Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Tradition

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After 17 years of hunting ducks and geese north of Tekamah, it was time for me to find another spot or quit hunting ducks altogether.  Giving up something that you have done since you were a boy is not an easy bridge to cross.  Besides the hunting experience, I grew up during the season dining on freshly shot Mallard ducks.  It's tradition.

Fortunately for me, my wife is from western Nebraska and her father and grandfather also hunted ducks and geese on the Panhandle of the state and the Platte Rivers that flowed just north of the farm where she was raised.  This is a blessing for me since dining on freshly killed game was also a tradition in her family.  For her, hunting is a family tradition.
Here they come
The owner of the ground where the hunting club was located had been an avid duck hunter since he was a boy.  He grew up hunting in one of the premier duck and goose commercial spots near Tekamah.  He ran a great club and the swamp that was created by him was just one half mile from the Missouri River.  Migration traffic could not have been better.

Our clubs leader now deceased.  He is missed. 

This was gentleman hunting at its finest.  Sunken pits with heat and comfortable seating was available.  The best part of hunting there was the dogs.  Several of the club members had outstanding dogs and we never lost a cripple.  The really nice part of watching the dogs work was a hunter never had to get out of the blinds.  Forty acres of open water was supplied by a pump that was controlled from inside one of the blinds.  By turning on a bubbler during the coldest of weather, we would always have open water.  As I write this today, it seems like all the tradition I have enjoyed and known throughout my life is slipping away.  Buy my book from Amazon or Lulu and read about  "How to Hunt Like a Gentleman."
My good friend John
The club was managed on a professional basis and only one person would call the shot.  Everyone obeyed the owner's rule which was safety first and we will all have a good experience.  I never dreamed that this might all come for an end and I would lose a good friend who sat next to me in the blind many times.  Two years ago he died of cancer.
A good day for Mallards. 
The club was managed last year by one of the members who lived in Tekamah.  Everyone held deep respect for him.  The shooting last season was terrible.  Pam and I were in Japan on our yearly tour and I was able to text a close friend in the club who kept me informed.  Getting back during the middle of November, I had it all planned.  However, the weather was so nice the birds never left the Dakotas and when they did it was all over.  Last year I went fewer times than I had ever done in the years I was a member of the club.
Junior bringing in a really nice big goose. 


A new arrangement was made by the family with some of the members, but I and several of the long standing club members just felt that the loss of a good friend and fellow hunter brought everything to an end for several of us.  

So having said that, a few of the old guard and myself decided to look around at hunting at one of the commercial sites in Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.  Turning to the internet, the search was on.

The ducks all come over South Dakota on their way south to Tekamah and so a check was made of spots on the flyway south.

The first state that was looked at was South Dakota which is a fisherman and hunters' paradise.  The state has it all from fishing the Missouri River System to hunting for big and small game.  The eastern part of the state is known as the "Prairie Pothole Region."  This area was scarred by the glaciers and has created lakes and pothole all over the area and is a major destination on the flyway south. It also is a major breeding ground for various types of waterfowl.  Because I fish the Glacial Lakes Region, I am familiar with this country.


Licensing for me was a problem.  The state is divided into four zones and you pick the zone you want to hunt in and then apply for a license.  There were a lot of lodges, but this just seemed too weather dependent for me and my friends.  One of the many spots also featured pheasant hunting.  South Dakota has outstanding pheasants.  All the outfitters were guided and all showed excellent results from previous hunts.  There were fully equipped lodges to the hunting spot only and you supplied your own food and lodging.


Next, I took a look at Missouri.  I found a few places south of me along the Missouri River.  One lodge provided outstanding services from a first class lodge, meals, and everything supplied.  You would bring your gun, clothing, and ammunition.  It was over my budget as I also hunted elk in the fall in Idaho and had an outstanding experience.


