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MINNESOTA’S PREMIER HUNTING AND FISHING MAGAZINE - SPRING - 2014

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Nicole Larson’s record tom - Jason Mitchell Bill Marchel - Wildlife Photos WWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM 1 MAGAZINEWWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM - RADIO SHOW - WEBSITE


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ONE-HOUR RADIO SHOW IS HOSTED BY BRET “T-BONE” AMUNDSON AND FOCUSES ON THE OUTDOORS IN MINNESOTA. HUNTING, FISHING HOTSPOTS, TIPS, DESTINATIONS, CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS, GEAR REVIEWS AND MORE.

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COLUMNS

TABLE OF CONTENTS Features

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The One That Got Away - Ben Brettingen

Late Ice Fishing Thin Ice, Fat Perch - Jason Mitchell

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SHED DOG TRAINING 5 Questions with Tom Dokken

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Reaping The Record - Nicole Larson

10 Cold Weather Fly Fishing

Northern Exposure - Jake Flaa

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Frozen Fingers - Erik Thue

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Spring Turkey

Dating Game: Photo Essay - Bill Marchel 35 Turkey 101 - Ben Brettingen and Joel 24 Hog Hunters - Bret Amundson 40 Nelson The Spring Release - Matt Soberg

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PLUS: SEE US AT: Game Fair P9 GO THERE: Governor’s Fishing Opener! P33 SUBSCRIPTION FORM: P49 ON THE COVER: A PRESEASON SPRING GOBBLER Photo by Ben Brettingen In-Depth Outdoors Find us at

DEPARTMENTS

MOREL HUNTING Under the Canopy - Katy Turner

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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT WildEar Hearing Boosters for Youth

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YOUTH HUNTING Get ‘em Hooked Young - Tyler Scott

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/mnsportingjournal or go to: www.minnesotasportingjournal.com Duck and Goose Hunts Pheasant Preserve Hotel and Restaurant On Site

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DNR NEWS, VIDEOS, PICTURES AND MORE

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR I didn’t think winter was ever going to let go. We considered calling this issue our WINTER II 2014, instead of SPRING 2014. We try to reflect what spring is like, which is why you might see some snow in a few pictures, along with ice fishing stories, since our ice has been going out later the last couple of years. Since we only come out four times a year, it’s hard for us to put content in that might be out of date in a few months. We want this magazine to be timeless in the

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MNSJ is a quarterly publication. To resubscribe or check the status of your subscription, contact us: 218-209-2738 Bret@mnsportingjournal.com www.MinnesotaSportingJournal.com TO SUBSCRIBE, GO TO PAGE 49

sense that you could pick this up in 2024 and it would seem as though it was just written. Although you might be reading it from the passenger seat of a car that flies-who knows. With that being said, a few topics are on the minds of us now, the biggest could be the deer management plan currently being discussed in Minnesota. Was it a tough year in 2013? No question. Are the deer numbers down? Yes. More importantly, do we have sound survey practices that we are following? How accurate are our population estimates? Not just for deer, but for wolves, moose and all the other animals on the landscape. I leave it up to the professional biologists out there, but I just hope that the biologists don’t have their hands tied when it comes to proper wildlife management in Minnesota. Switching gears, we’d like to welcome our new affiliates on the MNSJ Radio Network. As of this printing, we welcomed Ely and Hibbing as our newest areas carrying our show. THANK YOU! Tell your favorite station that you want more hunting and fishing content on the radio and tell them it’s real easy to carry our show! A quick story about our cover photo from Ben Brettingen: I had been looking for a good turkey photo since we hadn’t done one on the cover yet. I asked him about it and he replied, “I’ll go out tonight and see what I can get.” He went to one of his favorite spots, called and brought this tom into 5 yards. Boom! We had a cover shot just like that. Thanks Ben!

bret “t-Bone” amundson

Publisher BYP, INC Editor BRET AMUNDSON Sales WADE AMUNDSON Editing Services KRISTIN AMUNDSON KRISTIN FALOON Marketing WWW.EARGRABBER.COM Contributors BEN BRETTINGEN, MATT SOBERG, KATY TURNER, JASON MITCHELL, CORY LOEFFLER, TYLER SCOTT, ERIK THUE, JAKE FLAA, TIM ANDERSON, CHUCK ELLINGSON, DANNY AMUNDSON Subscription Services WWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM

MINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL is a publication of Boneyardprod, Inc DBA BYP, Inc. POSTMASTER: Send change of address to PO Box 823, Moorhead, MN 56561. Oneyear subscription rates: $18.00 in the U.S., $30.00 for Canada (U.S. funds only). Twoyear subscription rates: $30.00 in the U.S., $47.00 for Canada (U.S. funds only). All editorial submissions will be gladly accepted. Minnesota Sporting Journal does not guarantee against damage or loss of submitted materials. Any reproduction of all or part of Minnesota Sporting Journal without the express written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. Copyright 2014 BYP Inc

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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Ben Brettingen

Now if you think this is just a fish story, you’re mistaken…

I’ve fished in driving snow, rain, sleet, sub-freez ing temperatures, but I’d never dumped a boat in through 2 feet of ice- let alone in the middle of May. It posed quite the conundrum for the 2013 opener. Between Leech Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish, I have spent every single opener on the water, but this year was going to have to be different. To float a boat would be impossible. I had the hairbrained idea to head westward to try my hand on the Missouri River in South Dakota. It wasn’t just the allure of open water that drew me to the plains of the Missouri, the promise of 70 degree temperatures and tight lines made the 6 hour drive more bearable.

Arriving to our destination late in the evening we concluded a long awaited brew was a necessity. After all it was the eve of Minnesota’s favorite holiday, and we were in South Dakota. Even in the late hour, the local watering hole was over-flowing with saturated “Barstool Fishing Professionals,” (BFP). After a quick scan across the fine small town drinking establishment, I found our host for the weekend. She elaborated on the fish of the Missouri River and how they were practically jumping into the boat. It wasn’t half way through our inaugural beer when a young lady, who must have been through her first drink plus a dozen more, decided my lap would be an adequate perch. Before I knew what was going on, a mix of expletives and

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an amatuer fishing report flew out of her mouth. She seemed to be the leading “BFP” of the town. Joined by my dad and his friends, it was quite an interesting conversation as she spoke of her recent fishing tournament victory, her speech fueled by long cut Copenhagen and Busch light. Sparing no detail, she even informed us that she had fished so hard, she didn’t even have to hang out of the boat when nature called. Just as she was beginning to wear out her welcome, some pop-country filth spewed out of the jukebox and she zipped away to entertain the dance floor crowd. The whole group cast a sideways glance in my direction as we busted out in laughter. I would be the butt of all jokes going forward. As the morning broke with a signature South Dakota breeze, we headed up river. It wasn’t two minutes after our jigs struck bottom, that I heard “Hey Ben I saw there was a house for sale on our way, when are you going to ask that little filly to get hitched?” Luckily, before I could think of a good response, my jig was train-wrecked by the first walleye of opening morning. The harassment from the rest of group continued as we produced walleye after walleye. The sun bathed the entire river in warmth that I hadn’t felt in quite sometime. It wasn’t a weekend spent deep in the northwoods of Minnesota but the results made up for it. Until winter recently decided to relent, it seemed as if another Missouri River opener was in the cards. Despite the location, when the crew gathers back at Leech Lake, I’m sure my South Dakota bride will be brought up in all her foul-mouthed glory. It’s just a crying shame I won’t get the chance to rekindle the romance with the one that got away.

Ben Brettingen has been with MNSJ since the beginning, taking pictures and writing about the Minnesota outdoors. The Waconia native can be seen behind and in front of the cameras of In-Depth Outdoors.

August 8,9,10 & 15,16,17

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REAPING THE Larson by Nicole s TV m a e r D f o d l e RECORD Fi “This is the story of how I shot a record turkey in Minnesota.” 10

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My heart began to race as I heard a spit drum and feathers dragging on the grass in front of me. I caught movement between the feathers on my decoy and drew my bow slowly and steadily prepared to make a shot. This is the story of how I shot a record turkey in Minnesota. I had just returned from a successful trip to Kansas. I had some amazing hunting, including a few close encounters with my good friend Joe Montgomery. I shot two great toms there, and it was nothing short of an action packed hunt. I am into a form of hunting called “reaping” which puts you face to face with big territorial toms. It’s a rush; there’s never a dull moment. I have missed a few and killed many this way, and I have no plans to quit, so turkeys beware! There is a trick to reaping. Not only do you have to carry around a full strut decoy, you have to be stealthy enough to fit behind it, dragging a bow or shotgun and fool the big guys into thinking that you are a real bird moving in on him. It works on toms with hens, jakes, single strutters, and even large grouped up birds. Nothing is off limits and the options are endless. This is not a hunting style for the faint hearted. It can be very dangerous as I’ve been jumped on, beaten with wings and spurred by these 20+ pound birds, so use extreme caution when chasing them with decoys. *Editors note: Some people have also expressed caution with this style of hunting as other hunters could mistake you for a turkey. My Minnesota season started slow. Bird numbers were down and hunters were numerous. In my area it’s hard to get onto private ground, and the birds were hiding. One morning on my way to work I spotted a group of jakes with a large tom trailing behind. I made sure to keep this area in mind, because I spotted six more nice toms there later. As Saturday rolled around, I was quick to get on the road, scouting with my husband, Brent, camera in tow. We quickly headed for the winding road that led through what I called “turkey paradise”. We made a quick stop to ask a friendly farmer and his wife for permission to hunt on their land. They gave us the go ahead, along with reports of numerous turkey sightings on their property. Shortly after, I spotted a tom and four hens over a hill on one of the big fields. Grabbing my bow and my strutter decoy, I headed off. I ran as fast as I

