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


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.  

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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.


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)

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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.



Good hunting, good fishing and good luck, Hank


Alligator Recipe



  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


  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.

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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.



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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Hiroshima/Miyajima Island

We were down to our last two days of the adventure to tour Japan and visit all the highlights. The city of Hiroshima was our next to our last stop in Japan. We spent two days exploring this reconstructed “City of Peace.” Situated on the Ota River delta and close to Hiroshima Bay, Hiroshima has been an importing trading center and strategic military point since the late 16th century.  The Japanese military recognized the city’s prime location and set up a logistics base that would last until 1945 – when our military dropped the first atomic bomb ever to be used during military action.  
The attack leveled Hiroshima, crippled Japan, and led the Japanese to surrender just six days later. The Japanese parliament later rebuilt the city from the ashes of its total devastation.  
After arriving from Kyoto by express train, we embarked on a half-day city tour that included Peace Memorial Park, home to several memorials dedicated to those that perished during the bombing.  We visited Peace Memorial Museum, displaying photos and belongings left behind by victims of the attack.  
"A-bomb Dome" amidst ruins of Hiroshima (the dome is now a World Heritage Site).
This picture was taken from a Department of Energy (Manhattan Project) website showing the devastation the bomb produced. Pictured below is the building over which the bomb exploded.  The framework is still standing. Source


Ground Zero.  Please note that the building is still somewhat standing and this was due to the dome at the top.  The bomb was an air burst at 1900 feet.  According to our guide the burst was centered over the dome which deflected the blast outward from the building.  That is why the building while is still somewhat standing and was not flattened. All the people inside were instantly killed. 
The building before the bomb was dropped. 
This bridge was the aiming point for the bombardier of the Enola Gay.  Of course the original bridge was totally destroyed, it has been re-built on the exact location of the original point.
This memorial is the Cenotaph It contains the names of all those who died in the bombing with an inscription which reads
“Rest in Peace. We will Never Repeat the Error.”
“Children’s Peace Monument”
It is dedicated to a child victim of the bomb.  The monument is symbolized by a crane meaning longevity and happiness. On top of the monument is a girl with outstretched hands who died from radiation.
Memorial mound contains the ashes of tens of thousands of people cremated on this spot. 
That evening dinner was on our own and we enjoyed  a dinner of okonomiyaki.  This is a dish of cabbage, noodles, and egg, fried with meat, cheese, and seafood for which is Hiroshima is renowned. 
Next day we traveled by local train to Miyajimaguchi.  There we boarded a ferry to Miyajima Island, a sacred location in the Shinto Religion.  For many centuries, it was illegal for anyone to inhabit this sacred ground. 
Legend has it that the first Shinto shrine was built here during the 6th century in honor of the goddess of the ocean, the daughter of the goddess who created Japan itself.  We toured the island and visited We toured the island and visited Itsukushima Shrine, Built toward the end of the 12th century and renowned for its red gate.  This shrine stands on piers above the water in order for visitors to enter by boat without disturbing the land below.  
Itsukushima Shrine
We held up our camera and got to take a picture of this gentleman and his son.  The boy looked so precious. 
We just happened at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony with the bride and groom dressed in traditional Japanese dress. 
Prayer service 
Shrine and temple. 
We then took a gondola ride on the Mount Misen Ropeway.  At the summit you have a stunning 360-degree view of the island and Hiroshima.
My beautiful wife in the gondola car on the way to the summit.

That is me riding the gondola car to the summit.

This is one of the most phenomenal trip we have ever taken.  From the food to the scenery and deep history we cannot say enough nice things about Japan based on what we saw and experienced. 
When I get back it will time to go duck hunting and based on the reports I have had from my good friend in the blind John, things have really stunk. Who cares now after this experience.

 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank



Insider’ Japan Part 2

On day 5 we traveled by motor coach to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, home to one of the most photographed sights in Japan, if not the world: almost perfectly symmetrical Mt. Fuji , standing regally at 12,388 feet high in the park’s midst. 

Before we got on the bus, this is a good picture of downtown Tokyo


Tower in downtown Tokyo  taken from our hotel room.

Before reaching Mt. Fuji, we took a leisurely boat ride on Ashi Lake.  An absolutely beautiful park where we took in the scenes of the whole park.  Unfortunately, the weather was quite overcast and we did not get any distant views of Mt. Fuji.

Boat for a tour of Lake Ashi      
Shinto Shrine on Lake Ashi

We then took a motor-coach ride to the “fifth station” of Mount Fuji, which is the embarkation point for those climbers brave enough to attempt the summit.  We had a panoramic view of the summit. The weather, however, was really cold and very windy.  Clouds kept obscuring the summit and in between the moving clouds we were able to get some  photos.

Mt Fuji.  We were lucky to get that picture as the clouds kept obscuring the mountain.

A dormant volcano Fuji-san as it is known to the Japanese, last erupted in 1707 and the resulting ash reached all the way to Tokyo where it actually covered buildings.  The mountain’s majesty is breath taking, as writers and artists have attested for centuries.Leaving the park we continued on to the town of Hakone and our traditional ryokan lodgings for the night – and a special night it was indeed. Upon arrival at our intimate inn, we were shown to our Japanese-style room, where we removed our shoes before entering.  Then there was the opportunity to dress in traditional Japanese clothing before dinner.  But first for those willing, we had the opportunity to bathe in a traditional Japanese bath, men and women in separate facilities.  Dinner was again outstanding and we savored a traditional tea followed by dinner featuring dishes using fresh local ingredients.  Going to bed for us was quite unusual.  We slept peacefully on a futon in a room of serene minimalist design.  It looked like a mattress on the floor, but it was firm and very comfortable and we both slept great.

Our room at the traditional Japanese hotel.  Very austere compared to our way of living. The Futon was wonderful to sleep on.
The next day was the start of an exciting experience.  We traveled via bullet train, and Wide View Hida express to the Hida Mountain of Takayama.  The town is considered one of Japan’s most attractive settings with its 16th century castle, a beautifully preserved Old Town and historic buildings dating to the Edo period of 1600 to 1868.  Before we could leave it was recommended by our guide to buy a bento box lunch, a food box packed with Japanese specialties which was very enticing to our eyes and taste buds.  Now this is very interesting, the train stations all had fast food and restaurants located through out the main part of the station.  It was not a problem to stock up on some Japanese goodies. 
The bullet train.  This is the way to travel at over 200 mph and really smooth.
Pam and I on the Bullet train.
Mt Fuji as seen from the bullet train.

The bullet train ride was thrilling and the train really moves and what is really interesting they are always on time.  People just move in mass to get on and no one crowds or pushes.  Next we transferred to the Hida express which is not a bullet train but a slower moving train that weaves around through the valleys and over streams where we could view small villages and towns along the railroad.  The mountains were very steep and had the look of being volcanic at one time.  We really enjoyed this ride through the mountain valleys on the way to Takayama.

Our explorations in Takayama center on three narrow streets in the San-machi-suji district, where in feudal times, wealthy merchants lived amidst the authentically preserved small inns, tea houses, peaceful temples, and sake breweries some of which have operated for centuries.  During our tour we enjoyed a sake tasting at a sake brewery.  It was outstanding and we learned the process of making sake.  I also found out sake could be drunk cold or hot.  I preferred hot sake, and the owners of the brewery were very generous.  The ladies on the tour visited some of the region’s unique lacquer ware and carvings of yew wood.  The men of the trip sat on a bench outside the sake brewery to allow their eyes to come into focus.

Narrow Streets of Takayama
Dinner as displayed outside a Japanese restaurant. 800 yen = roughly $8.00.
Sake brewery displaying their wares.
Our guide on the right and the brewery owner on the left giving instruction on how to make Sake.
Rice barrels of sake outside the brewery.

That evening we again had an outstanding Japanese style meal.  It was  excellent, and I was starting to go native.

Next morning we visited Takayama’s centuries old Miyagawa Morning Market, where stalls selling everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers to pickles, crafts, and fish, line the streets leading to the river.  We could have spent more time in Takayama as up to this point it was our favorite stop.  We both thought it was because it was untouched by the war and was a typical example of old Japan.

The market had every type of fresh vegetables they have in Japan.

The we departed for Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Villages, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising thatched-roof homes relocated from villages that were razed for the construction of a dam.  In addition to its status as a World Heritage site, the village also is a vibrant community whose residents work together to preserve the Grassho-sytle architectural style unique to this region: wooden houses with steep thatched roofs made to withstand heavy snow.

Thatched covered home.  People still live in this village
Lunch.  Don’t ask because I had no idea, but it was excellent.  I have gained a taste for the cuisine.
The village.

We continued on to the Miboro Dam, Japan’s first and largest dam built with “rock-fill technology” using only stones and clay.  We traveled on to reach Kanazawa, alluring city that survived the ravages of World War II because of its out of the way location between the mountains and the Sea of Japan.  Though somewhat off the beaten tourist path, Kanazawa is prized among Japanese as the country’s best-preserved Edo-period city along with Takayama.


Dinner was on our own in this city known for Kaga, or traditional cuisine (particularly sushi, and sashimi).  I was going more native by the day.

Japan has many gardens and in Kanazawa on the next day we visited the renowned Kenrokuen Garden.  This is a national landmark whose origins date to 1676.  One of Japan’s three finest traditional gardens, Kenrokuen represents the six qualities required for the perfect garden: extensiveness, facetiousness (Man-made), antiquity, water, wide prospect, and quiet seclusion.  Its trees, ponds, waterfalls, and flowers stretch over grounds of 25 acres.

We also viewed Ishikawa Gare, the only remaining section of the town’s original castle; Higashi Chaya-gai teahouse district and Higashi-Chayamach geisha are of tall, narrow houses.

We toured the Hakukokan Gold Leaf Museum, which celebrates the art and craft of gold leaf technology and houses a collection dating to the late 16th century.  A center of gold leaf craft, Kanazawa produced the gold leaf covering Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion that we saw in Kyoto. Our last stop is the Nagamachi Samuari district, where the ruling family’s (samurai) warriors lived on narrow streets protected by tile-roofed earthen walls.

Gold leaf covered Samurai Warrior
Pam made a gold leaf design on a plate.
This is the result of Pam’s work.    
Pam’s reward was a gold speckled ice cream cone.

The next morning we boarded the train for the two hour journey to Kyoto, Japan’s Imperial Capital for a millennium and now the country’s cultural and artistic capital.  A true gem with more that 1,600 temples, hundreds of shrines, three imperial palaces, artful garden, and well-preserved wooden architecture, Kyoto embodies Japan’s rich culture and complex history.

Street of Samurai homes, gardens, warriors garb

First we see Kyoto National Museum, which comprises three exhibition halls displaying ancient Asian art, texts and scrolls.  Then we visit the Unrakugama Pottery, a family-owned pottery house producing fine handmade ceramics and earthenware.

Master Potter

We began our tour of Kyoto at the 16th century Ryoan-ji Temple where we saw the dry garden of sand and rocks (kare-sansui), a marvel of classic Japanese design.  The simplicity of its 15 rocks belies a complex symbolism which its designer never revealed – but whatever the meaning, we’re sure to feel the calm that the garden is meant to instill.  Our next stop was Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion constructed in the 14th century as a retirement villa and later converted to a temple.

Rock Temple

The Temple is covered in gold leaf from Kanazawa all the way up to the upper floors.  Its setting on pillars suspended over the water makes it one of Kyoto’s most inspired – and inspiring – sights.  Then we visited the 17th century Nijo-jo, the medieval castle of the first Tokugawa Shogun, containing “nightingale” floors that squeak to signal the presence of intruders.

Temple is covered in gold leaf.
We ended the day at the Kodaiji Temple to attend a tea ceremony.  Botha a state of mind (calm and content) and performance art prizing ritual and grace above all, the traditional tea ceremony to this day represents the principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility encouraged by Master Sen no Rikyu, who perfected the ritual Zen practice when tea first was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century.
Our guide Kondo-son explaining the ceremony to the group.   
Preparing the tea
Gigantic Buda

On our last day in Kyoto we visited the most famous of Kyoto’s several geisha districts with its traditional tall wooden merchant’s homes.  As in Knazawa, property owners historically were taxed on street frontage, so they built tall rather than wide.  Then we encounter the city’s traditional culture as we stroll through lively Nishiki Market where shop owners sell a colorful variety of local dishes, fish, fruits, vegetables, crafts, and other wares.

Geisha district.
Young ladies dressed in native attire.     
Fish Market    
We were moving all day long and I have left out a number of temples we visited.  At one particular temple there a ceremony that had just ended and we saw this couple with their little girl walking toward us.  We smiled, bowed, and held up our camera.  They stopped and motioned for us to take a picture. 
What a beautiful couple with their little girl.  She was so precious and we were very pleased that they let us take a picture of their family. Of all the pictures, this is our favorite.

We covered so much ground and saw so many historical and authentic sites that it will be very difficult to sort it out.  Hiroshima is next on the agenda. 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank






Success is only a Shot Away

The next day was another beautiful and sunny mid western day with not a cloud in the sky.  Most of my friends that hunt turkeys are up before dawn cracks and are on site at first light to nail a big bird as they come off the roost.  I have done that before, but an old turkey hunter recently passed told me most of the big birds are harvested between 8 and 11 AM.  
That works well for me as I pack the truck in the evening and after breakfast and five gallons of coffee, I head up to where I am going to hunt.  On that day. I would hunt on the opposite hill of the big valley where mister big shot came out of the woods.  The general spot was well remembered, and my goal was to nail that big sucker when he stepped into the open to scratch and peck.  
Hiding places were not good as the bank rose sharply into the timber and there was not a lot of cover.  I should have brought my tent blind along but it is just one more thing to have to carry or unload at the hunting location.  Plus, I sometimes wonder if a bird does not finish because that tent is sticking up at a location where there was nothing before.  I would hope readers would drop me a line and tell me their experiences.  
Close to the bottom of the hill there was a pile of timber that had fallen and was dead as a door nail.  I could push myself up against the fallen timber, but I would be open in the front again.  I have done that before with success, but also with failure.  Checking everything out, getting behind the fallen timber was not a good idea due to all the branches and the steep rise in the terrain. 

I was all set up by 8 AM and waiting for my guest to appear.  With the gun across my legs, the call in my hand, and the camera at my side, I was hoping for success on all fronts.

It did not take long.  Mr big shot stepped out of the timber. with the jake.  He was off to my right about 35 yards and he was very positioned for a shot.  The jake then stepped out of the woods and was right directly between me and the big tom.  I should have shot the jake just for spoiling my shot at the big tom, but I didn’t.  The two of them walked straight away from where they popped out of the woods.  
I gave a couple of clucks and he answered, but did not move off his line of walking away.  Pretty soon, he was out of range and then he turned and was straight away from me.  The jake just kept on walking away, and I said to myself, “I will get you next year.”

I had the funky chicken decoy right in front of me about ten yards out.  He then puffed up and started for the decoy.  I slowly laid the call down and ever so slowly pulled my legs up.  Then again, I very slowly moved the gun up and laid it across my knees with the butt of the gun in my shoulder.  This was perfect and I said to myself, “just keep coming toward me because I have a nice surprise for you.”

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
Click on the decoy or the link above and buy from Bass Pro.  This is the decoy to have that sucks those big toms in and makes them really mad.  They just want to kick sand in his face.


Slowly he turned to his right and slowly walked away.  I had a shot, that I did not take.  It was a little long, but I am shooting #5 shot with 3.5 inch shells and a full choke.  I have done this before, and it is because I wanted him closer and it appeared that was what was happening.  My readers, write to me and tell me your experience.  

There is Mr. Big Shot out of gun range, but still showing off.  

Quickly he was gone and strolling away at about a 30 degree angle.  What was interesting was the jake did not join him, but kept walking away.  I am going to get that sucker come fall or next spring.  He has spoiled two shots for me and he deserves to be in the oven.  When I cook him, I will have friends over and we will toast his demise with some fine champagne.

Anyway, now I am sitting with nothing in site except the squirrels in the trees behind me and facing the sun.  It was getting warm, but patience is a virtue and this time I had some for a change.

Off to my left came four birds doing their thing of scratching and pecking at the ground.  As they came closer it was three jakes and a descent size tom.  Ok, he is not the biggest boy in the woods, but meat is meat.  I gave some clucks and the tom stuck out his neck and gave a good gobble.  Not bad we will take him if he comes closer.

I wanted pictures of the group, but again there was to be NO movement.  My bottom was getting a little sore and my back ached, but I still did not move.  No pain, no gain was the saying of the day right now.  A couple of clucks and they adjusted their line of travel straight toward the funky chicken.

The boy would spread his fan and start to strut, but then would fold it up and continue his advance.  He definetely had the funky chicken in his line of sight.  He would spread the fan take a few steps, let it fold back up and repeat the process.  Off to my left was a tree about 5 feet away.

The boy pulled to the front of the pack with the three jakes lagging behind.  I pulled the gun into my shoulder and waited till the tree was between me and the bird.  At that point, I adjusted the gun and my legs for him to step into my line of sight and the gun’s barrel.  When he stepped into my line of sight, kaboom.  He folded up like a sack of potatoes.  We will have potatoes with him when he is cooked.

Nice young tom and he will make a couple of great meals with friends.  He was really big in the breast. 

He was flopping around like I have seen them do so many times and with a 22 cal. Ruger I gave him the finishing touch in the head to let him bleed out.  The reason for this is to avoid having blood run down my back as I picked him up by the legs and thrown him over my shoulder.

What was really interesting was the fact that when I came out of the hiding place the jakes did not take off.  They seemed really confused and did not flee until I gave him the final plunk in the head to bleed him out.  I have seen jakes hang around before one time, and this is really unusual.

Picking him up, he was really heavy and I had judged the size by the smaller fan he displayed.  When I got him home he yielded two nice slabs of breast meat that headed to the freezer.  The thighs and legs I give to a friend that I hunt with.  He is from the mountains of West Virginia,  and has an appetite for all kinds of game and parts.

This was a great hunt. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck,  Hank

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