The Eagles Have Landed


He is watching you. 

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

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

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

Master of all he sees.

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

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

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

 

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

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

Check out his talons.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Two Days on Lake Francis Case (Day 2)

 

Platte Creek Lodge and Guide Service. 

 

Wow, Wow, and more Wow!  It just can’t get much better than this.  My guide and I hit the lake at the same time and struggled through the crowd at the only boat ramp available.  Yesterday we limited out, but came back to fish and pitch for another day of action.

We got to the boat ramp a little earlier and that helped a lot getting on the lake.  On the water the guide hit the pedal and off we went flying across the water to another fishing spot he knew about.

 

Looking out the back of the boat, and this is what 50 mph looks like as we sped across the water. 

Looking out over the bow of the boat.  This machine really flies and it does not take long to cover a lot of water.  The white box with the red handle is a box holding crawlers or as we say in Iowa, worms. Around the edge of the box is a liner for ice and that way the bait is kept cool.  

We pulled up to the first spot and began fishing.  Immediately the action started, but we were throwing them all back as we just could not catch a 15 inch fish.  The rods used were light action and were long, but it still felt like we had a really decent size fish.  I think I mentioned in the previous blog that this lake should be a really hot spot for legal fish next year.

Spot one we fished for about 30 minutes along the face of the drop off starting from the point and working along the bank.  What was really interesting was that we were so close to the edge of the bank and still fished in 10 to 12 feet of water.  The lake is way over full so this spot would look different than it does when the lake is back to a normal level. 

 

It was time to keep moving.  It was not for not catching fish, it was for not catching legal size to keep.  Again, the big motor was fired up and off we flew across the lake to another spot. 

 

 

Notice the house along the bank.  The question I asked was how can a person build a house or cabin along ground that belongs to the government by way of the Corp of Engineers.  Apparently it was built about the same time the reservoir was completed and just got grandfathered in.  The guide wants that house and if I win the lottery, I have promised I will buy it for him.  Neither one of us will lose any sleep over it. 

I have fished and hunted with a lot of guides, and I have never had one that was not good.  I have enjoyed the company, plus harvesting a lot of  game and enjoying the outdoors. We fished really hard at this location as we  had success there before, but today it was fleeting.  We did not catch a thing.  It happens, and it is called fishing, not catching. Onward, upward, and ever forward.  There is always another spot along this wide and meandering lake.

 

This was really interesting and it was the only place where we saw this geology.  Notice the color of the water.  It is similar to the color of the rocks.  As you moved out away from the bank the water darkened up to the color of the rest of the lake.  Depth at this level was around 15 feet.  It was at this level we caught keeper fish.  I am forwarding this picture to a geologist and have him tell me about the rocks and the layers.  Interesting. 

We were not limited out yet, but had two more fish to go.  All of a sudden it shut off.  I have seen this happen before, but have no explanation for it.  The only thing I can think of is walleye are finicky fish and something turns them on and then turns them off.  The wind did go down and the late went flat.  I did not like that environment and neither did the guide. We moved to the east side of the lake. 

 

 

The graph and trolling motor moved us along the bank in 15 feet of water.  Then the cattle that were up on the bank came down and paid us a visit.  We caught no fish here, but as we moved by they all stood and stared at us as some waded into the water.

 

We continued down the east bank.  Where the grass was standing, we finished out our limit and it was only 2 p.m.  The graph displayed 10 feet of water and we were about 10 feet from the grass line. I did not get a picture of this, but we both agreed the bait fish were hiding in the tall grass and the game fish were working that weed line.  We had a great time catching and pitching.  Some of them were bigger than what we had in the live well.  

 

I just put this picture in because it was such beautiful scenery.  Picture Lewis and Clark going up the Missouri River and seeing this rise in the land. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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Two Days on Lake Francis Case (Day 1)

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

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

Fort Randall Dam, South Dakota.jpg

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

 

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

 

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

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

Arriving late afternoon, I met my guide and we talked about the next morning.  We would depart for the lake at 7 a.m.  The water was extremely high and all the boat ramps were closed except one.  There was limited parking for this one and the guide was very pleased that I was a boat owner and could back the boat down and drive it out.

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

 

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

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

 
 

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

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

My first view of Lake Francis Case. 

 

 
 

Highway 44 out of Platte, SD crosses over the lake.  To our left is a campground where we would launch the boat.  The area has 5 boat ramp areas, but all are underwater due to the precipitation and moisture South Dakota has had this spring.  

 

I shot a quick pic trying to get a shot of the traffic, but we were so hurried that this is the best I could do.  I have never seen so many people lining up to get onto the lake.  This is in the middle of the week and Father’s Day was the coming weekend.  Holy Cow, what will it be like then. 

 

My guide said the lake was about 15 feet higher than normal and he has lived in the area all his life.  In the water we were off and flying over the water.  Moving to the east bank he set the depth at 10 feet for the motor and graph to keep us at that depth just following the shoreline.  

 

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

We started immediately picking up fish, not real rapidly but enough to pay attention.  Each of us fished with two rods in rod holders on each side of the boat.  This was a new experience for me, as I have always run the trolling motor, watched the graph, and operated one rod.  Wow, gentleman fishing is what was taking place.  At my age, I need all of this I can take. 

