Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Good to be Back in the Hills!

Upon returning to our property in South Dakota we were greeted with open gates and no prairie dogs (thank you Jordan’s!). It has taken over a year and countless hours but I think they are finally under control. What we found was out of control was the weeds. High weeds were growing throughout our parking area. I am not sure of their real name but tumble weeds had taken over the entire area. They were 2-3’ tall and just as wide. The upside, if there is one, is that they are easy to pull and have a single root so we had them pulled in short order and were settled in our spot for the next 4 weeks. The downside, Dakota was running and got a weed seed in her eye. 
Arrr. I'm a pirate!
As a result she went around for about a week looking like a pirate. A week of saline and suave and she was as good as new.

Some of the many tumble weeds that were awaiting us!

Even the turkeys were happy to see us return!
We have a mix of work, play and visitors planned over the next 4 weeks with lots to fit in. First up was visitors and play. Good friends and fellow travelers Tango and Gladys (a.k.a.Dino and Lisa) stopped by for a few days showing off their new cabin on wheels. Their regular home is a 2014 Cardinal 5th wheel but being rich folks like they are, they decided that wanted a cabin as well so they went and bought a Lance pick up camper and decided to make a quick run down to see us to test it out. It is a great camper and similar to the one we are looking at for our next Alaskan adventure.
The Turtle...
We spent one afternoon touring the city of Custer going in and out of almost every store on main street. Another afternoon we took a road trip through Spearfish Canyon and actually got Dino on a hike! We had been saving this hike escpecially for when Dino and Lisa visited as it is only a little over a mile long as we cannot go too far due to Dino’s “condition”.
Roughlock Falls
Trout hiding in the stream

Whew, we made it!
It wasn't until later we discovered that they had already been on that hike…. Oh well, all was not lost, at least we were near one of the breweries we still had not been to in the hills! 
Their visit coincided with the opener of the archery deer season and as good of friends as they are, you don’t get in the way of deer opener! I think they were amazed/disgusted at the lengths deer hunters go to in order to get within bow range of these wily critters. Over the years I have gone from getting “a” to getting “the” deer within bow range. The three primary senses of deer are sight, hearing and scent. If you conceal yourself and stay quiet you can usually overcome the first two, the sense of smell however it the hardest to overcome. Making sure you are positioned downwind of where you think the deer will come is the first rule but I think I lost Dino and Lisa with the rest of my preparation. Washing my clothes in scent free detergent, showering with scent free soap/shampoo both make sense. But when I pulled out the fox and deer urine Lisa looked at me like I was crazy. “You put that on?” she asked? “Sure, just a dab behind each ear and the deer come runn’in!” Actually you use it on the surrounding ground to cover any remaining scent you may have in the area. Both Dino and Lisa just stood there scratching their heads probably wondering how you get it from the fox or deer into that bottle.

Which brings me to our funniest moment of the week..... Barb was doing laundry in Custer and came across a bottle of fox urine in the pocket of my jeans. She put it on top of one of the washers and the owner walked over picked it up thinking it was some Essential Oil and smelled it before Barb could say anything. Barb was mortified and the owner did not talk to her the rest of her visit!

Can you see my tree stand up there?
How about now?

One of the ground blinds
Opening morning arrived and I snuck out of the camper at 4:30am wanting to get into the woods well before sunrise. Over the next two days I spent 16 hours either in a blind or in a tree and saw lots of deer but not the deer. It is therapeutic just being out in the woods, watching the wildlife, listening to the wind in the pines and plus I had my camera with me (on silent mode) and was getting some great shots. 
Mule deer still in velvet
Nice tall 8 pointer
Fork horn muley
On the morning of the third day I was again out an hour before sunrise and had seen several deer but not the big guy. That all changed within minutes when to my left side a deer walks into view and it is him! It is amazing how calm I can be watching all these deer but when this one showed up my heartrate went through the roof! I carefully picked up my bow and waited for the right shot…. As he turned broadside I started to draw back my bow when the slightest of creaks came from the chair I was sitting in. All I saw from that point was a white tail as he bounded away. Dejected I packed up and headed in for the morning.
That afternoon I went out to a different spot thinking the big guy would steer clear of the spot with weird creaking noises. About 7:00pm I heard something approaching from behind me and I could see a deer with antlers walking through the pines. When it got to an opening I could see it was him! He walked directly under my tree and this time I was able to draw back without making any noise. Minutes later I was standing over him feeling a cacophony of emotions; elation, excitement, respect and sadness. That is part of hunting and for the second year in a row I had harvested a trophy buck on our property! For those of you who want to see a picture it is at the end of this post, for those who want to pass, skip the last picture. Unfortunately Dino and Lisa had left that morning and were not there to see him.

Our most traumatic event of the week occurred while we were having happy hour over at our place with the Jordan's. We were outside our rig having a beer(s) enjoying a quiet evening when a goldfinch landed on a sunflower plant just a few feet from us. We all sat there watching the little bird thinking how cool it was to have it so close when all of a sudden out of no where a hawk swoops in and snatches the goldfinch off the flower without missing a beat. We all just sat there stunned looking at the empty flower. "Did that really just happen?"   
Hunting complete, it was time to get to work. Barb is continuing to work on the stone around our fire area. It is a big project but she is making good progress! My project for the week was building a set of barn doors for our shed. We went to a local saw mill and picked up (10) 1x10  and (10) 1x4 rough cut boards.

Over 1/2 way done!
I had to special order the hinges and am still awaiting their arrival but the doors are done and ready for installation. You will have to wait until next week to see the finished product!

This coming week is again filled with visitors and projects as my sister Carol is arriving and we are getting ready to pour concrete! Stay tuned!

One happy hunter!

Friday, August 31, 2018

You Know You Are a Redneck When…..

Some people think of the term “redneck” as a derogatory term. In our vocabulary nothing could be further from the truth. It is a way of life, a philosophy, good country folk living life the way it should be and something to strive for…..

So when Kevin asked me to be the best man at this wedding to Cheryl, I knew it would be a true country wedding and one to remember. They story of Kevin and Cheryl started a short six months ago but when they met it was love at first sight. We were in South Dakota and he was in Wisconsin but Barb and I would talk to Kevin on the phone almost every day as he would describe his relationship with Cheryl and how much he liked her. 
Within weeks he had proposed marriage but there was one contingency….. he had to pass the Jim and Barb test. Little did they know anyone that makes Kevin that happy already passes the test. Barb was just happy that he met someone as she thought she might be spoon feeding both Kevin and I into our golden years! 
Now a lot of people thought Kevin was crazy (probably a lot of Cheryl’s friends and family as well) but Barb and I were not ones to judge. Barb and I knew each other only 3 months before we were married as well and that was 32 wonderful years ago. In fact we had not met most of each other’s family members until after we were married. 
We finally got to meet Cheryl several weeks later when they drove out to South Dakota and we could see instantly how in love they were. It was like they were kids in high school and we could not be happier for them. We got to know Cheryl better over the next several months when they came out to work on their property and further confirmed what a great woman she is and that they were a great couple. 
The wedding date was set for August 25th and the arrangements started. We left Pasha Lake on August 20th so we could get down and help set up the barn and help out any other way possible.

Our travel from Ontario to Wisconsin went very smoothly. At the border the border crossing agent asked the usual questions; (Agent)What are you bringing back with you from Canada? (Us) Two limits of walleye and some blueberries. (Agent) What do you do for a living? (Us) We are retired (Agent) Must be nice, I will trade spots with you (Us) No thanks (Agent) Welcome back to the United States, have a nice day.

We stopped along the way and spent the night at the Grand Portage State Park Rest Area just across the Minnesota/Ontario border. Since this such a remote stretch of highway we practically had the place to ourselves. While I caught up on some much needed rest Barb went for a hike to check out the waterfalls in the area.
Boardwalk to the falls

One of two falls in the area
The next day we drove the remaining 4 hours and arrived at the wedding venue. The owners were nice enough to allow us to park in their hay field for the next 5 days. It offered us a free site and allowed us to get be there to help out getting everything ready for the big day!

We were also able to meet up with my brother Bob and his wife Greta, my sister Judy and her husband Mike along with one of my nieces and her husband for dinner at our favorite bar The Thirsty Otter for their all you can eat rib night! We were so busy talking I forgot to take a picture!
The day finally came, the weather was great (a little hot) and everything was set. The funniest part of the service was when Kevin had to read his vows and forgot his reading glasses. He could not read one word on that piece of paper so looking over his shoulder I quietly read the vows as he repeated them. As of this moment I am not sure if Kevin married Cheryl or if I did! It met and exceeded our expectations of a true country wedding and now the happy lovebirds are man and wife.
Mr. and Mrs. Filip
That said, I cannot help but poke fun at my best buddy and their redneck country wedding……(Hey, what are friends for?!?!?)
So without further ado, You Know You Are a Redneck When…..
·        You meet the woman of your dreams on Farmers Only.com
Yes, it is true. Kevin and Cheryl met on Farmers Only. They even made mention of it in their vows. They should write Farmers Only and maybe appear in an upcoming commercial!
Another Famers Only match!
·        The bachelor party consists of beer and guns
The day before the wedding a bunch of us went shooting sporting clays at a local shooting range. Nothing better than mixing guns and alcohol (we waited until after the shooting was done before we hit the bar). 
·        The wedding takes place in a horse barn
The venue started out as an empty riding area.....

