I'd never been turkey hunting, but they seemed to be everywhere around my house all winter. So I ponied up the dough and bought an over-the-counter permit just too see them disappear before the season started. My brother Weston also got a tag so we headed to where we hunt deer and elk each year to see if this turkey hunting was for us. My Dad was in need of getting out, so he came and picked me and the boys up on a Friday afternoon with plans to meet up with Weston and his family later.
Access to where the turkeys like to hang out in the Fall was limited by the Spring snow that met us surprisingly low on the hill. The good news was that there weren't many people out and about, but the bad news was that it didn't seem like there were many turkeys around either. We met up with Weston to set up camp and discuss our plans for the next morning, without any leads our first morning hunt was more about scouting out some flocks rather than really getting after them.
I was surprised that Weston's plan involved riding in a separate truck with his wife and daughters while Dad, me, and my boys were in another. I guess that should've been obvious, but I couldn't see how we were going to have much success in a makeshift convoy. The snow had continued to melt through the night so we were able to get further up the hill than the night before, though it helped that Dad was pretty bold pushing his truck through more snow than he probably should have. Early morning a coyote was spotted a couple times, but no turkeys.
Mid-morning, just about the time we started thinking about turning around and re-evaluating our approach, Weston spotted a group of turkeys just off the side of the road. Not knowing what else to do, we went straight at them. Got to about 40 yards from the tom but wasn't sure about the shot (should've spent some time patterning my shotgun before the hunt...). When they headed down the ridge Wes and I tried to get out in front of them, but we only saw a lone hen after that. Other than a giant herd of cow elk, the rest of the morning was uneventful and left us feeling like we'd blown our opportunity.
After lunch and a nap we tried the low lands, hoping to see some birds in one of the fields and trying to intercept them as they moved to roost later, but all we saw were deer. Hundreds and hundreds of deer. As evening came on for real we headed up the hill and split up with Weston. The road that had been snow covered just the evening before was dry and we got to a good vantage point overlooking a draw that seemed to always have turkeys at other times of the year. I sat out and made some calls as the sun made its way below the horizon. As I walked the hill back up to the truck my Dad met me half way and said that he'd heard a gobble just down the ridge. The tom called back when I hit the box call, but too late to make a move. So we made a plan for the next morning. Weston wasn't too impressed with our idea when we got back to camp, but the millions of midges (about a size 10, really big) from the nearby lake may have put a damper on his enthusiasm. The bugs were everywhere driving his Wife and daughters crazy. I couldn't help but think about the evening rise that I had missed, but that's why I can't bring fishing gear on a hunting trip - way too distracting.
Weston said he wasn't interested in the morning plan, so we headed up the hill without him. Gobblers were sounding off from the other side of the steep draw and responding to our call which got me excited. I didn't think Dad would share my enthusiasm, but to my surprise he was up for the hike and we headed down the hill. The gobbles always seem to be a little further up the canyon as we would setup, call, hear them further on and move up to repeat the cycle. Probably should've had a bit more patience, but I just didn't seem to have it in me. At 9:00 the gobbles shut off completely, was it something I said?
Back to the truck for another ride, this time not having to push through snow we were able to drive to some of our regular haunts. Right when we were thinking all was lost a tom and hen crossed the road in front of us! Not sure where they slipped off to after that, but it was nice to have hope restored as our time started to run thin. Seems like turkeys like the roads up there as I spotted another one that crossed in front of us. I bailed out of the truck and found an angle that I could've gotten a shot from at 15 yards if it wouldn't have been a hen!
Since "road hunting" was turning up a few birds we decided to take one more road before heading for home. Another spotted turkey, another shot presented, but it was another hen!
Hope you're as lucky,
The day after Atley and I found the elk dead-head (read about that Here) the itch to catch some fish was working on me. So I headed South to not only seek out some fin, but also get back to some mountain lakes which I've been missing badly. Anyone who has ventured up a mountain with a fishing rod in hand knows the best things happen when you're up high.
It was to be a solo trip, Del offered to go with if we slept in and went somewhere close to home. Atley couldn't fight his way out from between his sheets, and Caden didn't even flinch when I tried to wake him in the morning. While en-route I called my Dad who I thought would be working just to find out he wasn't, and probably would've gone if I'd thought to invite him earlier. Time out fishing with my Dad doesn't seem to happen nearly as often as I'd like, so I was still kicking myself for missing that opportunity as I passed the first lake.
My first stop was a small lake where Atley, Caden and I caught some nice tiger trout on a previous trip (See the video Here). That trip the fish were willing to come to a slowly worked bugger, so that's where I started even though I knew that rarely does it happen the same way twice. I worked the fly in close to the bank, then out into deeper water, trying to figure out what it would take today. After fishing all the easily accessible shoreline I decided to put my float tube on the small lake to better unravel some of it's mysteries. The float tube was a gift from Del and the boys for Father's Day....last year. The house building project had distracted me from taking it out, but I plan on breaking it in - thoroughly - this Summer. I figured this would be a great trip to start with and I was pretty excited as I pumped it up. It was once the boat was ready that I reached for my waders, only to find that I had forgotten them.
The deflating boat seemed to succinctly describe my mood as I returned it to the backseat of my truck. There will be other trips, most likely in the near future, but I was disappointed with the loss of an advantage I obviously needed. Instead of giving up I changed flies to a Tri-Colored Nymph (see how to tie the fly Here) and started working some of the harder to reach shoreline. Just when I was sure this approach wasn't going to work either, I missed a small fish that struck only a few feet from where I stood. He looked at the follow-up cast but only to memorize what had bit him, in order to never try and eat one again (I assume).
