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
(https://www.osti.gov/opennet/manhattan-project-history/Events/1945/hiroshima.htm)

 

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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text

Here Comes the Big Boy

I arrived just as it was getting light and parked down in a valley.  The landowner had told me of a big tom hanging around the house and being a big loud mouth just after day light.  He acted like he was the only one in the woods and valleys.  I knew right away what he needed was a good shooting.
 
At the recommendation of a close friend I had picked up the Funky Chicken Decoy from Bass Pro and put it out.  My friend had personal experience with this decoy and told me to get one as when the toms spot it, they become enraged.  This I felt I had to see. 

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
Click on the link or the picture and buy from Bass Pro. 

 
I climbed up a hill and put out the Funky chicken and a couple of breeding hens decoys.  The instructions that came with the decoy had mentioned to get a couple of feeding hens as they believed it would calm the toms a little and let them focus on the Funky Chicken.  This made sense to me, but at this time I did not have the time to pick up a couple of feeders.  Breeders was what they were going to see.
 

A good place was found to hide and the sun would be slightly behind me and off to my left.  Pushing back into the timber, the concealment was good on the left and right, but I was wide open to the front. This was not good, but I was at least in the shadows and with the leaf suit on.  Turkey success was accomplished with this manner before, but it had also fowled up some good shots. Because of their excellent vision, they had found something wrong and had split.

I am sitting on the top of the hill pushed back into the opening just to the right of the center of the picture. 
 
It did not take long and off to my right two specks were spotted coming out of the timber on a direct line to my hiding place.  As they they came for me they did what turkeys always do.  They scratched and picked up seeds.  Closer and closer they came and then they started up the hill.  At this time I could see one was a really big tom while his partner was a really big jake.  All of a sudden the big tom stopped dead in his tracks.  The jake kept moving slowly up the hill scratching and pecking at the ground picking up seeds.  
 
Thinking to myself I said, “Whatever you do and regardless of how uncomfortable this might become, do not make one move.”  As he stood there my gluteus maximus was getting sore and to pull up my legs would have given me a lot of relief.  I did not make one single move other than breathing.  
 
Now this was really interesting.  This giant, as he stared toward the top of the hill, knew something wasn’t quite right.  Also, he had a good view of the Funky Chicken decoy, and it was obvious he was fascinated.  I do not believe the breeding hen decoys made a bit of difference. This guy had not gotten big by being careless.  Slowly he took a couple of steps forward and spread out his beautiful big fan.  As the sun hit him with the fan spread out, I could see the beauty of the big guy with all the colors.  To re-position myself would have been a great relief.  I did not move and began to hurt. 
 
At this point, he was probably 50 yards down the hill.  I still did not think I was seen as I was surrounded by the shadow of the trees around me.  He began to walk back and forth with his fan all spread out and his head tucked back showing off his prowess.  If you can visualize what was going on, he was initially 30 degrees to my right and walked all fanned out, of course, till he was straight to my front.  He was close, but I wanted a closer shot.  It was decided that when the shot was made, he would be a whole lot closer so as not to cripple this big beautiful bird.  I wanted him in the freezer. 
 
He kept this movement up for at least 15 minutes slowly getting closer.  The jake stayed right with him and at times the jake was between the tom and me.  That was when I re-positioned myself, got the gun upon my knee, and made sure I could get a good shot.  This was most important.  On the first shot I wanted to see the bird tumble and flop around like they always do.  If he turned right his backside was facing me for just a couple of seconds and I could get re-positioned.  When he turned left he was staring straight at me.  What I wanted to do was take a picture, but that would have been too much movement, and that would spook him for sure. 
 

The Funky Chicken decoy was out about 15 yards, and a marker had been placed at the 20 yard spot.  I shoot 3.5 inch shells with a full choke and Winchester shells shown below.  At the 20 yard spot he would be history.  Closer and closer he came and my patience was wearing really thin, but it was maintained.  He strutted and strutted but would not come any closer, and slowly he unfolded his fan and began walking down the hill with the jake.

 
An expletive (deleted) was uttered as he sauntered off.  Should I have shot?  This will be an unknown that will keep me awake at night.  How many chances does a person get in a life time at a really giant bird.  
 
Then I heard a hen right behind me and as I turned to look at her, she split off in a hurry making a lot of noise.  The sun had moved to a point where I was illuminated from behind me and this may have spooked off my quarry.  What has really left me feeling low about this loss was the fact that the landowner’s brother came out one afternoon and shot the biggest tom he had ever seen.  It happens. 
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 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. 

