rang the bell and a very nice person came to the door and told us we were heading the right way and the landmarks to look for.  Shortly after that we arrived at the ranch.  In this case the navigation unit was wrong and took us short of our destination.  We later found out UPS was having trouble delivering packages to the ranch.  

 

 

Here is our home for the next few days and we were met by the ranch dog Jackson.  A chocolate lab 10 years old and we had a lot in common with Jackson.  He has arthritis due to age and so do I.

Here is Jackson.  Living a dog’s life soaking up some sun and taking it easy and waiting for his next meal or someone to come along and scratch him here and there.

Next we were met at the door by the ranch manager, Mike Smith, who welcomed us to the ranch and took us to our room where we could deposit our gear.  The room was really nice and as advertised it had a full bath and was big and comfortable.  Next we enjoyed the main room in the lodge, met the other hunters that would be staying there and most important, two really nice ladies that prepared all the meals.  The food was outstanding and there were three big meals a day.  Pam and I do not eat like that anymore.  When we were younger we could have packed it all away but now it just packs around our midsection. 

 

 

Good view of the main living area.  Dining area is behind me. 

 

The main area was full of some of the finest mounts I have ever seen. 

 

Now that everyone was here, we went out and shot our firearms and sighted in the rifles.  This is a great idea to make sure your shots are where you want to put them when looking through the scope. After that it was dinner.  Everything was then explained on how things would work.  We were assigned our guides.  Breakfast was at 06:30 and we would leave the lodge at 07:30 to hunt.  

 

The hunting area was similar to my trip to Colorado near Craig several years ago.  Wide open with a lot of sage brush covering the country side.  We went out in a 4WD pick up and headed up a narrow road to try and spot some elk.  The terrain was not what it seemed to be as we looked at it from a distance.  It was way more rugged than it looked.  The process was to move along slowly and look at the sage brush.  The elk will lie down in the morning on the side of the hill in the sun and all you will see is the horns sticking up.  

This is typical and the sage brush will be up and over your knee and to the waist in some areas. 

 It is wide open country. 

 

 

Everywhere you look you have the beauty of the open country and the clear blue sky.  The photo does not capture how blue the sky was.  In Iowa we don’t have that type of scenery. 

 

We kept creeping along the narrow road and stopped periodically to glass the country side.  When all at once not more than 20 yards and up along the side of the road a really nice elk jumped up and took off.  He did not go more than 30 yards.  I looked him over and his antlers had great symmetry and he looked really beefy.  He had a good looking rear end and generally a good looking meaty body.  

 

I said, “I like him.”  The guide said take him if you want to, but we have not really looked over the herd.  The discussion at our orientation was make sure the bull you select is the one you really have fallen in love with as there are a lot of choices.  You pay by how the animal is scored. Pam and I were not looking for a trophy animal and we do not have any shoulder mounts.  All the elk harvested have been for meat with a good looking rack and are European mounts. I shot one trophy and he was tougher than an old boot.  I was told by Mike Branson with Wind River Outfitters to shoot a young bull with a nice rack because you will have the best eating. 

 

The symmetry of the antlers and the fact he was so good looking just convinced me that this was the bull for us.  I asked Pam how she felt about harvesting him and the response was, “This is the one for us.” I would look no further.  My guide asked several times, “Are you sure you want this bull?” He finally said he could not find a thing wrong with him and he had worked at the ranch for over ten years. 

 

The wind was dead calm.  The sun was right in his face so he could not wind us and I believe he was having a hard time seeing us.  I could hardly look into the sun.  We are at 4,800 feet and it is considerably brighter here than back home.  

 

The animal kept moving ahead of us.  When we got to within 30 yards of him he stopped and stared.  Our guide said to take him if he is the one you want.  We stopped and I got out of the truck as quickly as possible and without using shooting sticks, I laid my elbow where the mirror protruded from the truck and brought him into view with the scope.  He immediately turned and walked 10 more yards and turned and looked at us.  He did not run.  After I pulled my sight into the sweet spot, he turned again and stuck his backside at us.  I thought he would trot off.   The guide made some noise that I cannot describe and he turned to the left and was somewhat broadside and stopped.  I did not put a range finder on him as I was going to take a shot the first chance I felt would bring him down.  I felt he was now out about 75 yards.  As I pulled right behind the left shoulder he turned again but it was too late to stop the round as it was on it’s way to the elk.  