A cast to the deeper water required a creative roll cast (or two) but I got it out there and let it sink to a ten count. Once the fly came into view at the water color change a nice tiger appeared out of the void beneath a log and took the fly like it hated it. The fish fought like it was still hating the fly but I got it in the net after a few nice runs complete with a memorable tail-walk before sliding across the bow of my net.
I worked that fly around the rest of the lake, but when it turned up only a couple of half-hearted strikes I decided it was time to move onto lake #2. This lake has been kind to me in the past, providing fast action for little cutts and tigers with a few notable exceptions. One of those "exceptions" was one of the best splake I've ever caught, both in terms of size and color (read about that trip Here).
Rising fish were waiting for me after my short hike, so I put on a family favorite Barber-Pole fly and started catching fish right away. Beautiful tiger trout that seemed to be a little bigger, and a little healthier, that the last time I was here. The fish seemed ridiculously eager to take my fly and it seemed like I caught or saw a fish on every other cast. I took pictures of some, but only the most impressive by size or color got the photo opp. Fishing slowed as the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. Fish were still rising, so it took me a few minutes to realize something had changed.
The rises were much more aggressive now, but more infrequent. So I thought maybe they were taking water boatman flies and I changed my rid to a dry dropper set-up. I like the dry-dropper in this situation because I can let the bottom fly (a Copper John because I didn't have any water boatmen in my box) sink and if that doesn't get a strike I'll retrieve in short strips which brings the nymph close to the surface and then I can pause again and let my bottom fly sink back down while keeping tabs on it to detect a strike. At least, that's what it looks like in my mind and as far as I can tell from shallow water tests. No one is as sure of themselves as a fisherman who's catching fish, no matter how little evidence he has to support his hypothesis.
My catching continued as I worked my way around the lake and across the boulders that make up much of the shoreline. Beautiful tigers and one little cutthroat all saw the bottom of my net. From the top of a large boulder where years before I had sat with Caden and caught cutthroat, I stood and caught an amazing looking little tiger. The pattern on him made his back look like leopard print and I wanted a picture. Worried that his time out of the water might be too much for him I tried to hurry with my phone. In my rush I dropped the phone, it bounced off the boulder and out into the water. The phone was surely ruined, but, after releasing the fish, I still took off my shoes and tried tried to wade in after it. The clouds in the sky made it hard to see into the water, but I thought I could just see the phone if I was on the right angle. The breeze that had come up with the clouds seemed to have a cold bite to it now that I was up to my thighs in the water. Once the shivering started I realized that letting the phone go and getting out of there was probably the smart move, no matter how mad the wife was going to be or how large the bill to replace it.
On the drive home I thought about how much I wanted to return with someone that would appreciate the amazing fishing these lakes offer, and sense enough not to tell anyone about them. It would be a bonus if they could manage to take pictures without dropping the phone (or camera).
Hope you're as lucky,
It seems like boredom and curiosity are the reason for most of my adventures. A question of whether or not a stream near my house held fish was put on hold as winter held everything in a deep freeze, but a warm day before run-off was an opportunity to get an answer. Atley agreed to go with, mainly to ride our new 4-wheeler, and we headed out. The short ride was less than Atley was hoping for, but that's why the stream holds so much appeal. It would only take a couple of minutes to get there and chase some fish. As I had figured it would be, the bottom of the small canyon was very thick with a mix of pine, willows and cottonwood that crowded any likely fish holding spot. We worked our way up through the obstructions looking for the best place to try our luck and find an answer. Anywhere that the water was deep enough to change color seemed to hold a fish or two, even if they were very small. No fish came to hand but a couple were spotted. Hoping for the photographic proof of their existence we pressed on, despite the streamside vegetation getting thicker. At one point the stream seemed impassable and we had to go out and around, when we came back in sight of the water I realized that something was dead in the water and Atley got excited when he spotted the elk's antlers. A mature bull had died in the water, how we couldn't guess. A quick pic and we decided to call it a day. once we found our way out of the creek bottom I messaged an old neighbor friend of mine that works for the DNR. He let me know that we could get together later in the week so I could show him our find and he could see if an investigation into the animal's death was needed.
Once my friend showed up in his side-by-side we headed to where the elk was, making quick work of the thick stream bottom because we weren't trying to catch fish. Once we scanned the surrounding area for any predator tracks (just out of curiosity) we tried to pull the bull out of the water. Nothing makes you appreciate how big elk truly are like trying to move them, especially when they're waterlogged. We managed to get the body partially out and Preston started looking for evidence with a metal detector. Not finding any, we rolled the bull over and checked for any holes in the cape and underlying rib cage (the bottom side had been somewhat preserved in the water). Further investigation turned up no evidence of foul play, so he offered me the animal's head to mount.
When we got the head removed from the rest of the carcass it became evident that carrying it out while trying to not let it get any rotten smell on me was going to be a challenge. There's no knowing how a bull feels hauling antlers around on his head, but it's hard just to try and get them through trees for the short time I carried them.
After we got it back to the house and got the necessary paperwork done I set about getting as much of the rotten hide and meat off the skull as I could. The head then went into a tub of water with a good dousing of dish soap to soak for the night. Del and I ran back up the hill to set a trail-cam by the carcass hoping to see what came in to feed on the remains.
This was the first elk that I've done a euro-mount on, so I was a bit surprised at how long it took the to get boing and how much "stuff" was in there to try and get out. A couple of days worth of boiling and working the skull over with a screwdriver and pliers got it clean. The only thing left to do is bleach the skull and hang it up. Then maybe I'll go back and try to catch some of those fish up in the canyon.
Hope you're as lucky,