Since my wife is from Sidney, Nebraska, we have traveled I-80 across the state many times a year and especially in the fall.  We have always noticed the large flocks of ducks and geese west of Kearney, Nebraska to the state line.  There is a definite weather shift as you go west due to the increase of the altitude change.  The air gets dryer and seems to be more like Denver weather.  Snow will not necessarily hang around a long time.  Also, there has been a shift in farming practices along the Platte River bottom lands.  The crops previously planted were primarily winter wheat, but now has shifted to corn, beans, and wheat.  Corn is candy to ducks and geese.


Checking out some hunting spots along the Platte River, I found some people at Paxton, Nebraska that operated blinds along the Platte River.  I am very familiar with that area as a close college friend of mine has farms south of Paxton.  When my wife and I drive out to Sidney, we stop and have lunch or dinner with them.  Therefore, my first call was to Ed to find out about the owners.  He came back with really good recommendations.  

Central Nebraska Outfitters (http://www.centralnebraskaoutfitters.com/) was the outfitter we decided to work with.  After contacting Jim Martinosky the owner, I liked what I heard and then contacted a couple of club members that I had hunted with over the years to see if they would go with me.  One could make it and the decision was made.  There is no lodging, but Paxton has a Days Inn and we get a special rate for hunting with Jim.  The motel has a room for cleaning birds and if we do not want to do that, they have people in town that will clean them for us at a reasonable fee per bird.  The motel also has tags and freezer facilities for us to store game until we leave.  This is gentleman hunting and for me that is tradition.
Bringing in another duck.  Gone are the days. 

Food is on our own also, but with a big breakfast and dinner, all we both need is a snack around noon.  There are restaurants in Paxton that open up early. I know about the restaurants since I have eaten in Paxton many times.   After all, this is a farming community and people are up early to get the work done or just sit and talk about work and weather in the local cafes.

Jim recommended we plan on hunting ducks Mid-December as the birds migrate out of the sand hill lakes and pot holes around that time and head to the Platte River and the surrounding fields for food and water.  The plan is to hunt the river bottom in the morning and move to the fields in the afternoon.  It looks like we will be hunting all day, and it can't get any better than that.

I have always experienced the best duck hunting when it was really cold in late November and early December.  On December 11th, we will be heading to Paxton, Nebraska for three days of what we hope will be some fine gentleman hunting for Mallard ducks.


AIRSFT-1_300x250

Good Hunting, good Fishing, and good Luck.  Hank





























Sunday, October 29, 2017

What to Do After the Hunt

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This was amazing.  The elk was harvested in the first hour of the first day and after it was gutted, skinned and taken to the processor, we had nothing to do.  Our guide said to Pam and I, " What do you people want to do as I am yours for the next several days?"


We had to wait for rigor to set into the animal and then have it processed.  That would take a day and a half and we would pick up the processed elk on the third day from Matt's Meats in St. Anthony, Idaho.  I previously discussed how strongly we felt about the people and the procedures at Matt's.  This business is outstanding and the people are right there ready to help you and make sure you are satisfied with their work.

With the west entrance of Yellowstone only 60 miles away, we decided to take a drive up to the park and look around, grab lunch and then be back in time for dinner.  My first trip to the park was 52 years ago when I was a boy.  Most of the roads were single lane, and the animals were thick.  Bear, elk, buffalo, and moose were right along the side of the roads.  Signs were posted not to feed the bear, and they would go right up to your car and look for a handout.  As I remember they were all black bear and we never saw a grizzly.

My next visit was 35 years ago with my wife and son. My, how things had changed in such a short period of time.  Animals, it seemed, had all but disappeared, although we saw some buffalo at an extreme distance and a few cow elk.  There were two lane roads everywhere and we had to stand in line to get up to see anything.

Since it was late September we assumed there would be no crowds and we both could look around, have lunch, and be back in time for dinner.  Wow, this was not what happened.  The park was packed with people and at times we were stopped in traffic.  Later as we crept along there was a cow elk standing across a stream by the road, and people were stopping their cars to take pictures.  Both lanes were stopped and shortly came the park service with lights on and got the traffic moving.  After having just shot a beautiful bull elk, a solitary cow was of no interest.  Anyway, we had both seen plenty of cow elk.  Show us a giant bull and we both would get excited.

