Sunday, December 20, 2009

IL Pheasants Missing - Found in SD

Those who have lived in Central Illinois longer than I tell me there was a time when seeing pheasants was commonplace and finding enough birds to hunt wasn't a dream. While there may be a few areas within the borders of IL that hold some pheasants, they are certainly few & far between and known only to a small number of bird hunting fanatics and accessible to an even smaller number of hunters.

For almost 24 years of residence in the upper-half of IL, I've seen a few pheasants on occasion but none the last couple years. Perhaps, like seeing deer 50 years ago, seeing a pheasant in recent years is an event worth noting. And seeing more than one would be worthy of diary notation if I were so inclined to keep such a journal. The reasons for the pheasants dramatically reduced numbers likely are varied but loss of habitat due to no more brushy, grassy fence rows, the increasing population of the wily & despised coyote and perhaps large numbers of raccoons are among the chief causes.

Included on my list of things to do while still of sound mind and body (although the body isn't quite as sound as it once was and the mind? Well, I think it's reasonably sound but I know my kids wonder sometimes.. but then I wondered about my Dad some too when I was a bit younger!) are elk hunting in CO or NM and antelope hunting in WY. Moose, caribou and perhaps bear are on the list as well if the opportunity ever presents itself. Pheasants in SD is/was on that list also and that seemed doable this year.

Looking for a hunting partner was one of my first issues. That quickly became a non-issue after talking to fellow hunter/gatherer Don with whom I've recently hunted turkey. We also enjoy talking at length about our respective deer hunts (we don't deer hunt in the same place), we have camped outdoors together, and best of all, Don knows the responsibility of providing food for his family which includes four hungry and growing children.

On Dec. 8 we headed to SD. Through one of the most exciting blizzards I've ever driven. The trip out is another entire story and worthy of it's own blog. But I don't have photos nor the time to give the details but suffice it to say, it ranks in the top 3 for most severe winter conditions in which I've been. With 4 wheel drive, no family to be concerned about, our winter sleeping bags in the back of the Tahoe we were ready for the adventure! We drove almost 8 hours in blowing, snowing & occasional white-out conditions before climbing into our sleeping bags inside the truck at 3 AM just off I-90 near Rochester MN.

Without going into all the details, perhaps the highlights of our hunt could be summed up as such.

1. Hunting public land without dogs in the part of the state where we hunted is not easy. We had to go with Plan B which included hunting areas of grass & brush in ditches along roads, state right of way, etc. Getting permission to private ground was not easy as so much of the land is leased to hunting clubs & outfitters.

2. SD residents said this may have been the best year in memory for pheasants. In South Central SD, there has been an infestation of mange among the coyote crowd and they have died off in massive numbers. The pheasants are crowing about their good luck! Numerous times we saw (mostly on land near the road that we couldn't hunt) not 5 birds, not 50 birds but 200, 300 or more birds contentedly watching us drive by or flying from cover if it was an area we could hunt. I've never seen anything like it.

3. Pheasant hunting is enormously enjoyable. Given the chance to do it again, I'm there!

One day's limit for two hunters...

Thurs AM the temp was -13. With a north wind. During the day temps were closer to zero. The wind was biting but the walking & insulated coveralls made it easy to overheat except for the exposed areas of the face.

The picture doesn't do justice to the beauty of these "Chinese Chickens".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Brenda & I were delighted we could all 5 be together for Thanksgiving along with my parents. Additionally, we had Kim, Jeff & Greg to round out a wonderful day of feasting & fellowship!

We also enjoyed games, some music, hikes in the woods, target & trap shooting, a wiener roast and to top it all off, we were honored with our own personal package of lefse to take home, courtesy of the head of lefse production and resident Norwegian... my Dad.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Deer Season 2009 (Part 1)

The "Part 1" in the title is relevant due to the fact Illinois' deer season for shotgun is split into three days the weekend before Thanksgiving and four days the weekend after. So here is the report on Part 1.

Since Kyle is studying at Oklahoma State in Stillwater OK, he was eager to work out some sort of arrangement that would allow him make the 8 hour drive to Pike County IL and get in the woods. As it turned out, most of his classes the week of Thanksgiving were canceled - so he was able to hunt first season AND stay home for the entire holiday. We were all very happy he was able to be home that long! (His Mom was very, very happy!)

The three deer pictured below were taken opening day just about sunset. Kyle and I got all three of these within about a 10 minute span. The weather was warmer than we would have preferred but we had them all cut up and in the freezer pretty quickly. Beside the roasts & steaks, we got about 70-80 lbs of hamburger.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October Camping

We acquired a camper just before convention this year. Early August, it was. Not really sure why we didn't do it years ago when we had kids at home. Sometimes you don't see things real well as you zip down the road and then you look in the rear view mirror and get another perspective.

At any rate, my reasonably patient wife and I thought it would be great to spend the Labor Day weekend at a local State Park and get into the camping mode. This plan began to unravel just before the planned excursion and I spent about 35 hours at work over the Holiday. Not good, you might say.

The next good opportunity didn't arrive until Columbus Day weekend. Brenda had no school on Monday and things were now under control at my business so off we went. Sunday afternoon and Monday.

Now, I've asked my wife to join me on my winter camping expeditions and she has no interest. At least not yet. She did get a taste of cool (not cold) weather camping. It came complete with a short burst of sleet after we had settled in under the 3 or so blankets on Sunday evening. Of course, the camper heater kept us comfortable when we were inside and it was very enjoyable outside sitting around our small fire cooking the staple of all camping trips. Hot Dogs.

Shelter, warmth, scenery, something to read! Life is good!

Not exactly "my old flame" but similar I suppose...


Our only companions on our end of the campground.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Another Project!

Now that the deer stand had a roof, we moved on to the next item on the list - downing a couple trees. Here are some photos of the first one which was leaning slightly toward the fence. Dad has taken down 100's of trees without assistance, but he thought it best to pull this one and therefore waited until he had a "puller". That's where I come in. So here we go...

"Yep, that ought to do. It's not hollow so away we go"

Hooking up the old John Deere and with the pulling cable.

Take out the slack...

Now, here is a series of shots. If you scroll down you'll see the tree fall. And you can also see Dad on the move as he gets out of the way!! Timber!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Roofing the Deer Stand

If you read the story I wrote earlier this year entitled, "Recent visit to My Folks" you may remember me telling about the deer hunting stand my Dad had under construction. This is no little 4 foot square box on 4x4's he's building as you can see... which means the roof is large enough to be a bit unwieldy for one person. So, last Saturday there were enough hands available to get on with the project. Here are a few photos to illustrate.

Dad had the steel roof all ready to go. We put planks in place to act as skids and attached ropes.

Getting ropes ready... and Kamela tending to the dog.

I push the roof panel up, Dad pulls the ropes.

Making some adjustments for proper fit and screwing panel in place.

The novice farm girl (my niece from PA) puts her all into moving a plank.

Working around a tree as we prepare to raise the opposite panel.

Half way up

The finished look with a photo of the assistants.

We left Dad with a few odd and ends to complete but for the most part, he's got the most comfortable, roomy, sturdy & "cool" hunting stand you could ask for. Only 4 months until deer season!
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We had some detasslers gather at our house while they waited for the corn to mature in Iowa. This year's corn crop through most of the Mid-west is at least 2 weeks behind normal. This, of course, made it difficult on those traveling a great distance to predict when they should book flights & such. Kyle is joined here by two Oklahoma, one Washington & one British Columbia native. While they awaited the call from Iowa that the corn was ready, they hung out here and at Karmen's in Chicago for a time. They finally got to head to Iowa a week ago and are now stalking tassels. (Pun intended)

A couple of chickens off the grill were devoured for Sunday dinner.

Monday, June 1, 2009

1st graders can be witty too...

Recently, one of Brenda's first grade students had an unfortunate bout with a bladder infection that seemed to resist medical treatment. After a couple weeks of treatment that didn't solve the problem, Brenda was informed that "Dawn" would be going to the hospital for tests and her dad would be picking her up about 11 AM.

Obviously, this whole situation was rather traumatic for Dawn, especially the upcoming trip to the hospital. She asked Brenda over and over during the morning classroom activities, "How soon is my dad coming?" or some similar question.

Brenda continued to teach the class of course. On one lesson, she gave some specific details for the students to follow and amazingly enough, Dawn, despite her preoccupation with the impending hospital visit was the only one who followed the instructions wholly and completely!

So, Brenda told the class, "You need to listen more carefully. Dawn was the only one who did this exactly as I asked."

To which, Dawn replied... "At least I don't have an ear infection!"

Pretty witty for a first grader, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Recent Visit to My Folks

Earlier this spring on a trip to Mom & Dad's I decided to take a walk around the lake and through the woods to see the progress Dad might have made on his new deer hunting stand. I knew he was making good use of some of the wood and slabs from his home-built sawmill to construct something more comfortable & spacious than the ordinary tree stand. Well, as you can see, he's gotten quite a bit done after starting by setting railroad ties upright to support his heavy rough-cut oak platform and slab-sided cabin/blind/hut or whatever you might want to call it. Nothing too good for a real hunter you know and such is the case here as the steps are black walnut!

Since this hunting mecca is across the lake and in the "North Woods" area of the farm, far removed from modern conveniences, it would be necessary to build an additional building. And important though this building may be, it could be built almost exclusively out of slabs thereby keeping the costs under control. Due to the "seasonal" use and limited number of hunters in the area, costs & labor were controlled by eliminating the digging of a "pit".

However, it would be expedient it seems, to build a two-seater. I don't know exactly how that was necessary since there really is only one hunter that stalks these woods but perhaps the reason is the builder/hunter was more interested in the aesthetic value of his design.

In the event you couldn't read the sign over the white seat, I shot a closer photo.

And over the left side seat is this sign.

A closer look at the seat itself. Pretty much a guaranteed anti-slip seat indeed if you ask me!

So there you have it. One of the many ongoing projects that keeps my Dad busy. Pretty impressive to see an 81 year old so active and still sporting a good sense of humor!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

OK, Just One More Mushroom Story

Not to turn this into a mushroom blog but there is one more story. Last week I checked out a new area that Doug had arranged permission to hunt.
We headed into the woods with our trusty guide, Trevon, who very quickly "smelled" a mushroom "right over there". I'd never thought of hunting them by smell before so I was glad to introduced to a new tactic! We did have some success.

Crossing a creek

The haul

My biggest one of the season. The lower part of the stem is lower left in photo. Stem extends across my palm toward the thumb, then does a 180 and the head laying back toward the left. I don't know if it grew like that or the weight caused it to collapse upon itself. Wish I'd tried to see how much it weighed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Mushrooming

Mushroom hunters more experienced than I say it's been a pretty good spring for the good ol' morel. Cool & damp preceding these last few mild & sunny days. Last night I found a smaller batch and tonight these 15. All of the ones so far have come from the same acreage of woods. If the weather is right, I might check out a new property tomorrow afternoon.

This qualifies as the largest I've found so far...

And while I could tell you how good they are, how about if my sister-in-law shows you!