 

The round went in right behind the rib cage at about a 30 degree angle so it would travel through the vital areas.  He took three steps and went down.  We slowly walked up to him to make sure he had expired and he was dead.  

 

Pam came up and examined him and said what a beautiful boy he was and look at all the fine looking meat on him.  

 

Look at the symmetry in the antlers. 

 

 

Look at the nice big body on the young boy. 

 

 

Pam really liked this elk and there is nothing better than having your wife go with you providing you have really nice facilities.  

 

 

Our guide John who did an outstanding job for us.  He would not let me help him gut the boy out and when we got back to the ranch, he did everything by himself.  Outstanding preparation and when you get this type of service you feel good about the tip. 

 

 

There he is all hung up and waiting for the skinning and head removal.  Once skinned and the head removed, the ranch quartered him and took him to one of the finest processors in St. Anthony I have ever experienced.  We asked for half pound packages of the burger and the steaks packaged for two people.  We did not take any roasts, but had it all ground to burger.  We eat a lot of burger as it is easy and quick to fix and our friends like the burger best.  We do not share the tenderloin as we eat them ourselves.  How is that for being selfish?  

 

Matt’s Meats in St. Anthony, Idaho did an outstanding job for us.  We got all the meat home, and it was hard as nails.  No loss at all due to thawing.  They did everything just the way we wanted, and I cannot say enough nice things about this business.  These people really know how to take care of you. 

Every once in a while you have a really great and memorable experience, and this was one of them.  I cannot find one thing wrong.  We were both pleased with the whole adventure.  

Sierra Trading Post

Good Hunting, Good Fishing, and Good Luck, Hank

Planning Another Elk Hunt

January came and it immediately brought to mind the need to apply for my elk tags in Wyoming and possibly New Mexico.

 
A nice looking 6 x 6, but I would satisfied with something smaller.  We want tender meat. 
 

The New Mexico hunt sounded really fantastic as it was highly recommended by a friend in our duck hunting club.  He had great success there although he had some trouble with the altitude.  We are both the same age and I would guess about the same shape.  It met all my requirements of a comfortable lodge, three squares a day, and for a few extra dollars I could hunt one on one with the guide.  I have shared a guide on hunts before with a stranger.  It worked okay, but you have to work at it. If you can have your own for a few extra bucks it is money well spent.

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I looked up Moon Valley Outfitters on the Internet and they have a great website that explains who they are and what they are about.  I called down and got pricing and visited with the owner.  He wanted to know where I had hunted and what my physical capabilities were and what my expectations were. He also asked me about distances shot and harvested in the past.  I never tell an outfitter more than I am capable of and it is best to down play what you can do.  Harvesting an animal that is representative of the area is what I expect and hope to harvest.  A trophy is great, but I never plan on it or plan on looking for a trophy.  Meat is the goal as there are mouths to feed, and big old elk are tough. (http://www.moonvalleyoutfitters.com/)

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The lodge is in a hard days driving from Omaha, and while I would spend a night on the road going down, I would drive it non stop on the way back.  Hopefully, de-boned meat would be in my coolers. 

New Mexico is a draw state and the outfitter takes care of the application process for you.  All that is required is to give them a credit-card number and you get a copy of the application.

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I then called my good friend Bob Barlow with Barlow Outfitters.  He was booked up with deer hunters but gave me a recommendation on a private ranch high in the Tetons near Jackson Hole.  I would be hunting with the outfitter as he limits how many people he can take and per Bob, this is gentleman hunting.  That got me interested.

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There is no lodging and I would have to stay in Jackson and drive up into the mountains daily and hunt.  Food would be on my own and I was unsure about meat preparation.  The price was a little high compared to New Mexico and I would have to buy the General Tag and not draw as I still do not have enough points to draw and especially for this area.

                                                         

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Bob’s recommendation was really all it took, but my goal would have been to hunt with him.  I have never had so much fun with a person on a hunt as I have with Bob Barlow.  He is really patient with me and I enjoy his company his hunting experience and knowledge.  I decided to look at fresh country and apply for the license in New Mexico.

In March the bad news came in.  I did not draw in New Mexico and talking with the outfitter, he said if I would have been using a muzzle loader, I might have had a better chance for the area.   I like my Winchester 300 win mag, and while I have a muzzle loader, the 300 is my choice of rifles except for white tail deer in Iowa.

 

It looked like an elk hunt might be out of the question this fall as my goal was to hunt where I had never been before.  In my book “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman” there is a list of locations I have been and some more than once.  The book is available on Amazon and through Lulu.