….. to this in a few hours

The dance floor/alter and a couple of kids that escaped the kid stall!

·        The wedding aisle consists of shavings
Looking down the aisle.....

·        The brides dressing room is a horse stall
Don't worry, we cleaned it up and put in fresh shavings for the bride!
·        The dance floor is bordered by hay bales
The dance floor/alter ready for a wedding!
Kevin and Cheryl putting on some moves....
·        Beer is served out of a canoe full of ice
Every canoe should be filled with ice and beer!
·        The children are locked in a horse stall
The children's play stall
·        Your wedding cake comes from Dairy Queen
·        You have a jeep on your wedding cake
The cake actually was very cool. Cheryl made a scale model of the home the two of them will be building in South Dakota. She did an awesome job and who doesn't love a DQ cake!
The two redneck couples on the left live on Bone Lake where we used to  

Two rednecks who had a really good time!
The next day we cleaned up the barn, returned all the tables to the fire department and hit the road for South Dakota as we have to be there in time to meet our next guests Dino and Lisa who will be visiting when we get back!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bear Tales from Ontario.....

The past 5 weeks have flown by and our time in Ontario has come to an end. With the opening of bear season, this past week was incredibly busy as 9 bear hunters arrived in camp with the hopes of putting their tag on one of these ghosts of the bush.

Some left with great trophies, but all left with great memories and stories to tell. Every hunter saw bear and had an opportunity to get one. 5 harvested their trophies, 2 missed while two others saw bear but were waiting for bigger ones.

Although I did not take any pictures of the bears, (you are welcome Pam) I will share a couple of stories from the hunters.

An 18 year old girl arrived with her dad to hunt bears for her first time. She brought a tree stand to hunt out of so she was elevated to get a better view of the area and she would be 12’ above any bears that walked by. The hunting site I had selected for her did not have any trees that would support a tree stand however so she had to hunt out of a ground blind. She was nervous but agreed to hunt on the ground. Actually I think her dad was more nervous than was. When she returned she had a story to tell when a sow with 2 cubs walked within feet of her blind! She of course did not shoot but said she was scared to death and excited all at the same time to have such an experience.
Meanwhile her 19 year old boyfriend had an experience of his own. He was hunting out of a tree stand at a height of about 12’ when a bear walked into the area. It was not the big one he was hoping for and was not going to shoot so he just sat there and watched it.  Bear have very poor eyesight and rely mainly on their hearing and sense of smell. Well this bear knew something was in the area when it walked in following the exact same path the hunter took on his way to the stand. It is hard to say if this bear knew he was tracking a human as this area is so remote there is a chance it had never run across a human before. So here was this bear standing at the base of the tree looking and smelling straight up trying to figure out what was up in the tree. So what does a bear do when it is curious about something up in a tree? You got it, it climbs the tree to see what is up there. The hunter said the pucker factor was off the charts as this bear climbed the tree and smelled his boot before it climbed down and scampered away!

An even more intense situation occurred with a father/son team were hunting out of a ground blind when a bear came across their tent in the woods and did not like it. They said this bear charged their blind stopping just short and growled and snapped its jaws trying to intimidate whatever was in there. Let me tell you, they were definitely intimidated! They could not get a shot at it as it approached to the side and behind them but they did get a good look at it a couple times and said it was definitely a shooter bear!
But by far the scariest and most dangerous event occurred to me when I went out to pick up a ground blind from a hunter who had switched spots. He had left his blind out in the bush so I offered to get it since I was going to be in the area. I approached the blind without a care in the world, walked up to it, unzipped the door, ducked my head and slipped into the blind ready to dismantle it. It was then I came face to face with……a skunk! Well, not face to face exactly as this beast was as terrified as I was and was trying to get out of this 4x4 foot enclosure with his butt pointed right at me! I jumped backwards out of the blind in about a millisecond and lifted the blind freeing it. Although it smelled, it did not spray so I was able to take the blind down and get back to the vehicle unscathed.

I was also able to complete our Onaman Lake video this week. This was a particularly tough task as we had so much good video to share. I was finally able to whittle it down and am excited to present the long awaited, much anticipated video!

We are now headed to Wisconsin for a few days awaiting the wedding of our good friend Kevin where yours truly will be a co-best man. We are looking forward to a few days catching up with friends and family before we head back to our property in South Dakota! 

Monday, August 13, 2018

When You Mind Says Yes But Your Body Says No…..

It all started late last week when Chad brought his guide boat off Lake Nipigon for servicing. The kids were begging him to go tubing. It is a nice boat, a Lund with a 225 outboard with plenty of power to make for a fun ride. After tubing, the kids wanted to go skiing so I jumped in the boat to take some pictures and enjoy the ride.

The 225 popped those kids right out of the water like submerged corks bouncing to the surface. Round and round they went with smiles on their faces.
Cavin showing off  his skills
C.J. was up next
Back in the day I used to ski quite a bit. I have fond memories of skiing at my dad’s place on Shell Lake in Wisconsin. It fact it was nothing to ski the 10+ mile shoreline around the lake. I was not a professional water-skier but I could hold my own.  I was telling Chad about my childhood, spending summers on the lake and how I used to ski when I was younger but had not done it for years. That is when he said it. It was a surreal moment, it was almost like he said it in slow motion….”Dooo yooou wannnt to giiiive it a trrrrry?” (that is my attempt at slow motion writing).

We’ve all had that moment, you are faced with a challenge. Do you face it head on or do you cower in the corner with your thumb in your mouth? It had been years since I had skied. In hindsight the next series of pictures should be of me cowering in the corner of the boat with my thumb in my mouth but at that moment a line from one of my favorite Toby Keith songs popped it my head “I am not good as I once was but I am good once as I always was” and I said  “Hold my beer, I got this”

Adjusting the life jacket to its limits I squeezed into it and jumped in the water. Chad tossed me a ski and was reaching for the other when I said “I don’t need that one, if I can’t get up on one I am not skiing” That was mistake #1 (well, actually #2. Mistake #1 was ever agreeing to do this in the first place) as it is much easier to pull someone out of the water on 2 skis than one.

The next thing I knew, I was holding the rope staring at the back of the boat and said “Hit it!” The boat roared out of the water and proceeded to drag me, mostly underwater for the next 20 yards before I lost grip and let go. I did not bounce out of the water like a cork, evidently those kids weigh a little less than me. 
Chad circled around I grabbed the rope as I thought to myself….one more try. “Hit it!” Again being dragged through the water, mouth closed, eyes closed….10 yards… 20 yards….30 yards but slowly I was pulled out of the water and I was up! This is where I should say that I was all smiles and waving like the pictures above me but it was far from that. Although it was fun, as you can see from the pictures below, it was a hell of a lot more tiring that I remember. There were a lot more pictures but they were just too painful to show in public. 
Do I look like I am in agony?

Wish this one was in focus!
 After a short spin around the lake I signaled for Chad to return back to home where I was never so happy to let go of the rope. Every muscle in my body was aching and crying for relief. Luckily I was handed back my beer and all was good.
Finally done!
Not to be outdone, Chad was up next. He started out with two skis (wuss)……He soon dropped one ski and was going slalom (Okay a little more impressive)…..

Chad getting ready to go barefoot
 Then he had me speed up the boat to top speed (42mph) and he dropped that ski and went barefoot! 
Barefoot skiing, what a show off!

To be fair, Chad used to be in the famous Twin City River Rats Ski Club in Minnesota where they frequently put on shows.  
Now several days later my body is constantly reminding me that I am not as young as it used to be so next time I am presented with such a challenge I will definitely say "No", well maybe, depends on if there is someone there to hold my beer....

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Road Less Traveled

Traveling the remote roads and trails of the Ontario bush are often mysterious and filled with wonder. As I search for likely bear hunting sites I travel deeper and deeper into the bush until all other signs of human invasion disappear, only the tracks of the wolves, moose and bears dot the road as I explore each area. 
One of the many less traveled roads

That is a big wolf!
Then there are the moose
It is amazing that a big bear leaves the lightest of tracks....

Luckily there are other ways to tell there is a big bear in the area!

Typical bear area, open area full of blueberries and surrounded by thick woods

Captured a picture of this guy on one of the trail cameras
You invariably come to a fork or intersection and must decide which way to go. When Barb and I faced these decisions in life the answer is easy, the road less traveled. These roads will no doubt lead you to more remote and more adventures. One cannot help but ask themselves the question; what is the history of this road? When was the last time someone traveled it? Will it ever become the road it once was? Answers I will never likely get but thought provoking nonetheless. 
An even lesser traveled road I venture out on each week looking for bears
I think most fulltime RV’ers have this same philosophy as they too are drawn to the road less traveled. Forgoing the safety and security of careers and homeownership for adventure and the unknown. It is on these roads that I think about what it took to get Barb and I to where we are today. All the forks, turns and crossroads. All the ups, downs, steps forward, steps backwards that led us to where our lives are right at this very moment. Homeless and living in a trailer….. We could not be happier!
No one had been on this road since I was on it last year
All those forks, all those decisions led us to where we are today. Unfathomable if you try and think about it. But here we are living out our dreams exploring the country. Thoughts like this often lead to the question; “Would you do it all over again?” “Do you have any regrets?” The quick answer is “yes” to both. We would do it again in a heartbeat and who does not go through life without making mistakes or having regrets. But thinking deeper yet, without those regrets or mistakes would we be where we are today?
This grouse posed long enough for me to take a couple of pictures. 
So where are we today? Well, for at least the next 10 days we will still be in Ontario fishing, exploring and enjoying what this countryside has to offer. The week started with fishing contest between Barb and me heated and contentious. She was leading with this 25” beauty where my largest was a mere 23”. This week that all changed, but who has the lead? You will have to read on to find out!
Barb with her 25"er
I spent almost two full days editing and putting together our annual fishing video. We had such a good day it was hard to whittle the 30 minutes of video to a level where people would actually watch it. I still have a couple hours of work to do so hopefully I can debut it next week. 
This week, with the “road less traveled” theme in mind we fished one of our favorite remote lakes. This is the same lake we filmed this short video on last year when I caught my biggest walleye of the year. So what better place to try and take over the lead in the Great Walleye Race of 2018! 
With Barb leading this race for 3 weeks and only 10 days left, I was getting desperate. In the back of my mind I kept recalling the 27” monster I caught out of this remote lake last year. Could I duplicate this heroic feat and take the lead?  Would we catch anything at all? Or worst of all, would it backfire on me and Barb takes a bigger lead?
Talking to Chad, he assured me that no one had been to the lake since Barb and I were there last year and it would probably take some effort to get in there. He was right…. 4 hours of cutting brush and clearing the trail of downed trees later we pulled up to the lake shore on a 4 wheeler with boat and trailer in tow. After launching the boat I headed right to the spot I caught my big one last year with revenge in mind. What are the odds of catching a monster walleye in the same spot? Small, I would guess, but I was desperate and had to give it a try. Since I had marked the spot on my GPS I knew exactly where to go and dropped a minnow over the side. 
Nothing, nothing at all…..we motored back and forth over the area covering the water just in case and then it happened…BAM, fish on! I knew it was big just by the way it was fighting and staying deep. As Barb watched me fight the fish I asked her to get the net ready as I thought it was a big one. When I finally got it to the top it was a big one but the wrong big one, it was a nice 35” northern.

Disappointed it was not a walleye but happy to catch such a nice fish I landed it, took a few pictures and slid it back into the water.

Next it was Barb’s turn as she pulled in a 23” walleye. Well at least the walleye are still here so maybe, just maybe there is hope. 
We each landed a couple of 24”-27” pike then...….. I hooked into another one that just stayed on the bottom and refused to come up! Run here, run there….. walleye or northern? I thought my last one was a walleye so I did not want to get my hopes up. Gradually I got it up near the surface so we could finally see what it was, a huge ‘eye’!!!! “Get the net!” I yelled. Barb promptly netted the fish and hauled it into the boat. We took a few pictures, measured it, slid it back into the water and I did the happy dance right there in the boat! Head bowed, with a defeated look on her face, Barb just smiled and said “Nice fish” With that I took the lead for the year by 2”s with the 27” walleye I caught within feet of where I caught one last year. My plan worked to a T!  

After that I told Barb I was not feeling well and needed to go home (not really but why give her a chance to best my 27?). Once home I started packing all the fishing equipment in the belly of the rig when Barb asked "What are you doing?" I reply "I've had enough fishing for the year, better luck next year Honey!"