She is over there if you look real hard

Next the traffic came to a mere crawl.  Lo and behold, there was a really nice bull buffalo by the side of the road munching on some grass.  What was more interesting was there was a woman who had moved to at least within 15 feet of the animal and was taking pictures.  Other people were gathering around and we wanted out of there as quickly as possible.  They must be used to the people because I have hunted buffalo and you do not get close.
I was amazed how close people would get to these animals. 

In South Dakota when I shot a really nice bull several years ago, we stayed out 1000 yards while we stalked him to get into a downwind position.  There were three of us in the procession.  The three of us walked in single file until we were within 300 yards of the beast.  At that point the outfitter said, "You have to take him from here as we will go no closer because he may come over and stomp the living daylights out of us."  That was my longest shot.  One thing to keep in mind; it is like shooting at a billboard.

Anyway, those people messing around that animal put their lives at risk as buffalo are not a cuddly animal and especially a big bull who may decide he has had enough of being bothered.  We were out of there in short order.

Old Faithful Inn had really changed and Pam and I recognized nothing.  We did make our way to a bench to watch the eruption of Old Faithful.  Right on time it spewed hot water.  That was a little surprising too.  Maybe there is a reader out there who has seen the eruption lately.  This one was nothing like I remember as  boy and a young man with my family.  It could not have gotten over 50 feet high and there was just a spewing noise.
I have seen better eruptions in my younger years. 

When Pam and I had visited the park years ago, the thing really spewed skyward and made a lot of noise.  Maybe this was just a weak episode and it still does its magnificent thing, but we were disappointed.  After a quick lunch and with all the people, we decided to head back to the ranch, take a nap and wait for dinner.

Back at the ranch we ran into our guide and we discussed our experience at the park.  He said he had not been there in decades as it was just too crowded.  There were some hunters at the ranch that were hunting cows, or I should say shooting cows because the ranch has an over abundance of them.  One of the hunters had crippled a cow with a gut shot and the animal could not be found.  We were invited to come along and see if we could find where she had gone to lie down and die.

At the general area we started walking among some of the tallest sage brush plants I have ever seen.  In some places they were like small scrub trees and were taller than Pam.  The area was crisscrossed with various game trails and the cow could have taken any one of them and curled up under a sage brush plant to die.

Our guide and a guide from the group sent us off in a direction they thought the animal might have taken off to lie down.  Pam and I would spread out about 15 yards apart and move forward looking under all the plants we could see.  After going about 100 yards, we would make a sweeping circle back to the original starting point.  We found nothing and not even a fresh track.  There was no blood trail since the animal was gut shot and the group would just have to find it.  It wasn't meant to be and the animal was never found even though there was plenty of effort.  The critters of the plains need to eat too.

Back at the ranch it was getting close to evening and our guide wanted to drive around the ranch and look for big giant bulls.  We found them and it was truly amazing how beautiful some these animals were and the development of their antlers was truly amazing.




These three bulls are truly magnificent, and if you are looking to kill a really big animal this is the place to come.  Pam said, "I bet those are really tough.  The young ones eat better and for us that is what it is all about."  I cannot disagree with that statement. 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


Orvis

Elk Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • your favorite spaghetti sauce
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk. Add bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic powder; mix well. Add ground meat and knead with your hands until well blended. Form into meatballs about the size of golf balls. Brown the meatballs on all sides then put them in a pan of spaghetti sauce and simmer, covered, for an hour or more.  We like to cook them all day in a crock pot with plenty of sauce.  A good Merlot will finish off the meal.  Serve with pasta.











Sunday, October 15, 2017

Successful Idaho Elk Hunt

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It was time to head west.  My wife, Pam, and I loaded up the truck and headed to Idaho on September 23rd for the Elk hunt at Juniper Mountain Ranch near St. Anthony, Idaho.  After twelve hours of driving we checked into the Comfort Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  We did not even take a map, but fed the addresses of the places we were going into the navigation unit in the truck.  After that we just let the nice lady in the dash direct us on the way.  The truck is equipped with a navigation unit from the factory.  We all know what it is like to have one in your vehicle.  