While the wind  and the snow were blowing around one March evening, I started playing with the Internet.  Low and behold while searching in Colorado, here came a spot in Idaho.  Wow, for some reason their website popped up on a Colorado search.

Juniper Mountain Ranch near Terreton, Idaho is a private ranch the promotes elk hunting. (http://www.junipermountain.net/)The elk are resident elk although they do add to the herd.  No license is required as the hunt is on private property so you avoid the problem of drawing and hunting in National Forrest Service ground where your odds are 20% success rate.  I am interested in meat, but more importantly, results.  Calling them on the phone and visiting about the ranch met my requirements. What is really important for me is my wife will get to accompany me on the trip.  Whether she will go on the actual hunt is up to her.

The Juniper Mountain Ranch is basically a sheep ranch, so the country is wide open and shooting through timber will not be a problem, although it is a challenge.  Wide open country will mean longer shots, I believe, so practice for me is a necessity and I must get the rifle sighted in.  They recommend sighting when you first get there. Meals, fully guided, and a private bath in your room meets my maximum requirements.  There is the opportunity to have the meat processed, and a call was made to the processor.  There is a requirement on this item for us.  We like to have the burger mixed with 15% pork fat ground fine and made into half pound packages.  We use a processor in Minden, Iowa that does things just the way we want it and although we pay extra for this service, it is worth it. There are only two of us and a half pound package makes two burgers. Friends that we give meat to also are empty nesters.  When you get older, your ability to eat a two pound steak disappears.

After a couple of phone calls and visiting with the owner, the decision was made to head to Idaho the last of September.  We will look at some fresh country and have a new experience to write about, I hope.

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank

 

Up Close & Personal Hunting Alligators

The research was done and now the time came to fish or cut bait.  My wife Pam and I took off to Braithwaite, LA to hunt Alligators.  From Council Bluffs we headed to St. Louis and then down I-55 for our first stop in Memphis, Tenn.  This was an enjoyable drive and we had the opportunity to see country we had never seen before. That night we enjoyed some of the finest barbecue we had ever experienced.  

From this overnight stop we were off to Louisiana for our overnight stay at Chalmette, LA.  This was a great opportunity to enjoy some fine Cajun cooking and we took advantage of the local restaurants. After a good nights rest we were pumped and ready for the hunt.  

At the jump off for the hunt, we met our guide Fred and Grant his assistant.  This was very educational and interesting.  These two men were from Florida where they took tourists on air boat tours of the swamps in their area for bird watchers. When we were out on the boat, Fred was able to identify every bird we saw and tell us something about the specie.  This added to the adventure.  In addition he had previously been a commercial hunter of Alligators in Florida for many years.  There was plenty of know how with these two men and we became very comfortable.  

During the month of September they came to Louisiana to guide for the owner of Louisiana Marsh Adventures.  This is Alligator season in Louisiana.  We had the expertise of these men with guiding, the marsh area, and handling alligators.  This made for a great trip. 

The first thing I was required do was sign my license to hunt Alligators in Louisiana.  Then we were given an orientation of what would happen and how we would hunt the beasts.  A critical thing was the placement of the bullet in the gator to bring it to a quick demise.  

 

If you look where Fred is pointing his finger this is the spot where the bullet would be placed to kill the gator. It is about the size of a quarter. There is a moon shaped curved bone that goes over the head of the beast and the spot where Fred’s finger is pointing is the spot.  This leads to the spinal cord.  When the bullet hits this spot the gator will crock off.  It sounded easy, but I was to learn how difficult it really was to get to that spot.  

Placing the round anywhere other than this spot would not kill the beast, and you may have a bigger fight than you had bargained for as it might make the beast angrier. 

Fred had a small rifle that shot a 22 magnum shell and that did the job.  This was the smallest caliber shell I have ever used to kill big game.  As I looked at the gun, I really missed my 30-06 and my 300. 

 
 

This is the air boat that took us around the swamp.  We were supplied with ear muffs to protect our hearing and life vests in case we fell out of the boat.  Grant told us just to stand up as the swamp was not more than waist deep  The engine was very loud and the ride was really exciting as we slithered over the top of beds of vegetation. 

Pam in the air boat. 

Just before I sat down. 

Grant getting ready to shove us off. 

Fred running the boat. 

We headed from the dock into the swamps.  We passed through a gateway that was built into a Levee separating the dock area from the swamp.  This was constructed after Katrina to prevent flooding in the future. In case of another hurricane the gates can be closed to prevent storm surge. 

Entering into the swamp, Fred explained how the gator were baited.  A quarter of a chicken is used as bait and hooked into a really big hook.  The bait is suspended above the water attached to a fiber glass pole with the line attached to a tree on shore.  They want the bait suspended high enough so that small gators cannot get at it and out of the water to avoid other creatures that would feast on it.  The picture below is not the best due to the sun, but it gives you an idea what you would find if a gator had not grabbed the bait.  Fred told us after the season was over it took two months before he could eat chicken again.

 
 

The line is tight at this location.  That means there is a gator on the end ready to be pulled in.  Fred said you can never know how big it is until you get it up to the side of the boat.  Sometimes big gators come to the boat gently and other times they raise holy cane and you never know what you have.  

This gator was not big, but what was interesting was a really big gator was holding onto it’s body.  He was eating on this gator and had eaten almost all of his tail.  When he saw us, he let go and sank back down into the dark.  Fred said he was a nice specimen and he wanted to come back and check this location as the big gator may want to finish his meal. Fred said he could see bubbles rising from the swamp.  That meant it stayed around.

We moved through the bayou checking out the locations where bait was set.  In each case there was a small gator on the hook.  I would pull it in far enough for Fred to get a good look and then decide if it was worth keeping.  In almost every case it was small and Fred would say, “We have more baits to check and we will keep checking until we find a big gator for you to kill.”

After four or five spots, we pulled in a really good looking beast.  Fred said we will remember this big boy and see if we can find something bigger.  He was estimated at 9 to 10 feet in the water.  He came to the boat slowly until the distance between his nostrils and his eyes could be seen.  That, I was told, was how you can tell the size of the gator.  We saw some gators swimming that were estimated at over 12 feet just by judging the distance from the nostrils to the eyes. 

 

 

Spanish Moss

 Looking at the canal we were on. 

Flying over the vegetation that was growing on the canal. 

 

This is the biggest gator we had seen previously that was hooked and we had passed him up to look for a bigger beast.  We came back to this location to harvest him after checking a number of spots.  He came to the boat slowly but as I felt the line he was really heavy. I handed the line to Fred and got ready to shoot.  I could not get a good bead on the sweet spot as the gator would not stay next to where I was standing. Fred was off to my left.  Also, I had the gun up quite a ways from the gator’s head. This was not the correct way to make the shot.  This was not like shooting a scoped rifle at a big animal.  Right at the time Pam took the picture, I was doing poorly.  I did it all wrong and took a shot.  Even though it hit the gator’s head, it did not kill it and suddenly it became really enraged.  I am not used to shooting iron sites especially at a moving target. 

 Fred told me to come to his left side and put the barrel of the gun close to his head at the right time.  The reptile was really enraged after I shot him in the head. He rolled and went back and forth. Finally, there was a pause and I put the barrel of the gun right above the spot and shot him. The small rifle was not heavy and I took the gun out of my shoulder and just held it with my right hand. All at once he went dead still in the water.  Fred kept him in the water and let him bleed out.  That way he would not have blood in the boat. 

There it is, calm as can be after putting up all that ruckus.  Fred estimated him at 9 to 10 feet.  He was maneuvered around until he was slid into the bottom of the boat.  All of a sudden his legs moved and it scared both of us to death thinking he was still alive.  Alligators, I was told,  have a lot of nerve endings in the extremities so his tail moved around also.  Fred taped his mouth shut and that made me feel better. 

Then he said, “I have two tags to fill.  Do you want to shoot another one?”  Now, I was not going to pass up another opportunity to shoot another gator and anyway we were having a great time.  We must have stopped at eight spots to see if there was a big gator there.  If there wasn’t, we moved on to another baited spot, all the time looking at the beauty of the bayou and observing the many birds.

Pam and I helped Fred move the gator into the bottom of the boat.  He felt like smooth soft leather and the top of the tail and the body that I thought was an exo skeletan was nothing but smooth and semi soft hide. 

The next location proved to be thrilling as this gator from the beginning did not like being hooked and he was excited to get onto the boat.

This beast was really angry.  He tried to take off and dive down. Next, he was trying to roll.  Fred handed me the line and I could hardly hold onto it.  Slowly I got him up to the side of the boat where I handed the line back to Fred.  This gator had a real nasty streak in him and I was concerned that with all the commotion I would not get a shot.

As I started to put the bullet in the sweet spot, he rolled and the round went into the water. I missed and shot the water.  Fred said, ” Take your time.”  The gator was not going anywhere and when he stopped rolling momentarily, I quickly took the opportunity to shoot.  I had the gun at the backside of his head and let him have it right in the quarter size spot on the back of his head.   He went limp.  You can see that I am holding the gun with two hands and the end of the barrel is just above the gator’s head.  I remembered my mistake after taking the first shot on the previous gator and learned a lesson.  That picture was taken right after the shot was made and you can see the blood coming out.  He was kept in the water to let him bleed out before he was boated.  

That made two gators and we had an outstanding morning.  First, we saw hundreds of birds then the beauty of the bayou plus the alligator hunting.  To show for our efforts, we got to harvest two of them.  My deal with the outfitter was to keep the gator head and hide.  I would have to wait for 6 months to get the tanning done or trade it out for one that was already tanned and prepared.  We took the trade, and that way we went home with a head and a hide. 

For meat, we bought some meat raised at an alligator farm rather than the meat from the bayou which would have been muddy tasting.  We were not interested in that.

Pam and I with the two gators. 

Fred and I with the two gators.  I am 6’3″ so that gives you an idea of the size of the two of them. 

What a trip!  So much excitement in such a short period of time and we enjoyed every minute.  The plus was traveling around the bayou on an air boat and enjoying the outdoors, including all the birds and vegetation.

We highly recommend Louisiana Marsh Adventures. (https://www.louisianamarshadventures.com)

Sierra Trading Post

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank. 

Huntin Dem Gators

Last winter when it was cold and miserable outside while sitting by the fire staying warm inside, researching and reading something interesting was the order for the day.  I enjoy the history channel  programs.  One program really caught my eye and it was called “Swamp People.”  Hunting alligators looked really dangerous and took a lot of skill.  Getting hooked was easy and every week the program was watched with fascination.

American Alligator.jpg

On a trip with our favorite tour company in South America, alligator was part of the buffet among other things that were not very interesting.   A number of the people in the group tried it out, and it tasted really good.  I can truthfully say it reminded me of chicken.  It did not taste like chicken, just reminded me.  Locking the experience away, the research was started to see what would I have to do in order to have the experience of an alligator hunt.

I was amazed at how the locals of the area hunted these big prehistoric monsters.  It was assumed that they slipped quietly through the swamps and when eyes poking up were spotted, they blasted them with a high powered rifle in the head.  That is my preferred method of harvesting big game and most important dangerous game.  From Buffalo, to Hogs to Bear, never give them a chance.  Those animals can put a really bad hurt on you short of death.

They baited them by hanging a piece of chicken from a limb on a really bad and big looking hook and then periodically checked to see if the bait was chomped down on and the hook swallowed.  As the hunter approached the location where the bait was tied, there was no movement.  After the hunter picked up the line and started pulling it toward him, the water parted and the devil himself rose up to take a chomp out of the person who did this to him.  The fight was on.

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It was amazing how a person could hold onto those enormous gators.  I saw sizes up to 11 feet and they were really angry.  When the gator’s head was in the right position next to the boat, it was shot with a small caliber bullet right in the back end of the head.  It was amazing.  The big animal went totally limp after all that ruckus it raised.  Hauled into the boat, these beasts were enormous.

I talked to my wife one day about going on an alligator hunt, and as she walked away to take care of some business, I am sure she said, “go ahead, I don’t care.”  To this day, it has been assumed, she did not hear me, or did not want to hear.  Anyway, the research was on.

Learning about your quarry and who they are is one thing that should be done before going after something of this nature.

The American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensi) is the largest reptile in North America. As I watched all the shows on TV, they looked greenish black to me but they are apparently black of color. The color of the water where the shots were made might have been the reason for the color  Big head, long tail, and a round body with short thick limbs make them easy to spot. That huge tail enables the monster to propel itself through the water. and the tail accounts for almost half the length of the beast.

Their diet is mainly fish, turtles, various mammals, birds and other reptiles.  There are approximately 5 million gators in the U.S.  Florida has an estimated 1.25 million with Louisiana second.  Based on the article I read, their range appears to be moving northward.  Wait till they get to Iowa.  When father winter sets into the prairie, it will all be over if they make it this far.

The big gators are very territorial and will defend their territory.  I don’t know against whom, unless it is another big creature or a hunter.  They live in freshwater such as marshes, wetlands, rivers, and swamps.  Mating season is April through May.  I thought that hunting season would be during this time of the year, but not so.

The female will lay about 25 to 50 eggs and they generally hatch around mid August. What was really interesting was how nature determines the sex of the creature.  Temperatures of 86 degrees during incubation produces females and temperatures of 93 degrees produces males.  After they hatch, that is the sex they will become.  I am sure there must be other creatures of the wild that experience the same type of sex determination.

First stop was Florida, and a good place to begin the research and find an outfitter that would meet my requirements.  The state is plush with possibilities, and since Pam decided to go and we would be taking coolers and driving, we then focused on Louisiana.  This state is number 2 in population and the Alligator is the state reptile.  If you are on the east coast, go to Florida.  You will find an outfitter to meet your needs.

I started out with lodges with all the amenities, but moved off of that idea as there were not many of them. Some really plush vacation spots were found, but I just want to kill an Alligator.  We are not looking for a week long swamp experience in an exquisite and expensive resort.  Most of what I found was in the New Orleans area and there were lots of options.  One was really interesting and I would have to book a year in advance.  At my age I may not be around next year, and so moved on to look at another option.  The hunt at this location was basically a day, with guide, boat, and lunch provided. When talking with the owner, he wanted to know how big a gator I wanted to kill.  Having no idea, I said one that is representative of the area, but at least eight feet.

There is a season in September when the beasts can be hunted.  Licenses are required and being an out of stater I had to buy the out of state license.  What was interesting was all of the outfitters charged for my wife to come along, and that was $250.00 extra.  She is coming with me as we intend to dine on some Cajun food, and she is in charge of the camera.  We are planning on killing one.

The outfitter we selected was Louisiana Marsh Adventure in Braitwaite, LA 70040.  Phone is 504-684 3432.  You can also locate them on their website at (www.louisianamarshadventures.com).  Ask for Mike. I found him very informative and helpful.

What Pam and I want out of this experience is to harvest a gator that is representative of the size for the area.  We also want some alligator meat, the head, and the hide.  I found out that I can buy a head and hide from Mike and take that with me home along with meat that is pre-packed and frozen.  Otherwise, head and hide would take some time to get tanned and processed.  We decided to come back with a hide and head that was on site.  That way we would not have to wait to get the animal back.

The hide will be given to a friend of mine that has a hobby of leather working.  He is looking forward to getting the hide. Hopefully he will make alligator purses for our wives.  The head will go on the mantel above the fireplace in our lower level.  Right above it is a picture of a very beautiful country pond.  The head will be very fitting there and make a good conversation piece.  We have friends that are looking forward to the meat.  They are good sports will and gag down most anything.

 

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck, Hank

 

Alligator Recipe

 

Ingredients: 

 
 
  1. 2 lbs. alligator tail meat cut into 1 inch squares
  2. 3 cups milk
  3. 1 cup mustard
  4. 2 tablespoonfuls creole seasoning
  5. 2 cups fish fry mix of some brand
  6. 2 cups pancake mix
  7. cooking oil

Directions;

  1. Soak 1 inch cubes of alligator in milk for two to three hours.
  2. Drain milk and season meat with creole seasoning.
  3. Add the mustard to the bowl and stir the cubes coating well.
  4. Mix fish fry and pancake together and put in shaking bag along with the coated cubes.
  5. Shake the living daylights out of the mixture.
  6. Fry in oil until golden brown,  suggested temp is 375 degrees.
  7. Serve with slaw, your favorite high caloric french fries, Tusker Beer if available, and fish dip. 

Bon Appetit 

Back to Webster South Dakota

Wow, the weather just stayed rotten during the last weeks of May and the first of June.  Looking at a trip to the panhandle of western Nebraska was totally out of the question not unless things turned a little more mellow.  My favorite haunt for the last 20 years is the Glacial Lakes region of eastern South Dakota.  So it was with deep intent that the study of the weather and frontal movements in that area began.

The fronts just rolled through with winds and T storms through the area.  There is always one thing that is constant and that is the wind.  It is either blowing or howling in the Webster SD area.  I noticed there was an opportunity for a high pressure to move in for a few days and the forecast was for clearing skies and breezes, more or less and probably more, from the south.

Ongoing – 24 Picks, Every 24 hours.