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

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

The next location we picked up a couple of keepers in the 16 inch range and when it went sterile, we moved again.  The guide just seemed to know where to go and where he had caught fish in the past and this year.  He told me we could have it all done by 1 pm, but it was not meant to be.

 

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

That is my spot at the front of the boat, unless we are rocketing across the lake to a new spot.  I got behind the windscreen and took off my hat so it did not blow away.  The white box on the floor has worms in the center and is surrounded on the outside by ice to keep them cold.  

By 4 p.m. we had caught our limit for the day for the two of us. I was cooked as the sun had come out after 2 p.m. and the lake went somewhat flat.  Not good walleye water, but we kept at it until we had the limit.  I was ready head to the dock and get off the water.

We did well and also picked up a white bass.  We will be back at it on the next day. 

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 

 

Click on the book and buy from Amazon.  I need to drink something other than Ripple. 

The Floods of Southwest Iowa

 

This picture taken from Lewis and Clark Monument north of Council Bluffs.  Downtown Omaha is at the upper right of the picture with the Missouri River weaving around Council Bluffs.  You can see I-29 with the water flooding the east side. 

 
 

In 1953 the year of the big flood in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area was a highlight of a young boy’s experiences.  The west end of Council Bluffs was totally evacuated in case the levees did not hold.  Our group of rowdy little boys spent the week we were let out of school on a bluff that overlooked the city.  One of the boy’s fathers had been in the Navy during the WWII and we were supplied with an enormous pair of binoculars that took two of us to carry. We sat and watched the action going on along the river.  The levees held, thanks to all able bodied men who worked on them. 

 

In the meantime the Eisenhower administration looked ahead and constructed a series of dams up the river for flood control and hydroelectric power.  Recreation was way down on the list, but apparently has moved up to the top. 

 

In 2011 it happened again.  The local paper had an article that we were going to have a flood of “biblical proportions”.  “What does that mean?” was the question everyone I know asked?  A number of reasons for the flooding were published but thankfully the river around Council Bluffs did not breech the levees and work on them went on around the clock during the crisis. 

Now it happened again. The Missouri River basin has experienced more than a year’s worth of runoff in the span of three months as reported by the Army Corps of Engineers.  

 

The Missouri River endured 26.3 million acre-feet of runoff in March, April and May, This was reported by the reservoir regulation team for the Corps. It normally sees about 25 million acre-feet in an average year — making 2019 a record for runoff, he said. 

 

That runoff can be attributed to the “tremendous amount” of precipitation seen in South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas over a short period of time.  I fished Lake Francis Case part of the Missouri River system mid June and the river/reservoir was 15 feet over the bank and at Platte, South Dakota all but one of the boat ramps was available.  Limited parking and only one ramp to get in and off the lake was all that was available.  More on that experience mid month.

During the drive up, I listened to South Dakota radio stations, and it was reported that from June 2018 through June 2019 the state had experienced more moisture than ever recorded in the last 124 years.  

 

Historic runoff has caused the Army Corps of Engineers to step up its releases from Gavins Point Dam, the flood control reservoir in Yankton, South Dakota. The release of water into the Missouri River is about 2.5 times the release in a normal year. 

 

The interstate I-29 was closed from Glenwood, Iowa to the Missouri line, and from Council Bluffs to Missouri Valley, Iowa.

 

We live on a golf course and the lake is out of its banks and flooding part of the course.  Not good for the golfers, but it has brought a plethora of birds.  This Egret is one of the many fisher birds that come early in the morning for a meal.

 

 

We have the pleasure of seeing two bald eagles that come every morning to fish.  It does not take them long to pick up a tasty morsel.  One morning an eagle snatched a fish and flew upon a neighbor’s roof and consumed his/her breakfast. 

 

 

Looking from Lewis and Clark Monument to the west.  I-29 going north and south is at the bottom of the picture.  The Omaha Airport is at the left of the picture with a road around the airport in the picture.  Somewhere in the mass of water is the Missouri River that stretches all the way to the hills in eastern Nebraska. 

 

We drove up north of Council Bluffs to Crescent, Iowa and followed the road that ran along the bottom of the Loess Hills.  South of Missouri Valley is a housing area winding up into the bluffs and we captured the following pictures of the flooding. 

 

At the bottom of the hill the railroad track is visible along the flooded farm land.  The whole bottoms are flooded and there will be no planting of this ground this year. 

 

We would stop and grab a quick picture where there was an opening along the highway.  

We drove south of Council Bluffs as far as permissible on I-29 and at the Glenwood turnoff we had to exit.  Following Highway 34 east toward the town we were looking for a highway or road that would take us up into the hill where we could look out over the valley.  Waubonsie State Park sits on top of the bluffs over looking the valley, but we could not get to it.  Also, we understand it was full of campers who had been forced out of their homes along the river bottom.

 

Along I-29 we were able to get a couple of pictures as we headed back home.  South on the I-29 was closed. 

 

In the distance is a farm underwater.  

My elk trip has been booked for the fall in Idaho in mid October.  