Next morning the nice lady in the dash (navigation unit) headed us toward Jackson, Wyoming and across Teton Mountain Pass.  Now this is a thrilling experience for a flat lander from Iowa.  There is nothing to going up, but coming down the other side is frightening for people like us.  I had the truck all geared down and was still pumping the brakes periodically.  Looking in the rear view mirror the traffic behind me looked like it was backed up all the way to Jackson.  

When we got to a place where we could pull over, the locals went around me waving with one finger.  This must be a sign of "hello" and "thank you", common in the state of Wyoming.  Wow, these people really drive fast down that mountain pass and we saw a lot of tail lights flash on as they rounded the curves ahead of us till they were gone.  I believe a person who wants to start a business in the area should consider brake repair and replacement. 

Once to the bottom we were in Idaho and headed north to Driggs and Tetonia. Then we went west and north up the road the lady in the dash told us to take.  I am familiar with this area as I have hunted with Bob Barlow of Barlow Outfitting for elk and bear. Now here is where it gets interesting.  We were on the right road to the ranch, but the navigation unit took us to someone's very large home and the lady in the dash said we had arrived and navigation was discontinued.  What is a mother to do. 

I rang the bell and a very nice person came to the door and told us we were heading the right way and the landmarks to look for.  Shortly after that we arrived at the ranch.  In this case the navigation unit was wrong and took us short of our destination.  We later found out UPS was having trouble delivering packages to the ranch.  



Here is our home for the next few days and we were met by the ranch dog Jackson.  A chocolate lab 10 years old and we had a lot in common with Jackson.  He has arthritis due to age and so do I.

Here is Jackson.  Living a dog's life soaking up some sun and taking it easy and waiting for his next meal or someone to come along and scratch him here and there.

Next we were met at the door by the ranch manager, Mike Smith, who welcomed us to the ranch and took us to our room where we could deposit our gear.  The room was really nice and as advertised it had a full bath and was big and comfortable.  Next we enjoyed the main room in the lodge, met the other hunters that would be staying there and most important, two really nice ladies that prepared all the meals.  The food was outstanding and there were three big meals a day.  Pam and I do not eat like that anymore.  When we were younger we could have packed it all away but now it just packs around our midsection. 


Good view of the main living area.  Dining area is behind me. 

The main area was full of some of the finest mounts I have ever seen. 

Now that everyone was here, we went out and shot our firearms and sighted in the rifles.  This is a great idea to make sure your shots are where you want to put them when looking through the scope. After that it was dinner.  Everything was then explained on how things would work.  We were assigned our guides.  Breakfast was at 06:30 and we would leave the lodge at 07:30 to hunt.  

The hunting area was similar to my trip to Colorado near Craig several years ago.  Wide open with a lot of sage brush covering the country side.  We went out in a 4WD pick up and headed up a narrow road to try and spot some elk.  The terrain was not what it seemed to be as we looked at it from a distance.  It was way more rugged than it looked.  The process was to move along slowly and look at the sage brush.  The elk will lie down in the morning on the side of the hill in the sun and all you will see is the horns sticking up.  

This is typical and the sage brush will be up and over your knee and to the waist in some areas. 

 It is wide open country. 



Everywhere you look you have the beauty of the open country and the clear blue sky.  The photo does not capture how blue the sky was.  In Iowa we don't have that type of scenery. 

We kept creeping along the narrow road and stopped periodically to glass the country side.  When all at once not more than 20 yards and up along the side of the road a really nice elk jumped up and took off.  He did not go more than 30 yards.  I looked him over and his antlers had great symmetry and he looked really beefy.  He had a good looking rear end and generally a good looking meaty body.  