After church on a Sunday, the weather was studied for the last time and the decision was made to go in the afternoon and fish the next two and a half days.  The next problem was a room.  The motels were full, but I could stay at two different ones if I did not mind changing.  I am by myself so that is not a problem.

The drive up was uneventful except the cars once in South Dakota went by me like I was standing still.  The speed limit is 80 mph and the natives drive it plus.  Pulling the boat and I maintained a steady 70.  I need to point out that in the Sioux City, Iowa area on I-29 law enforcement places a remote radar detection device that takes a picture of your vehicle and license plate and if you are going faster than the speed limit, you are nailed.  It has already cost me $65.00 so if you are traveling north or south in the Sioux City, Iowa area, pay attention to the speed limit.

Next morning after grabbing bait, advice, and 5 gallons of coffee, the boat was launched at the Kanago boat ramp.  Wind was right out of the east at about 5 mph.  The water level looked a little lower than it did last year.

Fishing was started just 100 yards from the boat ramp working a chartreuse jig and crawler in eight to twelve feet of water.  Getting more shallow put me into moss beds and coated up the lure.  At eight feet no moss was picked up.  Good returns on the fish finder showed plenty of fish in the ten foot area.  After working the area for about 45 minutes moving south east from the dock, I headed northerly to the first big island.

The southwesterly corner of the island and half way up I picked up small mouth bass
 

On the northerly side of the island and staying in at least 8 to 12 feet of water, I worked the jig along the shore.  Bomb the rod bent over and the line moved back and forth.  What does that and there is only one thing that I am sure of and it was correct.  I started picking up small mouth bass.  They are fun to catch back and forth and they take off and run just like a northern pike.  Plus you may have to work the catch around the boat to the other side as they have a lot of fight.  There is a slot limit in South Dakota and you can keep only fish under 14 inches or over 18 inches, and they eat really good. 

Moving up along the side of the island to where some timber sticks out, walleye were boated.  They were not big but were above the 15 inch range.  As long as the boat was kept in about ten feet of water, I got a lot of hits and now and then a fish.  As fast as it turned on, it turned off and I did not catch a thing.  It was time to move.

The northerly tip of the first island, and it was at this location walleye and small mouth bass were caught. 

On the lake at 6 AM my energy level began to run a little low.  At noon, it was decided to take a break enjoy some lunch and check in at my next motel, and take a nap if I could get in the room.

The wind was still out of the east, but picked up a little.  Putting the boat back on the trailer alone was a bit of a task, and fortunately a fisherman came over and gave me a hand.  There is always someone willing to help when you are alone.  I counted the boat trailers and there was 37 at this location.  There is another ramp north that I did not use this trip.


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Back on the lake by 3:30 PM, I fished the area of Bresky Bay and then got nothing. I then fished the islands on the northwest area of the lake.  Not a thing was caught and not one strike was felt.  Moving down the northerly side of the lake, the old school bus point was fished for about 30 minutes.  The minute the boat got less than 5 to 8 feet, moss was picked up on the bait.  The graph did not show much and never got a strike.

Bresky bay.  You can always find it 

 

From here I headed southeast to the standing timber on the south side of the lake that protrudes out into the lake.  No runs, no hits and no errors.  The graph showed nothing and there was little time spent at this location even though years ago there was some really nice fish hammered.

This in the past has been a good location.  Just southeast of school bus point and years past fish were caught here. Water is about 15 to 20 feet deep.  

 

From this location the boat was moved into a bay that is surrounded by timber on three sides.  There is a buoy line that you are not allowed to cross as it puts you in a federal reserve.  It is easy to spot. There is a lookout tower on the south shore hillside.  Some sparse standing timber marks the buoy line.  I would love to fish that bay because no one is allowed to go in there and it has to be a regular fish market.  We will never know.

There is a poacher following me around.  That is the tree line in the bay the buoy line is just beyond the trees.  Over the years I have always had some good luck at this location.

 

Staying in the 8 to 15 foot range produced nothing.  The water at this location was a little warmer than the water back on the west side of the lake.  Also I was continually having moss problems.  Moving out to 20 feet and hits were made and I picked up a nice walleye.  My limit was made for the day and it was time to head back to the dock.

 

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck. Hank. 

Fishing a New Lake

Last fall we had friends tell us about fishing Johnson Reservoir at Lexington, Nebraska.  Since it is only a 3 hour drive from Council Bluffs, IA we decided to give it a try.  The state of Nebraska in the early spring had put out a list of the top Walleye lakes and this was one of the closest ones to us.  The really good ones were way out in the pan handle of western Nebraska.