could to the wood line without being spotted, and then began to creep on my knees towards the strutting tom and his hens. When I popped the decoy over the hill, the big old tom lifted his head and dropped out of strut. He turned away and began strutting again. Feeling ignored, I started to move my decoy side to side impersonating that of a rival tom showing off on the hilltop. To my surprise the hens became interested and headed over. Before I could figure out where to stick my decoy’s stake into the ground, the large tom was headed straight for me; and he meant business! I quickly staked my decoy and sat flat on my butt while drawing my bow. I was moving back and forth trying to see where this angry bird was going to come over the hill. “Where is he? On which side is he going to pop out?” I was shaking violently, struggling to steady myself. All of a sudden the wind picked up, turned my decoy sideways, which spooked the tom who then raced straight down the hill. Away he went. I was so full of adrenaline I didn’t really know what happened. All I knew was that I had come close, and it was only my first encounter with a bird. It wasn’t over yet...back to scouting! A week or so later, a big old tom was spotted on a two-acre hay field with two hens. He stopped to look at us and then quickly slipped into some tall grass out of our view. We grabbed our plat book and searched for the landowner. Stopping to ask, we noticed the older gentleman who came to the door was on crutches. He told us that he himself was a big hunter but was laid up due to knee surgery. He hadn’t had a chance to get out this year and we were more than welcome to try and get one on his land. “How lucky am I?” I thought to myself. “I’ve asked twice and gotten permission twice! How often does that happen?” We shook his hand and headed for our gear. This was going to be a quick hunt as the bird was only 100 yards from his house. If we were spotted, we could ruin our chances. As we made our way to the open field, we noticed the birds were nowhere to be seen. I snuck up along some farm machinery and peeked across the field...nothing. Brent pushed himself against an old seeder and set up his camera. “Okay honey, do your thing,” he said. He wished me luck, and I headed out to once again play “chicken” with a turkey. As I slowly made my way to the top of the hill, I spotted that big old tom and his two girlfriends hanging around in the tall grass. There was a barbed wire fence separating the hay from the woods, and we were on each side of it. He watched me and started heading my direction. He was very impressive! The color of his head was as bright as our American flag, while his feathers glis-

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everywhere. We spotted a blood mark where he slipped tened in the sun. He began to strut towards me... a sure below the fence and a couple wing feathers... then nothsign things were going well. I knew this bird was big, old ing. and smart; just by how he was taking his sweet time-no We looked for about twenty minutes with no luck. charging or running. But I didn’t know just how big. So I began to think like a turkey. The woods were thick He dipped below the fence and walked right to to my right, wet and swampy, but to my left was an easy me, pausing only to show off his large fan. I was getting escape route: A dirt road and a large nervous, moving my head side to side, He popped out ten yards CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) peering through the gaps in my fan trying to keep my decoy between us so in front, broadside. I put field. A small stand of pines sat about 250 yards across it. I didn’t get busted. my 20-yard pin on him I found some fresh tom tracks He popped out ten yards in front, broadside. I put my 20-yard and drew back. With my heading straight over the road and into the big CRP. I wandered into the pin on him and drew back. With my heart pounding, I let the grass, combing back and forth, realheart pounding, I let the arrow fly. izing this wasn’t going to be easy. After The deadly Rage-tipped stick made a arrow fly. what seemed like hours, I started losclean pass through his vitals! He spun ing hope. “I made a good shot; I know quickly and darted for the long grass. I did,” I thought to myself while wandering through the I sat for a moment and peered into the woods field. Just as I was turning to head back for the truck, I to see his destination, but he disappeared into cover. I thought about the pines at the edge of the field, as they backed off and headed towards Brent. He had awesome were the only group of trees in this huge CRP field. If he footage and was struggling to contain his excitement. wanted a good place to hide, a pine tree would be it. Now all we had to do was recover the tom and finish our I made my way through the first rows of pines story- a task not easily accomplished when you can’t find with no sign of a turkey. The fourth row held a single the bird. feather, that I knew could belong to any bird. When I hit I found my arrow straight away; feathers were Nicole and Brent Larson, Field of Dreams TV

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the fifth row, I noticed a dark object. I instantly felt my heart start to race as I walked towards it. “Could it be?” There he was, the big ol’ tom, just waiting for me to find him! I finally had my bird. I quickly grabbed him, hoisted him over my shoulder and headed for the road. I met up with Brent and laid my bird on the side of the road. That’s when I noticed this was no ordinary Eastern tom. “Look at his spurs! They are almost two inches long!” I said excitedly. “And his beard is nearly 12 inches long!” I sat in awe as we both looked over this one-of-a-kind tom. It’s definitely one of the best memories I’ll ever have turkey hunting. I could not believe I had just shot the biggest bird of my life. I was on cloud nine! What was even better is that we got it all on film, and it all came together nicely. Big toms do not come easy, but with patience and persistence you can make it happen. I definitely needed both to find this bird. We said our “thank yous” to the landowner and headed home with what is officially the #1 Typical in the state of MN for a woman, registered with NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) and #3 overall. His official score was 76.1875. I still can’t believe I was so lucky to harvest such an amazing old bird. I can’t thank the NWTF enough for all their conservation efforts and dedicated hard work to make this sport, the one I know and love, possible. Because of them, I can look forward to many great years of chasing turkeys and teaching others how it’s done. And I can begin a new quest to hunt down an even bigger tom next year!

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THIN ICE FAT PERCH By Jason MItchell Over the past couple of years, we have had winters that have extended the late ice period well into April. Long warm days hint of spring but the effect of a long cold winter can still be gazed upon. Large lakes like Leech Lake remain frozen. Horizons blur like smoke, almost mirage-like in appearance as an enormous pan of ice begins to transform into spring. These late ice periods are awaited as they produce some of the most memorable ice fishing experiences of the entire season. Late ice, ravaging schools of jumbo perch and sweatshirt weather… yes there are some great ice fishing opportunities during the waning days of late winter. One of my favorite fisheries for jumbo perch in Minnesota right now is Leech Lake. By the numbers, perch populations are currently down in the lake, but rest assured that there are many perch over twelve inches in this body of water. The reality is that you can catch a dinner of perch that doesn’t require a magnifying glass to fillet. Leech Lake boasts some bruiser perch, and during late ice, these fish are concentrated, aggressive and easy. Priority number one when fishing any late ice is safety. It has been nearly twenty years since I have fallen through the ice and at that time, I was in the prime of my life from a physical standpoint. It took everything I had to pull myself out of the water. Ice safety is nothing to compromise. Always take precautions and know when to quit. Honeycombed ice that sags from your weight is ice to stay away from. I have watched a foot of ice explode and crumble from the weight of a man. Always wear a personal floatation device, such as the Clam Lift Suit. Have picks-even a screw driver-in your pocket so that if the worst happens, you have something to pull yourself back up onto the ice. Always carry a long rope and throw cushion in your sled. Most of all, use common sense so that you don’t have to use these safety tools. With necessary precautions in place, late ice can be

a very rewarding time to fish. Most of the fishing activity takes place in less than five feet of water. Leech Lake in particular offers tremendous perch fishing over shallow sand flats. Enormous schools of perch often roam in as little as a few feet of water under the ice. The shallow sand flats where perch congregate during late ice often resemble a marbled cake; sporadic bare sand is interspersed with low lying patches of chara or cabbage. Anglers often find schools of fish roaming through these shallow locations concentrating on a specific feature. At late ice, the sweet spot that sees a lot of activity is lush, dense patches of chara that are green and vibrant. Some days, you can look right down the hole and see well enough to watch fish, but if you fish out of a Trap, or similar shelter, sight fishing is an option but it can slow you down. What I like doing when running and gunning these shallow perch is to use an under-water camera like the Vexilar Scout. Pointing the lens down and lowering it just a foot into the hole will allow you to see what is below regardless of light refraction. This offers more mobility with your sight fishing. As you drop the camera down the hole and monitor for fish activity, pay attention to the bottom when trying to put together a pattern. Good holes will fish good. If you catch a few good fish out of a hole and then wear out your welcome, move on and stop back to fish that hole later. If you rest a spot after catching some nice fish, some more nice fish will often move into the spot. For targeting shallow water jumbos, I like to go large and bold just to eliminate the smaller fish. Flutter spoons like the Northland Tackle Live Forage Moxie Minnow in the perch pattern with a gold back is a favorite lure of mine on Leech Lake. Tip the treble hook with a red or white Impulse Perch Eye and you have a deadly lure that can windmill several jumbos. Tipping the treble hook with

“I have watched a foot of ice explode and crumble from the weight of a man.”

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the Impulse soft plastic gives you a big edge because you don’t have to ever bait up. Another tip on a really hot bite is to pinch down the barbs and open up the gap on the hooks so that the fish fall off after they hit the ice. The faster you can get a fish up and get back down, the more fish you catch over the course of a day. The more fish you handle, the more big fish you see. Because the water is shallow, the window to work a lure is limited. Standard lifts and falls with a spoon work well. The first drop usually triggers the larger fish if they are in the area. My jigging stroke often hits the bottom of the ice. Anglers can do really well hole-hopping and the first drop in the hole often pulls some of the larger fish. Typically as you sit over a hole, the fish get smaller but because of the shallow depth and clarity of the water, you can often sight fish which can provide a big edge. Finding perch isn’t difficult, but finding the jumbos is a chess game. The big fish are often mixed right in with hoards of smaller fish. By sight fishing, you can play keep away and target the larger fish. As you drop the camera down the hole and monitor for fish activity, pay attention to the bottom when trying to put together a pattern. Good holes will fish good. If you catch a few good fish out of a hole and then wear out your welcome, move on and stop back to fish that hole later. If you rest a spot after catching some nice fish, some more nice fish will often move into the spot. The late ice period is one of the most productive periods of the calendar year for finding and catching jumbo perch. Many of these late ice locations are no secret, anglers just have to make a point to participate and get out. Many turn their backs on late ice opportunities because they have had enough winter or enough ice

fishing for the season and are looking forward to new seasonal pursuits. The people who skip out on these opportunities however, are missing some of the best ice fishing of the winter.

Over the past decade, Jason Mitchell has earned a legendary status as a professional hunting and fishing guide on North Dakota’s Devils Lake. Jason began his career as a guide at an early age and in the span of a decade, built one of the largest open water guide services in existence and was a key member of Devils Lake’s famed Perch Patrol Guide Service during the winter. Mitchell also spent up to seventy five days each fall as a waterfowl hunting guide before expanding into television.

www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com

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SHED DOGS

WILL THEY PICK IT UP? 5 Questions With....

Tom Dokken, Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels - Northfield, MN Years training dogs: 40 Years training shed dogs: 6 www.dokkens.com - www.sheddogtrainer.com We spoke with Tom Dokken from Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels on Minnesota Sporting Journal Radio in March about the exploding popularity of shed hunting with dogs. Just how easy is it to get your dog trained for it? Here’s what Tom had to say: Who is shed dog training for? Someone who already has a bird dog that wants to train it to find sheds. What would surprise someone about this? Some of the best shed hunting is close to home, where deer are eating out of somebody’s bird feeder in the backyard. Can any dog shed hunt? The biggest key is, you really want a dog that likes to retrieve stuff. When the dog finds a shed over the hill you want him to bring it back to you! But it is an any dog thing.

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Does it matter how old the dog is? I started my first dog when he was 5 years old. He was my bird dog and he did a great job with it. Some of these bird dogs already know how to do some of these things. All we’re doing is making that antler, their new retrieve object. Can sheds change a dogs drive for birds? That antler will never take the place of a bird. It’s not warm, it’s not fuzzy, it doesn’t run, it doesn’t fly. If you’re in a CRP field looking for sheds and you start bumping pheasants, the dog goes “Okay that was fine, but now we’re hunting pheasants.” How do you start? Get out a small antler and cut the tips off so you don’t have sharp points and start playing a retrieve game. If your dog lives in the house, you can do some fun retrieves in the house. Get that part of it started first. Find out more about getting your dog trained for sheds: www.dokkens.com or www.sheddogtrainer.com

Marley retrieves a shed during the World Shed Dog competition qualifying event at the MN Deer Classic. Marley was being handled by Carli Ferron from Cadott, WI.

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FROZEN FINGERS Story and photos by Erik Thue

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This winter has been a particularly cold one; giving everybody cabin fever due to the lack of ‘warm’ winter temperatures.

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Old Man Winter has lingered for quite sometime in the Upper Midwest now. This winter has been a particularly cold one; giving everybody cabin fever due to the lack of ‘warm’ winter temperatures. The first Saturday in March opened the very frozen early Wisconsin trout fishing season. Typically in the Upper Midwest, spring doesn’t settle in until April. Last year was no exception with another snowfall of 30”+ of snow in northern Wisconsin over fishing opener weekend in May. This early trout season in Wisconsin kept most fly anglers still glued to their fly-tying desk because either the rivers were still too cold or even frozen. As March progresses, anglers are given limited opportunities to pursue trout early this season, however, the occasional mid to upper 30-degree days has helped open up many of the rivers. With limited opportunities given, anglers still seek out chances at fish. The early portion of the trout season separates die-hard trout anglers from the weekend warriors. Bundling up to frigid conditions is a must. Yet, to bundle up without the bulk is key. Therefore, performance layering is best. This can range from the use of polyester, merino wool, and wool. With this in mind, a lightweight base layer for wicking, followed by a mid-weight layer and topped off with a heavy layer is ideal. Northwest winds can still send an angler fleeing to their vehicle after only a few short hours of fishing, so adding a good performance shell on top will help. A breathable performance shell will trap more body heat, while the wind, rain, and snow roll off your back. As for the lower body, a base layer paired with mid-weight polyester fleece pants, a pair of wool socks, and finished off with good waders will work well. Don’t forget, fingerless gloves are a must until temperatures become more comfortable. One of the techniques in fly fishing for trout this early in the season can be a simple nymph rig. Many anglers can use this setup any time of the year as it allows you to get a fly down to a desired depth. This setup is simply an adjustable strike indicator, a few non-lead split shot, a larger weighted nymph and lastly a dropper. The dropper can be anything from a nymph, scud or midge larvae. Nymphing can be beneficial on many different levels as it allows you to catch higher numbers along with the occasional large trout on the coldest of days. Yet, one of the most active, fun and challenging ways of fly fishing is streamer fishing. Streamer fishing can entice the larger trout in the river to eat. Depending on the river, in regards to depth, speed of current will depend on the line and weight of flies.

In the smaller rivers of Wisconsin, a floating line setup with heavy weighted flies works well under the right circumstances. Much of the larger sized rivers with faster river flows and deeper pools require a heavy sinking fly line. A 5 wt or even a dedicated 6 wt streamer rod equipped with a matched sink tip will shine in most streamer fishing conditions. When approaching the river with a sinking line and large flies this time of year, there are some techniques to fishing this style. One would be fishing down river, casting down and across roughly at a 45-degree angle to the opposite bank. Let the fly sink and strip the streamer back at various rates. The fly can also be presented deeper by casting a bit more up river to gain a bit of depth. Allowing the fly to sweep along the bank will cover more water and be more effective in finding active fish. The angler must be conscious of the current when fishing down and across river because the current will take the fly line and fly out of the strike zone quickly. Therefore, each

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cast should be setup to fish a specific strike zone. Don’t be afraid of putting in larger mends, getting the fly down deep and fishing it back very slowly to find out what big trout want under those particular conditions. Trout this time of year rarely will move too far, but will move some for a big meal. Another technique is to fish up river when water temperatures are cold. Fishing up river can be very beneficial because the fish will have their back towards the angler. You’re also able to fish the fly slower and deeper within the strike zone. When fishing up river, the angler would want to hit the opposite bank, let the fly sink, and retrieve back with short rod twitch or pops. This will give the fly a swimming jigging action. Set aside the various techniques how an angler may choose to fish. Something to keep in mind is water temperature and the depth of the river. Many rivers will stay open all winter long because cold springs are constantly flushing water that is above freezing. Some rivers will freeze lightly

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over the top and may take longer to warm. When you’re fishing, always be mindful of water temperatures. Fishing can be difficult when the water dips below 40 degrees. Once the river begins to rise in temperatures above 40 degrees, the fishing will be much more rewarding. Also, locate the deepest pools in a river stretch. An angler may waste most of the day blind casting into shallow water that isn’t holding trout. With colder water temperatures happening in the early spring, fish will hold still to deep wintering pools. Wintering pools allow for the trout to expel less energy because of less current, warmer water temperatures and plenty of food sources going by. Remember the saying “Go big or go home?” This can definitely be applied to streamer fishing. Streamers come in all shapes and sizes. Traditionally, trout streamer flies are very small in size yet are proven patterns. However, with today’s synthetic materials and an artistic eye, streamers have come to life. From a small, dull baitfish pattern to largebuilt flies for meat-eating trout. When it starts to warm up and feel like spring, leave the gloves at home and head out for the river. No matter what technique you decide to use to catch trout this early Wisconsin season be sure to go out, have an adventure, break away from the cabin fever.

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UNDER THE CANOPY The Search For Morel Mushrooms By Katy Turner

“Keep your eyes to the canopy,” my dad said.

He pointed and gestured, explaining that “First, it’s easiest to notice the bare branches of a dead tree, and after that you can identify the species.” The other trees were decorated with green pops of color, and at first I thought it was sad how these skeletons now stood naked, their limbs stretched, as if begging the sun to let them have another day. But upon closer inspection, it is easy to see the life that thrives because of, and sometimes only beneath, these beacons of decay. This is where the morel thrives. “Your grandpa used to say that ‘they grow when the oak buds are the size of squirrel ears,’” my dad told a younger me. If the sizing of a squirrel’s ear is too vague—your mind flitting between the red, gray, and fox variety—simply remember that morels are growing when the lilacs are in bloom. So I waited, watching the season transition to a world of color, waiting for my dad to tell me it was finally time. Keeping my eyes to the canopy was difficult. Ever since I was young, I’ve paid too much attention to where I step, watching for crunchy sticks—an old habit

from turkey hunting—looking for interesting feathers, or pointing out the mysterious vibrant purple splotches that cover the undergrowth (only to be told later that it was, indeed, bird poop). And my inability to keep my eyes to the canopy may very well be the main contributor to my constant disorientation. With my head tucked, it is very easy to take careful steps, but very difficult to keep track of where I’m going. So growing up, I followed my dad, step for step behind him, guided to the perfect morel tree. Slowing in his approach, he encouraged me to pass him, to go on ahead and start searching, giving me the opportunity to Ben Cade find all the mushrooms on Avery Outdoors my own. Only after I said, “that’s all of ‘em,” would he pick the few that remained, often quite obviously in the open, teaching me that you sometimes need another person’s perspective. Nowadays, I force myself to glance to the sky, painfully pulling my gaze from the soft earth, and my heart skips, afraid that I’ll see a tree, but stumble and never make it there. I struggle, first with the proper identification of an elm—because to me, every tree looks “vaseshaped”—and second with the proper identification of the tree’s state of rot. Oddly enough, there appears to be an ideal level of death. The elm is to be not completely

‘...they grow when the oak buds are the size of squirrel ears...’

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“So while the woods exploded with new life—celebrating birds, warming insects—we searched for death, and when we found it, we danced.”

naked, but slowly shedding its skin; it wears a spring vest, and not the warm turtleneck of a newly deceased tree. And since this balance is so sensitive, it is easy to understand why a tree that was in perfect condition last year is now too far gone, and that a tree that was healthy the year I shot my first buck, will soon produce morels, and should be checked on next year, and the next, waiting. So while the woods exploded with new life— celebrating birds, warming insects—we searched for death, and when we found it, we danced. Each foot carefully placed, we pivoted around these snags, moving outward in circles, then inward again, waiting for the proper adjustment of the eye that would reveal our hiding bounty. And sometimes, when we were moving too fast, we paused from this waltz, at times to place a hand against the tree, to slow ourselves—as if exhausted from this concentrated observation. As if the lumber needed this temporary caress versus the usual dig of a woodpecker. When a morel is discovered, often in a location that was searched just moments before, it’s tempting to take a seat and prop your chin on a knuckle, poised to ask it to reveal all of its secrets. It’s almost painful to pluck them from the soft soil—when they’re still connected they hold more magic, and they look like sky scrapers of a fantasy land, towering over the new buds and saplings that take more time to grow. Their spongy flesh varies from light to dark, not including the unfortunate black

rot of a morel found a day late. And they like to show themselves when you’re not prepared. Their season can overlap the turkey’s, and when you stumble across a patch of morels with a gun on your back but no bag in your pocket, you don’t leave them behind. You know how quickly they can spoil. Fortunately, the warm, musty aroma of a freshly picked morel is a welcome liner to any camouflage jacket’s hood. And that aroma completely transforms when transferred to a skillet, sickingly saturated in butter, each halved mushroom coated in flour, ready to fry. And while it seems that this is the prize: the family crowding over a stove, the cries of pain followed by the simultaneous awed chewing, it is nothing. The glory of morel mushrooms can also be mistaken for the hike through the woods, the enjoyment of spring in its prime, but that’s not it either. The thing that makes morel mushroom hunting so incredible is the story of their growth, and the often-overlooked lesson of the woods: that even if you discover death, you will find more life, growing steadily, encouraged by concentrated light, let in through the new opening in the canopy.

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TURKEY 101 With Ben Brettingen and Joel Nelson

No two turkey hunters think alike, and whenever you are able to rub feathers with some of the great both parties often come out with some great new ideas. Joel and I had 6 question we wanted each other to answer, simply to see how we each would react to different scenarios. We each had scenarios where we would react similarly, and other totally different. Joel has a vast knowledge of the wild turkey, evolved from both time spent in the woods, and in talking with hundreds of great hunters throughout his day. My upbringing is a little more....how would you say this....inbred? I have spent a lot of my time figuring out the wild turkey by trial and error, often learning the hard way. It has been my goal in the last few years to expand my knowledge, by not spending more time in the woods, but by talking turkey! -Ben Brettingen

1. You arrive on a new piece of property at daybreak while on a trip. You know there are birds in the area but are unsure of where to start?

Joel - Wind speed dictates my exact starting location, but no matter what I’ll spend an extra couple of minutes listening to the property play out. If possible, I’ll try to get the gobblers going earlier than normal with an owl hooter or a coyote call. This will give me time to assess things more and eventually make a move. If calm, I’ll get on a high ridge with a commanding view of most of the property and simply listen, especially for roost locations. These valuable little nuggets are going to dictate how I hunt the property for the coming days if it comes to that. If there’s a bird close, I’ll usually go after him first, unless there are other options directly accessible that have less hen competition. For me, rule of thumb is that I can start calling as soon as the first crow calls. If it’s been 15 minutes or more since I heard the first crow, I’m running late and will likely make a move to get closer even without the best intel. Unless I have a bird pinned down from the night before, I’m typically on the move in the pre-dawn light. Ben - I ran into a similar situation when I was out hunting along the Missouri River in South Dakota last year. I knew there were birds in the area but had never set foot on the property. My first step was to check out Google Earth and see what areas I would anticipate the birds to roost in. In South Dakota it was a little easier because most of the larger trees were located in draws and easily visible. However, in most densely wooded areas look for large canopies on trees. I also try to get a feel for the general lay of the land. Major strutting areas, creeks, different breaks. This will all help me get a better picture in my head when I go to hunt a new area. I’ll arrive to my spots well before first light and try to find a vantage point, with elevation in my favor. Once again being in the Missouri River breaks, it made my hunt a little easier, as I could see forever. Try to get into a position where you can pinpoint a bird gobbling. The key is accessibility! You want to be in a spot where you can quickly get to different areas on the property. If you hear a bird first start planning your next move. If you don’t hear anything, get on the owl hooter and try to get a bird to erupt. If you hunt in urban areas, I’ll even honk my horn to illicit a response! When you hear the bird, it’s likely daylight will be near or even present. I won’t push my luck trying to get right next to the roost. You run the risk of being busted. My SoDak hunt was a cool experience, as I did the same thing. However, I was glassing an area that around 5,000 acres and it was a dead still morning so I could hear upwards of a dozen birds gobbling! I ended up slowly moving around in the cedar dominated hillside calling every 5 minutes as I still hunted. The bird ended up coming from the bottom of a barren steep draw working his way right towards me, trekking up a 45 degree slope to within bow range.

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2. I want to go on a turkey trip in a different state. I really have no knowledge of the different areas, what’s a good state in terms of land access and tag accessibility.

Ben -There is a saying that these kids are using now a days JFGI, I think?. Just google it! The first thing I suggest doing is checking out forums! This question has been posed on hundreds of different sites, thousands of different times! I guarantee somebody has been thinking about the same thing you are. First do a search of the forums to see if it has already been addressed. Second, go on In Depth Outdoors and ask! There are tons of people who would love to share their experiences with you! After you have chosen a state, look at that state’s DNR/Game & Fish website for online public land maps. Many states offer incredible resources to find different areas to hunt. Minnesota’s mapping system is called the “Recreation Compass”. South Dakota’s can be found under their Interactive map. Lastly, talk to Game and Fish officers or biologists as they will be happy to point you in the right direction in terms of finding areas that offer both public land and high bird densities. Joel - I have a soft spot for Merriam’s birds, mostly because I live in Eastern country and Merriam’s are relatively accessible in states that offer great land access and tags. South Dakota and Nebraska have to be some of the better states in the Midwest on multiple points. Both offer booming turkey populations, with low human population densities, good land access and tags. Nebraska is over the counter and so is Kansas. Montana and Wyoming bring up the rear, but only because there’s an application process.

3 . I hunt a piece of property where the birds seem to roost in different areas every night but return to the same field to strut. I don’t necessarily have the luxury to roost the birds every night before I hunt. They are hardly interested in calls or decoys? What do you do?

Ben - This is a situation I faced often early in my turkey hunting career. In one instance I had a strutting area the size of a couple hundred acres and they would alternate areas to strut and roost. In that instance I employed a waiting strategy. I sat and watched 4 toms and few jakes dancing around a group of hens, not giving me a second look. Finally from out of nowhere a big boss tom came in and wanted to whip every beard bearing turkey in the area. He proceeded to head to the big flock of birds and display his dominance. Soon after, he noticed my full strut decoy hanging off in the distance. The big daddy tom didn’t like what he saw and quickly covered the distance, waltzing right into bow range. If waiting leads to a sore butt and bird-less bag,

I’ll switch it up. I try Cory Loeffler’s daughter Leah shows off her turkey! to sneak around to www.drccalls.com the nearest patch of timber and attempt to cherry pick a tom out of the bunch. The key is to try a few different calls and if you notice he responds better to a certain style call, a different sequence, or even a particular note, I’m in. I’ll keep hitting him with this certain note until he grows tired of the birds around him, or his curiosity is piqued. Joel - This is a common situation in a number of ridge/ valley scenarios along medium sized to major rivers. The bluff or old river bank is the ridge, and it often has suitable roost habitat running the full length of its edge. This means birds can be a mile or more down the ridge from one day to the next. If you do know that they typically return to the same field to strut, pay attention to where they enter, as it’s often the same place no matter which direction they approach from. High spots in the barbed wire or field approaches are dynamite locations to setup shop. That said, I’ll typically setup a blind there, then put that location at my back and hunt towards the birds in the morning, being ready to retreat to the blind so they don’t get behind me before I can get close to the birds. Strut zone toms can be tough, particularly if the field or strut zone is large. Often, no matter where you’re calling from, their goal is to get into that field and show off, no matter where you are in relation to it. That way, they’ll be more visible and you will be more likely to see them. Don’t be afraid to setup a blind in the middle of the strut zone, or to cover a 40-50 yard circle near a variety of likely entry points to the field. Better than an edge setup in this location, I’ll typically use the blind to cover the corner of a field (50 yards to each fenceline), particularly if there’s a ravine or other natural bottleneck which dumps birds out into the field in this location. A good quality blind with no wind flap or sheen is critical to getting birds to commit here, but they are “blind-dumb” for the most part.

4. You have been hunting the same tom for two days now. He roosts in the same location and does the same thing, but his hens are literally glued to him. What time of day is he most vulnerable and what do you do about the hens?

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Ben - There are a few different approaches I use to either put yourself in the path of the entire flock, pull the gobbler away or become a third wheel in their party. My first tactic is simple, set up where the birds will want to go. Is it glamorous? No. Does it work? I’ll bet you some tag soup it does! If the birds are consistently leaving the same roost, I’ll set up between where they are perched and their preferred strutting area. I won’t use a decoy and I’ll call lightly, trying to pull the entire flock into shooting range. I really have high expectations to pull a gobbler from his harem of ladies with the second technique. It utilizes a full strut and hen decoy. I’ll set them up in a Marvin Gaye-esque position, to get the blood pressure to sky rocket for Mr. Thomas. I’ll select either a strutting area or on the path to the strutting area to stage my set up. Sometimes it’s just the sight of the breeding pair to get the jealous side to come out, and that tom will be on your lap. Other times, if it’s not enough, I will get really aggressive on the call, using sharp cuts and excited yelps to stimulate a response from the ensuing tom. My last resort approach takes place under the cover of darkness. This plan requires you to put the gobblers to bed the night before. When you watch them roost get a good visual of where the hens are in relation to the gobbler you are looking to harvest. Are they in the same tree? Are they separate? If they are roosting in trees apart from each other, there is a risky plan that can have a bearded payoff. Make a note of which trees they are roosting in, for a start. I’ll get there well before daylight the next morning and try to sneak in close to him. When I say close, I mean right into his wheel house. Under 50 yards! Even better if you can do your best Navy Seal Sniper act and slip in-between the gobbler and his ladies, you are set my friend! If I call at all it will be a few soft yelps, and the let the hens in the tree do their thing. The gobbler will most likely pitch down towards the hens, and directly in your cross hairs! This plan is best executed with a little wind, as it will mask the noise you are making. This is a true last resort plan as it is risky, but has almost been a guarantee for me. Joel - My first choice would be to leave him alone, provided you have some other scouted ground with a good idea of turkey habits in those areas. Getting attached to one tom, especially one who’s surrounded himself with a bevy of hens is an uphill fight. It’s why I spend time securing and scouting property not just in large acreages or blocks, but in several areas separated by a few miles or more. I like having the option of moving on to a completely different flock that doesn’t have the same social structure or might have more hens on nest for example. This is a premium option I understand, and isn’t always afforded hunters, especially on public land or when hunting out of state. That said, if this is your bird, I would do a few things depending on how many days you have left to

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hunt him. By now, you’ve got a good idea where he roosts and where he’s most likely to flydown. I’d start off on day #3 by getting in tight to him, EARLY! Setup within sight if possible, knowing that too close and it could be all over before it ever begins. Depending on cover, this can be 50 yards or it can be 80, but the tighter you can be without being seen moving while you call and/or reposition, the better chance you have killing that bird off the roost. If you’re hunting later in the season, I’d consider letting him have his morning with the girls. Get out there early, but let him wander off with his harem and resume the chase when either he fires up gobbling on his own, or after his hens have gone to nest. This can be 8AM or not till 11AM, but if you’re into the green-up period of May, eventually he’ll be getting lonely. The trick is sticking with him without getting busted, as he may only be willing to travel so far, and often times only under cover in the timber during the mid-morning to afternoon periods. As a last ditch effort on your final day, where legal, get out there the night before and blow them off the roost after they’ve gone to bed. This works best after dark, as they can’t see you coming, and will scatter in all directions rather than in the same direction. Get out early the next morning and take careful note of where everybody ended up. You will NEED to be between the tom and his hens for this approach to work, erring on the side of being closer to the tom, as the hens will often get up early and re-establish contact with the tom by closing most of the distance for him.

5. You have a tom that fires up to your calling but stops shy of your setup and walks off gobbling the whole way. Wait him out? Cut him off? Go straight after him?

Ben - This is a situation where I have extreme confidence. If


Top Left - Author Ben Brettingen scores a run and gun gobbler on uncharted property. Top Right - Turkey Veteran, Joel Nelson bags a high pressure long beard in southeastern Minnesota. Bottom Left - Grand National Turkey Calling Champion Billy Yargus coaxes a group of toms from high atop a ridge. - Photo Credit Joel Nelson Bottom Right - Cory Loeffler with 15-year-old Rylie

I can’t get him to turn around within 50-75 yards, I’ll almost always try to cut him off! If he is all fired up and doesn’t fully commit on the first pass, I’ll flank him. For speed’s sake, I won’t use a decoy. When he is headed the other direction, I’ll slowly back off until he is out of eye sight and RUN ahead of him and set up. The mistake I have made many times is under estimating the speed of a turkey. Give yourself some room, so you don’t flank him and find he is still ahead of you. It makes it much easier if the gobbler is very vocal because I can gauge his location at all times. Otherwise I’ll give a short sequence of yelps to get him to respond. Joel - You’ve just struck a golden opportunity without even knowing it, as this is a dead-bird walking. Most people would opt to chase him down or cut him off, but an effective method for killing this gobbler is to immediately (as quickly as possible after he’s walked off) get to where he hung up and gobbled in a stationary position. This is the location that his entire genetic makeup is pre-disposed to make him return to, as you’re the hen who

did her part, going exactly to the spot where he gobbled his fool head off. Pour it on. Be persuasive, aggressive, and act like you’re put-out by a tom who isn’t waiting up for her. I have killed dozens of birds in this manner, and more often than not, if you can get there before they get past the 150 yard mark or more, they’ll come running back quickly. 6. You’ve just been busted badly by a tom that came in silent. It’s literally been your only encounter so far this season. Stay after him? Give him an hour? Come back the next day? Abandon him for greener pastures and a different bird? Ben - A silent bird can be the most frustrating and difficult bird to hunt in my opinion. For me, it really depends on how badly he busts me. If he runs off in a whirlwind, or flys off. I’ll almost always wait a few hours if not until the next day. If he runs off, pauses looks around and then makes his way off, the situation is a little more bright. I’ll again back off for an hour or so and then approach the area with a run and gun tactic. Binoculars can be your best friend as I’ll slip through the woods stopping every 10-15 yards and glassing the entire area. Roughly every 15-20 minutes I’ll let out a calling sequence and stay put for 20 minutes seeing if he will make another mistake. This is an incredibly difficult situation if you are hunting in a pressured area. The more times a bird busts a hunter the wearier he becomes. If it is in a low pressure area, I’ll give the bird less of a waiting period before I pursue him. They tend to have a shorter memory! Joel - Busting birds is part of turkey hunting. Good turkey hunters reduce the amount of birds they bust by avoiding wide-open spaces when possible, and they “hunt” their way to every location whether a bird is within earshot/sight or not. That said, even the best of turkey hunters get busted, especially by silent toms. A number of things can cause a tom to clam-up; chiefly among them is the presence of a dominant bird or group of bully toms. These “satellite” toms will even gobble softly as if they were a long ways off, but they’re often close and not looking to draw any attention to what they’re doing. The other reason birds go silent is when hunting pressure and/or high predator populations have taught them to keep quiet. This is amongst the hardest of all turkeys to kill, and if you have other options it’s best to exercise them now. If this is the lone bird you feel you have access too, I’d give him at least an hour, and most often times longer. Rather than push him off the property, give him another go the next morning off the roost, and use a blind. Even the most still of hunters can get busted by silent toms on their way in, and a blind, while reducing your mobility, will keep him from seeing you first. Also, I’d rely on your calling more than decoys to try to kill this bird. Pressured birds are typically far quieter and less likely to come long distances or fall for decoys.

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NORTHERN EXPOSURE Story and Photos by Jake Flaa

I

don’t think I have ever gotten out of bed as fast as I did on the morning of March 30th 2014! The alarm buzzed at 4:30am waking me from a deep sleep and a dream of a 100-pound northern pike! Wiping sleep out of my eyes I ran around the house trying to make sure I remembered to grab everything I needed. Cam, Chaz, Brittany, and Katie were supposed to show up at my house soon and I didn’t want to be “that guy” that wasn’t ready to hit the road. When they all arrived Cam walked into the house and said “ Are you ready to go blind man?” It was a simple response: “ Venison brats, eye drops, Ice Armor, and the most important: Tip-ups! I’m ready, lets go!” Tip-ups were the most important for fishing but above all I had to remember those eye drops. I have a progressive eye disease in both eyes that has been slowly making my vision worse and I recently had some issues with my left eye. January 2013 I had surgery on my right eye that stopped the progression, so that eye should be good to go the rest of my life. But my left eye had progressed too far to do the surgery, so that one is still getting worse. My cornea has been turning into a cone instead of being perfectly round like what most people have. While it turns into a cone the cornea gets thinner, and about two weeks ago my left eye finally gave away! A layer behind my cornea broke and created scarring. My cornea is also bulging because the layer that broke had the job of keeping water

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away from my cornea. If you took your camera lens, fogged it up and took a picture, that’s what I can see out of my left eye. Because the cornea is so thin I have to be extremely careful not to hit my eye because it could poke a hole-and I lose my eye! Pretty scary! The eye drops are helping my eye heal and if it doesn’t, I have to get a corneal transplant. When we finally got to the lake I put on my Ice Armor, unloaded the snowmobile, and loaded the fish house with all of our gear. I think that was the fastest I have ever gotten ready to go! When we got close to the spot we pulled out the auger and tried to put the extension on-except we forgot the allen wrench to put it on! With rumors of 50+ inches of ice we’d need it, so Chaz hopped on the snowmobile and ripped back to the truck to grab a wrench. While we waited we decided to fire up the auger to see if we could make it through. As Cam got closer to the head of the auger I started to push snow away in hopes of making it through. Suddenly he pulls up and out comes water! We made it with no extension! After checking the depth with a Vexilar we realized we were at the perfect 7ft mark for our shallowest holes. I quickly sent Cam and Katie on the snowmobile to drill a large circle of ten holes, while Brittany and I got the tip-ups untangled. We were using Big Tooth quick strike rigs tipped with a huge salt-water herring. I believe we got to about hole seven when suddenly I hear Chaz yelling “FLAG!” I couldn’t see it (of course) so I just started running in the direction he was pointing with Brittany on my