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Memorial Day

 Fort McPherson National Cemetery

 

The day before Memorial Day, Pam and I started out across Nebraska to Sidney where she lived before going off to school and marrying a very charming gentleman, me. Sidney, Nebraska is the resting place for her family spread between two cemeteries, one in town and one in the country on the plains. 

 

We have driven by on I-80 hundreds of times and each time, we said next time we will stop and see the Fort McPherson National Cemetery south of Maxwell.  This was the time.

 
 

Fort McPherson was established in 1863 to ensure peace between the immigrants traveling along the Oregon Trail and Native Americans.  Troops originally provided protection from hostile Natives during construction of the railroad.

 

Establishment of the 20 acre cemetery in 1873 afforded space to re-inter remains from cemeteries abandoned by the Army when conflict between settlers and Native Americans decreased. A monument with a statue of a Civil War soldier marks the site of the old military post’s flagstaff.  Another monument marks the site of the Cottonwood Springs Pony Express station.  The Oregon Trail passed through the cemetery in a section that became known as Section H.

 

Twenty-eight soldiers killed by the Sioux on August 19, 1854 in the Grattan Massacre named after Lt. John Grattan, who commanded the soldiers during the fight, are buried there also.  The soldiers originally buried at a site near Fort Laramie, Wyoming were re-interred at Fort McPherson in 1891.  Historians consider the fight to be the opening salvo in a 36 year period of intermittent hostilities between the Sioux Nation and the U.S. Army, ending with the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890.

 

Soldiers that were buried in Boot Hill in the Sidney, Nebraska were moved and buried in the cemetery in 1922.

 
 

After this stop we headed to Paxton, Nebraska for dinner at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge established in 1933.  Paxton is at the 145 mile exit along I-80 and it is a short drive into town.  Ole’s is on the east side of the street and you cannot miss it.  

 

Over a period of 35 years, Ole traveled to every continent and the lounge became the showcase for his adventures. More than 200 mounted trophies from his hunting safaris are displayed at Ole’s. Photographs and other memorabilia of his travels in the 30s and 40s line the walls. 

 
 

The Polar Bear greets you as you enter the front door.  

There are two large rooms and you will be having dinner under an elephant or a giant moose shot in the Yukon.  The food is outstanding too and they serve Buffalo Burgers along with great steaks.  After all this is Nebraska. 

Summer is upon us finally.  Be safe out there. 

Click on the book and buy from Amazon for an entertaining read.  Hank

The Beautiful Orioles are Back

They have appeared again and we do not know where they came from.  A neighbor who is really into birds told my wife to put out some grape jelly and we would see a beautiful bird come and feed on the grape jelly.  It is the Baltimore Oriole.  The oriole is a singer with a rich whistling song that echoes from tree tops and parks.  Now the birds are in our neighborhood.  We always thought this bird lived in the eastern states, but here it is in Iowa.  The male has brilliant orange plumage while the  female appearance is much more subdued.

 
 

Click on my book and buy from Amazon for great entertainment.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 

Funky Chicken Scores Again

There he is Funky Chicken

This decoy has been in my stash of turkey decoys for going on four years.  When I first saw this funky looking decoy advertised in Bass Pro, I said, “No way.”  Then a friend used one and said it was dynamite.  It makes the toms really mad, and like the Charles Atlas advertisements of decades ago, the weakling got sand kicked into his face by the big bully.  The manufacturer advised adding a couple of feeder hens to give a feeling of security.  

 

 

There is my spread.  The funky and two feeding hens.  It can’t get any better than this for Mr. Big Shot to come up the hill and pick a fight.  In other words, kick sand in the eyes of the wimp. 

 

I set up my gear behind the large bush to the left of the top picture of funky.  I set my chair down, laid my gun across my lap, kept my camera at hand and grabbed a call. This was hunting.  After waiting for about thirty minutes, the woods behind me settled down.  The birds flew around and came alive along with the squirrels and other creatures scurrying around.   The one thing forgotten was Deet.  The TV news said the ticks were out and people enjoying the outdoors should be prepared.  I  definitely checked myself over when I got home.  Our area has been known for Lyme Disease.

The gobbling of toms was echoing through the valley on each side of me and an occasional hen made a little noise.  A couple of yelps were given on the call to let the big boys know a hen was in the area and was looking for love. Now, the truth is I have no idea if that really sends that type of signal, but without it, they don’t always come. Then I settled back and opened up a book.  Life cannot get much better than this.  Now to enjoy nature and wait for Mr. Tough Guy to come up the hill and pick a fight with the funky chicken.

The morning could not be more beautiful with some low hanging clouds and the sun peeking through the overcast.  To my left, I was well hidden and in the shadows.  Straight ahead was adequate as long as I didn’t move around a lot if a tom came in, but to my right, I was wide open.  Not good. This should have been taken care of before settling down to hunt.

Looking straight ahead, you can see the funky and there is good vision to the front.  To my left it is totally obscured.  That is fine if anything comes from that direction.  

 

To my right are the two feeder hens and it is wide open.  Not pictured is a bush about seven feet from where I am sitting.  If something comes from that direction, being absolutely still will be the order of the day.   

An old turkey hunter told me years ago that most big toms are shot between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.  I was set up by 8 a.m. and the waiting was on.  The gobbling continued and as the time moved on, the noise slowly subsided.  At 9 a.m. another couple of yelps were given that echoed through the valley and then I picked up my book again.