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The weather had been horrible in the spring and fishing would not have been very good.  Cold temps with lots of rain and wind in the central part of Nebraska would not make it worthwhile to make the trip.  When we got into the first week of June, temperatures changed and there was a series of high pressure areas through the mid section of the state.  We decided to give it a try and my wife, Pam, said she would come along. This is the advantage of being retired.  You go when things look good.  You do not have to wait for a weekend and hope you won’t get blown or rained off the lake.

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The lake is really close to Lexington and the the town has a population of ten thousand plus.  It is a good size community for central Nebraska.  There is plenty of good restaurants and lodging is good plus there is plenty of opportunity to park a pickup truck with a boat.  This is important for a fisherman that does not want to rough it.  Read my book “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman,” available through Lulu and Amazon.  In my old age I have become soft or I just like to have comfort when I go hunting or fishing.

We checked on line the availability of place to buy bait and there is only two.  The first one is a gas station and convenience store.  They have everything you need.  The second is on the west side of the lake.  They have good advice.  You can always drive down to Elwood just a few miles south of the lake and they pride themselves selling Arkansas shiners.  A smaller minnow with a streak of silver down the side.  I have to admit this bait produced better results.

We drove out in the morning.  On the west side of the lake is a fish cleaning station and a boat ramp that is really great.  The facilities are owned by the state and you need to buy a Nebraska Park Permit.  The permit is issued for each 24 hour period that you are on the lake.  We had planned to fish the afternoon and evening, the next morning and then home.  One permit was all we needed.  The boat ramp is very good and you can launch from either side.  The ramp drops quickly into deep water so there is no problem of getting the boat off and back on the trailer.  I have fished alone at a strange lake before where the ramp was in shallow water and I have made a horse’s backside of myself getting the boat off and on the trailer.

The ramp is at the inlet from a stream for the lake.  We were told to fish about 20 yards from the inlet and on the opposite of the lake.  We were also told there was an 18 inch slot which is a really nice fish.

 
There is Pam fishing diligently.  What is amazing is when she pulls out a book and starts reading, she catches a lot of fish.  The secret to taking you wife with you is a good motel, good food, and a good book to read while they fish. 

There must have been ten boats all jigging or still fishing from the dock.  We found an opening and started fishing working jigs recommended by the bait shop.  At this location we did not pick up a thing and decided to move over to the easterly shore line and work a drop off that weaved the length of the lake.  The center of the lake is deep.

Boat ramp to the left, inlet to the right.  When we first got here there must have been 10 boats.We did not see anyone catch anything.

 

Wind was south westerly and so the fishing as the sky clouded over picked up for us.  We worked the red and white jig in eight to fifteen feet of water.  We picked up fish.  That part was good, but the walleye were in the twelve to fourteen inch range.  This is a good sign which means they are spawning and the lake is reproducing.  We also picked up white bass.  Now, we both like the meat of white bass after you remove the red meat from down the lateral line.  Here again the fish were small and we pitched them all back.  As of the afternoon and evening we did not boat a keeper fish, but we were busy taking them off and putting on another shiner.  A successful day is catching even if you don’t keep any.

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As evening approached we pulled out and were both starved.  Also, the shade from the clouds came and went and we got a little thirsty.  Always take plenty of water.

Off the lake we headed into town and on the west side of the road is a Mexican restaurant.  If you like Mexican food, it was outstanding.  I do not remember the name, and it was not a chain, but the food was plentiful and really great. It is the first Mexican restaurant you come to, so you can’t miss it.

The next morning we hit the lake early and wanted to be off before the weather hit.  The forecast was for rain and wind and at the time we put onto the lake there was northerly flow and we had a low overcast.  We skipped fishing at the inlet and headed over to the east side of the lake and began to jig where we had caught fish before.  It was still somewhat hot, but nothing like it been the previous day.  Catch and pitch was what was going on, and then it totally turned off, and the temperature went down a little.  This must have been the frontal passage and it was time to get on the road.

We got off the lake and covered the boat in the parking area and headed back to C.B. The timing could not have been more perfect and the rain began to pour and it came down in buckets.

We caught fish, but I believe this lake is fished really heavy as there is housing almost all around it.  If you want white bass, this is probably one of your better choices.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank.

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