Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Farmer Bob’s First Bear Hunt

Warning…..this post includes photos of dead bears at the very end. (This note is for you Pam)

This past week was one of our favorite weeks we have had since coming up here in June. It was also one of the most stressful….. If you read last week’s post, I introduced the “Bobs” in our lives. Two of those three came up to do a little fishing and bear hunting this past week. It had been months since we have seen either of the Bobs and wanted to show them the best possible time. Barb and I were confident that we could get them on the fish but fulfilling someone’s dream bear hunting trip can be very stressful as the bears are much less predictable and there is so much out of our control.
Brother Bob was the first to arrive on Monday afternoon with Farmer Bob arriving the following morning. Since it was opening day of bear season I was excited to get Farmer out on his stand. I had two areas in mind for him with multiple bears visiting each site. I had set up a ground blind for him in each area for him to sit in and hunt. A ground blind is basically a camouflaged tent with multiple windows around it so the hunter can sit in a chair and have up to a 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

After dropping him off at his site Brother and I returned to camp and anxiously awaited his return. Including Farmer, there were a total of 5 bear hunters out. Two of the other hunters included Kim and Breanne a mother/daughter team from Texas also on their first bear hunt. Since it was Tuesday the rest of the camp was at the fish fry when we heard a car coming down the drive at 6:30. Did Farmer Bob shoot one already? When the vehicle pulled into camp we saw it was not Farmer but Kim who had shot a bear within her first hour on the stand! A half hour later we heard a 4 wheeler coming down the drive. Not Farmer Bob, he was driving a truck…. When this hunter pulled into camp we saw that he had a bear on the back of it. 2 bear for 5 hunters and we were only hours into the season! Certainly Farmer would see something tonight….. Day turned to night and the other 3 hunters returned to camp bearless. Breanne had seen a bear while Farmer and the remaining hunter saw nothing but squirrels and chipmunks. No worries, there are 5 more days to hunt…..
Day two after Farmer went to his blind, the rest of us just relaxed around camp. He pulled into camp after dark and reported another bearless night while Breanne pulled the trigger on a nice bear. Two nights and Bob has not even had the slightest of bear sightings! And here I thought I was the Bear Whisperer setting him up in this great spot. Ugh! The pressure is starting to build!

The next afternoon after getting Farmer out to his stand, Barb, Brother and I went fishing. It ended up being one of our top fishing days of the season fish after fish after fish!

Maybe all this fish activity will translate to active bears in the woods. When Farmer returned that night he reported that he had seen one bear for a few seconds but it was small. Well, at least he saw something!
Day four time to switch it up…. This afternoon we were going to move Farmer to another hunt sight to see if there was more action. Barb, the two Bobs and I went fishing in the morning and brought the 4 wheeler with us to the lake so Farmer could go hunting directly from the lake. We fished the same lake and the same spots as the day before but the fish were not nearly has active. We had a good day but not a great day like the day before. Bob headed to his ground blind around 3:00 as we headed back to camp. Two other hunters arrived in camp and the remaining hunter from the original 5 hunters arrowed a 300+ pound boar. Now Bob was the only hunter from the first group not to get a bear. Now the pressure is really mounting and I am seriously second guessing myself! When he returned that night he was all smiles, he had not gotten a bear but a smaller one entertained him that night by hanging around the area and he was thrilled to get to see a bear in the wild for an extended period. That made me feel a little better, at least he was seeing bear!

Look at who is doing all the work while the boys just sit back and enjoy the day!

Headed out to the lake

Nice Northern Farmer!