Off to my right a couple of black looking dots were spotted moving directly toward me.  As they got closer it was obvious they were  turkeys.  Finally, they were identified as a decent size tom and a Jake. I reached very slowly for the camera and got a picture of the two.

The one on the left is the target.  

They slowly approached, feeding and scratching the ground as they made their way up the hill.  The line of approach never varied from the time they were spotted. The range finder said they were initially out about 200 yards when they were first spotted. 

 

Not a giant tom, but he will eat well. 

Moving slower than molasses in winter, the camera was slowly lowered onto my lap.  They were still out too far, so the wait was on as they continued to make their way toward the funky.  Each time they  dropped their heads down to peck at the ground, the gun was slowly moved upward toward a shooting position.  Things were getting heavy and now the lack of cover to my right was going to spoil the shot.  

I could wait no longer, so at about 20 yards instead of moving slowly, I started to move rapidly.  Bad idea.  They were off running like a scalded dog.  The gun was never up to my shoulder, and I began to swear like a drunken sailor at screwing up this shot. (No Offense to the Navy). I reminded myself that patience was not one of my virtues, and this was a lesson I needed to learn again.  Notice, the word again was used as this is not the first time a shot has been screwed up.  The only good thing from this experience is that the 3.5 inch shells are expensive and none were wasted on a wild hurried shot.

Settling back down, the warm sunlight soothed my disappointment and I kept nodding off.  Twenty minutes went by as my book slid off my lap onto my boots.  I looked up.  There right in front of me came two more birds.  One was a decent size tom and the other a small Jake.  They were not 20 yards out and the gun was very very slowly moved to my shoulder.  The wait was on.  The tom was definitely going for funky chicken as he spread out his fan and became aggressive.  Right before he got to the decoy, his lights went out and he rolled backward.  As I was standing up, the Jake just stood there and did not take off until I came out from behind the bush.

Hats off to the Funky Chicken, He sucked one in again. 

Once the toms have this decoy spotted, they always come in a straight line.  After using this decoy for the last four years, a tom was always shot on the first day and before noon.  If they are in the area, you will score.  Bass Pro is not selling them on line so you must go to a store to buy one.  I am sure there is one to be bought somewhere on line. 

 
 

My book makes a great gift. Click on the book to buy from Amazon. 

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 
 
 

Don’t Feed the Dinosaurs

Don’t feed the Dinosaurs. 

I have some friends that were asking me  about a new rifle scope I bought that was not needed.  “How do you get away with that stuff?”  The answers is simple.  My wife likes to go to faraway places and we make sure we do a trip once or twice a year.  The second thing is she likes flowers and the botanical gardens at Lauritzen is one her favorite places to visit. If she wants to go to the gardens, dropping whatever I am doing is the right thing to do.  After all, I hunt and fish when and where I want and buy all that equipment that is not really needed. 

The gardens are a living museum of unique four season plant displays maintained to the highest standards of environmental stewardship.  A visit is an escape to an urban oasis of beauty and tranquility.  The gardens are a sanctuary in the heart of the city.

When we got home from S.E. Asia, the display had just started.  It took us almost a week and a half to get back to central standard time in Iowa from being on the opposite side of the planet.  Then the heavy snows rolled in with severe cold.  We hunkered down.  When the skies cleared and the weather turned decent, over to Lauritzen Gardens we went to see the display.

Dinosaur UpROAR offered a realistic glimpse into the prehistoric world, allowing visitors to experience what life was like millions of years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  The indoor exhibit features 20 life-sized installations positioned throughout the garden. Massive creations appeared right at home nestled among plants that have survived through the ages and jungle-like landscapes.

Nebraska was not a breezy prairie dotted with grazing bison during the Cretaceous Period.  It was a steamy tropical forest at the edge of an ocean swarming with Plesiosaurs-the seagoing equivalent of dinosaurs (the meat eating kind).

Most of the plant fossils on display date back to the Cretaceous Period when what is today Nebraska was almost entirely covered by an inland sea that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.

Kritosaurus

Allosaurus

 

Parasaurolophus

 

Tyrannosarus

 

Dimetrodon

 

Camarasaurus

Back in the time of dinosaurs, you were basically a plant eater or you ate plant eaters.  Then as now, plants were the foundation of life on Earth. Nebraska is famous in the world of paleobotany(the study of ancient plant life) for some major fossil discoveries.  The most important of these have come from the Rose Creek area in shale and sandstone rocks of the Dakota Group. The majority of the Rose Creek fossils are imprints of leaves, many so beautifully preserved that the network of veins is still clearly evident.  The fossils are on loan from the University of Nebraska State Museum.

Crocodile

 

Chasmosaurus

 

Watch out for the dinosaurs ahead as they may be hungry. 

 

Daspletosaur

 

The king of meat eaters, T-Rex.  

Placerias

 

Bambiraptor

Rose Creek is world-famous among paleobotanists for the flower fossils discovered there.  The tissues of flowers are more delicate than leaves or stems, and much rarer in the fossil record than other plant parts.

Syntarsus

Citipati

Postosuchus

Velociraptor

Wow, this was time well spent after the winter everyone in our area just went through.  It was so refreshing to see the green plants, fossils, and of course the dinosaur displays.

Turkey season is right around the corner and talking with a landowner where I hunt, he has seen some big boys.  It is time to smell some gunpowder.

My book is a quick read for entertainment and enjoyment.  Plus you find out how I did it.  

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Twenty-one Days in S.E. Asia (Thailand)

The White temple.Chiang Rai Thailand

We stepped off the boat on the Mekong River and entered Thailand.  More than any other Southeast Asian nation, Thailand, situated on the southern end of the Indochina peninsula, has written its own history.  This is largely because it is the only country in this region never to have been colonized by Europeans. It acted as a buffer state between British India and French Indochina.  Present-day Thai culture evolved from a melding of many disparate influences, most notably southward migration by people living in modern-day China, early Indian cultures and the massive, long-lasting Khmer Empire.  After having occupied present-day Thailand for much of the 9th through 13th centuries, the Khmers fell in 1431.  A smattering of states comprising Thais, Mongols, Chams, and other peoples thrived in the region.

Several dynasties occupied the country over several centuries and in 1767 the Chakri Dynasty was established in the newly formed city of Bangkok.  This dynasty continues to reign over Thailand through King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the only son of the world’s longest-serving head of state.  King Bhumibol Adulyadej became king in 1946 and ruled through his death in late 2016. The monarchy is revered throughout the nation, though the nation’s working government has changed hands several times in recent years.  Despite this conflicted governmental history, Thailand has experienced rapid economic growth over the past several decades and is now an economic power in the region.  It has the third highest quality of life in Southeast Asia and holds a rich combination of jungle landscapes, modern cities and fascinating historical landmarks.

Today the country is a constitutional monarchy much like England with a parliament and prime minister.

We crossed the border along the Mekong and off to our left upstream was Thailand.

Thailand after two days on the Mekong.

Buddhist statue along the bank of the Mekong.  Rice fields in the foreground.

 
 

We were met at the dock by transportation that took us to immigration and customs.  Now this became frightening.  We were met by our guide for Thailand, and our main guide also accompanied us on the total tour.  He is Vietnamese, and much to his and our surprise, he was not allowed to enter the country.  There was confusion at immigration about his identity and he and we were both concerned he would have to go back to Vietnam and straighten out identification problems.  This happened even though he had been in the country before many times. We waited patiently at immigration while all this took place and our Thai guide kept us posted.  After a three hour wait, the problem was cleared up and we were on our way.    People on the tour during this exercise were saying, “Without him, what are we going to do?”  We did have our Thai guide and could have at least gotten to our hotel.  This is the thrill of traveling in foreign lands.

Next morning we came face to face with one of Thailand’s most storied creatures, and one of the world’s most revered animals: the elephant.  Considered endangered in the wild, Thailand’s elephants face external threats from logging and poaching, as well as trainers intent on using the animals in circus-type shows. On our visit to the Chian Rai Elephant Sanctuary, we got to see these beautiful animals in their natural setting.  A 40 acre swath of bamboo groves, forest, grassland, and swamp, the sanctuary provides the elephants with room to roam as they wish.  We also had the opportunity to feed the elephants before enjoying a very fine Thai lunch at the Sanctuary.

Entering Elephant Valley Thailand

 
 

This big boy was being kept isolated from the rest of the elephants.  He was in musth pronounced must, which is similar to when other animals go into breeding mode.

 
 
 

During the musth period, testosterone levels increase as much as six times and the animal will become very aggressive.  The Sanctuary kept him separated from the rest of the elephants so they would not be injured.  One of the signs is the increased secretions that take place on each side of the head and are very pronounced. 

 
 

One of the younger elephants just out for a stroll.  We did not go near them, but kept a decent distance.

Pam feeding an elephant.  They really went for the bananas and when our group approached the fence line, they moved in quickly for a hand out. 

Our group chowing down at lunch.  We were told to be aware that Thai food is very hot, but during dinner the previous night and at lunch, it was far from hot.  Lots of vegetables and fruits with small amounts of meats were served.

After this powerful outing, we visited the contemporary Wat Rong Khun.  Known to outsiders as the “White Temple” for its gleaming, intricately carved exterior celebrating Lord Buddha’s purity. Wat Rong Kuhn is not truly a temple at all.  When local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat found the original temple in a state of disrepair, he purchased it and dedicated his life to rebuilding it into one of the most beautiful Buddhist shrines in the world.  Delicate carvings along the entirety of the roof line give the impression of a building covered in tufted snow, but a closer inspection reveals dozens of finely sculpted dragons, elephants, and other figures.  Inside, the images on the walls and ceilings combine traditional Buddhist and Hindu symbols with more modern pop culture icons who Kositpipat believes further the Buddha’s message.  As with Antoni Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Wat Rong Khun is expected to take many decades to fully complete, but travelers may enter at any time.  

 

That evening we visited the Chiang Rai night market and grabbed dinner on our own.  Pamela and I are not roamers even though we have been world travelers, so we had dinner at the hotel and crashed. 

 
 

The entrance to the temple at a distance.  Pictures were not allowed inside, and we had to take off our shoes. Inside it was simply beautiful.

Shrines and small temples were everywhere on the grounds.

Delicate sculptures were everywhere. 

Additional sculpture. 

The beauty of the grounds was magnificent.

 

  It is hard to see how fantastic the buildings are unless you are up close.

The next morning after breakfast, we took a scenic drive along the narrow mountain roads to the Doi Tung Royal Vill and Gardens.  This is the former home of the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej’s mother, who led efforts against deforestation and also the heroin trade in northern Thailand.  Now part of a development project, Doi Tung hosts families from the surrounding hill tribe villages to stay and receive vocational, agricultural, and social training.  After the training program is over, the families return to their villages and put their new skills to work at local farms.

I want to make a side note about how we travel when on the opposite side of planet earth.  We are a long way from home and the hotels the tour company puts us in all serve a combination of western and Asian style breakfasts.  Breakfast is our big meal for the day, but we found that if we did that too much we would miss out on some excellent Asian cuisine at lunch and dinner.  So we altered our method of operation to enjoy all the local meals.  Per the recommendation of our guide, we were not to eat food from the street vendors.  He advised that he could, but we should not.

We toured the home and the grounds and enjoyed lunch together at a local restaurant.  Late in the afternoon we transferred to the airport for the hour-long flight to Bangkok. Now for a tip if you travel to Chiang Rai.   After 19 days of touring we were beginning to drag a little.  Have you ever been really tired, but kept on going?  That was Pam and I.  We were told to make sure we empty, and I repeat empty, everything out of our pockets at the airport.  I travel in cargo pants so I have a lot of pockets. Second, phones, kindles, and other electronic devices must be placed in a bin and x-rayed with your luggage. I set off the alarm not once, but every time before I got it right.  Fortunately, the people in line when I was sent to the back, motioned for me to get in, and go through the process again.  Finally success was achieved, and I passed through the security check.

We woke up when the plane landed in Bangkok.

Pictures are of the gardens at  Doi Tung Royal Vill.

The gardens were stunning. 

 

 

 

 
 

 

We took several hundred pictures of the flowers as this was an immense garden.  Other Asian countries we have traveled to  all share the love of beautiful flowers, flower gardens, and gardens in general.  Beautifully sculpted, it was inspiring to walk along the many paths and enjoy the solitude and beauty of the area.

The next morning we set out to explore sprawling Bangkok in all its colorful, tumultuous, and modern splendor.  Bangkok has 8.1 million people compared to New York which is about 8.5 million. It is forty times larger than Thailand’s next largest city and houses everything from multinational corporations to world-class health care centers. Bangkok is Thailand’s heart and soul, and has been described as “the most primate city on earth” (a description applied to cities that dominate their respective nations).  We began our touring of the Bangkok Flower Market, a riot of multi colored blooms located in Bangkok’s Old City.

 

Street vendor selling goodies.  I would have liked to have tried it, but our guide said the food was not for us.

Small eels for sale.  I did not see much there to eat and maybe they raise them to a bigger size, then butcher them.

Old Bangkok city street

The familiar ‘tuk tuk’ for transportation around the city.  It is a hoot to ride. 

 

The next pictures are a mix of the flower shops we saw sprinkled with small restaurants and street vendors.  If I ever go back, I am going to try the food from the street vendors.  I believe the guide just did not want anyone to take a chance and get sick.

 

 

 

This restaurant looked interesting, but again our guide said this was not for us.  He seemed to have gotten awfully protective of us.

 

This picture was posted because we are from Iowa, and that looks like good sweet corn.  

 

Back on the “tuk tuk” we rode to the Wat Pho Temple, home of the Reclining Buddha.  Covered in gold leaf, the icon measures some 49 feet tall by 151 feet long. 

The Tuk Tuk.  Our transportation around old Bangkok.

 

The Reclining Buddha.  This temple was packed with tourists along with the rest of the sites we visited

 

Wat Pho is also the home of Thailand’s largest collection of Buddha images, and the complex is also known for being the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.

Next, we visited the nearby Grand Palace, an immense complex of ornate buildings and gardens spreading along the bank of Thailand’s main river, the Chao Phraya.   The original palace was built in 1782 by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, after he moved the nation’s capital to Bangkok from Thonburi.

The Hermit Statue

 

Magnificent Hall

 

This gives you an idea of how many people were at the temples and the palace grounds. 

 

Mythical figure

 

Stupa

 

I stood in line to get this picture.  The guard was loving it.  You cannot see his face but there was a definite twinkle in his eye and somewhat of a smile.  The device hanging around my neck is what is called a whisper device.  There is an ear plug for me and the guide has a small headphone microphone.  As we walked around, he not only kept track of the group, he could tell us something about the site we were seeing and directing us around.  I likened his job to that of herding cats. 

The kings palace. 

 

Subsequent kings have augmented the complex, creating the magnificent compound we saw on the tour.  Though it is no longer the residence of the monarch, the Grand Palace still hosts several official functions for the king throughout the year. It was here that we saw the elaborate Temple of the Emerald Buddha, with its venerated 31-inch high statue carved from a single piece of jade.  Pictures were not allowed.

The next morning we took a motor coach tour of the city and saw Bangkok completely and especially the fully developed downtown.

While you cannot see the traffic, in places it was bumper to bumper.  What was amazing is that we never heard anyone honking a horn.  Traffic just inched along and people let other people in and out of the stream.  No anger and no road rage.  We saw the same thing when we visited Japan several years ago.

 

Beautiful buildings

 

The architecture of this building was really unusual.  

After lunch on our own we toured the biggest market I have ever been to.  There was everything and anything you would need to buy for daily living.  The following pictures show what we saw. 

 

 

 

 

Here are all the spices from mild to really hot, the red ones

 

Tilapia is a common fish thought the region. 

 

That evening we had our farewell dinner for everyone on the tour at an outstanding restaurant.  Again, the food was not hot, just slightly spicy.

It was like we were part of the evening’s entertainment.  Pay not attention to the glasses on the table.

 

Pam and fellow tourist on her right. 

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Click on my book and buy from Amazon for an entertaining read.  

Great buys on the website 

outdoorswithhank.com

 

Twenty-one Days in S.E. Asia (Laos)

Early morning along the Mekong River

 
 
 

Laos, officially named the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a mountainous and landlocked country in Southeast Asia.  The country shares borders with Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China.  Laos was once a part of the kingdom of Lan Xan Hom Khao (the Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol), which for four centuries stood as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia.  This kingdom split into three factions before being reunited in 1893 under a French protectorate, officially making the three regions the country of Laos.  The country struggled for independence during and after the Second World War, finally achieving autonomy in 1949.  Four years later, Laos became independent with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong, only to be plunged into a long civil war resulting in the Communist Pathet Lao movement (backed by the Soviet Union) coming to power in 1975.  The same year King Savang Vatthana abdicated his power and was arrested.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic with the help of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party – became the only legal political party.  During this time Kaysone Phomvihane became Prime Minister and the United States was involved in resettling some 250,000 refugees from Laos into non-Communist countries around the world.  Laos today is one of the world’s few remaining Communist countries, though its borders are more open than ever and tourism is the nation’s fastest growing industry.

We flew out of Cambodia in a jet-prop driven airplane to Luang Prabang, Laos and arrived just as darkness was beginning to fall.  The trip in was uneventful, but the landing into the airport made my eyes get big as the plane flew over the airport and turned up a valley surrounded by mountains into the airport. Clearing customs and immigration was quick and easy as our papers were verified, visas issued, and we were on the way to the hotel.

Our introduction to Laos began very early with a time-honored tradition of the “tuk-bat” where hundreds of saffron-robed monks collect alms from their fellow Buddhists.

Residences of the city providing food for the monks. 

The monks silently walk the streets of Luang Prabang and receive helpings of locally made sticky rice from townspeople.  It is a symbiotic relationship; the monks are sustained by the food, while the local residents receive spiritual redemption.

 
 

Next we saw a glimpse of Indochina as we visit the colorful open-air morning market.  This was really a treat, and this is one of the grocery stores for the community. It also gave us an opportunity to view the food consumed by the community.  Pam said to me, “We are a long way from Iowa.”

 
 

Rice the main staple of the people

I don’t know.

Fish was a major part of the diet.  Also identified were bats and rats.

A mixture of spices.  Start at the bottom in the center and go up the picture to the top where it gets very red.  At the bottom is hot, then hotter, then hottest, and the top one is Cowabunga!  If you have to ask, don’t try it.

It was early morning and was cool.  We wondered about keeping meat cool as the day moved on.  The market had only been opened a short period and we got there before the locals. 

After touring the market it was back to our hotel for breakfast.  Then we set out to explore this ancient royal city nestled between the mountains and the Mekong River.

Stairway to the temple.

Buddhist Temple

The picture does not do justice to the beauty of the temple entrance.  Pictures were not allowed in this temple.

This is called a Stupa.

For centuries the best architects in the land have focused their attention on Buddhist temples. The results are most impressive in Luang Prabang where a plethora of styles and types await the interested traveler. However, it’s not only in temples that Laos has its own peculiar architectural traditions. The Stupas found in Laos are different from those found anywhere else in the Buddhist world. Stupas are essentially monuments built on top of a reliquary which itself was built to hold a relic of the Buddha – commonly a hair or fragment of bone. Laos has its own unique style of Stupa combining hard edges and comely curves.

Luang Prabang’s best-known monastery is centered on a 1560 sǐm (ordination hall). Its roofs sweep low to the ground and there’s a stunning ‘tree of life’ mosaic set on its western exterior wall.

Buddhist temple.

 

The walking tour of the old city where we toured the beautiful 16th century Wat Xieng Temple Complex was topped off with a tour of the National Museum.  This was formerly the royal palace, housing the personal collection of the last Laotian royal family.  Pictures were not allowed. 

Before dinner, we visited an owner’s house in a village outside of Luang Prabang for a firsthand look at how local residents live. 

Home of a Luang Prabang villager.  

 

Our Vietnamese guide on the left, the villagers in the center and our Laotian guide on the right. 

Cooking was done outside but covered with a roof.  There were 4 places to cook with two more behind these two spots. 

The lady of the home cooking on a stove and our Laotian guide. 

We could roam the entire home and take pictures.  It was very spartan.  The downstairs was a kitchen but the cooking was done all outside in the covered area.  They had electricity, a refrigerator, and a TV.  Sleeping quarters were upstairs. 

At first Pam and I felt very awkward, and hung back a little, but the homeowner was so nice and courteous, and while we could not communicate they made us feel right at home.  We have noticed civility and courtesy in other Asian countries we have visited.  They gave us total run of the house and then rewarded us with some Laotian snacks.  

We  dined that evening in a family restaurant built in the style of the traditional Laotian stilted bamboo house. 

Next morning it was off to visit a traditional Laotian rice farm.  This was absolutely amazing.  With all the automation in the world to grow rice, the farmers here are growing and harvesting the crop like they have done for centuries.  

 
 

This is the tractor in Laos when rice farming.  The water buffalo is literally part of the family and is highly regarded.

This is how you plow the ground to plant the rice plants.  One person steers the water buffalo and one person does the plow.  Notice that they are wading around in mud and water.  People on the tour waded into the muck and tried it out and tried out planting in the muck.  Pam and I checked out on that as we could see ourselves falling over into the muddy morass. 

The rice farm central house and where all the action took place. Notice the rice patches growing in the plots of ground. 

Pam and I stayed high and dry at the farm.  

This is what you get.  This is sticky rice cooking and is one of the main dishes of Laos. 

After all that, we were off to lunch.  I have no idea what I ate, but it was outstanding and went down very well with a bottle of Laotian beer. 

 

I have no idea what we were eating, but it was very tasty.  

We then visited a water buffalo dairy farm.  We toured the farm and had the opportunity to milk the buffalo.  We sampled some of the products made from the milk and the ice cream that was made on the farm.  Having lived in the Midwest all my life, I found it was unusual not having dairy cows similar to the dairy farms in America. The reason was that the water buffalo is more suitable for the climate which consists of periods of extreme heat and rain.  The plant life the water buffalo graze on is not favorable to our dairy cows.  This is the difference between animals and climates. 

Young water buffalo

 

Milking the water buffalo.  The buffalo does not produce as much milk as our dairy cattle.

Pam feeding water buffalo calves. 

The next morning we left the road behind and took to the river. We boarded a private riverboat for an upstream voyage on this remote stretch of the Mekong River.  A traditional wooden river cruiser, the boat’s long, narrow shape allows us to sail leisurely along the Mekong with unobstructed views of the lush banks.  Though simply outfitted, the boat offered a bar and dining area, and has more than enough room to spread out.  Along the way we made several stops to visit villages of ethnic hill tribes and observe scenes of daily life by the river.  One of the first stops was the Ban San H “Whiskey Village.”  Laos is famous for its homemade whiskey, and we had the chance to observe the distillation process and enjoy a sample if we chose.  I chose.

Making whiskey, Laotian style. To me it tasted like very strong sake.

I bought a bottle for a friend that considers himself to be a connoisseur of whiskey.  The last time I talked to him, he still had his eye sight.

Look for the scorpion and the cobra in the bottle.  The Laotians told me this was a cure for almost everything, however over indulging may cause a loss of morality.

 

Our boat for the two day trip to Thailand. 

Pak Ou Buddha Caves

 

We stopped to visit the Pak Ou Buddha Caves, which have been home to many thousands of Buddha statues and images since King Setthathirath declared the caves a holy spot in the 16th century.

As we sailed along we enjoyed lunch on board the boat.

Meats with fish, fruits and vegetables, excellently prepared which put you to sleep afterward. 

We cruised along the Mekong with the next stop at Ban Bor village.  This is a traditional weaving and fishing village where we had the chance to meet local residents. 

 

Scenes traveling up the river.

More River scenes.  We shot hundreds of these. 

Approaching the village.  There was a steep climb up the bank of the river and then up the side of the mountain.

Village school

Main street in the village. 

We cruised on to Pakbeng, where we disembarked and checked into the riverside lodge in time for dinner.   The lodge has modern amenities, but no air-conditioning.  It was not hot but rather cool and muggy.  Otherwise the room was clean, neat, and comfortable for the night.  Perched on the side of the mountain, we had a beautiful view of the river below.

Looking out our balcony of the lodge with the Mekong River below. 

Sunset from the balcony of our lodge with the Mekong River below. 

 

Back on board the riverboat, we cruised through more wild and diverse scenery, with mountain views framing the Mekong.  One of the highlights of the morning were the elephants coming down to the Mekong to drink and bath.

This was a surprise and everyone got to the side of the boat to get photos.  More were coming behind these two. 

 

Fishing nets along the Mekong. 

Laotian women panning for gold on the Mekong. 

 

Kids along the Mekong.  Kids are kids wherever you go.  We wondered if their parents knew what those boys were up to. 

Entering Thailand and the boat check at the entrance to the infamous Golden Triangle. 

After crossing the border into Thailand, we cleared customs and immigration.  We then transferred to our hotel in Chiang Rai, where we enjoyed an outstanding meal of Thailand food.  The two day trip up the river was one of the most exciting adventures we had ever done. We shot several hundred pictures on the river, and have shown only a few here.  

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

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