heels! I wanted to get the first fish! As I ran I just Opposite pag: kept yelling, “ Where is it?” Brittany was right be- Brittany Batcho hind me yelling, “ Just keep going straight!” Right hoists her 42 inch northern pike when I caught the first glimpse of the bright while trying to orange flag flapping in the wind my right foot decide if she wants sank deep into the snow and slush-down I went! to put it on the Scrambling to get back up I could hear Brittany wall! gaining on me. By the time I got up we were right next to each other going as fast as we could in the snow! When we got about 20 yards away we both slowed down so the fish wouldn’t hear us through the ice. I could see the T on top of tipup spinning like mad! I kneeled down next to the hole first. The fish had slowed down so I gave it a little time to start running again. As soon as the T started screaming again I set the hook! No weight. I missed the fish. While I caught my breath and swallowed my sorrows, we reset the herring. All of a sudden I hear Chaz yelling “Flag!” again and pointing back towards the sled! I already could hardly breath but there we went, full sprint through the snow another 75 yards! When we got there the flag was not up! In our pile of stuff there were two flags sticking up but they hadn’t been placed in holes yet. As we stood there laughing at Chaz’s mistake, I watched the flag two feet from us flip up! Brittany stepped over to hole and said, “This one is mine!” I coached her through the hook set and boom! She was hooked up. Moments later a chunky 25-inch slimer came up through the hole! We cheered and high-fived over the first Ballards fish of the day. While we unhooked the fish Cam and Katie came over to check it out. They got there as we released it, which was perfect timing for me to teach Cam how to set the Tip-up! Presenting that bait correctly is important and I wanted him to know exactly how to do it. We were on our way to set up another one when I see Chaz running for a flag and setting the hook! Chaz hooked into a nice 35-inch pike that they quickly unhooked, photographed and sent back down the hole. We finished setting up and moved all of our gear to the middle. There we sat in the middle of a pike catching circle of madness! Joking and telling stories as we waited for the next flag. Around noon we were about to fire up the grill when all of a sudden a flag in one of our deeper holes went up. Katie was first to the flag and we coached her through the hook set. She had a good run with it but it got to the hole and came off! While she was fighting the fish the next flag went up and Brittany went for it! She slowly pulled the tip-up out of the hole, felt weight and set the hook! She started yelling “FISH!” When I got there she said that she hadn’t felt a head shake at all yet. I reached over and pulled up on the line-There was something there...something big! Right after I let go, I watched the line start burning through

When the regular pike season closes in Minnesota, you have to head for border waters, l ike Lake of the Woods to chase giants. Jake Flaa and some friends headed north in late March, armed with tip-ups. They came home with sore arms and memories of monsters.

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Jake Flaa struggling to hold his 43-inch fat northern pike!

pike!

tip-up and quickly caught me. As he passed me he said, “ This one is yours, I’m just here to help!” (Truth is if he tried to take the only flag I could see I would have superman punched him.) The fish wasn’t running hard when we got to the hole so I gave it some time. As soon as it started running like mad I set the hook. I felt the weight on the other end of the line and knew this was going to be a giant. After a couple of runs Cam helped me slide the huge pike onto the ice. I still can’t believe the size of this fish! Truly an amazing experience! The 43-inch fish slid back down the hole just like the rest. Now there was only one person left to get a fish that was 40-inches. Cam was getting frustrated, but he was bound and determined to not be left behind by the rest of us! We had a long break between flags so we decided to cook a couple more brats. We were almost done and about to start eating when Cam took off! He was on a mission! He was at the hole and hooked up with the fish before any of us were even close!. As we approached the fish was in the middle of a big run! Cam got it to the ice and Chaz helped him get it through the hole! There it was: Cam’s 40 inch fish! We had done it: Everyone in the Chaz Dob ias holdin g his 40-in ch monste r

her hands and looked over at the tip-up. She was about 4 feet from being at the end of the line! I looked at her face and she was extremely excited. I told her all she could do when she got to the end was to try to stop the fish. She started gaining on the fish! She got it to the hole with one more big run and it started to come up. A massive mouth came up thrashing! I grabbed the fish and it tossed a hook that sunk through my glove right into my hand, then was immediately ripped out again! I kept holding until someone else got a hand on it and we slid the fish onto the ice! There was Brittany’s giant 42inch, fat northern pike! I think Brittany was in shock! Then Chaz had her make the ultimate decision: Put it back or get it mounted? She decided it was going back down the hole to be caught again. While that fish was being released, another flag went up and Katie and Cam went for it. Katie fought this fish as it ran five times! When she got it up the hole and slid it onto the ice I was amazed to see another 40-inch pike! Two 40-inch pike in ten minutes! While we unhooked Katie’s fish someone yelled “Flag!” I went running in the direction they all pointed to the other side of the circle of mayhem. I was by myself on this one. When I got to Katie the flag it was still running Ditmanson so I set the hook right away. releasing Hooked up! I could only her 40-inch pike! hope it was another giant! It ran a couple of times and I got it up in the hole: A 28-inch fish! I knew three 40-inchers in less than 15 minutes was too good to be true. As we sat a couple smaller fish got caught along with a couple false alarms. It’s all a part of the game. After eating some lunch and relaxing, a flag went up. The same flag Katie caught her large fish on. Chaz was off with all of us on his heels. When we got to the tip up Chaz set the hook and immediately said, “This is a big one!” After a short fight, up came another 40-incher! This was turning into an almost unheard of day! We sent the fish back down, put on fresh bait, and as Chaz reset the tip, up I turned around and the flag next to us was up! Cam saw me bolting to the next


ing hedl hold Cam Da 0 the last 4 of inch fish

group that day caught a giant northern pike! The day ended slowly with a couple more flags and missed fish but all of us were perfectly content with how we’d done that day. I can not tell you how blessed I am for the friends that I have and the opportunities that get put in front of me. In the last couple of weeks there is no way I would have been able to put the amount of fish on the ice that did if it wasn’t for them! All of the gas and bait it takes to get fish like this is all worth it when a monster comes through the ice! To keep up to date on what I am doing please follow Here’s My Gear on Facebook. Good Luck fishing! Keep a tight line!

the day

Jake Flaa is a Heres My Gear pro staffer that is addicted to ice fishing and waterfowl! He also shoots photos for MNSJ! While going blind he enjoys time with friends and is blessed for everyday he gets to see what the outdoors has to offer!

Guided Fishing On Lake Of The Woods. To Find Out More, Visit:

www.BallardsResort.com “Providing Family Fishing Adventures Since 1961”

! k o o H e Th Set

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KING AHEAD THINund son with Bret Am

“Introduce a kid to the outdoors.” We hear that phrase a lot and I encourage everyone

to do it. But once they’re out there, make sure to show them the right way to do things. One important aspect of hunting is often overlooked: Hearing protection. If you have a hunting group that includes people over the age of 40, take a poll. Ask them about their hearing and say it quietly. That way you can tell when someone is lying. I understand that hearing is very important in the field. I know that wearing earplugs can be uncomfortable. But if you knew you were ruining one of your 5 senses and could do something about it, wouldn’t you? You know someday you’ll wear glasses, but if you could do something ot put if off awhile, wouldn’t you? I recently jumped at the opportunity to introduce my 13-year-old nephew, Danny, to WildEar Hearing Boosters. They muffle loud sounds like gunfire, but amplify quieter noises. WildEar understands the need for youth to protect their hearing now. “We offer a youth series program that will go with any of the 3 products that we sell,” said Zach Meyer, explaining that as children grow, their ears change, while comparing it to buying new shoes as feet grow. “Youth aged 12 - 18 are eligible. We’ll do two refit adjustments to the existing shell and then one time during those 6 years, they’ll actually get a brand new shell made for their ears.” The need for hearing protection seems obvious, but there are people who still feel it’s not necessary. “I now have the hearing of someone in their mid-70’s,” said Wade Amundson (who’s in his 40’s). “During the last two deer seasons, I have had 3 deer walk through frozen, crunchy leaves to within 50 yards of me-I never heard them.” He went on to explain that the tinitus makes sleeping difficult and while some hunters feel like hearing the animals is more important than protection, you’ll destroy your hearing to the point that you won’t hear them when you get older. “I also want him to be able to hear his grandkids when they talk to him,” Wade added. What’s it like to wear them? “They felt super comfortable in my ears. I could hear everything around me even on a very windy day,” Danny explained. “After shooting my 12 gauge several times, I still had no ringing in my ears or any other discomfort.” To learn more about WildEar Hearing Boosters and their youth program, visit www.wildear.com or call Zach at 1-855-494-WILD.

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Above: The custom WildEar box Middle: Danny trying them out. Below: They blend in well and don’t get in the way. Should I have asked him to brush his hair before I took the picture?


THE MINNESOTA GOVERNOR’S FISHING OPENER IS BACK! May 8th - May 11 in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The Brainerd Lakes Area is a popular destination for visitors to Minnesota, with hundreds of fishing lakes, miles of trails, award-winning golf courses, an international speedway, numerous resorts, lodging and more. The Historic Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake in Nisswa is one of the oldest and most well-known resorts in Minnesota. Its many amenities include deluxe lodging accommodations for up to 1,000 people, multiple golf courses, spa services and great dining.

Guide Jason Durham put Governor Dayton on this walleye in 2013! Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota Tourism

Last year’s GFO (Governor’s Fishing Opener) will be remembered as one of perserverance. Despite some of the area lakes still offering layers of ice, fisherman searched for open water and braved the blustery conditions in true Minnesota style. This year’s GFO should be ice free with warm and sunny temperatures-and hopefully a little chop. Hosted by Grand View Lodge, the Brainerd Lakes area will be in the spotlight. While it’s known as a vacation destination, we’re hoping to uncover some of the hidden secrets while we’re there. And we want to catch some fish!

The official 2013 MNSJ Fishing Host, Ken Grob poses with this northern pike.

Kathi Nagorski with a 28”+ walleye from last year’s GFO

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DATING GAME

y. it or ri p a is e at m a g in d n fi g, n ri During sp By Bill Marchel

Although some bird species began searching for a mate months ago – and some birds mate for life – springtime is reserved for those birds with more prominent courtship rituals. For example, what better signifies the arrival of spring than the gobble of mature tom turkey as he struts among the oaks? He is both an audio and visual delight to us, and apparently to hen turkeys, too. A strutting tom turkey is a sight to behold. His warty neck glows blood red, his face is sky blue, and the top of his head is snow white. The tom’s iridescent feathers are ablaze with bronze, green, purple and copper. An old turkey hunter once said, “When he gobbles, it’ll raise the hair on your head so high your cap will fall off.” 34

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Male ruffed grouse will strut from their drumming log when a female or competing male approaches.