Enough for a couple of meals back home....
Day five….only two nights, left time to close the deal or go home without a bear….Thunder, lightning, hail and rain for most of the afternoon. Other hunters came in early but Bob stuck it out and the evening sit turned out to be perfect. It was almost dark when he said he noticed movement out in the woods. A Bear! After looking it over Bob decided that this is going to be “The bear”. As he was lining up the shot something spooked it and it took off into the bush, so much for that night’s opportunity. To top it off one of the newly arrival hunters tagged a bear. Now the hunters from the second group were getting bear and Bob, with only one day left to hunt had yet to pull the trigger….. If he does not get a bear Barb and I will not be able to show our faces in North Dakota again!
The last night of his hunt we not so patiently await his return. Soon we hear a 4 wheeler coming down the drive but alas it is not Bob, it is another hunter from the second group with a nice boar. Day turns to night and I mentally start altering our fall plans as we can no longer spend our fall in Bob’s farm in North Dakota…..Bob pulls into camp well after dark but instead of going directly to his cabin be pulls up to our trailer and says: “I shot a bear!” He said with only minutes left in the day he saw the tan muzzle of a bear moving through the brush, it was now or never and was able to make a clean shot. High fives and hugs all the way around and we head back out to the bush to recover his bear. It had only gone 20 or so yards after the shot and after a short drag to the 4 wheeler we had it loaded up and were headed back to camp.

We were up until 2:00 skinning and butchering the two bear that came in that night but the excitement level was high.
All in all it was a great week. Great times fishing and visiting with my brother, we don’t get to do that as much as we used to. Barb prepared great meals every day; pancakes, French toast, fish, ribs, blueberry pies and cobblers with lots of ice cream! I think we all gained 5 pounds throughout the week…..

Both Bob’s gone Barb and I relaxed for one afternoon as we had more guests arriving that night. My sister Carol, her son-in-law and grandson were arriving that night for another week of fishing and adventure in the North Country!

Farmer Bob with his bear!
Breanne and her mom with her bear

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Book of Bobs..........

After last week’s fiasco I was looking forward to a nice quite week of fishing without any life threatening incidents. I had a couple of incidents that could have been bad but am happy to report there was no threat to life or limb in the past two weeks.
So Barb and I have a lot of “Bob’s” in our lives…. so many we have given them mini nicknames when we talk about them. This post and probably the next several will includes 3 of our Bob’s. First there is just plain Bob. He and I have been friends since high school. Although we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like our friendship continues and we are able to get out hunting and fishing several times a year. Then there is “Farmer Bob” who owns the Finken Farm in North Dakota that we visit for several weeks each fall. To make things even more confusing “Bob’s” son Chris married “Farmer Bob’s” daughter Holly who also lives on the Finken Farm. Last but certainly not least there is “Brother Bob” who is… brother. Got it? Okay on with the post…..
Bob came up for the week with several of his customers. He and coworker Greg have been bringing up a group of customers for the past 5 years. This year their group was from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio and had not been up here before. In fact many of them had not met until they started driving up here. Barb and I were able to get out fishing with them several times showing them some of the hotspots on a couple of the area lakes.

Getting ready for the walk into Onaman

At the launch
Fish on!

There's a happy group of fisherman!
They were mainly after large Northern Pike and Walleyes and they connected on both. Two people in their group caught 40+ inch pike and one of them caught a 30+ inch walleye.

A couple of nice pike!

30+ inch walleye
Bob with a 40+ inch Northern
One of their adventures involved going on the “Walleye Dream Trip”. This trip consists of an ~ hour drive to the boat launch and another 45 minutes by boat to the fishing location, a river dumping into Lake Nipigon. Barb and I have gone on this trip several times and can attest that it is truly a dream trip. You are catching walleyes as fast as you can get your jig in the water. The average fisherman who knows what they are doing will catch anywhere from 100 to 150 per person for the day averaging about 18-20 inches. It was on this trip the two large pike were caught as they too like to hang out in this area to snack on the walleyes.

The week went way too quick and before we knew it they were gone and a new group of fisherman had moved into their cabin. I also got out two more times with other groups, one from Michigan and one from Iceland of all places. Both were great groups and many fish we lost count of how many fish we caught. The highlight of the Michigan group was the fact that there were 4 generations of their family present and everyone made the mile + walk into Onaman, even the 95 year old. It may have taken him an hour but by God he made it both ways. I can only hope to be so lucky!
Gene reeling in a big one!

Way to go Gene!!!!
The rest of the Michigan crew.......

The Iceland group were very interesting all but one spoke English as a second language and one of them spoke 5 languages. Their group included a 6 year old little girl and I learned that whining and pouting (or booing as they called it) in Icelandic is pretty much the same in every language. She was a trooper however as she too made the walk in and out of Onaman..... 
Emmitt, little Emilya and Velda

Enrod taking a picture of Hendrick's walleye

I even managed to catch a fish or two!
With bear season less than a week away we have also been busy preparing hunting sites for several friends that are coming up. The resort has a total of 23 hunters this year so that is a lot of sites to prepare. “Farmer Bob” is coming up in less than 10 days for his first ever bear hunt and I want to make sure it is a good one, scouring the bush looking for just the right area for him to hunt to make it as successful as possible.
Nice bear track!

A couple of nice bears...(I forgot to set the time and date on the camera)

We have been traveling many of the back logging roads looking for just the right spot. Many of these roads have not been accessed in years, some are littered with fallen trees while others have waist high grass or wild flowers covering them. A chainsaw, a winch and a spare tire are a must. Over the past 10 days I have had 3 flat tires and on two occasions in the past week I got the 4 wheeler stuck having to winch it out. Once was in a big mud hole I thought I could make it through and again while trying to navigate along a washout when the edge gave way and tipped me on my side. No camera both times but I was able to take this picture of the area I got stuck the next time I went by it.
It was a little softer than I anticipated!

Tom assisting with one of the flats....
This past week I just got done scouting and was driving home when I smelled what smelled like someone smoking marijuana. I mean if I knew what that smelled like I imagined this was it……I looked around to see where it was coming from and saw a cloud of smoke behind me coming from under the jeep. This had happened to me once before and I knew exactly what it was. The weeds I had been driving through compacted between the skid plate and the muffler and were smoldering. Since I was within minutes of the resort I did not stop but continued on into the resort to the boat launch and right into the lake….problem solved! I then spent the next 30 minutes digging enough compacted grass and weeds from the undercarriage to fill a 5 gallon bucket. I now have a fire extinguisher in the jeep….
One of the many grassy roads....
Last but not least in our group of Bob’s is my brother Bob who is coming up for a few days on the 14th with his wife Greta. We hope to get out and do some fishing, berry picking, bear retrieving and just plain exploring and hanging out.

We are continuing to work with Dakota on water training. We could not be prouder of her progress. When we first got her last fall she would run for the trailer if she was within ¼ mile of anyone shooting a gun…..I am not exaggerating, she would literally run for the trailer. I am happy to report that as of last week we are shooting over her head! Here is a very short video of our progress……

It is going to start to get really busy around here with more adventures right around the corner……

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Story of the Big Yellow Bobber......

No pictures this week, just a story to tell........
One of the things we love about coming up here is the people. Each week a new group of fisherpeople come in from various parts of Canada and the United States. Over 1/2 of them are returning customers while the remaining are new. Seeing the returning customers is like a reunion of sorts. We get to visit and catch up with what each of us have been up to throughout the year. This past week we met people from northern Minnesota, Ohio, Windsor Ontario and Iowa.

The subject of this blog is a lone fisherman named Ed. Ed is a personal injury lawyer from Iowa who drove 14 hours for two days of fishing. Since he had never been up here before I offered to take him out both days. He was looking for the full adventure package and he got a lot more than he ever expected!

Taking someone fishing like this may sound like all fun and games but it is actually quite stressful. He drove a long way to get here and his expectations were high. For our first adventure I planned a full day of walleye fishing on Onaman Lake complete with shore lunch on a remote island on the lake.

Well….. the best laid plans got off to a rocky start. Our hour drive to the parking area was uneventful until we got within 100 yards of our destination when I heard an all too familiar noise coming from one of the jeep tires. I stopped and look to see a ½ flat tire on the rear of the jeep. I quickly jumped in the jeep and made it to the parking area. Rather than spend valuable fishing time changing a tire I told Ed to grab his rod and we would worry about it later.