I said, "I like him."  The guide said take him if you want to, but we have not really looked over the herd.  The discussion at our orientation was make sure the bull you select is the one you really have fallen in love with as there are a lot of choices.  You pay by how the animal is scored. Pam and I were not looking for a trophy animal and we do not have any shoulder mounts.  All the elk harvested have been for meat with a good looking rack and are European mounts. I shot one trophy and he was tougher than an old boot.  I was told by Mike Branson with Wind River Outfitters to shoot a young bull with a nice rack because you will have the best eating. 

The symmetry of the antlers and the fact he was so good looking just convinced me that this was the bull for us.  I asked Pam how she felt about harvesting him and the response was, "This is the one for us." I would look no further.  My guide asked several times, "Are you sure you want this bull?" He finally said he could not find a thing wrong with him and he had worked at the ranch for over ten years. 

The wind was dead calm.  The sun was right in his face so he could not wind us and I believe he was having a hard time seeing us.  I could hardly look into the sun.  We are at 4,800 feet and it is considerably brighter here than back home.  

The animal kept moving ahead of us.  When we got to within 30 yards of him he stopped and stared.  Our guide said to take him if he is the one you want.  We stopped and I got out of the truck as quickly as possible and without using shooting sticks, I laid my elbow where the mirror protruded from the truck and brought him into view with the scope.  He immediately turned and walked 10 more yards and turned and looked at us.  He did not run.  After I pulled my sight into the sweet spot, he turned again and stuck his backside at us.  I thought he would trot off.   The guide made some noise that I cannot describe and he turned to the left and was somewhat broadside and stopped.  I did not put a range finder on him as I was going to take a shot the first chance I felt would bring him down.  I felt he was now out about 75 yards.  As I pulled right behind the left shoulder he turned again but it was too late to stop the round as it was on it's way to the elk.  

The round went in right behind the rib cage at about a 30 degree angle so it would travel through the vital areas.  He took three steps and went down.  We slowly walked up to him to make sure he had expired and he was dead.  

Pam came up and examined him and said what a beautiful boy he was and look at all the fine looking meat on him.  

Look at the symmetry in the antlers. 



Look at the nice big body on the young boy. 


Pam really liked this elk and there is nothing better than having your wife go with you providing you have really nice facilities.  


Our guide John who did an outstanding job for us.  He would not let me help him gut the boy out and when we got back to the ranch, he did everything by himself.  Outstanding preparation and when you get this type of service you feel good about the tip. 


There he is all hung up and waiting for the skinning and head removal.  Once skinned and the head removed, the ranch quartered him and took him to one of the finest processors in St. Anthony I have ever experienced.  We asked for half pound packages of the burger and the steaks packaged for two people.  We did not take any roasts, but had it all ground to burger.  We eat a lot of burger as it is easy and quick to fix and our friends like the burger best.  We do not share the tenderloin as we eat them ourselves.  How is that for being selfish?  

Matt's Meats in St. Anthony, Idaho did an outstanding job for us.  We got all the meat home, and it was hard as nails.  No loss at all due to thawing.  They did everything just the way we wanted, and I cannot say enough nice things about this business.  These people really know how to take care of you.

Every once in a while you have a really great and memorable experience, and this was one of them.  I cannot find one thing wrong.  We were both pleased with the whole adventure.

Sierra Trading Post

Good Hunting, Good Fishing, and Good Luck, Hank
text

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Planning Another Elk Hunt

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How to Hunt Like a Gentleman

January came and it immediately brought to mind the need to apply for my elk tags in Wyoming and possibly New Mexico.

A nice looking 6 x 6, but I would satisfied with something smaller.  We want tender meat. 

The New Mexico hunt sounded really fantastic as it was highly recommended by a friend in our duck hunting club.  He had great success there although he had some trouble with the altitude.  We are both the same age and I would guess about the same shape.  It met all my requirements of a comfortable lodge, three squares a day, and for a few extra dollars I could hunt one on one with the guide.  I have shared a guide on hunts before with a stranger.  It worked okay, but you have to work at it. If you can have your own for a few extra bucks it is money well spent.

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I looked up Moon Valley Outfitters on the Internet and they have a great website that explains who they are and what they are about.  I called down and got pricing and visited with the owner.  He wanted to know where I had hunted and what my physical capabilities were and what my expectations were. He also asked me about distances shot and harvested in the past.  I never tell an outfitter more than I am capable of and it is best to down play what you can do.  Harvesting an animal that is representative of the area is what I expect and hope to harvest.  A trophy is great, but I never plan on it or plan on looking for a trophy.  Meat is the goal as there are mouths to feed, and big old elk are tough. (http://www.moonvalleyoutfitters.com/)

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The lodge is in a hard days driving from Omaha, and while I would spend a night on the road going down, I would drive it non stop on the way back.  Hopefully, de-boned meat would be in my coolers. 
New Mexico is a draw state and the outfitter takes care of the application process for you.  All that is required is to give them a credit-card number and you get a copy of the application.

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Too many great buys to list, Shop Now. 

I then called my good friend Bob Barlow with Barlow Outfitters.  He was booked up with deer hunters but gave me a recommendation on a private ranch high in the Tetons near Jackson Hole.  I would be hunting with the outfitter as he limits how many people he can take and per Bob, this is gentleman hunting.  That got me interested.


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There is no lodging and I would have to stay in Jackson and drive up into the mountains daily and hunt.  Food would be on my own and I was unsure about meat preparation.  The price was a little high compared to New Mexico and I would have to buy the General Tag and not draw as I still do not have enough points to draw and especially for this area.


                              Orvis  Field Collection Reversible Hammock Seat Protector / X-large, , X Large

Bob's recommendation was really all it took, but my goal would have been to hunt with him.  I have never had so much fun with a person on a hunt as I have with Bob Barlow.  He is really patient with me and I enjoy his company his hunting experience and knowledge.  I decided to look at fresh country and apply for the license in New Mexico.

In March the bad news came in.  I did not draw in New Mexico and talking with the outfitter, he said if I would have been using a muzzle loader, I might have had a better chance for the area.   I like my Winchester 300 win mag, and while I have a muzzle loader, the 300 is my choice of rifles except for white tail deer in Iowa.


It looked like an elk hunt might be out of the question this fall as my goal was to hunt where I had never been before.  In my book "How to Hunt Like a Gentleman" there is a list of locations I have been and some more than once.  The book is available on Amazon and through Lulu.

While the wind  and the snow were blowing around one March evening, I started playing with the Internet.  Low and behold while searching in Colorado, here came a spot in Idaho.  Wow, for some reason their website popped up on a Colorado search.

Juniper Mountain Ranch near Terreton, Idaho is a private ranch the promotes elk hunting. (http://www.junipermountain.net/)The elk are resident elk although they do add to the herd.  No license is required as the hunt is on private property so you avoid the problem of drawing and hunting in National Forrest Service ground where your odds are 20% success rate.  I am interested in meat, but more importantly, results.  Calling them on the phone and visiting about the ranch met my requirements. What is really important for me is my wife will get to accompany me on the trip.  Whether she will go on the actual hunt is up to her.

The Juniper Mountain Ranch is basically a sheep ranch, so the country is wide open and shooting through timber will not be a problem, although it is a challenge.  Wide open country will mean longer shots, I believe, so practice for me is a necessity and I must get the rifle sighted in.  They recommend sighting when you first get there. Meals, fully guided, and a private bath in your room meets my maximum requirements.  There is the opportunity to have the meat processed, and a call was made to the processor.  There is a requirement on this item for us.  We like to have the burger mixed with 15% pork fat ground fine and made into half pound packages.  We use a processor in Minden, Iowa that does things just the way we want it and although we pay extra for this service, it is worth it. There are only two of us and a half pound package makes two burgers. Friends that we give meat to also are empty nesters.  When you get older, your ability to eat a two pound steak disappears.

After a couple of phone calls and visiting with the owner, the decision was made to head to Idaho the last of September.  We will look at some fresh country and have a new experience to write about, I hope.

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank