Walleye Galore on Lake Francis Case

Lake Francis Case is the large, gently winding reservoir behind Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River in south-central South Dakota. The lake has an area of 102,000 acres and a maximum depth of 140 feet. Lake Francis Case covers just over 100 miles and has a shoreline of 540 miles.

That is how you get your wife to go fishing with you.  Our guide and good friend is in the background.

A good friend and his wife had just come back from a two day fishing trip and gave an outstanding recommendation for a guide, using his boat and equipment, and a lodge to stay at.  The pictures they had were of some excellent walleye fishing.  The fish caught were not big lunkers, but really nice size  fish in the 15 to 18 inch class.  These fillet out really nice and fry up even better. 

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Picture is produced by Harry Weddington, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Digital Visual Library

The Fort Randall Dam is located within sight of its namesake Fort Randall, an early U.S. Army Frontier Post. Fort Randall Dam is one of six Missouri River dams.  The next dam upstream is Big Bend Dam near Fort Thompson and the next dam downstream is Gavins Point near Yankton. The dam forms the southern end of the lake with the northern end at Chamberlain, SD that form Lake Sharpe.

Comfortable room and lodge area made this a great place to stay. 

Upon contacting the people at Platte Creek Lodge and Guide Service in Platte, SD, there was an opening for two days of fishing with a guide and a room.  We grabbed it.  Pam could not go along due to another commitment and was terribly disappointed as she really likes to hammer walleye.

Arriving late afternoon, We met our guide and we talked about the next morning.  We would depart for the lake at 7 a.m.

For meals a person could drive into town as there were restaurants open in the morning for breakfast and dinner.  A person could bring his own food and fix it at the lodge.  We just grabbed some TV dinners for breakfast and dinner along with snacks for the afternoon and that worked well for us.

This is where we hung out and sat and watched TV in the checkered chair with the brown pillow.  Tables are to the right and another dining room in front of me for other people cooking their own meals.  

The boat shown below was the boat we would be fishing in the next morning.  Wow, a new 19 foot+ Lund purchased in January the year before.  This boat had it all.  Eighty pound thrust trolling motor on the bow that unfolded down into the water electrically and pulled itself back out when it was time to go.  The best part was it was controlled automatically by the Hummingbird graph at the drivers seat.  Set the depth and the motor kept the boat moving along at that depth.  This was hands free fishing.  Two 4 stroke engines were mounted on the rear.  One was a 200 hp Mercury and the other was a 15 hp Mercury.  Both were totally controlled at the drivers spot for steering and running the fuel.  This was way more boat than I own.

This boat would really move when it was opened up and the seats had a suspension system that kept the ride really smooth. 

Next morning it was off to the lake.  When we got to the boat ramp area we were fourth in line for a single boat ramp.  Boats were piling up behind us and boats were floating just off the single dock waiting for the driver of the truck to come in from the parking to mount up and ride off into the morning light. The big boat came right off and I drove the trailer up to the parking area and hustled down to the dock. We were off, and oh how this boat would fly over the water with just the three of us in it and the 200 horses pushing us along!  (I keep talking about the boat, but it was exciting.  Plus, I don’t have to maintain it.)

My first view of Lake Francis Case. 

Highway 44 out of Platte, SD crosses over the lake.  To our left is a campground where we would launch the boat.  The area has 5 boat ramp areas. 

I shot a quick pic trying to get a shot of the traffic, but we were so hurried that this is the best I could do.  I have never seen so many people lining up to get onto the lake.  It is the end of May and this lake is really popular. 

My guide said the lake was about  normal and he has lived in the area all his life.  In the water we were off and flying over the water.  Moving to the east bank he set the depth at 10 feet for the motor and graph to keep us at that depth just following the shoreline.  

There is that Hummingbird telling the trolling motor where to go.  How sweet it is! 

We started immediately picking up fish, not real rapidly but enough to pay attention.  Each of us fished with two rods in rod holders on each side of the boat.  This was a new experience for me, as I have always run the trolling motor, watched the graph, and operated one rod.  Wow, gentleman fishing is what was taking place.  At my age, I need all of this I can take.  Pam really liked it as there was no work to do.  

The fish we picked up were below the 15 inch minimum.  But we picked up a lot and it was relatively constant.  This is a great sign for the lake, as all those small fish grow into big fish. A couple of decades ago a close friend and I fished Waubay Lake in the Glacial Lakes area and would pick up 50 to 100 fish a day all below the legal limit.  It was fun catching a lot of fish.  Next year we picked up a limit a piece in less than half a day.  This will happen here.  Good for the minimum.

Decades ago, my son and I fished with a native of the Iron Range in Minnesota.  We fished the B.W.C.A. and he said wherever you are catching small walleye, you need to move on as that is all there is in that spot.  Over the years I have found some truth in that statement.  We moved.

The next location we picked up a couple of keepers in the 16 inch range and when it went sterile, we moved again.  The guide just seemed to know where to go and where he had caught fish in the past and this year.  He told me we could have it all done by 1 pm or earlier.

I fished the bow of the boat and the guide fished the back end. Pam fished the other side of the back end.  I don’t think he was trying too hard because he was slow to set the hook and it seemed like sometime his line went slack.  He was more interested in keeping on a certain depth making sure Pam caught fish, and monitored the graph and changing our depths at times.  Note the rod holder.  There was one on the other side of the bow. I am not used to this at all as I have always held a rod in my hand.  Time to teach an old dog new tricks. 

That is my spot at the front of the boat, unless we are rocketing across the lake to a new spot.   Pam took the seat behind the windshield and she loved the flotation of the seats.  The white box on the floor has worms in the center and is surrounded on the outside by ice to keep them cold.  

By 11 a.m. we had caught our daily limit for the day for the three of us. Pam was amazed at the number of keepers we caught in such a short time.  This trip may have sold her on fishing with me again and we have another day to go.

Amazing and we were done by 11 a.m.  These are perfect eating size fish. 

Another day to follow. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Click on the book and buy from Amazon.  

The Hunt for the Canadian Grey Wolf

This is a mount at my host’s home.  Magnificent describes this mount as you enter the lower level and look up the stairs.  The picture does not capture the size and they are really big, smart, and nature’s ultimate hunter.

Last December, I hunted in the province of Alberta, known for its population of Grey Wolves.  The opportunity was muffed and I slept like a baby afterward.  I cried all night.  I hunted with the outfitter where I had harvested a nice moose.  I was issued a wolf/coyote license with my Alberta tab for the moose, and was told the area held an abundance of wolves.  The claim was their favorite morsel was moose and elk calves and the population loses 80% of the newborn moose to the wolves.  My wife was with me on that trip and we did see some at great distances early in the morning or evening.  No shots were taken.

My wife and I with our moose in 2018 and our friends enjoyed dining on this fine looking boy.

More research was needed to check other provinces across Canada. It appeared that the majority of the outfitters hunted them from fixed position over bait.  Over bait means that you are within 100-200 yards of the bait pile.  I also learned that at the first location, that warmer temperatures were better for drawing a wolf to the bait.  Severe cold makes the meat totally frozen and when they are out hunting at night a nice tasty moose or elk calf makes an easier meal.  I also learned they will come to a call depending on the time of the year.  I was told early in the season was best when they had not been hunted too much.

Finally, I found an outfitter in Ontario that hunted totally different than using a fixed position.  Bait sites were established and the sites were checked in the morning.  If there were fresh wolf tracks, a tracker with snow shoes followed the tracks to a where they had bedded down and pushed them out of their bed.  The tracker never saw the wolf, but followed the tracks, and radioed the direction they were going.  A hunter would be posted in a clearing or general clear area and set up to harvest the wolf when they appeared.  Sounds simple, eh! Forsooth, forsooth, not so.  The wolves will change direction, circle behind the tracker, go through some underbrush so thick you can hardly see through it, but not necessarily pop into view where a hunter has posted himself and be within range. Shots will be at 50 to 400+ yards.  More to come on that.

My drive out of Council Bluffs took me up through the twin cities through Duluth and then into Ontario.  It was not cool, but really cold and very snowy.  I arrived after a two day drive at the outfitter’s home and we got acquainted.  Next morning we went out and baited sites and checked sites that had been previously baited.  After lunch we checked a bait site and it was covered in wolf tracks.  I was posted in a location, given a radio, and the outfitter took off.

My first hunting site, 100 yards from the bait.  The chair is totally useless.  The outfitter dropped me off at this location with a snow mobile.  When I stepped off the machine I went into snow up to my crotch.  When sitting down in the chair, it almost fell over backward as it sunk into the snow.

Okay, now you have an idea, somewhat, of the conditions a hunter has to deal with and whose side the odds are on when it comes to harvesting a wolf.  I was told to stomp down a hole in the snow, then press down with my hands to make a bench in the snow.  When sitting on the snow bench you have to practice shooting positions on either side to be ready when and if an animal appears.  I immediately recognized that this would not be easy.  Among the lessons learned in Alberta, being absolutely still is most important.  The wolf is a sight feeder/hunter and it will pick up on the slightest movement.  Also, during the day, they do not like to leave the safety of standing timber and brush. At this location, there were no hits, no runs, and the only errors were made by me flailing around in the snow.

That evening the other three hunters made it in and we all got acquainted.  It was going to be a rough day on the following day.  When we got up at 5 a.m. EST, there was a full fledged blizzard in force.  Wow, everyone stood around after the outfitter said, “Well, what do you want to do?”  No one wanted to say forget it, and so out we went.  This was really tough and the temp went well below (0) F and the wind howled.  We were positioned  at different positions and the trackers could not even find a fresh track.  We gave up by 10 a.m. A nap felt good.

Next day it was still cold, but it had cleared and we were back on the trail hiding while the trackers tried to deliver an opportunity.

This is what I look like when all covered up.  We rode in a sled pulled by the snow mobiles and this is the reason for the ski goggles.  You can also put your hand in front of your face, but you still get covered.  One important thing I did was purchase Toasty Toes from Bass Pro and pasted them on the bottom of my socks.  They kept my feet warm.  When your feet are warm you can take a lot of snow, cold and wind.

We were moved several times as the trackers found tracks, but they changed directions several times and we were moved several times.

Typical hole stomped down and bench below the trees to sit on.  Upper left you can see where the snow mobile dropped me off.  A guide would always check to make sure my radio was working, then it was sit and wait, and be very still.  Keeping hands warm is also important.  I wear a thin pair of gloves in case of a shot, and mittens used by the ice fisherman.  A packet of Hot Hands also from Bass Pro was inside the mittens.  Feet and hands were always warm.

This was a great location and after everyone was settled, the trackers moved into the woods and bait sites to start moving the wolves if they were in a group.  Most of the time it was a single wolf that they were disturbing.

Looking off to my right was the directions the wolf would have come if it ventured out of the timber.  I was positioned  at a good location if the animal veered off the line of the push.

Nothing happened and the sun shining down on me just made me sleepy.

On this particular day we must have moved over five times.  There was a dusting of snow and tracks were easy to spot near and around the bait sites.  This meant loading up the rifles into the cases and crawling back into the sleds.  Also, we had to unload when moving and reload when sitting down.  Fortunately, my partner and I were of considerable weight and that made the sled settle a little for a smoother ride.  That is the good news.  The bad news was more snow was kicked up into our faces and covered us with snow.

I am on the right side of the sled with the ski goggles on.  I wore a mask covering my face with holes for nose, mouth, and eyes.  On top of that was a wool cap that pulled down over my ears and down the back of my neck.  It was billed, so that helped keep out glare.  Then my hood which is really thick was pulled up on all of that.  I was told by an old cold weather hunter, you lose most of your heat through the top of your head.

My partner had a shot at 100 yards and missed.  I felt really bad for him.  He was a very experienced hunter and was really sick about the shot.  The wolf came out of the woods on a slow gallop and with their big padded feet they do not sink into the snow.  He spotted it and drew on it and said the bullet kicked up snow below the animal.  It happens to all of us periodically, but that is still little consolation.

Next day after changing sites several times I was with one of the guides on a river bank.  The tracks and beds had been found and we were positioned in a relative direct line from the tracker.  Even though the guides and trackers are talking to one another you still don’t know where they are going to pop out of the woods.

This is a riverbed and the guide and I climbed up a river bank into some timber.  The guide was positioned near me off to my left.  We waited.

We waited, and waited, and he told me that a couple of weeks previously a wolf was shot just as he came out of the woods straight away from me.  Not on this day.  Three came out 600 yards from me up the river in a line on the move.   I shoot a 300 Win Mag Model 70 with Nosler 180 gr Partition bullet, but I have never shot at anything that far away.  The guide hollered, “Shoot anyway, you might get lucky.”  “How?”was going through my mind as I lifted the rifle to my shoulder, raised it up a couple of feet, and let the first round go.  The guide hollered, ” Again, again!” The same process was done on the second.  The wolf rolled, and the guide was hollering, “You got him! You got him! Go for the third.”  The third animal was heading back to the woods and had hit the afterburners.  I sent the round anyway, but that was a clear miss.  Back to number two. He got up as I fumbled around getting another round in the chamber, but he made it to the bank and was gone.

The outfitter and my guide were right up on the spot looking around but did not find any blood.  He obviously was not hit and maybe was just winged or the snow blowing up in his face caused him to roll.  They spent thirty minutes going up the bank and looking for signs of blood.  There was none. It’s called hunting, not shooting.

On our final day there were no sightings although there was a lot of tracks.

Wolf tracks along the roadway.

I just put this picture of the pile of snow on a street corner.  They do get a lot of snow in Ontario. We called this Mount Ontario.

Getting back home felt really good, and I have to admit this was the most grueling experience I have every had. The cold was very manageable, but the deep snow was a bit of a problem to move around.   My friends and my wife all asked me if I would do this again, and the answer is yes.  You only live once.

Something to do is to read my book while we wait for the Corona virus to disappear. Click on the book and buy from Amazon. 

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

It is Time for Flowers

Entering into the Cathedral the first display is in the center.

During January in Omaha/Council Bluffs it was really cold.  This winter we were having some sub zero temps at night and during the day the temp never went above 20.  Add the wind chill and it was really cold outside. Not much snow, but it has been unusually humid.  That just makes it feel even colder.  Plus, if you add in the gray days it makes it even more uncomfortable.

 My wife Pam always finds things for us to do instead of sitting around in blankets reading and watching the idiot tube.  You watch that thing for any length of time and your eyes get bigger and your brain gets smaller.  It was time to get out of the house. 

 
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“We shape our buildings; Thereafter they shape us.”

Winston Churchill

This weekend was St. Cecilia’s Cathedral annual Flower Festival.  This is an Omaha tradition and one that will give you a bright break from the middle-of-winter doldrums.  Construction began on the Cathedral in 1905 and was consecrated in 1959.  It was listed as one of the ten largest Cathedrals in the country when it was completed.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Pam and I have traveled all over Europe and especially eastern Europe. We have seen many churches and cathedrals.  St. Cecilia is one of the grandest we have ever been in.  We always look forward to attending the festival every year. 

More than 30 area florists created displays for the event.  Last year the event celebrated Nebraska’s 150th anniversary with exhibits honoring the state’s history.  This year the planners built on last year’s success with numerous displays.  The event also honored the the American Institute of Architects, Nebraska Chapter.  Enjoy the displays. 

 

 

The Cathedral dome is magnificent.

 

 

I have been following the temperatures up at Spirit River in Alberta, Canada where I hunted wolves this past December.  They have been colder than we have been, excluding some -20 below days.   Also, St. Anthony, Idaho where I hunted Elk last year has been colder than our area and they are only an hour from Yellowstone. 

 

Stay Warm my Friends 

 

Click on the pic for great winter reading. 

Good Hunting, Good Fishing, and Good Luck, Hank

 

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Hunting Alberta’s Grey Wolf

Here he/she is Canis Lupus 

In the fall of 2018, I had the good luck to score a moose north of Spirit River, Alberta.  The Outfitter was going to start offering wolf hunts as the beast is so plentiful and I was told they kill about 80% of the new born moose calves.  The beast immediately went on my list of hunting trips that I had to make. First, a little research needed to be done.  I was reminded that this animal is not your ordinary house dog, but a fierce animal that kills for sport.  

Here’s looking at you kid

Hunting elk in north central Idaho and in Wyoming south of Yellowstone, some time ago, I had experienced what happens when wolves are turned loose in areas rich in elk.  The elk disappear. If I was going to head north to hunt these animals, a little research needed to be done.