Or how about the dull thump, thump, thump of a drumming ruffed grouse vigorously beating his wings against the air from a log nestled among the aspen trees?

A male ruffed grouse is drumming from his log perch. The drumming sound, which can be heard up to a half mile away, is made as the bird strikes the air with its wings vigorously enough to create a brief vacuum, causing in effect, a sonic boom. WWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM

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To attract a mate, a rooster pheasant will stand tall, raise its colorful head and emit a raucous call, all the while flapping it wings.

In farm country, a spring dawn would be incomplete without the crowing of a rooster pheasant, his swollen red wattles ablaze with color and iridescent plumage glowing in the morning sun. And on the prairie, male sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens gather for a good old-fashioned hoedown as they dance and yodel under the discerning eye of females. 36

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Observe a marsh or lake during spring and one will see “flocks� of ducks that contain only one hen surrounded by numerous drakes. Close scrutiny will show the drakes gathered tightly about the hen as she leads the flock aimlessly around the marsh. The group will often dive, dart and suddenly change directions, even nearly stopping in flight, all while the drakes are grunting, clucking and otherwise carrying on. These activities are uncharacteristic for waterfowl except during the breeding season. These noisy midair chases are called courtship flights. It is thought the drake that stays nearest the hen during these flights will be her mate.

These mallard ducks are engaged in what is called a courtship flight. During these displays, male ducks numbering from a few, up to as many as 25, will chase a single hen while in flight. Each drake does its best to woo the unpaired hen. Some biologists believe the drake that stays nearest the hen will likely win her favor. WWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM

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A male dickcissel bellows out a love song to any female willing to listen. Dickcissels are birds of the open spaces and their song is loud and clear on calm mornings.

During spring, songbirds like this male red-winged blackbird will stake out a territory where they vocalize to attract a mate, and to ward off competing males. At the same time, they flash their colorful red shoulder patches, or epaulets.

Other harbingers of spring are the songbirds. From atop a puffy cattail a male red-winged blackbird will flash its bright red should patches as it sings to attract a mate, and to ward off other males. Mourning doves will coo from power lines, robins will warble from backyards and song sparrows will chant from willow perches. It’s spring, and among birds, love is in the air. 38

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Male greater prairie chickens gather on “leks” or “booming grounds” during spring to perform their c ourtship displays. The dancing ground is usually a high spot in a field or meadow where the grass is short. The amorous males erect their ear-like “pinnae” and inflate their colorful neck sacks as they vocalize. The loud cooing sound can carry a half mile on a calm day.

Why male wood ducks preen the heads of hens during courtship is not fully understood, but with a little imagination we might speculate that sweet nothings are being whispered.

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HOG HUNTERS

EARLY SEASON BOWFISHING by Bret Amundson

“I’m legitimately worried about the weight of all these fish,”

said Matt Kargas as we approached the boat landing. We’d just finished a night of bowfishing that can be called nothing short of epic and he was appropriately nervous about winching the boat on to the trailer. Nearly 50 carp, all weighing between 10 and 35 pounds, filled a square tank in the middle of Kargas’ boat, the “Wango Tango”. I didn’t care how we did it; I just hoped we’d get to do it again. The early bowfishing season allows bowfishermen to get on a lake as early as possible. It’s a new season in 2014 and a testament to sportsmen who worked hard to get it changed. “Historically we had a closed season in Minnesota. It wasn’t due to us shooting fish but giving our conservation officers the ability to curb illegal activities-people that would either spear or use a bow to shoot game fish when they’d come up in the creeks or rivers to spawn,” explains Brian Petchl, president of the Land O’ Lakes Bowfishing Association. The early season is a compromise that allows bowfishermen to go out and shoot carp while the fishing is good and conservation officers can patrol the traditional

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walleye spawning areas. “This year is the dream season for bowfishing.” That’s what Matt Kargas from Minnesota Archery Bowfishing (They offer guided bowfishing,) said over a frying pan full of eggs one morning in western Minnesota. After the epic night we had the night before, I could understand what he was talking about. In just around 3 hours, Kargas, Jeremy Lewerenz and I almost filled his carp tank with fat, spawning carp. Battery-powered LED lights lit up the water while a silent troller pulled us through the shallows. Finally a lanky carp appeared in front of the boat. Kargas aimed and was soon 1-1. That began a night of swarming carp, perfect April weather and a boat full of invasive species. “I don’t think anyone has missed yet, have they? “ I asked after a flurry of quick shots. We were piling up the fish and we’d just gotten started. “I’ve got fish eggs in my eyes,” Kargas said after another chunky carp was pulled from the cold water. Some ice still remained on parts of the lake, but the narrow bay that we were patrolling was open and full of fish. At times I would freeze up because there were so many fish, I wasn’t sure which one to shoot at! When you can get on the water before anyone else, it’s like being in that secret duck slough on opener. Or any other honey hole before someone else gets there. We had the lake to ourselves and the fish were cooperating. “Your bowfishing experience is a classic example of people passionate about an aspect of hunting or fishing in Minnesota that made a change,” said Brooks Johnson, president of Minnesota Bowhunters Inc. “Last year you couldn’t bowfish a lake for carp,” this time of year. “It’s wide open now,” Johnson added. The regular bowfishing used to start May 1st. Now it will al-

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ways be the last Saturday in April. “The Darkhouse Association wanted to see the season for sucker spearing moved up a little bit,” Petchl said about the new start date for bowfishing. The main difference between the regular season versus the early season is that you’re not allowed to fish from shore during the early season to protect the spawning areas. Kargas gave as an example of how they’re readily equipped while on the water. “I dry-fired my bow one time because the arrow fell off the rest. I put it back together with a pair of pliers here in the boat.” There was no shortage of entertainment that night on the Wango Tango. I quickly broke a nock on my arrow and Kargas immediately fixed it. A few other repairs were necessary, including the time Lewerenz reel exploded from blasting too many carp. The two created a “Ballet of Bowfishing,” as Kargas described it. “Except when I smacked you in the head with my bow,” he added. The two were like an old married couple, giving each other a hard time, but knowing exactly what each other would be doing on the bow of the boat without ever saying a word. Kargas corrected me. “Heterosexual life partners,” Kargas corrected me. That arrange-

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ABOVE: KARGAS FLIPS A CARP OUT OF THE BOAT WHILE EMPYTING THE TANK BELOW: ELLOUISE KARGAS HELPS OUT WITH ARRANGING THE FISH FOR PICTURES.


ment seems to be just fine with his wife Jenny, who created a tasty meal of venison burgers on pretzel buns before we hit the water. They live near Litchfield with their two daughters, Elloise and Fiona. 2-year-old Ellouise even helped out with the fish the next morning. The night proved that the early bowfishing season was a success, even if the ice out occurred just a few days before the regular season opener. We did see game fish, so species identification was crucial. Other ethics came into play such as proper disposal of your fish. (We found a farmer who’d use our carp for fertilizer), as well as keeping our noise to a minimum. The Wango Tango is equipped with battery-powered LED lights and runs mostly with the troller. No door slamming at landings and whispered conversations ensured lakeshore dwellers wouldn’t phone the authorities. My goal was to stick a bigger fish than last year’s excursion with the guys who once put a 48 lb carp in the boat. While we didn’t weigh any of these fish, I think it’s safe to say I was able to shoot a fair amount of fish that would compare to the 26 lb fish last time. Plus I got on the water in April and shot my bow countless more times than I did last fall in the tree stand. How can you argue with that? If you’d like to try bowfishing but don’t know where to start, contact Minnesota Archery at 320-693-2061, find their Facebook page or visit Top: Bret Amundson with a big www.minnesotaarchery.com. Oh, and see if carp they’ll cook venison burgers for you too! Right: Matt Kargas dumps water

out of his boot Bottom: A carp-eyed view of the Wango Tango Bottom left: Kargas connects!

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“GET ‘EM HOOKED YOUNG” Story and Photos by Tyler Scott

Tyler Scott, with Erick and Kirra Johnson following an unforgettable youth turkey hunt

What was your first hunting memory as a youngster? How old would you have been? What game species were you pursuing? Of your first experience in the great outdoors, what did you take from that experience that you will always remember? These are all questions I can vividly spew firsthand knowledge of as my introduction into the hunting world was at a youthful age of 6. Opening morning of deer season with my father was a day I will never forget, but this youth hunt story is not about myself. This is about a spirited 5-year-old girl standing a mere 3’ 8” tall. Don’t let stature dictate your initial thoughts on this particular newcomer to the sport of turkey hunting. She has a fearless mentality with the enthusiasm to pursue similar to the outdoor industry queen, Tiffany Lakosky. Yes, 3’8” is not a misprint. Miss Kirra Johnson, age 5, was about to embark on a pursuit for her first MN eastern long beard. Memories from this hunt will be forever cherished by Kirra’s mentor and father, Erick. Leading up to spring 2013, Erick and I were discussing details of a youth turkey hunt put on by our local QDM chapter, Heart ‘O Lakes Whitetails, in which we were both volunteering to be guides. Through lengthy discussions, Erick

expressed a desire to get his daughter, Kirra, her first turkey. At first, I kind of chuckled at the thought as Kirra couldn’t even hold a shotgun upright-or could she? Well, not exactly, but the two of them had formulated a coordinated means in which Kirra would be able to legally and ethically take aim at her first turkey. The week leading up to Kirra’s hunt, they had come up with a strategic way to get her comfortably shooting while sitting on her dad’s knee, since she was not tall enough to sit on a chair and see out the window of the blind. Keep in mind, recoil from a 20 gauge would be shocking (and possibly traumatizing) to a 38-pound preschool-aged child. Their form allowed Erick to take the recoil of the shot while Kirra had her eye down the barrel of the shotgun and squeezing the trigger. Essentially, Kirra was given the “fun” part of shooting while daddy took the brunt of the shot. Our first morning in the blind we were greeted with echoing gobbles atop the hillside adjacent to the blind-which of course got the nerves going for young Kirra. As the eastern sky began to brighten, the birds had pitched off roost, but unfortunately were working

“This is a story about a spirited 5-year-old girl standing a mere 3’ 8” tall.”

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in a different direction. Despite multiple attempts to coax them our way, the hens had another field in mind for breakfast. Eager anticipation of bagging her first turkey may have slipped out of our hands on the first set, but Kirra was up for another attempt. Just a couple miles away we worked into another blind we had set up in an alfalfa field where birds have traditionally spent their mid-mornings strutting and feeding. After about a half hour of chatting like a turkey without a response, Erick and I knew we had to get on a bird as Kirra’s patience was growing thin. With a bit of convincing, Kirra was talked into one more set for the morning before getting her off to school. As we drove just a short distance down the dusty trail, I happened to catch sight of a turkey fan out of the corner of my eye. It was cresting a hill headed towards another blind I had set up. Glassing the area revealed a big tom with a harem of hens within 50 yards of the blind. The trick now was going to be moving into it without them seeing us; especially difficult is getting a first time hunter in undetected. In the back of my mind, I had little confidence in making it, but hey, what did we have to lose? I was already impressed with Kirra’s spirit at this point in the hunt so whether we harvested a bird or not, in my eyes we already had a successful morning. After playing a cat and mouse game for all of a half hour, we were able to get all 3 of us moved into the blind with the gobbler just a mere 80 yards over the rise. Kirra was set up

on her dad’s knee with the 20 gauge ready and waiting for the tom to make his presence known. As I called back and forth with him, one of the hens became more interested in who was making repeated yearning calls. What might have been the key to our success on this magical morning, was a boisterous hen that came right into our decoys making her voice known. She was not impressed that there was another hen in her domain. With every sequence she made, I would answer right back at her as if there was a confrontation in hopes to get the tom to come our direction. Whether you want to call it luck or divine intervention, the gobbles were now headed in our direction and getting noticeably louder. As I turned to Erick and Kirra to tell them the bird was now visible and working right to us, I got a concerning look from Kirra. She quickly turned to her dad and said, “Daddy I have to go potty”. “Really?” Erick replied, “Just hold on a couple more minutes”. Once the tom came into Kirra’s sight, thoughts of visiting the “potty” quickly turned to getting ready to shoot. With each step closer to the blind, I could almost feel the anxiety inside the blind ramping up. Now within range, I attempted to stop him with a series of calls in order for Kirra to be able to take aim, but it seemed as soon as the bead of the shotgun was resting on the kill zone he would move closer. My heart was about to jump out of my own chest-I can only imagine what Erick must have felt like not knowing when exactly he would be taking the brunt of the recoil! Finally, the tom stopped just long enough for Kirra to take a steady aim. With one pull of the trigger, Kirra turned two grown men into animated little kids again screaming and high fiving each other. To say Kirra was thrilled would be an understatement of the century. The urge to go “potty” no longer lingered in her head as she was as bubbly as if it were Christmas morning. Looking back at this hunt brings great joy knowing Erick and his daughter were able to share such a surreal moment together in the great outdoors. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of something this special and only hope one day I will be able to do the same with my son or daughter. It is never too late to get anyone introduced to the great outdoors and everything Mother Nature has to offer but, if you can, get ’em hooked young! Tyler Scott, grew up in rural Pelican Rapids where his passion and neverending quest for new adventures in the great sport of hunting various game species was conceived. Whether it be an early morning gobbler pursuit in West Ottertail County, perched 20 feet high awaiting a P&Y swamp donkey or beating the hills of the Badlands spot and stalking Mulies, hunting has been a way of life and an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle. Still wet behind the ears, adventures beyond the borders of the Midwest are in the near future for this hunting fool.

Erick teaching Kirra having a father/daughter moment. Kirra was curious as to what the spurs were.

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FROM THE BACKWOODS with Matt Soberg

THE SPRING RELEASE T

he brutality of the Midwest winters take a serious toll on Minnesotans, especially this year. We have become strangely hardened and accustomed to long spells of frigid temperatures and insurmountable snowfalls. The last, it seems, was a mere “flash in the pan” to prior winters I remember. Even so, the shear duration is unbearable no matter how mild.

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Photo by Tyler Scott


Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to living through a Minnesota winter. I’m the first to admit I enjoy snow during the holidays and playing poker in the fish house. Although we try to appreciate the season, it is unquestionable that spring fever is an illness many of us suffer from and know all too well. By February, a yearning exists for the first bloom, green grass and the sparkle of sun off lake waves. There must be a reason we tough it out, right? What keeps me going through the doldrums is looking forward to time off from work to enjoy the spring outdoors – grouse drumming, woodcock peenting and, of course, turkey gobbling. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of real life responsibilities is a necessity. Leaving the stress of reality behind is therapy one often takes for granted. My main release from winter’s burden is always an April hunting trip for wild turkey, somewhere, whether it is the Black Hills of South Dakota, central Wisconsin or right out my backdoor in Minnesota. It may seem silly to travel so far to chase

around a big wild bird or too long to spend in the woods when one could be doing other things, but, to me, turkey hunting is about the experience - it symbolizes the end of winter and the camaraderie of enjoying the outdoors with friends. Turkey seasons usually open in mid-April. At that time of year, “toms” are known for getting cranked up for breeding. Now, despite what many may think, wild turkeys are not dumb. Their eyesight is impeccable and they flee at any sign of movement. Their “get away” strategy is actually running rather than flying. Although this may not seem the best route, try chasing a turkey through the forest and up a ridge. I know firsthand that it doesn’t work. While sitting next to a tree, wearing camouflage, trying to look like a bush and making bird noises attempting to entice a turkey to breed may not seem like fun to many, being outdoors and interacting in close proximity with wildlife in their natural environment is something that not everyone can say they have experienced.

Leaving the stress of reality behind is therapy one often takes for granted.

Photo by Matt Soberg

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It makes your heart beat out of your chest and gives you that intense feeling similar to shooting a free throw to win in overtime or batting in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the bases loaded and down by one run. As I admittedly recall, my most recent turkey hunts have not been as successful as I would have liked. Quite honestly, I’ve struggled. It is difficult to admit defeat to a turkey, but that is what has happened. I’ve inexplicably come down with a case of “turkey fever”, a physical diagnosis that affects many hunters every spring. The symptoms include visual hallucinations, loss of breath and uncontrollable shaking in stressful situations. It is a dreadful existence. I’m hoping this year will be different. Through my struggles with the fever, my hunting partners keep telling me to “stay the course”. It is a statement we use that signifies being patient and not giving up on the goal. We all chuckle every time someone says it. I believe our use of the term came from the 2000 film, “The Patriot”, but the term also has other historical uses. It originated as a nautical metaphor for maintaining a constant, unaltering course while navigating. It more recently developed into political rhetoric, as a metaphor or idiom used in the context of war or battle meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles. We don’t use it for any political purposes; it just sounds funny and is good to use to poke jabs at someone suffering from turkey fever. I’ve tried my best to “stay the course.” One morning on a recent trip, I set up in a meadow valley between two steep ridges, an area where the turkeys preferred to roost. I set up in the dark, anticipating a big tom flying down and strutting over to my call at sunrise. That morning was unbelievable. As the sun slowly crept up, the birds starting calling. I can’t tell you how many I heard, but the sounds were constant for over one hour. There were gobbles here and gobbles there. The difference in hen squawking went from subtle tree calls to outright aggressive raspy cutting. The wild turkey symphony echoed up and down the canyon. Some of the birds flew down into the meadow including two toms and about a dozen hens. For 15 minutes they put on a strutting show 100 yards from my blind, jockeying for position to impress the ladies. And here they came. To make a long story short, the fever struck, and I did not bag a turkey that morning, but I luckily had my video camera along to document the occasion. Just the experience of being so close to nature and being able to capture the event was inspiring.

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But, the turkeys won again. Overall, I feel my hunting trips are a success, whether or not I harvest the target. Winter is finally over, fun is had by all and the days away recharge me physically and mentally. While away on that particular trip, technology allowed me to keep in touch with my family back home. I had left my new bird dog puppy with my wife for the week. Typical me, I begged and begged to get the puppy, and then shirked my responsibilities right away by leaving on a hunting trip. I sent some text messages to her to check on the pup. Her reply read verbatim: “all the puppy wants to do is fight.” The text was accompanied by a picture of the pup biting her sleeve and pulling with all her might. Hilarious. Knowing I would be gone for a few more days, I replied with the only statement I could think of at the time: “Stay the course Annie . . . stay the course.”

Matt Soberg is a native of Baxter, Minnesota and is the Director of Communications for the Ruffed Grouse Society. He splits his time missing birds and losing fish between his home in Minnesota and RGS headquarters in Pennsylvania.

Some Canada geese sporting research leg bands or “jewelry”. Photo taken in western Minnesota by Bret Amundson

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MINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL

“Her reply read verbatim: ‘all the puppy wants to do is fight.’ The text was accompanied by a picture of the pup biting her sleeve and pulling with all her might. Hilarious.”


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MINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL

Profile for Bret Amundson

Minnesota Sporting Journal - Spring 2014  

Hunting and fishing in Minnesota are covered with high quality photography and story-telling articles. Contributors include Bill Marchel, J...

Minnesota Sporting Journal - Spring 2014  

Hunting and fishing in Minnesota are covered with high quality photography and story-telling articles. Contributors include Bill Marchel, J...

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