After the mile and a ¼ walk to the lake we jumped in the boat and headed to my favorite hot spot. The same place we made the video a few weeks ago. It was dead calm on the lake…. no good. After an hour of fishing we had one fish and I am internally panicking. I need to get this guy on the fish!!!! Spot #2 near pelican island, same thing….. no fish. By now we are two hours into our fishing trip and have 2-3 fish to show for our efforts. I keep telling Ed that it is just a matter of finding them, once we do we will be catching them like crazy. So we move to a point that I have done well at in the past. By now the wind and clouds have rolled in so our once calm and flat lake has turned into white caps and rollers. Challenging for boating but good for fishing.

We pulled up at spot #3 and started catching fish almost immediately. Over the next hour we caught about 24 walleye averaging 20-22”’s. Finally I can start to relax, we are on the fish! We kept 3 for shore lunch and after a time headed to an island to cook them up. We arrive at the island, tie up the boat, cut up the potatoes and put them on my portable stove while I cleaned the fish. There is nothing better than a shore lunch right on the lake, it was fantastic!

Lunch done, I start cleaning up and bring everything over to the boat to load up and…… no boat. I look downwind and see the boat drifting down the lake bobbing in the waves about 300 yards off the island! I run back up to my duffle bag I had unloaded our shore lunch gear from and grab my life jacket and start running for the lake. Ed says “What are you doing?” Putting on my life vest I replied that I was going to get the boat.

Picture if you will…..Life vest on, take pants off and pull the rip cord on my life vest which activates the automatic inflator. Within seconds a huge yellow life vest inflates around me. So there I am standing on shore in my underwear with this silly yellow life vest on headed for a boat 300 yards out on a windy lake. What choice to I have? Doing my best Michael Phelps imitation I leap in the water and swim as fast as I can….. for about 50 yards…..then I turn on my side and do a side stroke for the next 50 yards pretty soon I am on my back doing the back stroke totally exhausted. After the next 50 yards I figure I must be gaining on it so I roll over to see the boat still 200 yards away! The wind is carrying it much fast than I am swimming. Undaunted I carry on until I just can’t swim any more, I look at the boat, still no closer, I look at the island… it is now 200 yards up wind and here I am too tired to move… floating like a huge yellow bobber in the middle of this lake.

Decision time… do I continue after the boat? Do I head back to the island? The only way to catch the boat is to wait for it to hit shore about 3 miles across the lake.... and I am not sure if I have the strength to swim back to the island. Luckily common sense kicked in and I turn around and head back to the island. At this point I can only lay on my back and scissor kick and stroke with my arms. Waves are crashing over my face but I can tell I am making headway. It is then I realize I am still wearing my hat. Why am I wearing my hat? Oh well….. I carry on… I am thinking we are here for the night and someone will come look for us tomorrow. We have food, water and fire, it is not going to be fun but we will survive. But how will they find us on this 28,000 acre lake?

I finally make it to where I can touch bottom but don’t have the strength to stand up so I continue swimming and just off shore I beach myself on a boulder like a sea lion on the Oregon coast. A sea lion wearing a yellow inflatable life vest that is. Ed is standing close by asking if I am alright but I just hug the rock trying to catch my breath. I look up and what do I see headed in our general direction? Another boat! Ed takes off his shirt and starts waving it and I stand up to make the yellow vest more visible. I am not sure what they thought when they saw a shirtless man waving at them and a pantsless man standing in the water….. anyone with common sense would have probably turned around and headed the other way but they came over and we directed them to the boat which they promptly retrieved for us. Ends up they were a husband, wife and two kids group from Windsor Ontario who were staying at Pasha Lake as well. They are now our new best friends!

Soon we were all packed up and back in the boat laughing and catching fish. For something that could have turned out horribly bad in many several different scenarios it could not have turned out much better. We must have caught more than 30 fish each averaging over 20”’s and a story to tell on top of it!

At the end of the day we arrived back to the jeep, changed the tire and headed home.

The next day we headed to Northwind Lake. It was a great and much less exciting day where again caught about 30 fish each and Ed caught his first blue walleye. And guess who we ran into on that lake???? The Windsor family who rescued us the day before! We invited them to have shore lunch with us, afterall, it is not like they did anything for us…. Mark and Deb are a great couple and we hope to catch up with them on our journey east next summer.

At the end of day 2 Ed said he had some of the best fishing ever and an adventure of a lifetime! Another successful mission….

Friday, July 7, 2017

What we did During our Summer Vacation!

We learned several valuable lessons during our weeklong " summer vacation" in South Dakota last week. We left Pasha Lake Cabins early on a Wednesday morning and made our way south for our 20 hour journey to our property in the Black Hills. Our border crossing was just how we liked it…uneventful and 8 hours later we were at our friend Kevin’s house in Milltown Wisconsin.

We spent the next two days at his house. One day working around his house mowing and tidying up the place as it is for sale and he had a showing the following day. We managed to get out to dinner with my sister Judy and her husband Mike for the all you can eat rib special at The Thirsty Otter. It is just sad when “all you can eat” consists of one serving….. I remember the day when I was able to get my monies worth and even Barb’s! Regardless, the ribs and the company were awesome!
Day two consisted of getting ready for our trip west; groceries, loading up fence posts, the skid loader, auger, bucket and all the tools we needed. That night we showered, put on our best duds and headed to Balsam Lake where they had closed down Main Street for the big event........ a tractor pull! And this was not your run of the mill tractor pull, this was one specifically for lawn tractors!

What we were expecting and what we saw were two totally different things……we were expecting lawn tractors right off the yard, maybe a little modified and there were some of those. What we did not expect was the souped up lawn tractors with engines as big as 8 cylinder with almost 500hp! These things would smoke the tires all the way down Main Street much of the way on two wheels.

It was a great event and it looked like the entire town came out.
The following morning we jumped in the truck and headed west and we were off to the Black Hills! 12 hours later we pulled into Country Charm Cabins and Corrals where we spent the next 6 days working on our property and Kevin’s property.

But back to the lessons learned….. The first thing we learned is that this area is seriously crowded 4th of July weekend. Custer and Hill City were crazy busy. We drove by Bear Country, Reptile Gardens and Crazy Horse. There were cars everywhere filled with little screamers, we passed them all and headed to the quiet and peacefulness of Pringle. You know what we did not see this trip? A mosquito, not a single solitary mosquito, Barb was in heaven!

The second thing we learned was that the ground in South Dakota is much harder than the ground in Wisconsin. When we tried augering our first hole for a fence post we knew we were in trouble! We made it less than a foot when we hit solid rock and stopped dead. We tried a few different spots with the same result. Time to go to Plan B. So the next day we ran into Rapid City (~ an hour drive) to an implement dealer where we bought a new auger with a rock bit. This worked much better, we were able to get in all the corner posts except 2 which even the rock auger would not burrow into.
Ready to auger our first hole

We dug, we chiseled, we chipped and only got 2 feet!

After getting the new auger things went much better.....
The culvert work went much better. The ground was a lot less rocky along the edge of the roads and we were able to get the culverts in and graded with gravel we had delivered in about 2 hours each.
Working on our road frontage

Looks like I am supervisor material!

Getting started on Kevin's approach 
We also spent an afternoon clearing our building area. The power had been run to the building site the week before so we also leveled an area for our RV friends! Only regular outlets for right now, I will put a 50 amp plug in on the next trip.
Kevin cut while I dragged them away with the skidsteer

Barb even got in on the action!

RV site ready and open for business!
Work done, we were ready for a little fun, a few beers and a nice steak. Kevin called some friends of his that live in the area and they came over for steaks over a campfire. There is nothing like the taste of a wood-fired steak cooked outdoors!
View from our building site
Kevin shooting at the prairie dogs....
The valley was filled with wild flowers

Kevin, Barb, me, Rich and Cheryl

Kevin tending to the steaks
We put trail cameras out at both ours and Kevin’s property. Among several other deer I got a picture of this nice buck on our property.

But Kevin hit the mother lode on his camera! After two days he had pictures of deer, elk and even a mountain lion! It is hard to tell it is a mountain lion but it definitely was. 26, 42 48, 96, 108

Our summer vacation over we are on our 12 hour journey back east to Wisconsin where we will rest a day before we head back to the grind in Ontario where the walleyes and countless mosquitoes await our return!