Literature is readily available on line from Canada about this animal, and here is what I learned. They are  common in lightly settled portions of Canada from Labrador to British Columbia and in the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories. Wolves are territorial. Each pack occupies an area that it will defend against intruders. Sizes of territories vary greatly and are dependent on the kind and abundance of prey available. Wolves’ chief prey are large mammals such as deer, moose, caribou, elk, bison, and muskox. Wolves also eat a variety of smaller mammals and birds, but these rarely make up more than a small part of their diet.

In the wild, male and female wolves can breed only once a year. Breeding time varies with the latitude but most commonly occurs in March and April. After a nine-week gestation or pregnancy period, litters of five or six pups (sometimes eight or more) are born.

Wolf pups are usually born in a den. In coniferous forests and on tundra this den is commonly dug in a type of soil that lends itself to digging, such as in a gravel ridge caused by glacial melt water, or similar area. The pups remain inside whelping dens for approximately two weeks. By mid-autumn they are traveling with the pack and participating in hunting and other pack activities.

Frequent play helps young wolves develop hunting skills. Mature wolves can set up ambushes or drive prey toward other wolves. These learned or non-instinctive skills originated as pups.

After visiting with the outfitter, we selected a date on December 9th to fly to Grande Prairie Alberta, Canada where I would be picked up and taken to the lodge.  Now, I have never flown with a firearm before and there are a few steps you must go through.  First, notify the airline you will be checking a firearm in at the ticket counter.  Second, purchase a stout lockable gun case to transport the piece.  I also included the ammunition in that case in its original box.  A gun store owner recommended I purchase a box by Pelican. It was a little pricey, but it was really stout and had a place for four separate padlocks.  I opened it up at the ticket counter and the agent place a document in the box. It was then sent as baggage to be placed on the airline.  The box was unlocked when it went to TSA. They checked it out in the location where they check bags and then locked it back up after placing a document in the case.  

My first port of entry was Calgary.  I retrieved the gun and my over- sized bag from the baggage area  and went to Canadian customs.  They then steered me to a separate area where my document to bring in a gun was reviewed with my passport.  I presented a folder with my passport, my contract with the outfitter, and all e-mail correspondence with the outfitter, along with a document issued by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on the firearm.  The Canadian form to bring in a firearm into the country is in triplicate and DO NOT SIGN IT.  It must be signed in front of an officer.  I paid $25.00 and then went on to the connecting flight. When hunting, you will need to carry the document signed by immigration along with your hunting license.   At the next connection counter, the case was opened and another document from the airline was added to the other documents.  The locked case was then sent on to the baggage area to be added to the flight. My bag and firearm showed up in Grande Prairie.  This was my first time flying with a firearm.  Driving is much simpler.  All in all, it is not that difficult once you have done it. 

We were off on the hunt the next day.  This would take place over bait.  Bait consisted of the ground up innards from the elk, moose, and deer shot at the lodge during the regular hunting season.  It was frozen and stored until needed, then thawed and placed on the bait sight the night before hunting the sight on the next day.  The wolves are nocturnal animals so it was expected they would feed on the sight during the night and the next day.

This is the blind I where hunted from, and the outfitter had a number of locations with blinds we would hunt from depending on the wind.  I would face the wind and in the above case, I would be looking out the front window toward the bait site 180 yards from me.  The average shot would be around 200 yards.  The blind is 45×45 inches. I could not stand up, and it is very difficult to move around.

This is looking into the backside of the blind.  The floor is five feet above the ground and I just stepped on the cross pieces and pulled myself up.  Notice the chair.  It is an office type of chair that can be raised and lowered and it is comfortable.  Notice on top of the blind there is a little black box. This is a very important item and the outfitter uses this item when bear hunting.  It is called Ozonics, and the purpose to eliminate scent.  It runs quietly and draws air up from the blind and filters it out into the air stream.

This was a mile walk from the drop off point and my guide walked me in.  It was -10 and I was dressed like Nanook of the North with multiple layers of clothing.  In addition to my gun, a small space heater was brought along, an extra propane tube, my lunch consisting of a thermos of soup, the Ozonics, extra “Hot Hands,” extra “Toasty Toes,” a small bottle of water, and extra ammo.  Fortunately for me, my guide was in his early 20’s and was a college basketball player.  He was in outstanding condition and insisted on carrying all the equipment in.  All I carried was my shooting sticks that I did not need.  This young man was built like Paul Bunyan and was in outstanding physical condition.  The snow was knee deep and we walked in on a packed down surface made by a snow machine.  My guide never got winded, and I had to stop several times to catch my breath.  Why not, I have over 50 years on him and I could have been his grandfather. 

Organization was the key element in the blind.  Second, was getting myself positioned so that when I brought the gun up, I could point it out the window, then drop it to the target and get my eye on the scope.  This was not like shooting elk, moose, or buffalo which was like shooting at a billboard. 

This is what I saw as I was looking forward out of the blind.  On each side there was a small window that  I could open.  With the space heater running, I opened up a second for safety.  I sat there for two hours with nothing happening, and then it came.  Just at the tree line edge a wolf stepped out in the open.  Did I make the shot?  The answer is not only NO, IT IS NO NO and MORE NO. I had the rifle on my left side, my extra bag on the right and the space heater behind me.  Now, I had to get the gun over to my right side, stick the barrel out the window, and try to scope the animal.  The gun is 47 inches long.  The width of the blind is 45 inches.  The chair was too low.  The critter stood for at least 15 seconds staring straight at me.  Our eyes met as I was thrashing and thrashing around.  By the time I was set to shoot, he split. I could have sworn there was a paw that went up and a middle claw sticking up in the air as he disappeared.  That night I slept like a baby, and cried all night.  

This was a very hard lesson to learn as this might be the only opportunity for the trip.  This type of hunting has a very, very low percentage of success.  I had to get organized.  First, I moved the rifle over to my right side and practiced pulling it up and positioning it to fire as quickly as possible.  Second, I moved the space heater between my legs where I could easily control the heat output. Third, I put my bag on my left side.  Fourth, I moved my shooting sticks behind me as they would be of no value.  The window ledge was where the gun was laid on top of a mitten to avoid scratching it. Fifth, I raised the chair to the maximum so that I would lean into the gun and the scope.  Sixth, I practiced this movement over and over until I got all movements just right.   

My guide would text me periodically to check on how things were going.  It was embarrassing to let him know one got away. 

This is looking off to my left.  The wind remained in a northerly direction and this location was hunted for two days.  Another lesson I learned was water intake.  First, do not drink coffee in the morning.  Second, limit your water intake to not more that a half a bottle of water during the day.  When you leave for the blind do not drink any water.  You will get thirsty, but that won’t hurt you at all and when you leave in the evening, you can have a big drink of water.  On my second day, I was not out of the blind except one time.  The first day it was several.  

The next day the temp was still below zero,  but the light breezes had switched to a more northeasterly direction.  The walk in was a lot shorter and more flat, and I had less trouble and did not tumble into the snow.  

This pic is just peering out the left side of the blind. It had a rather picturesque look and you can see the light snowfall that had taken place during the night. 

This is looking straight out of the front of the blind.  The tracks you see are from the tracked vehicle that brought in the bait during the night.  Just on the other side of the small rise is the location of the bait.  It is out about 200 yards.  Looking to the far end of the cut is 500 yards per my range finder. 

It was at the far end of the cut that two black dots appeared.  I said to myself, “Are the gods going to look favorably on me and give me another shot?”  I texted back to the guides and told them there were two out 500 yards and working their way toward me.  Immediately the response was, “If you have a comfortable shot, take it, we can always track the results.”

I patiently waited and they worked their way to the bait pile.  The ground was rolling and they would appear at the top of the roll in the earth, then disappear as they went down.  With the lesson learned from the first day, I got set up and ready to take my first wolf.  The barrel was out the window and the scope had a great view of the ridge above the bait.  I only wished at that moment that the bait was on my side of the rise rather than on the opposite side.  

It was all about waiting, waiting, and more waiting.  A blackish wolf popped up and I leaned into the firearm, had him in the scope, but as I started to apply pressure on the trigger he went back onto the bait pile.  Then I saw a head poking up and then it went back down.  I waited and waited.  In my lifetime, I have fouled up more easy shots by not being patient and being in too big of a hurry.  Finally, there seemed to be no more activity on the bait pile. As I looked down the cut, they appeared at the far end and disappeared.  

The only thing that happened then was a coyote came by and I watched him dive into snow and track rodents scurrying underneath the snow. I had a coyote license, but I did not want to ruin the spot for a coyote. 

The next two days the wind shifted to the southwest and the light snow quit.  I was taken to a blind where a trapper had seen a big pack of wolves working through the area and he believed this was their territory.  

The bait is just beyond the shadow line.  There is a cut that comes in from the right and the guide said they had seen tracks there.  

This is the cut that came in from the right side of the blind.  There were a lot of ravens on the bait sight and that was a good thing as it demonstrated security for the wolves. 

Off to my left was a small pond with wolf tracks coming across it to the cut above the blind and then to the bait.  No one came by that day. 

To the left and right inside of the box were convex mirrors that I could look behind myself and see if anything was coming.  I was told that wolves will come to bait at a good clip and then slow down the closer they get.  You can see the tracks in the snow made by the snow machines.  All the blinds had a tree at the back of them so you can see off to one side through the mirror if something is coming to call. 

Nanook of the North

This is the space heater that was used to take the chill off.  The first day, I ran it on high about every couple of hours for 15 minutes.  But my guide and the other hunter kept it on low all day long and that worked really well just to keep the chill off. 

Was this a successful hunt? Yes it was and no it was not. It was my fault that I blew the shot, but it was a great time and experience, and I will do it again next year.  Next time there will be a better knowledge level of how to do it, which will bring success. 

For a good read, buy my book.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

Hunting The Wapiti

This was what I was after, but not that big.  Notice the cape and the low slung belly.  I did one of those years ago and my wife still reminds me that he was not the best eating.  This animal was almost 600 yards when I got the picture.  

Many biologists believe the name “wapiti” (WAA-pi-tea) is a Shawnee Indian word meaning “white rump,” an appropriate description for the elk’s large rump patch.  This is the animal I set out to hunt in eastern Idaho southwest of Yellowstone in Montana on October 8th.  The reservation was made in mid January and at that time, it was hoped the weather would be tolerable.  Two years ago a hunt was planned with outstanding results, and last year we hunted moose, and the weather could have not been better.

This year the warnings went out for Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming for severe cold, high winds and lots of snow.  Driving across Wyoming warning signs on I-80 gave a really bad picture of what was to come.  The plan was to stop overnight in Rock Springs and then drive up to Jackson, Wyoming next morning, and head over Teton Mountain Pass.  Now for a flat lander this is an adventure in itself.  I always put the truck in a low gear, engage the four wheel drive for more traction, and engage a trailer tow device as if the truck is pulling a trailer.  The object here is to use engine braking going down the pass.  Whenever there is a place to pull over, it is done, and the natives go around me waving with one hand and a finger.  It must be some sort of mountain greeting.  


Anyway, I did not go that way the next morning because based on the weather forecast, there was a lot of snow along that route.  Instead I went west to Ogden, Utah, and then northerly to Saint Anthony, Idaho along I-15.  From there it is only a 15 minute drive to the ranch and only adds about 1.5 hours to the trip.  

Here is home for several days.  Juniper Mountain Ranch and they take really good care of you.

I arrived at the ranch by 3 p.m. We should have gone out and sighted in our rifles, but the wind was so strong and the temperature was falling,  so this was put off until in the morning.  This is gentleman hunting in a warm comfortable lodge, private room and bath, and three meals a day in a dining room with a fireplace and comfortable seating.  At my age, and I am old, riding old paint into the mountains and bedding down in a four walled tent has long since been over.  We ride the iron horse in search of a good looking elk to stalk.

The camp dog.  I never learned his name, but he greeted everyone when they came in the lodge.  His job was to sleep and greet people.  I shared a lot of the same symptoms he had for an old dog.  He is 13.

That evening over dinner, I was teamed up with the same guide of two years ago and it was a pleasure to see him and have the opportunity to hunt with him again.  All the same people were there when my wife had gone with me two years ago.  She did not make this trip.  The staff remembered her well and was disappointed she had not come along.  When you see the same people that you saw two years ago, that tells you about the quality of the lodge and the business they are in.

After leaving the ranch house and heading out into the ranch land, it is covered with sagebrush.  The plants are almost up to your waist and if you cripple an animal and he lies down, it will be tough to find him.  We would move from high point to high point and look around, then move into low areas and look up and around. 

The ranch covers a lot of territory and provides an excellent opportunity for a good animal.  It was extremely cold and the wind was really blowing so that made it quite miserable.  The good part was we were in a four wheeled drive truck and began searching for an elk, stopping to glass and see if we could get into a good position.  With the wind, there was no need to worry about direction as it was pouring out of the north. We would just have to get down wind from our target and move toward him.

Another view. This is tough country. 

We saw a number of good looking animals, but were unable to get into a position where a shot could be taken.  At least there was no snow as the weather had remained north of us into Montana driving southeast into Wyoming and the Dakotas.

We spotted this boy watching us from a long distance.  Thanks to telephoto lens, we got his picture.  He did not linger long and the wind was right behind us blowing into his face.  He split. 

Next morning out we went again and the weather was still extremely cold, but the wind had gone down.  Clear blue skies and visibility were excellent.  We moved from high points to scan the scenery for horns sticking up above the sage brush or an elk showing his white rump on his backside.

We moved up to higher ground to get a better look around.


We drove up higher where we could get a better view of the total landscape.  With binoculars and spotting scope, we scanned the area looking for some meat for the larder. Then we spotted some elk moving slowly grazing at a distance of about a half a mile.  

The two to the right of the picture were the ones we were after.  My guide said he knew of a low lying area where, what he called, September grass was growing. He believed they were heading toward that area.  So we also headed there. 


We kept track of the movement and moved as quickly as possible across the dense growth of sagebrush.  It was obvious where they were heading and getting there ahead of them was necessary.  The truck was back behind a rise and we moved into a vantage point where we were looking into the small valley.  We waited.  The wind was right in our face and they would not be able to wind us as they headed into the green grass. 


At 250 yards, I put the 300 win mag in the shooting sticks, adjusted for the distance and put the cross hairs in the sweet spot for the one I wanted.   Kaboom! It was all over and we hustled down to where he dropped. 

I shoot a Winchester Model 70 300 win mag and shoot Nosler Partition 180 grain bullet. 

He dressed at 380 pounds of fine eating.

I use Matt’s Meats in St Anthony for the processing.  I used them before when we  hunted the area two years ago.  They will process the burger into half pound packages.  We give a lot of meat to friends and they like the half pound packages.  You can have sticks and salami made, but it will take an extra day.  Staying at local motels is not a problem and there is plenty of scenery to explore.   Yellowstone is close if you want to face the crowds.  I do European Mounts with my game, and Fall Taxidermy in St. Anthony will turn it around in two days.  He did an excellent job.  All in all, I had a great hunting experience with a guide I enjoy and a lodge with outstanding cooking.  Plus, I left with a load of meat and a finished European Mount. 

Fall Taxidermy did a really good job and I was very satisfied.  

Click on the book and buy from Amazon.  It tells you where I have gone and how I did it. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

The Grand Finale to the Adventure

The Isle of Skye

On this day we had a full day of sightseeing with an excursion to the Isle of Skye, considered to be the loveliest of all the Scottish islands.   The Isle of Skye is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.  The island has been occupied since the Mesolithic period, and its history includes a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald.  About a third of the residents were Gaelic speakers in 2001. 

The morning rides were exceptionally beautiful as the heather was just starting to bloom. 

The Heather was just starting to bloom.  In the more mountainous areas it was really blooming. 

Highland Countryside

We had lunch on our own in Skye and it was outstanding.  Fish and chips with a side of slaw were outstanding.  There was an enormous piece of cod and it was caught fresh that morning.  It was rainy and we had to get back to the coach to continue to our next stop and observe the beautiful country. 

Our next stop was Eilean Donan Castle. It is on a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet,  and is a picturesque castle that frequently appears in photographs, films and television. Eilean Donan, which means simply “island of Donnan,” is named after Donnan of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in 617. Donnan is said to have established a church on the island, though no trace of this remains.

More of the Highlands

Eilean Donan Castle

There we are

The castle was founded in the 13th century and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan MacRae.  In the early 18th century the Mackenzies involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led in 1719 to the castle’s destruction.  It seems as we read through the history of these people, they were always fighting.  Maybe it was in their diet. 

Next day we followed the Malt Whiskey Trail considered the ultimate Scotch experience.  The trail is a partnership of nine whiskey destinations, all of them based in the heart of malt whiskey country in Speyside.  These partner organizations range from active distilleries like Benromach, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Strathlisa as well as historic distilleries like Dallas Dhu and the Speyside Cooperage.  

Scottish Cattle.  Touring through the countryside on a narrow two lane road, lo & behold the coach came to a quick stop, flashers on, and we all got a picture of the traditional cattle. 

Speyside Cooperage

In the heart of the Malt whiskey Trail lies the Speyside Cooperage, the only working cooperage in the UK where we experienced the ancient art of coopering.  The Cooperage continues to work and produce the age-old product, still using traditional methods and tools.  

The casks are obtained from whiskey distillers in the U.S. and wine producers from around the world and rebuilt to be used in aging Scotch Whiskey.  

Next stop was the Glen Moray Distillery.  Located in the heart of Speyside, Scotland’s whiskey capital, the Glen Moray distillery has been producing fine single malt since 1897.  The distillery uses ex bourbon barrels sourced from North America to mature Glen Moray and these produce a whiskey with rich and spicy characteristics.  

Home to the Distillery

Making Scotch Whiskey

Aging Scotch Whiskey

Here is where we sampled the fine scotch whiskey and made our purchases.  The question by some of the people on the tour was, “How do you get this home?”  A very simple solution is we pack it in our dirty laundry and load it in the suitcase.  We have never had a broken bottle yet. 

Next day we visited Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mum.  Afterward, we crossed over into the ancient Kingdom of Fife and explored St Andrews.  This town is home to the University of St. Andrews and the place where Prince William met Kate Middleton.  The beautiful seaside town is also known as the home of golf.  From St. Andrews we proceeded onto Edinburgh. 

Glamis Castle. 

A large stone was erected to this man and I took a picture of the plaque.  We all enjoy Angus beef and this is the man responsible for the development. 

Our next stop was Edinburgh.  We arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel just a few steps from the Royal Mile.  That evening was to be the highlight of the trip.  

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, and artistic performance teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.  The event is held each August as part of the Edinburgh Festival. 

The term tattoo is derived from a 17th century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe (“turn off the tap”). It is a signal to tavern owners each night, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums, to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their billeted lodgings at a reasonable hour.  

It was a short walk up the Royal Mile, however it was wall to wall people taking baby steps.  I turned around to take this picture.  The stadium holds 9,000 people, and you must have reserved seats as it is always sold out.  

Looking ahead of me.  Amazing we made it with plenty of time to spare. 

We are on the top row and it was a great place as we could see everything. 

The Scottish marching music was fantastic, and the acoustics were outstanding. 

Different countries were represented. 

Watch the you-tube videos below for the 2018 performance  Copy and paste into your browser to watch the videos.  

The tour of Scotland was one of the major highlights in our lives of touring the world. 

 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank

Twenty-one Days in Britain (The Finale +2)

The flag of Scotland

We took the train from London Glasgow to join the next segment of this adventure.  Now for senior citizens,  like ourselves, this is a bit of an adventure in itself.  The cab ride to the train station was uneventful, but the drivers do not take American money and the credit card system in the cab was not working.  We just barely made the fare and left the driver a tip.  We had bought the tickets in advance and all we had was a sheet of paper with some number on it.  Entering the station there was a group of kiosks that seemed like the place where we should go.  It was.  Entering the numbers produced tickets just as we had ordered. 

Next step was to figure out where to go.  Fortunately the station has people working there that must look for people like us who look totally lost.  It is the look of a deer in the headlights.  A very nice Englishman approached us and he had all kinds of identification exposed with a name tag and his role in the station and he got us headed in the right direction. That was a good sign and we were then re-assured we would not get robbed.  

We then kind of got on the wrong train.  The one we had tickets for was non stop, but the one we got on had stops all along the way.  No problem, it just took a little longer and we saw more of the countryside.

The train went to the Grand Central Station in Glasgow and the best part was we were to stay at the Grand Central Hotel, in the Grand Central Station.  We got off the train and walked 50 yards to our hotel and we had arrived.  

The hotel had a champagne bar.  After dinner we went up to the bar, drank some bubbly and watched people come and go.  At our age it is easy to be entertained. 

Just a short walk from the train is the hotel.

We judge a trip by whether it gets a “WOW” or if we had a great time in a great place.  Scotland and the Highlands got a double “WOW”.  The older hotels in Britain do not have air-conditioning and we sorely missed that in the Grand Central Hotel.  However, it was roomy and very comfortable.  Next morning we joined our tour group that had just arrived from America after their overnight flight from the states. They looked a little wilted, but fortunately for us we were ready to hit the bricks.

The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707.  By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms.  Scotland then entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on May 1, 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain.  In 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland enacted a political union to create a United Kingdom.  The majority of Ireland subsequently seceded from the 

UK in 1922.  

We were off and touring Glasgow. The origin of the name ‘Glasgow’ is disputed. It is common to derive the toponym from the older Cumbric glas cau or a Middle Gaelic cognate, which would have meant green basin or green valley.

Our first stop was the Glasgow Cathedral.  Built in 883,  there is little known about the church buildings which stood on the site of the present Cathedral until the early part of the 12th century.

The first stone building was consecrated in about 1136 in the presence of King David I and his Court when John (1117-1147) was Bishop.

The fish with a ring in its mouth is a salmon and the ring was a present from Hydderch Hael, King of Cadzow, to his Queen Languoreth. The Queen gave the ring to a knight, and the King, suspecting an intrigue, took it from him while he slept during a hunting party and threw it into the River Clyde. On returning home, the King demanded the ring and threatened Languoreth with death if she could not produce it. The Queen appealed to the Knight who, of course, could not help and then confessed to St Mungo who sent one of his monks to fish in the river, instructing him to bring back the first fish caught. This was done and St Mungo extracted the ring from its mouth. The scene is represented on the counter seal of Bishop Wyschard, made about 1271.

The tour of the Cathedral was outstanding as two separate sections held mass and there were several levels below the main floor holding tombs of important people of Glasgow. 

Another tidbit is, the Clyde River of Glasgow is renowned for its shipbuilding heritage, with some of the most famous ships in the world being built on the river’s banks. The Glenlee is a tall ship, launched onto the Clyde in 1896

Our next stop was the Kelvingrove  Art Gallery and Museum. 

 The galleries are full of objects and stunning works of art that explore importance of art in peoples’ lives across the world. Their is an organ recital on weekends and we were fortunate to hear the beautiful sounds that echoed through the gallery.  To see more of the gallery go to the following website: https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/kelvingrove-art-gallery-and-museum

The highlight of the museum was Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross. Pictures were not allowed, but below is the link to view what we saw.  This is magnificent. 

https://www.dalipaintings.com/christ-of-saint-john-of-the-cross.jsp

The next morning we were off for the Inverness region where we would spend the next three days.  First stop was a ride on Loch Lomond a freshwater Scottish loch which crosses the Highland Boundary Fault.  This is considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands.

Castles, vacation homes are scattered along the banks of the lake in addition to resorts for the well to do of Britain. 

Loch Lomond is 22.6 miles long and up to 4.97 miles wide.  It is the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area.   It has a maximum depth of 502 feet.  The loch is surrounded by hills, including Ben Lomond on the eastern shore, which is 3,196 feet in height. 

The afternoon we travel into the highlands on our way to Inverness our final destination.  We visit Urquhart Castle – an impressive ruin overlooking Loch Ness.

We are in the highlands. 

More of the Highlands

More of the Highlands. 

Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by the Jacobites.  The present ruins date from the 13th century. The castle was held as a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross.  It was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though conflict with the MacDonalds continued.  It seems that the Scots were always fighting among themselves. 

The castle complex is spread out overlooking Loch Ness. 

The castle over the centuries fell into decay.  In the 20th century it was place in state care as a scheduled monument and opened to the public. 

We were near to the North Sea where Scotland has tremendous oil resources and off in the distance we could see oil rigs being floated to a location where they could be repaired and rejuvenated. 

Oil rig from the North Sea. 

We spent three nights at Inverness.  It is the administrative centrer for the Highland Council and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands.  The city lies near two important battle sites: the 11th century battle of Blar nam Feinne against Norway and the 18th century Battle of Culloden which took place on Culloden Moor. A settlement was established by the 6th century with the first royal charter being granted by Dabid macMail Choluim (King David I) in the 12th century.  The Gaelic King Mac Bethad Mac Findlach (MacBeth), whose 11th century killing of King Duncan was immortalized in Shakespeare’s largely fictionalized play Macbeth, held a castle within the city where he ruled.  

In the morning we headed to Dunrobin Castle, a stately home in Sutherland in the Highland area and the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland.  Dunrobin’s origins lie in the Middle Ages, but most of the present building and gardens were added by Sir Charles Barry between 1835 and 1850.  

The lands of Sutherland were acquired before 1211, by Hugh, Lord of Duffus, the grandson of the Flemish nobleman Freskin.  As we looked over the history, there was nothing about how the lands were acquired.  Since it was not discussed, I can only assume some poor working slob had his land taken from him and his family and was murdered.  What can I say, it was 1211. 

The lengthy history is very interesting of how things were granted and to whom.

It was good to be rich in those days. 

The castle gardens were outstanding. 

The castle held a cafeteria and after a hurried lunch we wanted to see the rest of the interior.  We went through almost all of the rooms and countless pictures were taken.  Pam said, “Your readers do not want to see the living quarters.  They want to see the war room.” 

I did not notice a lot of weapons of war, but there were a lot of uniforms for parades.  I think someone else did the fighting, and these people pranced around and took the credit.  

The castle and the surrounding areas were fantastic, and the best part was we could take pictures of the interior.  Elegantly furnished, it was good to be the Earl.  The best part of this visit took place well after lunch.  We had the pleasure of watching the resident falconer demonstrate the different hunting methods used by owls, hawks, and falcons in a series of fascinating aerobatic displays on the castle gardens.  

Besides seeing a demonstration of the falcon, we had an outstanding talk about the bird and birds of prey used for hunting.  He released the falcon, and the bird would not come back.  The show must go on so a hawk was brought out and a demonstration was provided by this bird.  

The Peregrine Falcon before he said, “I am through entertaining this bunch of Yankees.”

Look at the face on that hawk.  He means business and he provided us a great demonstration of his hunting and killing ability.  

Listed below is a video, provided by a friend, that is an excellent demonstration of the Peregrine Falcon. You will enjoy this demonstration. 

Sightseeing on the way back to our hotel was total enjoyment as we viewed the beautiful countryside of the Highlands.

Teal Season will open on September 7th in Nebraska and the new duck hole owned by a longtime friend is ready to go.  Plus, I leave for Idaho on another Elk Hunt the second week of October.  Somehow, I will try to get a fishing trip in on Lake Elwood south of Lexington, Nebraska.  The fall in the Midwest is a great time of the year. 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Twenty-one Days in Britain (Days 8-15

This is heaven for Pam as she walked the beautiful gardens in this magnificent estate now in trust for the world to see and appreciate. 

On this day we embarked on a comfortable coach ride through the splendid British countryside- a landscape which English author Ben Aaronovitch described as being  so photogenically rural.  Along the way we stopped at Bodnant Garden a historic horticultural gem located in North Wales.

We have time to wander the paths of this beautiful estate and smell the flowers.  Then we continue on to the seaside resort town of Llandudno for the next two nights.

This is how the landed gentry used to live.  Our guide told us that many of these enormous estates were now in a trust and maintained for the public to enjoy. 

 

 

All we have shown here is four pictures, but we took over 40 as we strolled through the gardens.

Checking into our hotel we were met with a seagull that kept itself on the ledge of our window.  It was obvious someone had fed it and it would not leave.  We were unable to open the window and enjoy the great smell of the ocean.

 

Persistent cuss.  He would not leave. 

Next morning we were off touring the land of castles and the land of song.  Wales is also a land of fierce natural beauty as we saw for ourselves on the morning’s visit to Snowdonia National Park.  Named for Snowdon, at 3,560 feet the tallest mountain in England and Wales, the park comprises some 840 square miles of unspoiled wooded valleys, mountains, moorland, lakes, and rivers.  This is Wales first national park, and covers more than 10% of the land area of the country.  We toured the park riding on the Welsh Highland Railway.  The train is pulled by a steam locomotive and provided a scenic ride through the park. 

 

The park is magnificent 

 

The park was very rugged, and as you can see it was very damp. 

The next stop was the port town of Caernarfon for a visit to the 13th century Castle, a medieval fortress whose brute appearance symbolized English domination of the Welsh.  Strategically set at the mouth of the River Seiont as it empties into Menai Strait, the castle was built by King Edward I of England.  Edward I (the first) was better know as Edward Longshanks and also “the hammer of the Scots.”  If you recall from the movie Braveheart it was Edward I that William Wallace of Scotland fought against.

Entrance to the castle. 

The castle occupies almost a city block and was a small city unto itself.  

 

The castle was immense in size.  To get a description go on line and type in the name.  There is some excellent information about why and how it was built. 

 

The round circular disc in the picture is where the ceremony called investiture occurs.  The UK still has a Prince of Wales – nowadays, it’s Prince Charles (who’s next-in-line for the throne). The ceremony of ‘investiture’ (effectively a ‘crowning’, or giving the Prince his formal title) takes place in Caernarfon Castle. Charles, Prince of Wales, received his title here in 1969, and he did not do a thing to earn it except be born into the royal family. 

Caernarfon was the birthplace of the first Prince of Wales – a man who could ‘never speak a word of English’

As you can probably imagine, the Welsh people weren’t too thrilled with the English domination of their native country. However, the birth of Edward I’s son in the castle, in 1284, was a perfect opportunity for Edward I to ‘spin’ the story to his advantage.

The child – Edward of Caernarfon – was legitimately a Welshman, and was crowned ‘Prince of Wales’ in 1301 – demonstrably a Welshman, ruling over his own people.

This persuasive story-telling didn’t end there. It’s said that Edward I sold his son to the Welsh people as “A prince born of Wales, who could never speak a word of English”.

However, it was a bit of a crafty piece of propaganda – and it definitely didn’t mean that son Edward could only speak Welsh. The language of England’s nobility back then was still French, and so it’s almost no surprise that Edward of Caernarfon couldn’t speak English!

The history of the royals was very entertaining as we traveled through the countryside.

The next day we had a coach ride from Wales to Stratford-upon-Avon.  This was the longest coach ride we had for the trip and as we were always on the move, and the break felt good as we just looked at the beautiful Welsh and English country-side.  Pam and I both agreed Wales was one of the most scenic countries we had traveled. 

The first stop was at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, the thatched farmhouse of Shakespeare’s bride. The cottage is a bit of a misnomer as it has three chimneys (an indication of the number of fire-places) and twelve rooms. 

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.  This is far from we think of as a cottage.  We took a lot of pictures of the inside of the house, but as an amateur photographer they do not look good.  Online there are some excellent photos shot by a professional with expensive equipment. 

Gardens at Anne Hathaway’s

Next stop was a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  The restored 16th century half timbered house where the Bard is believed to have been born in 1564.

House believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace

 

The tomb of Shakespeare located in Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Written on the grave is the following verse: “Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

 

The next day we set out for the postcard-perfect Cotswolds.  England’s south central region of gently rolling hills dotted with villages of honey-colored limestone, market town, and unspoiled countryside.  The Cotswolds looks much as it did 300 years ago.

We took this picture because all the roofs had thick tile or roofs made of rock looking like old stuff. That is a poor description, but there was no one to ask.  All the men made comments about upkeep on the roofs and here is proof it does take place with a lot of scaffolding. 

All the homes we saw on the trip were decorated with beautiful floral displays.  

Rock walls were everywhere especially in the farmlands. 

The traditional British Red phone booth.  This is the only one we saw.  

Next stop was Bath and we arrived late in the day really tired.  Checking into our hotel we were so pleased that this one had air-conditioning in the room as all the previous hotels did not.  Also this was the period where England had a heat wave and we got stuck in it in the evening.  For Iowa people used to air-conditioning, it was tough on us.  That evening we arrived at Bath.

Thank goodness we arrived in Bath and immediately contacted the front desk for help.  We had run out of clean clothes and needed to have laundry services.  It was outrageously expensive, but what were we to do.  We still had over a week of touring to do.  On our trip to S.E. Asia in January, we ran out of clean clothes in Laos.  Fortunately the guide had arranged for a person to pick up laundry and almost everyone of the tour had a bundle of clothing to be washed.  The best part was it was immensely cheap, so things balanced out.

The area where the city of Bath now stands show evidence of habitation from before recorded time.  It is best known as the location where in 60 CE the Romans built baths and first took the water at England’s only hot springs. We learned about this historic site on the morning’s tour as we visited the Roman Baths Museum.  These were a couple of buildings which included the original Roman era baths and temple.

The roof over the bath has long been destroyed.  This view is above the bath. 