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Insider’s Japan Part One

 

How do I get to hunt and fish whenever I want and spend money on hunting trips all over North America?  It is really quite simple.  My wife likes to travel to faraway and exotic places in the world and this year I planned a trip to Japan through our favorite tour company, Odesseys Unlimited.  What an exciting experience as we traveled by tour bus, trains and rode the bullet train several times.  We liked that.

The trip lasted 14 days and we visited a total of nine cities and towns, some located in the mountains.  The seacoast surrounding the island is where the majority of the population lives and it was in some of these cities that the bombing during WWII took place. In these cities the buildings all look new and have earth quake protection on the outside of the sky scrapers  When we traveled into the towns in the mountains, they were untouched by the war and we saw and felt the Japan of decades ago.

I have never seen so many beautiful and well maintained buildings. Notice the support structure up the side of the building.

The first thing we noticed was how clean the cities were.  This was absolutely amazing and we never saw a scrap of paper anywhere or a cigarette butt(s) all over the sidewalks and streets.  Greenery was along the streets and sidewalks all trimmed and maintained as if we were in a garden.  Civility was very prevalent by the population and this is something we are not used to in our country.   The cleanliness and civility of the population is the result, I was told, of the Shinto religion observed by 80% of the Japanese population.  Besides being very civil, the population was well dressed and groomed unlike much of our population we have in our cities.  The police seemed to be non existent as we did not see any and took note of this fact. 

 Tokyo is a vast metropolis compromising 23 wards and 26 cities with a population of over 13 million residents, and 844 square miles.  It is also the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, which has a population of more than 35 million, the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

We started out our excursion in Ancient Tokyo at the famed Meiji Shrine, a peaceful enclave of temples and gardens dedicated to the late 19th century Emperor Meiji and his wife.  Built in traditional Shinto style with low wooden buildings surrounded by square courtyards, the shrine is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.

 Entrance into the Shrine and courtyards
 
Rice wine barrels 
 
Gardens were everywhere with beautiful flowers, Chrysanthemums
 
Shinto wedding.  Notice the bride in the background.

 

This was a cleansing station.

Shinto Priest

 

The next stop was the Asakusa Kannon Temple, which contains a golden image of the Buddhist Kannon, goddess of mercy.  According to legend, two fishermen dragged the statue from the sea in 628… but visitors cannot see it since it is hidden from the public.  However, you can make your way to the front of the temple to bathe yourself in smoke from the incense cauldron.  It is said that the smoke brings good health.  Since my wife and I are both in our 70’s, we breathed all the smoke we dared without passing out.  We need all the help for good health we can get at this stage of our life.

Notice the smoke in the background in from of the temple. The shopping arcade is located along and  parallel to the buildings. 
 
 
Buddhist temple
 
It was hard to get up to the smoke to make ourselves more healthy.
 

Outside the temple there was time on our own to explore the Nakamise Shopping arcade. It was filled with stalls selling local dishes, Buddhist trinkets, and popular souvenirs.  A close friend of ours is Buddhist so this was a good opportunity to buy him something special from the country.  Food stalls were everywhere and since lunch was on our own, we checked them all out.  They did not take American dollars but our guide told us to plan on one dollar to equal 100 yen.  When we bought anything we just held out a handful of Japanese yen and let them take what they wanted.

 Young ladies dressed in traditional Japanese attire.  Notice the phones. 
The ladies were everywhere.

After almost a full day of touring we headed back to the hotel.  We were still feeling the affects of the plane trip over and needed a nap before dinner.  There was more exploration to do.  Our entire group commented on the people and how courteous they were.  Everyone has respect for the other person and no one was rude, crude, ill mannered or ill tempered like it is in our country.  This was a refreshing experience.

We visited a park in downtown Tokyo and observed  the beginning of a wedding ceremony.
 
This building was where our hotel was located starting on the 26th floor.  Wherever we went we always kept track of that shape so we could find our way back.
 

At breakfast the next day, the hotel served a European style breakfast along with traditional Japanese food.  We ate the western style in the morning.  In the afternoon and at dinner it was Japanese food.  Lunches were easy, but the evening was really different.  Fortunately I ordered hot sake with the evening meal, so my inhibitors were not working and I was ready to try anything.  We found some food had a bland taste, but after watching the locals in restaurants, we saw that they would stir  wasabi into the soy sauce and then dip the food into the mixture.  It added a lot of flavor and by day three we were eating raw fish right along with the natives. I have no idea what it was, but it all began to develop a unique flavor with each course. Comments were made in our group that as long as it did not move, eat it.  When we added some hot sake or plum wine to the meal, we were ready to conquer anything.

We visited the Imperial Palace District. Surrounded by moats and ramparts the palace is home of the Imperial Family.  Called Kokyo, the huge complex dates to the 15th century, when territorial disputes required massive fortifications and complex societal norms demanded elaborate palaces to reflect the high positions of the feudal lords.  When completed, the Imperial Palace was the largest district in the world.  From the lovely East and Outer gardens we saw the ruins of massive moat and walls that remain.

Moat surrounding the palace grounds.  The constant rains on that day spoiled picture opportunities.
 
Gardens on the palace grounds.  
 
Neatly trimmed trees and gardens were everywhere.  The Japanese are master gardeners.
 

Next we traveled to the gallery of one of Japan’s preeminent calligraphers, Koshun Masunaga.  Here we learned about this ancient art and browsed the collection. A demonstration of the art form was given and we were rewarded with drawings that depicted each of our personalities. This whole presentation was truly magnificent as this lady is recognized throughout the world for her talent.

This lady is recognized all over the world for her talent.

 

 
The artist’s assistant in front of some of the artist’s works
 

Lunch again was on our own and it is interesting that the menus are outside the establishment on large billboards with pictures and the price.  We studied the pictures, priced the meal in yen, but we could not read the description.  Going inside, we looked around at what the locals were eating then made our selection.  I saw the waitress deliver a noodle shrimp dish to a gentleman at the next table.  When she came to our table, I just pointed to the gentleman next to me and she brought the same thing after laughing.

That afternoon was free time and the ladies wanted to go shopping.  This was an experience out of the 1950’s.  There were very well dressed clerks there to help us with anything we wanted at each department of the store. This was a first class department store.   Plus all of these young ladies were very pretty and well dressed.  The ladies on our tour had a great time in the store and the guys just wandered around in amazement.  This was shopping like I used to see in the big department stores in our home cities when I was a little boy. The employees were there to help you whether you could speak the language or not.

Back near the hotel was a tram that circled Tokyo bay.  All information and signs were totally in Japanese and the train or tram was totally automatic.  You bought a ticket to where you wanted to go and then slid it into a machine that collected the ticket.  That let you on, then when you got off at the stop you had purchased, you slid the ticket back into another machine, and it ate it. In other words you were done.

My wife and I were standing there trying to figure things out.  I wanted to go, but my wife said we would get ourselves lost.  Actually, this was not a problem because we carried a card with the name and address of the hotel on us, so if that happened, we could show a cab driver and he would take us to the hotel. We did not worry about getting robbed or rolled.  This is Japan, and you could go out on the streets after dark.

The assistant guide for the group happened along and helped us purchase the ticket and told us at which station to get off.  We went out along the harbor of Tokyo bay and circled back to our starting point.
Tokyo Bay from the Tram. 
More of Tokyo Bay.

 

Looking forward out the front window of the Tram.  There are no operators and it is all completely automatic.  You have to know what you are doing to ride it.  Fortunately for us, our assistant guide came along who could speak fluent English and helped us along the way.
 

After dinner, we crashed.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.   Hank 
 
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Hunting the Wild Turkey

 
The eastern wild turkey offers one of the most challenging hunting experiences available and appeals only to the most dedicated outdoors-men. Wild turkeys have extremely keen senses of sight and hearing and are normally able to avoid human contact so successfully that hunters often do not detect their presence. The instincts for survival are most highly developed among adult gobblers, making them among the most sought after trophies in North America today.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
This decoy came to me highly recommended by a long time friend.  Last year he hunted with it and it was all that he used.  It made the Toms really mad and they came to beat up on it in droves. He plunked the one he wanted and then sat and watched the Toms get really hacked off at the decoy.  This is all I am using this year and will post about what is happening. Click on the link or the decoy to buy from Bass Pro.

Turkeys are hunted during two seasons – spring and fall – which are differentiated by styles of hunting and the primary quarry. Spring gobbler hunting is most widespread because shooting males has no impact on the future growth or dispersal of turkey populations, even at the new release sites. Turkeys are promiscuous, with only the largest, most dominant males obtaining harems of a dozen or more hens. Non-breeding males are thus available to hunters at no cost to the population. Even heavily hunted areas seldom sustain hunting losses of as many as 50% of the adult males.

RedHead Reality Series Aluminum Friction Turkey Call
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 The principal spring hunting method is to locate toms gobbling from the roost at daylight and attempt to call them to the hunter by imitating the yelps, clucks, cackles and whines of a hen ready to mate. Hunters wear camouflage clothing and sit completely motionless for as long as several hours to escape detection by keen-eyes gobblers. Success rates for resident spring hunters is 20% (non-resident hunters 40%) due to the good turkey densities found in Iowa. Because 10% of the hens also have beards (the hair-like appendage hanging from a tom’s breast), any bearded turkey is legal game in the spring.

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Fall turkey hunts usually are allowed only in states with well established turkey populations. In Iowa, turkey populations and a decrease in fall hunting demand, has allowed a 2 bird bag limit, until the quota is filled. More young poults are produced than survive the rigors of winter and escape from predators to reach the breeding season, thus allowing limited fall hunting before much of this natural mortality takes place. The most common fall hunting technique is to locate a flock of turkeys, scatter them as widely as possible, and call back broods by imitating the assembly yelps and clucks of the adult hen or kee-kee of lost poults. Gobblers are not particularly interested in finding hens in the fall, making them extremely difficult to call and shoot. Inexperienced young turkeys return readily to the hen and commonly make up 60% or more of fall harvests. Fall hunters also use complete camouflage.

 
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 

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Wild Turkey Habitat

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Wild turkeys are primarily birds of the forest. The eastern subspecies found in Iowa and most of the United States east of the Missouri River thrives in mature oak-hickory forests native to this region. Turkeys primarily eat nuts, seeds and berries (collectively called mast) produced in greatest abundance in middle-aged to mature stands of oak trees. Turkeys are large, strong-walking birds capable of covering a range of 1-2 square miles in a day, searching for suitable food items by scratching in leaf litter. These “scratchings” – piles of leaves adjacent to a small plot of bare earth – are characteristic in good turkey habitat and indicate that turkeys have been feeding in the immediate area.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
A friend of mine bought this decoy and it was all he used.  The toms would come and see the thing and it made them really mad and they just beat the dickens out of it.  He shot a really nice big boy that came to pick on his decoy.  I just bought one for this season in Nebraska and Iowa.

In winter, turkeys rely primarily on mast for food, although in Iowa and other agricultural states they are capable of substituting waste grain in harvested corn and soybean fields, where it is available adjacent to timber. When snow covers their native foods, or mast crops fail, corn fields supply an important supplemental food capable of carrying turkeys through winter stress periods in excellent condition. Turkeys are often seen in crop fields during the winter taking advantage of the waste grain in the fields in Iowa. Large flocks of turkeys observed in crop fields have raised concerns of crop depredation by agricultural producers. Wild turkeys are actually beneficial to crop fields, since they primarily consume insects out of fields during the spring and summer. To address these concerns, a crop depredation pamphlet was developed by the DNR. For more information on crops and wild turkeys, download the crop depredation pamphlet or stop in your local DNR wildlife office.
In spring and summer, a turkey’s diet switches to a wide variety of seeds, insects and green leafy material. Protein derived from insects is especially important to rapidly growing poults during their first weeks after hatching and to adults replacing feathers after their annual summer molt. Hayfields, restored native grasses, and moderately grazed pastures are excellent producers of insects and are heavily utilized by turkey broods where they are interspersed with suitable forest stands. These grassy areas also provide suitable nesting sites. 
Turkeys roost at night in trees year around, except for hens sitting on a nest. Any tree larger than 4 inches in diameter at breast height may serve as a roost tree, but larger, mature trees are most often used. Eastern turkeys shift their roost sites almost daily, seldom using the same tree two nights in succession. Certain areas of their home range (area a turkey occupies throughout a season) may be used more heavily than other locations (e.g. a ridge of large trees near a feeding area or a stand of large evergreen trees during very cold weather).

In Iowa, the abundance of food and nesting areas in non-forested habitats (corn fields, pastures, hayfields, restored native grasses) has allowed turkeys to survive in areas where forests are limited. In traditional turkey range, minimum timber requirements of 10,000 continuous acres of mature forests are commonly thought to be necessary for wild turkeys. Research indicates that areas with a 50:50 ratio of forest with properly managed non-forested habitats is ideal turkey range, and a minimum of 1,000 acres of timber is ideal to allow a turkey population to thrive. Since the restoration of wild turkeys to Iowa, turkeys have been found in small 2-3 acre woodlots, much to surprise of wildlife managers.

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Source ( http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-Hunting)

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

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A Brief History of the Wild Turkey

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Wild turkeys numbered in the millions nationwide when the first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock and provided a readily available source of food for the table and the market. Like much of our native wildlife, turkey populations were unable to withstand unregulated hunting pressures during European settlement. A combination of year around indiscriminate hunting of all ages and sexes, and clearing of forested habitats to create agricultural lands all led to the extirpation of wild turkey flocks from their historical range north of the Ohio River and from most areas in the South and East. By 1920, approximately 250,000 eastern wild turkeys remained in the United States, occupying just 12% of their former range. Only 8 states still had a turkey hunting season, most in the mountainous terrain of the southeastern United States. Turkeys were virtually extirpated from Iowa by 1900; the last verified sighting was made in Lucas County in 1910.

In the early 20th century, trends which lead to the demise of turkey flocks began to be reversed. Most states formed conservation agencies (counterparts to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources) and gave protection to vanishing wildlife. At the same time, unproductive farmlands were abandoned as industrial jobs in growing cities became more attractive. Purchase of state and national forests, reduction in cattle grazing on public forest lands, and wildlife management were factors which led to the development of new turkey habitats in regions where no turkeys existed to populate them.
Most states began turkey restoration programs in the 1920’s, first using pen-raised turkeys to produce large numbers of young birds which were released in the wild. These efforts were universally unsuccessful because pen-raised birds had lost their wary instincts which allowed truly wild turkeys to survive in their natural environment. In spite of expenditures of millions of dollars over several decades, no free-ranging turkey populations were produced. Pen-raised turkeys also carry domestic poultry diseases which can be transmitted to a variety of wild birds.

With the development of the rocket net trap in the 1950’s, the history of the wild turkey underwent a dramatic reversal. For the first time, large numbers of wild turkeys became available for transplanting to unoccupied habitats and turkey populations began the long road back from near extinction. By the early 1980’s, wild turkey numbers increased to 1.8 million birds in 47 states. Today, there are an estimated 7 million wild turkeys in all the states except Alaska, with over 3 million turkey hunters in the United States.

In Iowa, an aggressive restoration program using wild trapped turkeys from Missouri and Shimek State Forest (Lee County) and Stephens State Forest (Lucas County), resulted in transplanting 3,523 Eastern wild turkeys to 86 different counties at 260 sites between 1965 and 2001. Turkeys from southern Iowa were originally introduced from Missouri in the mid 1960’s. This restoration program was paid for by the Iowa sportsman through revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and an excise tax on the sale of arms and ammunition. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) also aided Iowa in the restoration efforts.

Eastern turkeys adapted so well to habitat conditions in Iowa that by 1980 the DNR decided to start trading turkeys for other extirpated wildlife. From 1980-2001, 7,501 Iowa turkeys have been traded for 356 prairie chickens, 596 ruffed grouse, over 180 river otters, over 80 sharp-tailed grouse, and over 3.2 million dollars to purchase Iowa habitat with 11 states and 1 Canadian province.


 

Source ( http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-Hunting)
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Squaw Creek Snow Geese

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One of the local papers had an article about Squaw National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City, Missouri close to the Missouri River.   The article discussed the migration patterns of  Snow Geese through our area.  It is only a 1.5 hour drive south for my wife and I.

Every year they go through, and now they are stopping at DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge just east of Blair, Nebraska. That is a 45 minute drive for us.  As they make their way up the Missouri river to their nesting grounds above the arctic circle, it is a sight to see.  The snow geese have become so plentiful that there are now no limits as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife want to thin the numbers before Mother Nature does.
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 Mother Nature is not very kind when it comes to thinning the numbers.  Hunting them in the fall at our blinds has not been very successful as they fly over in enormous flocks, flying very high, and going from refuge to refuge.
When stepping out of the vehicle at Squaw Creek, the first sound you hear is a high pitched yelping, that when multiplied by many thousands, will leave an indelible print on your memory.  When massed together they look like an enormous island of geese. Then all at once they begin to yelp, rise up off the water, swirl around and land back again.  We stood for an hour and watched this spectacle several times. 
I truly believe snow geese are smarter than other waterfowl.  If there is one important lesson that snow geese have learned and learned well, it is that there is safety in numbers.  When my friends and I began hunting the birds during the mid 1960s, snow geese migrated across Iowa in small flocks that usually consisted of anywhere from a dozen on up to 20 or so birds.  The migration was well distributed statewide, and the geese stopped wherever there were suitable marshes. 
How times have changed.  Today, most of the snow geese are hunted in open fields with big spreads of decoys and with the use of electronic calls.  They do not decoy as in the past.  If you do get them to start coming in, a 20 yard shot is about all you can get.  I really believe the snow goose is the hardest bird to deceive and that includes the wild turkey.
Squaw Creek is not only a stopping off place for snow geese, but for waterfowl of all types.  There was also a migration of Trumpeter Swans which we were able to photograph.  They stayed at a considerable distance.  In addition, there were bald eagles everywhere in the trees. 
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Good Hunting, Good Fishing and Good Luck.  Hank