Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hunting the Grocery Store in Iowa


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After great success at the Nebraska location, it was time to move to the Iowa location just a ten minute drive from my home.  This farm has it all.  Water to the west, woods and pasture in the center, corn to the south and more wood to the east.  This is turkey heaven, and 90% of the time there was great luck either for a tom or a big jake.  Meat is meat, and I will take whatever is available.  After all, wild game is the perfect food.

The first stop for the morning was a location south of the pasture and woods. I would hunt here if all else failed and there was no score.  This was a picked cornfield and the birds always hang out here after coming off the roost.  The location selected put me facing straight west.  With the timber and sun at my back, I would have a good hiding place.
There is the funky Chicken decoy waiting to sucker some big boy into a fight.
Click on the link below and check it out at Bass Pro.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

I was set up by 07:30 a.m. and everything was in order with two feeder hens along with the Funky Chicken decoy.  Having tried this experience twice, it was obvious the Funky Chicken decoy suckered in the boys.  Next year I am going to bring a camera along and get this experience on tape.  The big boys just can't handle having this guy hanging around.  They want to kick the living tar out of him.

When my wife and I had hiked through this area, there were always plenty of turkeys so there was a lot of confidence.  Settling in with some fallen timber around me and waiting 20 minutes to let the woods settle down, the hunt was on.  The birds began to sing and I could hear the squirrels running around.  Deer came out of the woods and never paid me a bit of attention. Cutting loose with a couple of yelps and some clucks and purrs on the call,  gave some big boy out there a message there was a willing hen waiting.
The two feeder hens were put out with Mr. Funky.  The manufacturer recommended this combination of three decoys. Funky Chicken along with two feeder hens was all you needed. 

Seven hens came out of the woods to the south of me doing what turkeys always do.  They scratched and pecked at the ground.  Passing withing 10 yards of me, they paid no attention that I was even there.  This was a good sign and gave me confidence that the hiding place was well concealed. The disappointment was in not seeing a tom or even a jake with this group of young ladies.  The question was asked, "Where are the boys with all these ladies hanging around?"

Sitting there till 11 a.m. produced nothing and I went home.  As I pulled into the driveway, my wife was out watering her flowers and came over immediately expecting to see a nice specimen of a turkey.  That was a disappointment. Now the plan was to go into the pasture north of me in the evening prior to the birds heading to the roost.

Winchester Long Beard XR Magnum Turkey Shotshells


Winchester Long Beard XR Magnum Turkey Shotshells
This is the shell I shoot.  I shoot 3.5 inch # 5 shot.  When shooting a really big bird you need all the power you can harness. Click on the link or the picture to buy from Bass Pro. 

Afternoon came and went, and I headed back over to the pasture that was north of the previous spot.  The birds historically had worked from the west to the fields, pastures and timber in the east of the farm.  The one concern was keeping track of the cattle in the pasture.  They always stayed pretty much together, but my wife and I take our blue grass cuttings weekly over to them.  This must be like cocaine to a cow because when they see the black truck they all come running.  This time the truck was parked close to the edge of the timber.  A couple looked up, but then went back to grazing.  I have had them follow me.

As I walked back to the east end of the pasture, a couple of jakes and a few hens were spotted, but nothing of any size.

The funky decoy and the two feeders were set up and I took a position against some timber on the opposite side of the electric fence surrounding the pasture. On site by 5 p.m., it was a beautiful evening.  After letting the woods settle down again and waiting until I could hear the sounds of the forest, everything was ready.  The call went into action with a couple of yelps, some clucks and purrs to let one of the boys know a woman was in the woods.
There he is, the Funky Chicken decoy attempting to sucker some unsuspecting turkey into a fight. 


This time a camo folding chair was brought along and there was plenty of fallen timber to huddle into to keep myself hidden.  There is nothing like comfort when you are hunting. If you read my book "How to Hunt Like a Gentleman" you will see, besides harvesting game, it is good to be comfortable.

I hid right behind the electric fence.  In years past, birds had traversed this area.  Not today. 


I waited until 7 p.m. as the sun was on the western horizon and gave it up.  It happens and you don't score all the time.  It is called hunting, not shooting.  I have had a good season with a nice tom and the thrill of watching the Funky Chicken Decoy in action.

The balance of the season in southwest Iowa was filled with rain and there was no opportunity to go again.  As of this writing, it is almost time to start fishing.

Sierra Trading Post

Good hunting, good fishing, Hank. 




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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hiroshima/Miyajima Island

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We were down to our last two days of the adventure to tour Japan and visit all the highlights. The city of Hiroshima was our next to our last stop in Japan. We spent two days exploring this reconstructed "City of Peace." Situated on the Ota River delta and close to Hiroshima Bay, Hiroshima has been an importing trading center and strategic military point since the late 16th century.  The Japanese military recognized the city's prime location and set up a logistics base that would last until 1945 - when our military dropped the first atomic bomb ever to be used during military action.  

The attack leveled Hiroshima, crippled Japan, and led the Japanese to surrender just six days later. The Japanese parliament later rebuilt the city from the ashes of its total devastation.  

After arriving from Kyoto by express train, we embarked on a half-day city tour that included Peace Memorial Park, home to several memorials dedicated to those that perished during the bombing.  We visited Peace Memorial Museum, displaying photos and belongings left behind by victims of the attack.  
"A-bomb Dome" amidst ruins of Hiroshima (the dome is now a World Heritage Site).
This picture was taken from a Department of Energy (Manhattan Project) website showing the devastation the bomb produced. Pictured below is the building over which the bomb exploded.  The framework is still standing. Source
(https://www.osti.gov/opennet/manhattan-project-history/Events/1945/hiroshima.htm)

Ground Zero.  Please note that the building is still somewhat standing and this was due to the dome at the top.  The bomb was an air burst at 1900 feet.  According to our guide the burst was centered over the dome which deflected the blast outward from the building.  That is why the building while is still somewhat standing and was not flattened. All the people inside were instantly killed. 
The building before the bomb was dropped. 


This bridge was the aiming point for the bombardier of the Enola Gay.  Of course the original bridge was totally destroyed, it has been re-built on the exact location of the original point.

This memorial is the Cenotaph It contains the names of all those who died in the bombing with an inscription which reads
"Rest in Peace. We will Never Repeat the Error."
"Children's Peace Monument"
It is dedicated to a child victim of the bomb.  The monument is symbolized by a crane meaning longevity and happiness. On top of the monument is a girl with outstretched hands who died from radiation.

Memorial mound contains the ashes of tens of thousands of people cremated on this spot. 
That evening dinner was on our own and we enjoyed  a dinner of okonomiyaki.  This is a dish of cabbage, noodles, and egg, fried with meat, cheese, and seafood for which is Hiroshima is renowned. 

Next day we traveled by local train to Miyajimaguchi.  There we boarded a ferry to Miyajima Island, a sacred location in the Shinto Religion.  For many centuries, it was illegal for anyone to inhabit this sacred ground. 

Legend has it that the first Shinto shrine was built here during the 6th century in honor of the goddess of the ocean, the daughter of the goddess who created Japan itself.  We toured the island and visited Itsukushima Shrine, built toward the end of the 12th century and renowned for its red gate.  This shrine stands on piers above the water in order for visitors to enter by boat without disturbing the land below.  

Itsukushima Shrine

We held up our camera and got to take a picture of this gentleman and his son.  The boy looked so precious. 
We just happened at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony with the bride and groom dressed in traditional Japanese dress. 

Prayer service 

Shrine and temple. 



We then took a gondola ride on the Mount Misen Ropeway.  At the summit you have a stunning 360-degree view of the island and Hiroshima.
My beautiful wife in the gondola car on the way to the summit.



That is me riding the gondola car to the summit.


This is one of the most phenomenal trip we have ever taken.  From the food to the scenery and deep history we cannot say enough nice things about Japan based on what we saw and experienced. 

When I get back it will time to go duck hunting.  Based on the reports I have had from my good friend in the blind, John, things have really stunk. Who cares, after this experience.



 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Insider' Japan Part 2

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On day 5 we traveled by motor coach to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, home to one of the most photographed sights in Japan, if not the world: almost perfectly symmetrical Mt. Fuji , standing regally at 12,388 feet high in the park's midst. 
Before we got on the bus, this is a good picture of downtown Tokyo
 
Tower in downtown Tokyo  taken from our hotel room.
Before reaching Mt. Fuji, we took a leisurely boat ride on Ashi Lake, an absolutely beautiful park where we took in the scenes of the whole park.  Unfortunately, the weather was quite overcast and we did not get any distant views of Mt. Fuji.
Boat for a tour of Lake Ashi


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

Mt Fuji.  We were lucky to get that picture as the clouds kept obscuring the mountain.
A dormant volcano Fuji-san as it is known to the Japanese, last erupted in 1707 and the resulting ash reached all the way to Tokyo where it actually covered buildings.  The mountain's majesty is breath taking, as writers and artists have attested for centuries.

Leaving the park we continued on to the town of Hakone and our traditional ryokan lodgings for the night - and a special night it was indeed. Upon arrival at our intimate inn, we were shown to our Japanese-style room, where we removed our shoes before entering.  Then there was the opportunity to dress in traditional Japanese clothing before dinner.  But first for those willing, we had the opportunity to bathe in a traditional Japanese bath, men and women in separate facilities.  Dinner was again outstanding and we savored a traditional tea followed by dinner featuring dishes using fresh local ingredients.  Going to bed for us was quite unusual.  We slept peacefully on a futon in a room of serene minimalist design.  It looked like a mattress on the floor, but it was firm and very comfortable and we both slept great.
Our room at the traditional Japanese hotel.  Very austere compared to our way of living. The Futon was wonderful to sleep on.
The next day was the start of an exciting experience.  We traveled via bullet train, and Wide View Hida express to the Hida Mountain of Takayama.  The town is considered one of Japan's most attractive settings with its 16th century castle, a beautifully preserved Old Town and historic buildings dating to the Edo period of 1600 to 1868.  Before we could leave, it was recommended by our guide to buy a bento box lunch, a food box packed with Japanese specialties which was very enticing to our eyes and taste buds.  Now this is very interesting, the train stations all had fast food and restaurants located through out the main part of the station.  It was not a problem to stock up on some Japanese goodies. 

The bullet train.  This is the way to travel at over 200 mph and really smooth.

Pam and I on the Bullet train.
Mt Fuji as seen from the bullet train.

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

Our explorations in Takayama centered on three narrow streets in the San-machi-suji district, where in feudal times, wealthy merchants lived amidst the authentically preserved small inns, tea houses, peaceful temples, and sake breweries some of which have operated for centuries.  During our tour we enjoyed a sake tasting at a sake brewery.  It was outstanding and we learned the process of making sake.  I also learned that sake could be drunk cold or hot.  I preferred hot sake, and the owners of the brewery were very generous.  The ladies on the tour visited some of the region's unique lacquer ware and carvings of yew wood.  The men of the trip sat on a bench outside the sake brewery to allow their eyes to come into focus.
Narrow Streets of Takayama
Dinner as displayed outside a Japanese restaurant. 800 yen = roughly $8.00.
Sake brewery displaying their wares.
Our guide on the right and the brewery owner on the left giving instruction on how to make Sake.
Rice barrels for sake outside the brewery.
That evening we again had an outstanding Japanese style meal.  It was  excellent, and I was starting to go native.

Next morning we visited Takayama's centuries old Miyagawa Morning Market, where stalls selling everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers to pickles, crafts, and fish, line the streets leading to the river.  We could have spent more time in Takayama as up to this point it was our favorite stop.  We both thought it was because it was untouched by the war and was a typical example of old Japan.
The market had every type of fresh vegetables they have in Japan.
The we departed for Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Villages, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprised of thatched-roof homes relocated from villages that were razed for the construction of a dam.  In addition to its status as a World Heritage site, the village also is a vibrant community whose residents work together to preserve the Grassho-sytle architectural style unique to this region: wooden houses with steep thatched roofs made to withstand heavy snow.
Thatched covered home.  People still live in this village
Lunch.  Don't ask because I had no idea, but it was excellent.  I have gained a taste for the cuisine.
The village.
We continued on to the Miboro Dam, Japan's first and largest dam built with "rock-fill technology" using only stones and clay.  We traveled on to reach Kanazawa, alluring city that survived the ravages of World War II because of its out of the way location between the mountains and the Sea of Japan.  Though somewhat off the beaten tourist path, Kanazawa is prized among Japanese as the country's best-preserved Edo-period city along with Takayama.


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

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

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

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

Pam's reward was a gold speckled ice cream cone.

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

First we see Kyoto National Museum, which comprises three exhibition halls displaying ancient Asian art, texts and scrolls.  Then we visit the Unrakugama Pottery, a family-owned pottery house producing fine handmade ceramics and earthenware.
Master Potter
We began our tour of Kyoto at the 16th century Ryoan-ji Temple where we saw the dry garden of sand and rocks (kare-sansui), a marvel of classic Japanese design.  The simplicity of its 15 rocks belies a complex symbolism which its designer never revealed - but whatever the meaning, we're sure to feel the calm that the garden is meant to instill.  Our next stop was Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion constructed in the 14th century as a retirement villa and later converted to a temple.
Rock Temple

The Temple is covered in gold leaf from Kanazawa all the way up to the upper floors.  Its setting on pillars suspended over the water makes it one of Kyoto's most inspired - and inspiring - sights.  Then we visited the 17th century Nijo-jo, the medieval castle of the first Tokugawa Shogun, containing "nightingale" floors that squeak to signal the presence of intruders.
Temple is covered in gold leaf.
We ended the day at the Kodaiji Temple to attend a tea ceremony.  Botha a state of mind (calm and content) and performance art prizing ritual and grace above all, the traditional tea ceremony to this day represents the principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility encouraged by Master Sen no Rikyu, who perfected the ritual Zen practice when tea first was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century.
Our guide Kondo-son explaining the ceremony to the group. 

Preparing the tea
Gigantic Buda

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

Young ladies dressed in native attire. 

Fish Market

We were moving all day long and I have left out a number of temples we visited.  At one particular temple there a ceremony that had just ended and we saw this couple with their little girl walking toward us.  We smiled, bowed, and held up our camera.  They stopped and motioned for us to take a picture. 

What a beautiful couple with their little girl.  She was so precious and we were very pleased that they let us take a picture of their family. Of all the pictures, this is our favorite.

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

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank


 

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