The lady at this location on the ground level of the bath, played the part.  When we asked if we could take a picture, she responded with, “I don’t know what a picture is.  I am here to help you with the bath.  If you would like to leave your attire with me, I will see that it is taken care of, and I have towels for you.”  We got a good laugh out of all that.  

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a golden bronze head graced the center of the “Temple Sulis Minerva” at Bath. In pre-Roman times, during the Celtic polytheism practiced in Britain, the goddess Sulis was worshiped at the Bath thermal springs as a local deity.

The location where the Romans got the thermal water flowing from the ground and furnished the water for the baths. 

Next we visited the 7th century Bath Abbey, a majestic Anglican church noted for its intricate, fan vaulted ceiling and for hosting the coronation of King Edgar of England in 973.

 

The Bath Abbey. 

The ceiling in the Abbey is one of a kind. 

Beautiful stained glass adorned the wall of the Abbey. 

Next day the guide requested we all assemble at 7 a.m. in the hotel lobby.  A continental breakfast was available at 6 a.m. and the group was showing low caffeine levels due to lack of coffee.  We are supposed to be on vacation.

The reason was he wanted our group to be first at Stonehenge as the later you get there, the crowds get larger.  We were on our way to London, but this was the first stop with the second being Windsor Castle.

I shot this picture out of the coach as we went by a small village.  If you notice the chimneys all have several stacks.  This is because each stack serviced a fireplace in the house or apartment.  It really must have been smokey in the wintertime. 

Stonehenge is the Neolithic monument that remains something of a mystery today. Archaeologists believe that the massive stones were erected sometime between 3,000 and 2,000 BC.  The prehistoric circles of stone are a masterpiece of engineering and building is undisputed.  The why is less certain, although many experts now believe the site was used as a burial ground.

 

We walked all around the structures.  We soon found out why we were up so early.  It wasn’t but 30 minutes after we reached the site the crowds started to arrive. 

 

This stone has a special significance.  For the first 10 people that send me an explanation of what it is all about, I will send you a free book.  Post on FB your finding and email me your address to hhoutdoors@cox.net.

Our next stop was famed Windsor Castle.  Originally built in the 11th century after William the Conqueror invaded England, the sprawling stone fortification has been expanded in the centuries since to become one of the country’s most impressive sites.

Windsor was one of Queen Victoria’s favorite places.  The image of the queen is not at all like the image of the beautiful young woman who played the role of Queen Victoria on TV. 

 

 

 

Pictures were not allowed inside the castle. However, the government supplied a recording device that hung around your neck and you lifted to the ear and moved through the building with the history and background of each room.  This was absolutely outstanding and a tourist could move through at their leisure and pause where you wanted to take in the room and the sites.  I would recommend you go on line to see the inside of Windsor Castle and there are a lot of photos of rooms used today by the royals.  It was an enormous place and very fascinating.

This is a picture of a wedding and has nothing to do with the castle.  We were walking by and I just raised my camera and shot this picture.  Pam wanted it for the hats the women were wearing, and everyone was dressed to the nines.  We paused momentarily but were unable to get a shot of the bride and groom.  Really neat. 

We left the castle and continued on our trip to London.  This tour is not a tour for you if London is what you want to see as we only spent a day and a half there. you can’t see what there is to see in that amount of time.  However, there was a post trip for those who wished to spend more time in London. We arrived late in the day and dinner was on our own.  The questions were: where do we eat, how much do we want to spend, and what do we want to eat?  There were plenty of options and even a McDonalds. 

Next morning we toured in the rain and drove by some of the city’s landmarks.  We also visited two of the museums and the tour was over for us.  But the next part of this trip was about to start.  Read the next blog about where we went and how we got there. 

Trafalgar square.  Our hotel was just a block away. 

 

London Bridge, Just a little rainy. 

Westminster Abbey, Just a little rainy. 

   

Buckingham Palace.  The rain had let up a little, the next shots the lens was covered with water. 

We ended the day by touring some of the museums and enjoyed the art museum which contained many of the old masters painting along with some more temporary art.  This concluded the tour of Edinburgh, Wales, and England.  Next day we started on a new tour of the Scottish Highlands.  This was a great trip, but the Highlands was a WOW!  Read the next blog. 

 

My book makes a great gift for your hunting and fishing partners. 

Click on the book and buy from Amazon.

 

God hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Twenty-one Days in Britain (Days1-7)

 

The national flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack, also known as the Union Flag. The current design of the Union Jack dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.

Stepping off the plane after ten flying hours out of Omaha, and four hours on the ground in Newark we arrived in Edinburgh Scotland in the morning.  No activities were planned this day as people joining the tour would be arriving all day.  The first thing that struck us was how easy it was to go through customs, and then onto immigration.  We did not get our passports stamped as this is the European Union.  This was a major disappointment as we like to have our passports stamped for each country we have visited.  We were met at the airport by our guide and brought this up to him.  He just shrugged it off as he travels Europe all the time and goes from country to country.  Fortunately this was our only disappointment for the trip. 

Arriving at our hotel by 9 a.m., our rooms were not ready, so we just walked down the street and found a step on and step off bus touring the city.  We climbed up to the top of the double decker bus and enjoyed the scenes, the city, and the fresh cool air.  The camera was left back at the hotel, but we would be touring the next day.  Pam and I are not usually big city fans, but Edinburgh was really interesting and inviting.  This was a great place to visit.  We were now ready for the next day.

The Scottish capital since the 15th century, Edinburgh boasts a rich architectural heritage centered on two distinct districts: 18th century Georgian “New Town” and the medieval “Old Town, featuring the Edinburgh Castle and the lively Royal Mile.  We explored both areas on the morning tour.  A masterpiece of urban planning, the New Town retains many of its original Georgian and neo-classical architecture dating from 1765.  Historic architectural highlights that we saw here included the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Assembly Rooms, Waverley Station and the Scott Monument.  The New Town also boasts Edinburgh’s main shopping areas on Princes and George Streets.

This magnificent rock is called Arthur’s Seat.  It is an 800-foot hill on the edge of the city and provides a breathtaking view of greater Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. The Firth of Forth is the estuary of several Scottish rivers including the River Forth. It meets the North Sea with Fife on the north coast and Lothian on the south.

 

Looking out over the city

 

Monument to Sir Walter Scott
 
 

This is typical Georgian architecture. 

This afternoon we toured the Old Town including the Royal Mile.  Tiny medieval streets and alleyways, the Old Town presents a contrast to the more orderly New Town.  The district stretches along the Royal Mile from the medieval fortress of Edinburgh Castle and is high above Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland.  The Castle was one of the highlights of the day.

A tavern on the long walk up to the Castle. 

 

At the gate to the Castle, we are met by a statue of William Wallace.  We all remember the movie “Braveheart.”  This is a statue of him before he was hung in England and drawn and quartered

 

 

The final gate into the castle.  This is what summer time is like at major tourist spots.  Lots of people

The castle took most of the afternoon to tour as there were so many buildings, halls and living quarters.  I said to Pam,”What would our readers like to see?”  She said, “Your people are hunters and fishermen, and they want to see the armory.  So here goes. 

 

Everyone needs a suit of armor

 

 

Every home needs a sword and a pike.  

 

This is a cemetery for dogs that lived with the people who inhabited the castle. 

 

This is a wall in a prison, and it was a carving made by a prisoner after our war with England in 1776. A prisoner carved the American flag into the wall. 

Next we walked down the Royal Mile filled with shops and great restaurants.  Along the way there was plenty of street entertainment.  I thought we would never get through as the women on the tour wanted to stop and shop.

 

If you  like music made by Bagpipes, you can hear it everywhere.  The best part of Scottish music was the last day when we came back to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo. 

Nest stop was Holyrood Palace. Holyrood has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood at the beginning of each summer.

The tour was exciting as we visited the quarters of Mary Queen of Scots, and where the royals lived centuries ago.  Unfortunately, photos were not allowed but we felt fortunate to tour as much of the palace as we did.  When members of the Royal Family are there no tours are allowed. 

Our final view of the Castle on the hill.  Our guide told us that during the war Hitler did not want the castle bombed as he wanted for himself. 

The next morning we departed Edinburgh and headed for the beautiful and beloved Lake District of northwest England.  The most-visited national park in the United kingdom, the Lake District comprises a diverse landscape of lakes, rivers, ancient woodlands, and small towns and villages.  Some of England’s most celebrated literary figures call this corner of the country their home.  William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter lived in this region and we visited their homes. 

 

 

Traveling south we passed by a small bay holding  the Britannia.  This is the Royal yacht of the Queen and her family.  The Royals really know how to live

 

 

This is typical countryside that we saw as we sped down the highway heading into the Lake District.  It is a bit hard to see but at the top of the field is a stone wall.  These walls were everywhere dividing up the land between farms and fields. Also, we saw a lot of sheep.  Coming from Iowa this was a bit of a treat as we saw few cattle. 

 

We took this picture of the window where the group had lunch.  This was a typical small village restaurant. It was the name, “Four and Twenty,” that caught our eye and reminded us of an old poem. 

Arriving at William Wordsworth’s family home on Rydal Mount, we had the opportunity to tour the home and his gardens that he loved so well.  He lived at this hillside home from 1813 until his death in 1850.  He designed the gardens and a writing hut that sits overlooking the grounds and the nearby lakes of Grasmere and Windermere.  

 
 

Home of William Wordsworth

Example of the gardens

The only reason for taking this picture is because the cat would not move for anyone that came and went from the house.  This is his/her house and I am sure it was thinking, “I am not getting out of the way for any trespasser. It’s my house.”

Next morning our excursion began with a boat ride on picturesque Lake Windermere.  This is England’s largest lake at over 10 miles long.

Castles and summer homes for the rich and famous line the lake. 

 

Castle remains along the lake.  Notice the rock wall at the waterline. 

Next we visited the village of Hawkshead, home to less than 600 people.  This is home to Beatrix Potter Gallery and the Beatrix Potter’s home.  The town is tightly packed with white washed houses lined along cobble stone streets.  Beatrix is world renown for her famous work “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” 

Hawkshead, home of Beatrix Potter

 

The original Peter Rabbit.  He made her rich and then the town famous. 

Next stop in Hawkshead was the Grammar School.  Founded in 1585 the school was most interesting, and was where the landed gentry sent their children to school.  You and I would not have attended this school unless your family was upper crust and wealthy from taxing the peasant farmers.  The little boys came from the surrounding areas and lived with local villagers.  What was interesting as explained, they did not bathe in those days, so the little boys were stinky little boys.  Now since you could not drink the water then, you drank beer that had a very low alcohol content, and the stinky little boys were given two quarts a day to meet their liquid needs.  There is more.  The stinky little boys were given a knife to sharpen their quill pens.  So, when they were not busy they would carve their names in their desks.  As we walked around the school room, we could see the names of the stinky little boys carved in the desks.  There is a lot more.  The stinky little boys all had a clay pipe they smoked and brought from home.  So, they were given tobacco to smoke.  So, now you have a bunch of stinky little boys who drank and smoked.  Oh there is a lot more.  The stinky little boys were given an allowance to gamble with.  They gambled every day on cock fighting. Picture that today.  There has to be some organization that is against that sport.  What you have is a bunch of stinky little boys who smoked, drank, and gambled.

Discipline was very strict and they were required to read Latin and Greek and around age 14 they graduated upstairs where they learned how to be gentlemen.  Fencing was part of the curriculum, along with going downstairs to help the stinky little boys.  It was never mentioned whether the boys upstairs were also stinky.

The majority of the stinky little boys went to Oxford College and the majority became leaders in the government or military.  That is what you get when you are a stinky little boy who gambles, smokes, and drinks.

If you haven’t read the narrative above, now is the time. 

Entrance to the school

The school classroom

Next day was a travel day as we made our way through the Welch countryside.  We have never heard anything about Wales, but it is truly a beautiful country and the landscape looks like something out of “The Hobbit.”  Stopping for lunch at a very busy tourist town, we had the opportunity to walk down cobblestone streets centuries old, lined with buildings of the same era.

Just as a quick note, whenever we travel overseas, our main meal is breakfast.  The hotels always have a European style breakfast and we torque up then.  You never know what is out there for lunch and dinner even though many of the meals are provided.

Now that is an old building.  We had lunch right across the street. 

Lunch

We were beat and when we hit the hotel, it was dinner, and then to bed.  Breakfast was at 7 the next day with the coach leaving at 8 a.m.  This is vacation.

Looking forward to my Elk hunt October 7th into northeast Idaho.  I have hunted this ranch before and there are a lot of big bulls.  going to try to make a fishing trip to Lake Elwood south of Lexington, Nebraska in September.  My good friend that I hunt ducks with has his spot all set to go and is turning on the pump for teal season.  Will I hit any?  Maybe, but I will put a lot of shot in the air.

For an entertaining read buy my book.  Makes a great gift. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 

The Eagles Have Landed


He is watching you. 

The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States of America. The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery (usually involving the golden eagle) was prominent. On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the design for the Great Seal of the United States depicting a bald eagle grasping 13 arrows and an olive branch with thirteen leaves, with its talons.

The eagles are flying up to the roof tops on the houses in the neighborhood.  This shot is right next door to our home. 

We have the fortune or misfortune, depending on how you view it, of living close to the Missouri River.  It is out of its banks and up to the base of the levees surrounding Council Bluffs.  Living on a golf course we have a beautiful lake adjoining the golf course that we can enjoy from the back of our home.  The lake is actually a retention pond that drains the streets and the houses in the development, and also the golf course when it rains.

Master of all he sees.

This year the lake overflowed and is slowly draining, provided we do not get big pounding rain storms.  On the golf course small ponds formed leading to the main body of the lake and fish were seen flopping around in the ponds.  Then they came.  First it was the egrets.  These tall stately looking birds were very hard to photograph and arrived just at daylight.  Slowly they would walk along the edges of the lake and ponds grabbing fish.

Pam and I got up at first light and sat out on the deck to drink our morning cups of coffee. Just then, two bald eagles flew in and landed along the edges of the ponds and lake.  They would each grab a fish and fly off to one of the roof tops across the lake to devour it.  They were immensely patient and would stand in one place or slowly walk along the banks and pause, then jump up and grab a fish.  Periodically, they would leap into the air, circle around and come back to land in a different place or swoop down with talons out and grab a fish out of the water.  (I am going to go buy a video camera).  Watching the eagles is the best way to start off the morning.

We were amazed at this. He walked out into the standing grass and Wham! He picked up a fish and flew away.  What a way to start a morning. 

 

They hang out right at the edge of the lake or fly up to a rooftop and observe.  That bird is in danger of being eaten. 

The best part came when one morning Pam called to me to come quickly and see what was next door.  There standing on the high point of our next door neighbor’s roof was an eagle.  I shot pictures through the kitchen window and then went outside to the front to get a better shot.  The bird never moved when I went outside.  It just sat there in a stately fashion and looked around.  He leaped into the air and floated down to the lake, grabbed a fish, and dropped down to the edge of the lake and dined.

Check out his talons.

Next, we saw that two birds would fly up to the same roof top and hang out.  Pam walked out the back door onto the deck and there were the two of them looking down at her from the roof top.  She grabbed the camera, went back out, but one flew away.  The other just sat there.  Then it flew to a neighbor’s roof to join its friend or mate.

This was the first time we saw the pair hanging out together.  Generally they are not close to one another and each will perch on a different roof top.  

These birds are magnificent, so it was time to do a little background reading on them.  The bald eagle is an opportunistic carnivore with the capacity to consume a great variety of prey. Fish comprise 56% of the diet of nesting eagles, birds 28%, mammals 14% and other prey 2%.Bald eagles can fly with fish at least equal to their own weight, but if the fish is too heavy to lift, the eagle may be dragged into the water.   It has been estimated that the gripping power (pounds by square inch) of the bald eagle is ten times greater than that of a human.

 

We believe this is what she is saying to him, “Look bud, I am sick and tired of eating fish all the time.  Why don’t you find some tasty rodents to eat or some road kill.  You have to do better than this.  Our relatives over at Lake Manawa have a variety.”  And he says to her,  “You have a nice nest here by the river.  You are never satisfied.”  

What we would like to find is the nesting area.  With all the water next to the levees, our plan is to walk the levees south of where we live and look for large trees that have a lot of elevation and the boughs are big and spread out.  We plan on waiting till fall to do this as we do not want to disturb the nest.

Ahhhh, peace and quiet.  Now to wait for a nice tasty fish to show itself. 

We will be up early next morning to catch all the action watching them soar and plunge towards the water with talons extended to pluck breakfast out of the lake.  

For an entertaining read, buy my book from Amazon.  Click on the book and go direct to Amazon. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank