Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29, 2008

Today was the best day I've had since I've arrived to the Keys.


I really feel like I turned a corner in so many ways today, and for so many reasons.

Yes, they're all fishing related.

Yes, I still have ways to go to see if I can find true personal happiness in the Keys.

But, the truth is, I can't remember the last time I fell asleep feeling this good about anything since the day I made the decision to leave my job and start on this journey.

I'll post more specifics soon, and hopefully some pics from a customer as well to share.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Week's Fishing in Islamorada

It's a beautiful, sunny and breezy 74 degrees this Sunday morning in Islamorada. A lot of fun fishing this past week.

Started out Monday morning when we took Capt. Greg's family out for a half day trip to catch King Mackerel, but the wind has been blowing most of the week, and the seas were a little rough. Unlike Greg, his family aren't really sea-goers, and after catching bait and getting our first hook up on a Kingfish, we were forced to head back to the dock after his brother and pregnant sister-in-law got sick, and his daughter and niece also started feeling a bit queasy.

We were treated to a bit of a Manatee show when we returned to the dock, too. Strange looking creatures. They’re also known as sea-cows. They apparently like freshwater, although they live in saltwater, but if you spray them with a hose they’ll come to the surface, and if you feed them the hose, they’ll sit and suck on it directly until you can finally wrangle it away from them. I actually got some decent photos with my point and click, but can’t find the adapter at the moment, so those will have to wait.

Tuesday, frankly, I half don't remember. A few kings, I think, but that was about it. It was rolling pretty good that day too, and we cut it short to a half day since the sails really weren't around. We fished with some wonderful people from NY, though, who we’d also fish with on Saturday.

Wednesday we fished a friend of Greg's and his son and daughter-in-law. Caught a few Kingfish again, a mutton snapper or two and dolphin fish, as well as the daughter-in-law's first Sailfish, a Merry Christmas Eve for her. It was actually an incredible morning of fish watching. We saw baits being showered by sailfish everywhere, but the bait was so plentiful, that even when we'd drop a cast right on the fishes' noses, they didn't care and would swim the other way because the bait fish in the water were so thick that the sails really didn't care. It was neat to watch, though.

Didn't fish Christmas day, but fished two couples on Friday from Rochester, NY. The trip was a Christmas present for one of the husbands. Fortunately, he wasn't the one who got sick that day. Yup, twice in a week for us. In everyone's defense, though, seas were rarely less than 4-6 all week, and it can get pretty uneven and choppy in the shallower water, especially early while we're getting bait. We started off with a few Kingfish, including a 40 lb fish (hooked by the husband that did get sick, who handed off the rod to his wife mid fight as he immediately turned and launched his breakfast overboard).

The King bite stopped, and it was awfully slow from about 9:45 until about 3 in the afternoon. Finally, though, we got the bite we were looking for, and after a nice fight, the Christmas wish was granted, and the angler had boated his first Sailfish.

Saturday turned out to be a day of epic battles. Our new friend from NYC who fished with us the previous Sunday and Tuesday was back, and his sole goal was to get on some sails. We had one come up pretty early, and it turned into an hour and forty-five minute battle. Not typical for a fish down here, but it was an atypical fish to say the least. Normally the bigger fish we see are in the 45-50 lb range, and occasionally up to 60 lbs. This fish was 85-90 if it was an ounce. Was a great fighter, and our angler did a great job on light tackle with 12 lb test line. The fish made seven or eight strong runs, pulling a bunch of line back each time he got within 30 feet of the boat.

The bite slowed midday, but we made a move further east in the afternoon, and a little after had our second bite, and to all of our surprise, after another fight of over an hour, we boated a 105 inch beauty that appeared as if it would tip the scales at over 100 lbs.

Two really spectacular fish on the same day was a treat. An even bigger treat for me was since the fights lasted so long, after we pulled the remaining baited lines out of the water and focused on the fight, I got to take the anglers camera up to the bridge and take some photos. I was in absolute heaven. Here were the results:

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sailfish and Mackerel in Islamorada

Have some days that I need to report on, but admittedly I've slacked some. I'm definitely going to update over the weekend, so don't lose faith in me, please. But, I am trying to live life some, and here I go.

Oh, and Go Bucky!!! Beat FSU.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Chamber of Commerce Day"

Heard that repeated a lot today, as although the fishing was a bit slow, on the first day of winter it was mid 70s, very little breeze, and little to no clouds.

Not ideal fishing weather, but lovely for a boat ride, and the guys on the boat figured their families were having a great day by the pool.

We did have some luck with the King Mackerels again, and nearly caught our limit before 9:30 am, but most were small to medium sized fish. Caught one Sail, and a couple of Yellowtail, but really, after about 10:30, despite much effort, our fishing day turned out basically to be over.

As beautiful as the weather was a little wind would hurt. That said, it was still an awfully nice boat ride, and I hope none of that cold air up north heads our way.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Full Day on My Own

Capt. Greg got a call from the other mate just before departure time that he was sick (which I'm half assuming might be more commonly known as hung over north of Islamorada), so I quickly prepared for my first full day in the cockpit on my own.

Fortunately, it went fairly smoothly. There's a lot of room for improvement, for sure, especially where it comes to quickness and efficiency, but overall it was a positive day. Capt. Greg paid me a compliment that I performed well, and even showed vast improvement from morning to afternoon. Even though I've been here a little more than a month now, I just counted and believe that this was actually only day 11 on the big boat, so really, I'm pretty pleased with my progress.

The weather was really nice today....almost too nice, even. Calm seas and a gentle breeze, which actually doesn't make for great Sailfishing. That didn't get us down, though, as we still released one sail, landed 8 King Mackerel, an 18 lb Mutton Snapper, by far the largest of the species that I'd seen, and a nice Yellowtail Snapper as well.

All in all, a plentiful day on the water, and we're back at it tomorrow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What a Day in Islamorada

Tough good, tough bad, tough rough, tough successful.

I made some mistakes, but I know I did better. Billed my first Sailfish into the boat today. Pulled a hook on another Sailfish that I grabbed the leader on.

Pulled a couple of Dolphin into the boat today. Missed another that I tried to leader and gaff but hit the leader and popped the hook.

All good experiences though. After all, if you never make a mistake, you won't learn anything.

Either way, I thin it was day 11, and I think there's improvement, and I think the Capt. saw improvement, so hopefully it's all good.

We had two half days today. Caught 5 sails in total, which actually wouldn't have topped the field in the tourney today that we weren't involved in, as well as landed four more dolphin, so I'm taking it as a positive.

There were also a lot of pictures taken on the boat, and I gave the anglers my address, so hopefully I'll get a few pictures out of it to share.

Hopefully this was the end of our cold front, too. This foray into the 50s in the morning was enough for me, even though we've been in the 70s during the day.

Anyway, focus on the positive that it was a good day.

Hope everyone out there is well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Islamorada Fishing and Life Around the Boat

Monday was a great charter day for us. We caught a little bit of everything, which also meant that a little bit of everything had to be rigged, and different tackle was flying everywhere depending on the moment, and of course, a whole new set of rigs and techniques to learn.

We ended up catching six King Mackerels, a couple in the 35-40 lb range, as well as six Cobia, three of which were above the 33" size limit to keep, as well as a Dolphin and a Sailfish.

At the end of the day, I even learned to gut the Mackerels, which for anyone who knows me, knows wasn't my idea of fun, but I survived it, and wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

Yesterday was a big boat cleaning day. Soaped up the whole house, as well as waxed all of the metal on the boat. Only took me about 7 hours to get it all done.

This morning was some bait fishing, and we caught a few for a change, which was nice. We'd actually planned to hit the back country for a little fly fishing after, but it was pretty breezy so that plan went out the window.

Tomorrow is going to be a lazy day, which means that I won't have to get to the boat until about 10 am. We'll do a few things in preparation for fishing Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which will be nice. We also had a bunch of bookings yesterday, which means we're looking at 12 more days before New Year's, which means about 17 days on the boat this month, which will hopefully translate into a relief on my bank account.

Hopefully things are picking up!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Islamorada Sailfish Championship Wrap-Up

Well, I know I'm tired because I thought I posted yesterday for Day 2, but apparently I didn't. Subliminally, I wanted to say that there were another 120 or so fish caught yesterday, but unfortunately we didn't participate in the catching. We had one on, and saw a couple of more, but it just wasn't our day.

Today we caught 6, but it still really wasn't our day. Twice we had triples on, and of those six fish we only managed to get one to the boat. We had a few others hooked that broke us off as well. We were out of the running really for the overall, but if we could have boated a few more today we might have been in good position to win the Day 3 pot in the Calcutta.

The tourney days are very long and hard work. Definitely learning a lot in the process, and feel like I'm contributing more each day.

We fish again tomorrow, but fortunately it won't be another 5am call, as far as I know. Off to the post tournament dinner here in a bit. Hope everyone out there is well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Islamorada Sailfish Championship, Day 1 Report

WOW!! The Sailfish are here.

Some of the numbers I had the other day appear to have been off, as there were actually only 30 or so boats this year, and typically about 60, but the Sailfish were here in great numbers. In fact, there were a confirmed 145 releases today amongst the entire field.

Our boat, the Cloud Nine, started out a bit slow, but finished with 8 fish, including a triple header that turned into a double when one fish through the hook, another double, and then 4 single fish. We had 7 others that also broke our anglers off, so we ended 8/15 on the day. We caught two Dolphin fish as well, though neither big enough for the other species category.

15 is actually the number leading now, and there were a few other boats that finished in double digits, and one at nine, so we're around 6th after day 1, and kept ourselves in contention.

The morning started at 5am in the skiff running to get baits that we caught previously from the pens, and then more bait fishing and rigging. Lines in were at 8:30 and we fished until 4:30. We finished at 6 pm after clean up and re-rigging for tomorrow, and now I'm off to cut more leaders in preparation as well, and then to bed for another 5:30 am call.

Definitely learning under fire for me. I had a few missteps, but I think I did better as the day wore on. I feel like I'm still learning to crawl when I know it's time to run during the big tournaments, but all I can do is try to continue to improve, and not directly cost us any fish. There's a lot going on, but fortunately I'm working with some understanding guys, and three great laid back anglers, so it's all good.

Hopefully we'll be on them again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is It That Hard to Make a Sand Ball?

You wouldn't think so, but I was surprised. Headed out on the big boat this morning. Mix sand, chum, and water, and then form them into balls the size of softballs so that they'll sink and take the chum to the bottom. I quickly found that they're not nearly as easy to pack as snow balls, though, and if they're too wet, or too dry, they're just not going to pack and hold together well enough to toss and get the desired effect. Even balls of sand are a learning process.

Had a short day of fishing. Mostly we were getting the tackle straight and working out the last minute kinks for the tournament. We caught one small sail which was the perfect tournament fish. Had it to the boat and released in five minutes.

Excited for tomorrow, but it's an early call. At the boat at 5 am for bait. We'll catch what we can, then head back to the dock and head out for lines in at 8. Hopefully we'll have a successful Day One Tourney report tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Islamorada Cold Front

Wish I had my camera yesterday morning as the front came through. We headed out from the marina at 7:30 in search of bait. It was clear, calm, and a beautifully peaceful morning.

We found some "ducks" as Greg likes to call most any bird on the ocean, in this case, pelicans, crashing baits and set ourselves in position to catch what we could. Not half an hour later, Greg turns and said, there's going to be some wind in that.

I looked back to the north, and there was the most defined line of clouds that I'd ever remembered seeing, with dark clouds following. It was still totally calm where we were, and crystal clear blue skies to the south. A picture I wish I'd gotten, but I was sans camera again, unfortunately.

Not five minutes later, it was as if someone flipped a switch and a giant fan turned on full blast. No build up or anything. Just an immediate shift from no wind, to winds blowing 20-25. We just got hit with only light showers, but the ride back was rough and cold for sure.

We did get some baits, but not as productive as we'd hoped. We tried again later in the afternoon when skies cleared again, but no luck, nor any luck this morning.

This afternoon was spent rigging tackle. My Bimini Twists are getting better, which is good, since nearly everything we rig uses them. I always remember Craig saying, "Chicks dig guys who can tie good Bimini Twists." I was never sure why, but hopefully now that I'm getting the hang of them, the women will take notice.

Four straight days of fishing start tomorrow, including the big Islamorada Sailfish Championship Friday-Sunday. It's typically the biggest sailfish tournament down here, as I understand, with normally 120-140 boats, but it sounds as though there will only be about 60 this year, though. Fortunately, we're booked for it, and it actually sounds as though we're getting some decent bookings for the next three moths, which is a relief.

Going to go finish cutting a few more leaders tonight in preparation for the next four days. Wish us luck.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to Islamorada

Rolled back into Islamorada today. Was nice to see my family over Thanksgiving. Always nice to be home around the people who love you the most.

Also had a chance to reconnect with a friend with whom my relationship turned a bit tumultuous. We had some ups and down, and hard to always have conversations about those sorts of things when there's so many feelings involved, but I feel better with how things were left, even though I think there's still some hurt feelings on both ends. I'm sure I probably say too much sometimes, too, as I have a tendency to be a bit too honest. I probably don't always explain myself very well, either, or get a bit too wordy and vague, as I'm undoubtedly doing right now.

Hopefully after some time wears on, though, we can leave the past where it is, and start to slowly rebuild a better friendship.

Anyhow, I'm really hoping that the charters here will pick up now. I know I'll feel better once I can get focused on a fuller work schedule and start making some better progress down here.

Hope everyone had a good holiday.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all, especially those in my life that I'm particularly thankful for; my family and friends that have been so supportive to me over the past six months.

Of course, it's nice to have a day to remind us to be thankful for these things, but the more I think about it, I realize that I need to try to do a better job of being thankful for the special people in my life each and every day.  It's easy to take the people you love for granted, and assume they'll always be there.  Hopefully, no matter I am, I'll remember to always be as loving and supportive of them, and hope they're as thankful that I'm in their life as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Patience and Perseverance

I got a couple of e-mails and comments giving me a kick in the butt to update a bit more, and they were right, so thank you.

It's been a little tough to motivate the last week or so because things have started off a bit slowly here. I hit the ground running with a few good fishing days to start, but unfortunately charters in the area seem to have gone the way of the stock market, and have been way down this month.

But the keys are going to be patience and perseverance. After all, as the old adages go, "It's not called catching, it's called fishing" and "It's not called killing, it's called hunting." You learn quickly that patience and perseverance are necessary qualities in being good at either of these endeavors, and those traits carry over to life in general if you want to be successful.

So, even though it's slow now, I know that in time, we'll be booked more regulary, we'll fish more, and I'll get the chance to learn more, get into the flow, and hopefully be successful in my new endeavor. In the meantime, until those bookings pick up for our boat, I'm going to have to try hard to continue to meet people, and continue to try and get on the water in any capacity that I can to get the experience I need to better hone my craft.

But, that said, since this week is going to be slow, I'm going to hop a plane to Chicago tomorrow so I can get home and see my family for Thanksgiving, and then hopefully come back and hit the ground running with renewed energy as Sailfish Tournament season takes full effect in December.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Great Day Fishing!!!

It was a great day fishing, but how often after that, do you get to sit and eat dinner with Chico Fernandez and Steve Huff?

Yes, I know that the few that read this often may not totally understand, but basically it was eating dinner with two of fishing's royalty.

It's late and I'm tired, but I have a short day tomorrow, so more then.....but really an all around incredible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fishing Islamorada!!!

Day one in the books. Was gratifying as well as difficult. Definitely a lot of hard work, which was to be expected, and I know I have a lot to learn. It's discouraging sometimes when I feel like I don't know things, but I also have to remember that I'm comparing myself to someone who has been on the water almost daily for 20 years, so I should probably cut myself some slack as well. A lot will be repetition, and I'm confident that I'll pick it up as time goes.

It was pretty windy when we hit the dock this morning, so the run to the Gulf Stream for Swordfish was scrapped. We started out Sailfishing, which was slow to begin with, so at about midday we hit the reef to fish for dinner. We hit the Yellowtail Snappers pretty hard, and ended up with 30 or so in the boat, as well as a Mangrove Snapper. Fresh fish for dinner!!!

While we were anchored on the reef, a Sailfish crashed some baits behind us, and the first mate, Mikey, tossed back a bait and in short order we were hooked to a decent sized sail. One of the anglers fought it for a while from a dead drift, and was playing it well, but it threw the hook about 5 minutes in. It got some good jumps in, though, which was exciting.

The day ended with a double header. Two small sails hit the baits, and both were brought to the side of the boat.

All in all, a nice first day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to schoooool....

Good learning day today. Didn't hit the engine room after all, but helped build a bait pen, learned to spool and re-line reels, and helped clean out the boat and reorganize from Marlin/Dolphin season to prepare for Sailfish season.

First full day of fishing tomorrow, and then learn to throw the cast net for bait on Monday or so. Very exciting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Welcome to Islamorada

I arrived in Islamorada Sunday night and have been getting myself situated since. I enjoyed my trip through North Carolina to see friends and send my dogs on their way to Denver, which was much more emotional for me than I had expected, but all went well. They're with Janis in their new home, and everyone is reportedly happy, so I'm very grateful for that.

Stopped in Jacksonville and spent a nice evening with Craig and Wendy on Saturday night, and then headed to Islamorada on Sunday to begin my new adventure. I've been out with Greg the past two mornings catching bait in preparation for some tournaments in early December. We're planning to do some boat maintenance tomorrow morning, and I should get a good initiation with the engine room.

My first official fishing day will be Friday when we venture out for some Swordfish. I've never fished for Swords before, so it seems apropos to get off and running in with my new career with a truly fresh experience.

I hope to have some pictures up from the trip in the next few days. Thanks to all of those who provided me places to stay and all of your hospitality along my trip back east. I hope everyone is well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thank Goodness for Audiobooks

Before I headed west in July, Craig suggested I look into Audiobooks. He said they were a great way to keep yourself entertained and awake when driving alone on the open road. I enjoyed a few on my way out, but I don't think there's been a time that I felt more fortunate to have gotten that advice than the last couple of days. Southern Colorado is just desolate. The drive into Albuquerque isn't bad, but once you turn east from Albuquerque, there's nothing there.

I take that back. Amarillo is in the Texas panhandle, but I'm not sure why. My friend Alan said, "It's there 'cause that's where the wagons broke down." It seems about as logical a reason as any. But other than Amarillo, sagebrush, and a few windmills, there's just nothing between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City that even comes close to grabbing your attention.

I used to whine about driving through Iowa and Nebraska, but I think I owe them a written apology and a fruit basket or something. At least they've got some corn and a rolling hill or two.

But don't get me wrong. While the Audiobooks have been a savior while I've been driving, I'm having a great trip. Hung out with my friend Brett in Laramie for Halloween. Met my sister Janis for brunch in Denver yesterday morning. Continued on to Albuquerque where I arrived to a beautiful sunset over the mountains of Sante Fe last night and had dinner and drinks with my friends Ann and Steve. They have a new puppy, and Ann faught with her daughter Jaime over who'd get to show me the puppy tricks. I've never heard a grown woman huff "No! He's my friend, I get to show him the tricks. You can do the tricks when YOUR friends are here," as she pushed her daughter aside. I was quite amused.

Headed to Oklahoma City today and met up with my friends Renae and Alan. Enjoyed a great Mexican dinner with a couple of margaritas, and then hit a local poker room for a bit for old time's sake. I'll head out leisurely in the morning, as I've got about 2 days worth of driving to get back to North Carolina.

From there, I'll need a few days to get some personal business attended to, and then it's time to go south, but I'm looking forward to spending some time with some friends while I'm there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

On the Road Again

Well, today's the day. I'm heading out in a few hours, if I can get packed. Ran into some hiccups yesterday so there may be a slight delay, but I'll be on the road at some point today.

I'm incredibly indebted to Sid and Sheri for their generosity and hospitality in allowing me to stay at the lodge this summer. Their friendship and support has meant the wold to me, and of course, the fishing and hunting and watching Sid work in the woods are incredible experiences in themselves. I can't wait to get back next summer.

Of course, no good ever seems to come without a little bad. A little too much worrying about mom this summer, but fortunately she's doing well now.

Lost someone I loved from my life, but as much as it hurt, they say "it's better to have loved and lost." Focusing on that adage, it kept me in Idaho for a couple extra months to gain an appreciation for hunting that I didn't have before. It also left the door open for me to pursue a new adventure, a chance to live a dream to the fullest, and I'm going to do my best to take full advantage.

So overall, it's been a wonderful experience. I'm leaving a more relaxed (most of the time) person, and with the continued excitement that I found that had previously been absent from my life when I started this blog.

Thanks to those who continue to read. I'll update from the road as I can, and continue with my new adventures from Islamorada in 10 days or so.

Be well, all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smart Aminals

The elk and deer have evaded us the past couple of days, but not for lack of trying.

I did have a staring contest this evening with a cow moose at about 20 yards. I decided after a while, however, that I'd let her win. Pretty sure she thought I was cute, though. She couldn't take her eyes off me. After a while, she stumbled away, but I didn't get very good pictures, as I didn't properly accomodate for the low light.

Oh well. Was a pretty neat experience. I know Little Ricky got a kick out of it as well. Here's a photo of Rick taking one last look at a ridge before we lost our light for the evening.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good Scenery

Long hike this morning. Seemed fortunate to be moving a lot though, since it was 14 degrees when we started the hunt. Was probably a balmy 35 when we finished, which at that point almost seemed tropical.

Saw a bunch of nice bucks that were all out of range, and Sid saw a nice Bull Elk through is binoculars that had been not very far from where Little Ricky and I sat yesterday evening, with almost an eerie silence surrounding us. It was too quiet. Not even the birds wanted to talk to us.

Oh well, such is hunting. Rick came close to a shot at the end, as we continued pursuing elk, but it wasn't meant to be today. When I was in a position where it wasn't a big deal if I were making some noise, I snapped these couple of photos as I was heading down the mountain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Picture I Thought Was Interesting

Shot after a brief rain shower, just before sunset, and a little hole in the clouds opened. Shot off the front deck of the lodge.

Breezy Days

Wind had blown out the past couple of morning hunts. When it's windy, the animals tend to stay bedded down since they just don't like being up in the wind, and wind creates a lot of noise, which makes it harder to hear their predators from a distance. Also, if the wind is swirling, it also makes it more difficult to determine which direction unusual smells are coming from that also allow them to determine if predators are approaching.

Rick did get out hunting for a bit last night, though, and got right into the thick of deer not much more than a stones throw from the lodge. All of the bigger bucks seemed to have a knack for keeping enough of themselves hidden that there wasn't a great opportunity for Rick to shoot. It's expected to be very windy again for the rest of today, but tomorrow is forecasted to be as clear and calm as could be, so we're rooting for a big day tomorrow.

As a follow up to yesterday, I know Craig was very appreciative of all of Little Ricky's efforts on his behalf, but it appears that this guy might be a little more efficient.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Craig's Ground Breaking

While were having a cocktail and talking at the lodge this afternoon, we filled Little Ricky in on some of the trials and tribulations Craig had been having with getting construction of his cabin underway on his parcel of land down the road a piece from the lodge.

Building permits, zoning, health permits, and late contractors. Everything you could think of seemed to be stalling the actual breaking ground on the project. It has certainly been a large point of stress for both Craig and Sid these past few weeks.

Well, another Jim Beam or two later, and Little Ricky decided this was just unacceptable. He decided that since the track hoe was delivered on Thursday, but nothing was done on Friday, that it was time to take matters into his own hand.

A few minutes later, he was geared up, and invited both Sid and I to attend the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Reagor Ground Breaking 2008.

We thought it was pretty clever, and pretty funny, but little did we know, he wasn't content to stop at that. To our surprise, Little Ricky then sprinted to the track hoe, as he was set to REALLY get down to business.

When he couldn't get in, he decided he was going to break in, and nothing was going to stop him.

Fortunately, Sid jumped into action, and reasoned with Little Ricky. Sid convinced Little Ricky that trying to operate heavy machinery after a few Beam's wasn't necessarily the the soundest decision.

But Little Ricky isn't easily deterred. Sid might have slowed him down a bit, but nothing was going to dampen his spirit, or deter his will to get this project underway. Little Ricky was fixated on getting that heavy machinery up onto the pad and start digging. After a few more minutes, Little Ricky was in position...

...and the excavation commenced.

After a short period of time, Little Ricky really got into his groove, and was making some outstanding headway.

Clearly, he was pleased with his progress in such a short time.

Sid and I were both excited as well, and didn't want to get in his way. We decided to head back to the lodge for a couple of hours, maybe have a snack, and then return to check on how Little Ricky was progressing.

Much to our amazement when we returned, Little Ricky had transformed Craig's pad into a multi-tiered extravaganza.

We're all sure that Craig will be extremely excited.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Laying Low

Been a quiet weekend. Everyone decided to lay low and let the "weekend warriors" drive their four wheelers around the mountains, scaring the deer and the elk.

We'll head back out tomorrow, maybe, or Monday morning after the animals have had a chance to settle down and get back into their routine.

Until then, we'll just watch some football and baseball and enjoy the return of the warm sunny weather.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hiking, Hiking, Hiking

And when I'm not hiking, it's nap time...... forgive me for not writing so much, but I at least wanted to share some more pictures, cause if you're gonna walk the wilderness, there can't be too many neater places....

Good night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mule Deer Bucks

The past two days of hunting have been exhilarating, exhausting, an incredible learning experience, and ultimately frustrating, all rolled into a beautiful package.

Yesterday morning started a little slow, ended with a bang, and yielded an epic chase. At least epic in my eyes. We had one guest hit a 3x2 buck not far from the cabin. 200 yds out and moving. A hell of a shot. He was immediately brought back to the lodge.

Two others were shot right in the back yard. We found blood trails on both, as they were hit, but unfortunately not fatally. One was a very nice 4x4. Greg and I literally chased it for four straight hours. It laid down 10 different times. We must have pushed it 3 miles. We often debated whether to let it lie down and hopefully die, but in the snow, we could see such a distinct trail, and a good amount of blood, so we pushed on and hoped to make it continue to bleed.

We got it to one point where Greg had another shot at it, but we weren't in a place that would have been prudent to shoot, so we pushed on.

After four hours, we decided to give it a rest, and went back to the lodge. Two hours later, we went back at it with Sid, and Sid jumped the deer and pushed it for another three hours. He had a shot at it from 60 yards, but I was up the hill higher, and according to Sid, "I still need some help til the end of the month, so I decided to wait. If it were the last day and I didn't need you anymore, I might have risked it."

He was kidding, of course. But frustrating in the end that we didn't get it. Sid even chased it down another three hours today, but to no end. Truly amazing how strong these animals are, and their will to live.

Sid described it as they don't have a mortgage, they don't have bills, all they have to do is mate and survive, and they're very good at it. It really gives you an appreciation for how smart and willful these animals can be, and how extremely difficult a true free range hunt is.

But, in the end, as you're up on the top of the peak at the end of a hard day, you always remember to appreciate where you are, as dusk approaches, the sun sets, the moon rises, and you can smile, even at the end of a rigorous, frustrating, but extremely exciting day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Global Warming My Ass.....

The front deck of the lodge. 8am this morning.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall is Coming to a Close

The view out the window right now back at the Lodge tells me fall is quickly coming to a close, so I figure I need to do a catch up before I fall too far behind.

I had a very nice visit. It was great to see my parents and my sister Laura. Mom's recovery after the surgery, though slower than we'd all hoped, seems to have ultimately gone well, and though she was still in rehab when I left, I saw a lot of improvement while I was home. And happily, I can report that she finally got to go home to her own bed on Thursday, and the trooper she is, is planning to head to work for a half day on Monday.

My sister Laura graciously treated me to a Cubs game while I was in town.

We had seats in the bleachers that were a bit obstructed view from left field, but the nice people at Wrigley think of everything, and had us set up so that we could see all of the action.

Of course, I had to partake in some of the tastes of home, and enjoyed a beer and a kosher dog with grilled onions and mustard.

Unfortunately, the Cubs were out of the game basically after the second inning after they gave up 5 runs, and ultimately lost 10-3. There were some amusing moments as usual from the crowd in the bleachers. At one point, as much of the stadium spent the night in stunned silence with little hope of a comeback, I asked Laura if she thought it would be better to lose that way, basically out if it from the get go and have to sit through the balance of the game, or if it would have been better to lose with a heartbreaking rally in the eighth or ninth inning.

Little did I know that on Saturday night, when Laura and I would head to Madison to take in the Wisconsin Badger game vs. Ohio State with Ryan, Megan and friends that I'd soon have that exact comparison.

Always awesome to see the Badgers in action at night, though lacking a little of the typical energy because the band was actually on suspension for sexual misconduct, go figure, Bucky lost after giving up a touchdown with 1:08 to go, 20-17.

Imagine 85,000 people walking away in stunned silence, knowing all the hopes for a BCS season just basically slipped away. Oh well, still always a good time in Madison, and even better to spend time with great friends.

I got back to Idaho on Monday, we spent most of the week doing errands in preparation of rifle season, and as Friday marked opening day, we were even treated to a mid afternoon flurry.

It subsided quickly, and turned out to be a beautiful fall afternoon.

No deer on day one, or this morning, but we're staring at two inches of snow on the ground right now, with potentially more to come. As I've been told, the dark Mule Deer will look like the bright lights of a Christmas Tree when they're turned on the first time of the season for the next few days, so there could be some excitement to come.

Hope every one's well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy 7th Birthday Whiskey and Snoopy. I miss you boys. (I don't even have a good picture. What an ass.)

RIP Maddie, greatest dog I knew and mother to the two boys and their 6 siblings, as well as Aunt Sadie. You'll both be missed by many.


Thanks to Wendy and Janis for forwarding me a picture.

Maddie, Snoopy, and Whiskey, a few years back

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Elk Hunting Saturday, September 27 Recap

Saturday was completely exhilarating from the totally opposite end of the spectrum of our hunt Friday night. The scenery was no less breathtaking. But the anticipation was different. The hunt would be different. Sid and two of the guys in had headed to the same draw earlier that morning and saw and heard a bunch of elk. Since this was the last evening the guys would be hunting, they prepared for an all out assault. Each of the five guys spread out along the creek flowing through the draw. One hundred yards between each of them so that each could cover the 50 yd range of their compound bows to either side. An elk wasn’t going to get between them.

I was stationed on a hill behind them where I could see the entire tree line and meadow. I was armed that night with the video camera, prepared to hopefully get some good shots of the approaching elk and a soundtrack full of bugles if they cooperated. Sid and I sat between 5:30 and 6, and we waited. Sid expected prime time to be right at about 6:45 or 7.

6:15 was the first bugle we heard. Sid said it was early, but a good sign. After a while we’d hear another, and then another. They sounded “big” and like they were right on top of one of the guys that Sid had stationed just out of sight into the pine trees. I decided that at 7 pm I’d turn the camera on and let it run through dark.

Right on cue, just as I was turning on the camera, another big bugle. It was incredibly exciting. The first time I’d been in a canyon to hear the elk really sounding off, and Sid was right there telling me how large it was, where it was, and which way it was likely moving, just by the sounds and tones. Crazy wild experience.

At 7:05, well, that’s when I learned that just because the battery display on the camera says 90 minutes, doesn’t mean it’s actually going to hold out and work for more than 5 minutes. Of course I said to myself earlier in the day, might as well give it a full charge. Of course, I had about 4 back up batteries that I conveniently had sitting on my bed as well. Yup, bad case of the dumb ass extraordinaire.

Oh well. Fortunately for me, no elk came out into the open, so I didn’t actually miss any video, but unfortunately for the hunters, all the 25-30 bugles we heard did nothing more than tease them, as none of the big bulls moved into a position to be seen or shot at.

The bugling continued as dusk faded to dark, and when it became apparent it would be too dark to shoot, Sid and I stood and started to head down to meet the guys. Just then, after we’d moved about 5 feet we heard a rustling in the trees in the draw just down to our left. We hear a big bugle, and Sid can make out the outline of an elk just bounding out of the Aspens.

We hear trampling in the sage brush, another big bugle, and then a hollow gurgling type sound that Sid explain the bulls make with their stomachs when a bull wants to “get to know” one of the cows a bit better. The cow kept moving forward towards us. The bull would give chase, bugle, make the stomach gurgle. You could hear the bull try to get up behind the cow, but she would continue to move forward. We could hear them moving up the hill straight at us.

Another bugle, more stomach gurgling, and more rustling in the sagebrush. The bull was getting mad that the cow wasn’t being more cooperative. And then continued to get closer and closer to us. Just then, the cow appeared just on the other side of the knob we were standing on. We could see her outline 15 yds away from us in the darkness. She immediately stopped, and the bull appeared just behind her.

The cow stood for a second trying to figure out what we were, and when she realized that there weren’t supposed to be two pine trees on that part of the hill, she took off and was almost instantly 75 yds away back into the Aspen trees that she’d originally emerged from. The bull wasn’t long to follow her.

What a cool experience, though. The sounds of those majestic animals were just incredible. Totally exhilarating, and very cool to be able to have that happen while I was standing next to Sid.

Elk Hunting Friday, September 26 Recap

Well, I’m on the airplane to Chicago. Was actually a breeze through security and check-in, very few people the terminal I was flying out of Salt Lake, but a full flight, and I’m quickly reminded how spoiled I’ve been the past few months. At any given time, when I looked around the streams, or where I was hunting, there may have been a dozen people within 10 square miles of me. Now, there’s 12 people within spitting distance. Maybe 15 with good trajectory. It’s a means to an end, and certainly faster than driving, but boy, space is nice. And seriously, $7 for a beer? Really? And you take credit cards in flight now? Good thing I heard a rumor about a Hooters near the airport so I could stop for lunch and a beer before I flew.

Now that I’m done complaining, we can focus on the cool stuff. Friday and Saturday’s evening hunts. Each really made an impression on me for two totally different reason.

Friday, I headed out to a different stand than I’d ever walked to before. As remote as many of the others seem, this just seemed to be so perfectly secluded. I emerged from a stand of pine trees to see a large hill covered in sagebrush that descended into a small babbling stream. Across the stream was an open meadow surrounded by pine and aspen trees on either side.

When I entered the meadow, there were cattle cows watering at the stream that immediately trampled into the woods upwind of me, which I feared meant that any shot at seeing another animal that night would be over. Two small foxes did move through. Their rustling in the grass actually woke me from one of those eyes half open eyes half closed sleeps that I used to fall into during economics class.

After my little startled awakening, the meadow was phenomenally peaceful. A slight breeze rolled our of the pines from the northwest. I wondered how many other people may have sat in that spot before me? Maybe two dozen? Fifty at the most? Breathing air that has likely passed the nostrils of less than fifty other people.

Everything else was still. Every now and again a squirrel might walk across a downed tree and let out it squeaks. They sound like those chew toys that you’d give your dog, whistling each time they chew it. And the more they realized they can make the noise, the faster they chew to make the sound over and over and over until you want to just stick a knife through it so that it’ll never make that annoying sound again. But other than those few moments, everything was so still and peaceful.

The sun slowly fell over the ridge to the west. The last few rays of sunlight climbed the hills to the east with the sagebrush and the aspen trees. The orange and yellow fall leaves glowed in the final moments before the darkness overtook them. The sky, completely cloudless, fell from a crystal clear sky blue, past every Crayola color in the box, until a deep navy engulfed the tops of the trees.

It was incredibly scenic. Incredibly peaceful. And during the entire time, an incredible sense of excitement and anticipation was bursting inside of what may have emerged from the woods to join me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Home Again...

Definitely wonderful to be back in Chicago.  Well, outside of my cab ride from the airport, that is.  But, nearly running another car off the road, and stopping in the middle of one highway and then again in a four lane road due to missed turns is to be expected.  

Sat on the couch and watched some TV and chatted with my dad last night.  Was really nice.  Hook up with some old friends later in the week, and then up to Madison on Saturday.

I did write a recap of the hunting last week on the plane, or at least a good portion of it, but I'm having trouble connecting my computer at my parent's condo, so I'm going to have to find WiFi somewhere, so it'll be updated more then.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Much Needed Break

After three straight months of fishing and hunting (yes, I know, very lucky), we're all some tired folks here and are ready for a much needed break between Archery season and Rifle season. It's been a tough week especially this past week with a group that's never been out to Idaho before. In addition, Sid's mom suffered a slight stroke and has been battling pneumonia, and of course our thoughts and prayers have been with her all week. We're all hoping Grams makes a full and speedy recovery.

I'm really excited to be going home. With all of the excitement and run of emotions of the summer, as well as looking forward to the upcoming adventure this winter, one of the hardest things is not getting to see my parents and sisters as often as I'd like. I'm very fortunate to have been adopted into a number of surrogate families in my life, and I'm extremely grateful for all of their love and support, but there's still nothing like the love of your immediate family. I'm really looking forward to getting to Chicago to spend some time with them.

I know Little Ricky is especially looking forward to the catch up on the last couple of nights of archery season, and I'll definitely do some writing on the plane tomorrow. But now, it's time to get my dirty clothes into a bag so I get get home and do some laundry tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get the downloading problem with my camera squared away as well and share some more images soon. Maybe even a shot of the bull moose walking right up the hill behind the lodge tonight.

Talk to you all from sweet home Chicago tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two Very Cool Nights

Two great nights for different reasons. Friday, just because because sometimes you're reminded how cool nature is, and tonight, well, because sometimes nature is just phenomenally unreal. The bugling we heard tonight, a close encounter with some elk, just way too spectacular.

Of course, I slipped in a minor case of the dumb ass along the way. But, I get a reprieve because it only turned out to be minor.

I'm going to expound, I promise, but long day today, and up early for an airport run tomorrow, and then I head out myself to Chicago on Monday to see my parents. I'm really excited for that. I was kind of excited for the Wisconsin-Ohio State football game next Saturday night, but that's dissipated a bit, I'm afraid. Still looking forward to spending some time with Ryan and Megan in Madison, though.

Hope every one is well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Blog Post I Can Be Proud Of

I slowly wandered out of the woods just before sunset on Tuesday. It had rained most of the previous day. The ground was still wet. I was sitting near water, but it wasn’t that warm, no real reason for an animal to come drink, and I wasn’t really hearing anything. My brain just wasn’t there, either.

It was a pretty sunset, though. It’s a shame I think my camera might have crapped out on me and I can’t share it.

I’d been thinking a lot about Wednesday for the previous two days. It had been kind of a “drop dead” date for me. The absolute last date that I should have been back east. A celebration, so to speak, that it turns out I was uninvited to.

But Wednesday morning came, and I headed into town to the Chevy dealership.


If you own a 2008 Chevy Suburban, if you intend to leave the keys in the ignition, do not remove the key slightly to stop the dinging that indicates the driver’s side door is open. If you do that, and then close all the doors, the car may lock itself automatically, and subsequently lock the keys inside.

Should you happen to do this with a rental car, after a 15 minutes on the phone with them, advising that no, you have neither the rental agreement number or your driver’s license number because both are locked in the car with the keys, they’ll politely tell you there’s not much you can do. “Maybe the Sheriff’s Department can help you out.”

Ah, but before you call the Sheriff’s Department, or a lock smith, call your local Chevrolet dealership with the VIN number. There’s a chance they’ll cut you a key to open the door.


So, I got the key for Sid, got back to the lodge, and the guys in hunting this week decided they wanted to go fishing for a couple of hours between hunts. I put on my quick dry nylon pants, my long sleeve t-shirt and sweatshirt, threw on my polarized glasses, and boy, I was like a new man.

Got licenses for everyone, headed out to the stream, laced up my wading boots, grabbed my fly rod, and we headed out. It was a bit of a cluster----, as only one of the five had fly fished before. Everyone went straight to a different spot. Fished downstream. Just cruised the bank looking for fish. Basically, buggered a whole stretch out of excitement.

A couple of fish were caught, though. As for me, I realized that I’m certainly more comfortable as an angler than a hunter. I think I’ll still carry a bow out a few times, as sticking an Elk or a Deer with a traditional archery rig still seems like it would be quite an accomplishment, and the process is fascinating to me. I also realize that I don’t share the passion for it that Sid or others I’ve met harbor. I’m definitely more comfortable with a fly rod or a camera in my hands.

But, that didn’t stop me from getting back in the woods last night after dropping everyone else off where they needed to be. I had to go back to the lodge and change, and probably missed out on some of the excitement because of it. Sid and Joe, who by the way is the first cow inseminator that I’ve ever met, got out of the car, and found themselves right in the thick of elk less than 200 yds from where I dropped them off. They spooked one big bull that ran right past where I was to be sitting when I got back in 45 minutes.

The rest of the time, Sid basically just sat and talked with the elk, from all reports. He’d cow call, a “meeewwwww” type sound, and then they’d “meeewwwww” back. He’d even rustle some branches to try to get some of the cows to move out who were making some warning type sounds, but to no avail. They just wanted to stay and talk to Sid.

About 45 minutes after I got back, unknowingly about 500 yds from Sid and Joe, if that. I heard a few cow calls, and then a big “AOOOOOOFFFFFFFF.” I proceeded to hear that same sound, in different levels of volume and force at the rate of about 1 every 30 seconds for the next 15-18 minutes. I had thought it might be a big bull, and when the sound suddenly stopped, I was hoping it might have been because Joe shot it.

About 15 minutes later, just before dark, Sid called on the radio to tell me they were heading back to the car. I was concerned that I may not have been hearing what I thought. Maybe it was just a big sheep dog somewhere, so I decided I’d try to feel out where they were and what they’d seen before I relayed my experience for the evening.

As I got down to the car, they were both there already which surprised me. They each stood with their hands in their pockets and sheepish grins. I looked in back of the truck to see if an Elk was loaded, or just their gear. Just gear.

“You guys see anything?”

“Bunch of Elk.”

“No shots?” I asked.

“Nope. Saw a big bull, though, and some cows.”

“Was it making a big AOOOOOOFFFFFFFF type sound?”

They both bursted out laughing. Apparently, it was a big cow who was basically barking out warning, because she couldn’t figure out what Sid was as she couldn’t see him, but all the other cows in the area were basically having a conversation with him. They even had a small calf come up to them so close that when she went “mew” they could see her lips moving.

Pretty neat. I only wish that I’d been standing beside them with a video camera. But it was a great evening of stories and recounting the experiences and sounds we had surrounding us.

And as I reflected on my day, it turned out to be great. Just as the last three months have been. There’s still some ache and disappointment in the way things turned out, and wondering what I’m missing, but at the same token, you realize that everyone comes into your life for a different purpose. Some might take you all the way to your final destination. Others might just help guide you onto the right path.

In this case, what I thought the original purpose ended up not being the case. But as it turned out, it was an important contributing factor in my having the courage to leave the life that I knew, and take the leap to get where I needed to be. I wake up each morning, and step into my shoes more confident and comfortable with myself and where I’m headed than I have been in a long time.

I don’t know if you still read the blog anymore, but I thank you for the tremendous role you’ve played in my life. I hope your day turned out to be a special one. No hard feelings.

Hope everyone else is doing well, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Elk Hunting Catch Up

The better part of the my last week has been a bit of a feeling out session with the woods. There's a lot to learn, and it seems that there's a little something different each day. Picking up on this different aspects can make everything a bit easier, from simple navigating to hunting.

Visual cues are clearly important. Taking stock of fallen trees, game paths, or other unique brush will definitely help in navigation. Tracks, dung, and bark rubbed off trees can indicate who or what else may have been moving through as well. As you see those things over and over, you can pretty quickly begin to distinguish and learn what you're looking at.

Audible cues, however, definitely are important, as you can't always see through the brush and forest. Without paying close attention to what you hear around you, you often won't be prepared, especially as it relates to hunting.

That said, most of last week I got to the point where I was convinced that there weren't Elk or Deer around, but rather that there were actually 50 pound flying horned squirrels hopping from branch to branch and banging their horns against the trees.

Fortunately, as Jeff proved in the picture in the previous blog, that's not really the case, but I'm still fine tuning my ears each day to get a better understanding of my surroundings.

Last week was fun, though, especially to see the excitement of the pursuit, as well as the accomplishment of taking the animal down. Wednesday afternoon I walked Sid and Jeff up to the water that I'd stumbled on the afternoon prior. When Sid got there, he just stopped and stared. It was like an 11-year-old boy finding free porn on the internet for the first time.

He was literally giddy four hours later, and all day Thursday and Friday morning he was confident that something had to happen in that water hole, as it was the most beaten up water he'd seen by elk all summer.

Fortunately he was correct, and as a reward for helping find the water hole, I got to carry the right rear quarter, weighing roughly 75 pounds out of the woods about 1/2 mile, and then got to assist in carrying out a severed Elk head with antlers. Nope, never thought I'd write that about myself in a million years, either.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Nice Elk with a Compound Bow and Arrow

Congratulations to Jeff Bowles, pictured below, who shot this nice 5 x 5 Elk on Friday with a compound bow and arrow.

We spent Friday afternoon hauling this beast out of the woods, Friday night celebrating the feat, and Saturday recovering from the celebration, which turned out to be perfect to accommodate the rainy conditions that rolled in. Most of today was consumed with the airport runs to Jackson Hole to take Jeff out and bring a group of new people in to the lodge.

Hopefully I'll get caught up with details about Jeff's accomplishment, and more of my own nature walks in the next couple of days.

Hope every one's doing well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bow Hunting--Day 2--morning

Tuesday started out a bit earlier for our long hike in to an old favorite spot of the lodge. It was probably only in the high 30s when we left the vehicle, and no matter how much hiking I'd done for fishing this summer, the cold air seemed like a 20 pound weight against my chest.

Fortunately the hike wasn't as steep as it was long, so it turned out not to be too bad once my body adjusted to the air. We spotted a doe on the way up, but it was looking straight at us by the time we saw it, and off it went.

It was a very quiet morning for me. I didn't see or hear anything. Jeff saw a few deer and an elk bull, but wasn't in shooting range. Sid turned out to be the closest to having a shot. He was sitting between Jeff and I, and was watching Jeff's bull when he felt some eyes on him. He turned and saw a spike elk that had nearly walked right up on him, straight up the trail that we'd used to get in.

He wasn't holding his bow, and when he shifted just slightly to turn to pick it up, the elk turned and walked out the same way it had entered.

Sid recalled the story as we were all walking out, and seemed generally perplexed that of all the routes the spike could have followed to get to where he was intending to go bed for the day, he walked right up the same path we'd just walked over. Jeff was in moderate disbelief as we were walking when Sid said, "Well, look, these are his tracks."

"How can you know that for sure?" Jeff asked.

"Well, there's an elk print right on top of that boot print. And that's your boot print, so that means it came in right behind us."

"Shit, that is my boot print. How can you know that?" Jeff responded.

"I know what my and Jeffrey's boots look like, which means that has to be yours, and since the elk print it inside it, that means it came after us."

And there you have it. Sid notices everything that's going on. It's really amazing to behold.

Sid sent Jeff and I on a "shortcut" back to the lodge while he went back to where he left the car. Jeff and I were cursing him most of the way. If that was a shortcut, he must have been going through some heavy shit. When we got back to the lodge, of course well after Sid, we told him that in the future, shortcuts shouldn't involve anywhere that us mere mortals might break an ankle.

After some breakfast and relaxation, I decided to head into the woods at about 1pm to see if I could find the GPS radio that I'd lost the day before. I had a decent idea where it might be, and one of the other GPS radios that hopefully I could use to track where the one I lost might be. I figured I could get in and out and be back by about 3 so that I could rest an hour before we went back out for the evening.

I decided that I'd carry my bow with me just in case I could scare a grouse or something up, and hopefully avoid any more encounters with bees. I worked my way up past where I'd thought that I'd lost the radio while running from the bees, but no luck.

As I got a bit further up, I followed the path that we'd taken down to the best of my ability, and of course, not exactly on track, ended up walking right into the water hole that we thought we were looking for the day before. We must have been within 30 yds of it, but just never saw it through all the thick timber.

Even to my novice eye, I could tell that the water hole had been trampled by all sorts of deer and elk. There were fresh muddy prints all around, and 4 or 5 well defined paths in and out towards all directions.

The last point on the GPS radio that I was carrying that showed the radio I'd lost was further up the mountain, so I continued on. I climbed about 20 more minutes, but when I arrived, realized it was essentially the spot where my last transmission was to Sid the day before, so it had locked on that point, and not the actual current location of that GPS radio. No luck.

I headed back down, made sure I came across the water hole one more time so I'd have a decent bearing on it, and then went back and reported the good and bad news. Oh, I did manage to scare up a grouse, but when I did, it actually scared me more than I scared it I think, and never had a chance at a shot.

When I got back, I told Sid the good and bad news, and his eyes lit up at the report of the water hole. He'd had a different spot picked out for that afternoon, but we'd definitely head back that direction the following afternoon, since I'd already trekked through there and had made a bunch of noise looking for the radio.

to be continued.....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hunting--Day 1--Afternoon

The afternoon session of my first hunting experience was eventful, but not for the reasons that we'd have hoped. I was out with another Jeff who is staying at the lodge this week. He was here last year, and we were hiking up to a water hole that Sid had sent him to last year.

It was a spot that we can basically see from the landing where we have a bunch of our cookouts, but seeing it from a distance and trying to navigate to it while walking through thick brush amongst Pine and Aspen trees is another story.

We set out early so that we could slowly climb the hill to avoid sweating as much as possible, since you don't want a lot of scent in the air while hunting, as well as try to get there a bit earlier than normal since it was hot, and we knew the elk and deer would need to get to water at some point.

On our way up we saw a grouse, and since I had an arrow with a "judo point" with me (a head used for practice and small game, and not the traditional broad head arrow for larger game) I decided I'd try to shoot.

Well, I learned a couple of good lessons from this first shot at a live creature. First, don't pull back 1/2 way and quick shoot. Better to get yourself fully set, and if need be, wait a second for the animal to be still if they're not fully spooked. The second is patience, which is really the same as the first lesson, just fewer words, and it was worth reiterating.

Either way, I shot about 2 inches low and bounced the arrow up between the grouse's legs, effectively neutering the grouse if it were male, and sending it on it's way. Either way, though, I had good "towards," so all wasn't lost for a first effort.

By the way, for those who are curious, I'm hunting with a beautiful stick bow, long bow style, that Craig left with me, which was given to him by a dear friend of his. It's a Kim Sha Mattawoman II. A beautifully handcrafted bow. I think the arrows are also handcrafted from Cedar with Steel broad head tips which we hand sharpen with a file. I've been practicing and can shoot fairly accurately from 15-18 yards, and am still working on my accuracy from about 18-25 yards, if that gives you any idea how close we need to get to the animals. I'm not sure that I'd ever want to hunt with a compound bow or rifle, but that can be another ramble for another time.

Anyhow, we continued up the mountain and reached it's peak, at which point, we were at a loss for where the water was supposed to be. We saw a couple of dry spots where there may have been water, but it has since dried out. Sid tried to direct us via walkie-talkie, but no luck.

At that point, Sid was off scouting other areas, and time was passing before we'd totally ruin the afternoon. We couldn't get Sid back on the radio, and no water hole, so Jeff and I evaluated the wind and adopted a Plan B to head where we knew there was water, and thought we wouldn't bugger ourselves too badly.

As we headed down, Sid contacted us, I told him our plan, and he was in agreement. Little did I know that would be the last I'd see of the GPS Radio I was carrying. About 15 minutes later, a few steps ahead, I hear Jeff yelp "Ouch."

"What happened, a tree stick you?"

"No," he responded, "a bee."

"Ow, ah, shit," was my response, as I felt myself starting to get stung. Jeff started running and I followed until it seemed we were clear. I don't know what he stepped on, or what got them agitated, but those bees weren't happy to see us. When the dust cleared, I'd been stung twice on my right hand, and once each on my left elbow, side, and stomach. (Most of them are still irritating the crap out of me two days later) Jeff somehow only ended up getting stung twice, which I guess is an endorsement for having someone slower and beefier following you in the woods at all times.

After that little jog was when I realized that the radio was gone. I went back up 30-50 yds to look for it, but after our long hike up and down, and the threat of seeing the bees again, I decided I'd grab one of the other GPS radios the next day and see if I could track it back.

We made it down to our Plan B spot, and after all of that......well, nothing. About 15 minutes before it was dark, Jeff said "that was the funnest miserable hunt I've ever had." I asked him if that was a compliment, and he said it was. I'm sure I said some pretty funny shit over the course of that adventure, and I remember getting him laughing pretty good a few times, but for the life of me I don't remember what I said. Well, except when Jeff then followed up with, "And heck, you're not supposed to kill anything the first day anyway. It's bad luck."

"Shit, if I'd have know that, I'd have just sat my bow next to me by the car with some beer and a lawn chair and skipped that hike."

Sure is beautiful country, though, and boy the beer tasted good when we finally did make it back to the lodge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hunting--Day 1--morning

Yesterday morning began with a 5:15 wake up. Dressed, enjoyed a Diet Pepsi to kick start the day, and then got ready to head out. Was a relatively simple trip, straight into Sid's back yard. Not really that far, but pretty well straight up hill. Despite all of the fishing hikes this summer, the straight uphill coupled with the cold mornings still sent a shock through the system.

Chest ached. Legs ached. And trying to keep up with Sid as well as be quiet while moving is a complete contradiction.

As we got closer to the top of the hill, you could see Sid switch gears. His pace slowed. He'd move measured distances at a time. He seemed to sense something was ready to happen. Just then, he noticed a forked-horn mule deer about 80 yds ahead of us. It was watching us, and would move when we moved, and stop when we stopped. It kept itself just safely out of shooting range each time.

At that point, it was just starting to get light, and I was pointed to a spot just off the trail to settle in to and wait for deer to work through. I quickly heard some snorting and huffing behind me, which I've understood to generally be an elk trying to announce it's presence and push something else out of the area that it smells. A few minutes later, I saw another forked-horn mule deer pop out of the trees near where I heard the noise, and bound up the hill over the ridge.

I was worried that maybe I'd spooked it out, but Sid later told me that he wouldn't have moved to my side of the tree line had it been me that scared him. The rest of the morning was very quiet, and we returned to the lodge around 9:00.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hunting--Day 1

Yes, I said hunting. I was a bit surprised too, but sometimes you just get sucked in.

I'm exhausted from the hikes today, and we've got a long early hike in the morning, but needless to say, it's going to be a learning process. Fortunately, I've spent two weeks absorbing many conversations between numerous talented hunters, and feel like I'm starting to get a grasp of the basic concepts.

That said, Day 1 summary:

Morning-- saw 2 fork-horn Mule Deer bucks, but both well beyond shooting range with a bow.

Afternoon--5 bee stings, 1 lost GPS walkie-talkie, and a neutered grouse.

Yep, tomorrow's blog will be a good one.

But for now, good night.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fun at the Ticket Counter

Picking up a guest at the lodge from the Jackson Hole airport today, I go to the counter to inquire about an updated arrival time for the delayed flight....

Delta Ticket Agent (DTA): Twenty minutes late.
JD: Pardon me?
DTA: The question you're about to ask me. It's 20 minutes late.
JD: Um, I was going to ask about the flight due in from Salt Lake City.

The DTA gives me that, "Do you not speak English, or are you just stupid" look.

DTA: 20 minutes late.
JD: Yes ma'am. Thank you, but it was supposed to arrive at 12:45, and it's not 1:25, so if it's 20 minutes late, then it should have arrived 20 minutes ago.
DTA: Uh.....hmmmm.....let me check....(little fingers pecking away at the keyboard)....ah, here it it....Estimated time of Departure, 1 pm, estimated time of arrival 2 pm.
JD: So there's no way to know if it left Salt Lake yet?
DTA (giving me that look again): Estimated time of departure, 1 pm, estimated time of arrival 2 pm.
JD: Yes ma'am, I understand, but since it's nearly 1:30, it seems like they wouldn't have to estimate 1pm any more. It either left or it didn't.

DTA consults with a fellow ticket agent, and they decide that's all they can confirm for me at that time.

Was a nice day, so I just sat in the car enjoying watching the beautiful private jets swoop in and out in front of the Grand Tetons and listened to some football on the radio. A shame that my ignorance caused that wonderfully pleasant lady at the counter so much strife, though.....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cultivating Votes

How do you garner votes for Homecoming Court in Soda Springs? Ride out front in the parade on a combine, of course.

Sid's son Alex (top right) recently moved to Fullback riding in the parade getting ready for the Homecoming game of his Junior season on Friday night.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall is in the Air....

...and on the trees as well. Sure, football has started, but not even officially fall on the calender and the crimson and orange is starting to burst amongst the pines.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Elk of 2008 at Trail Creek Lodge

Shot last night by Bruce Holt, pictured here with Sid and the spike he shot directly through the heart with a compound bow. (photo by Bruce's son Rob)

Turns out it was the same Spike Elk in the same draw that was chronicled here in Craig's Blog. Definitely check it out. As if you were sitting right next to Craig as it unfolded.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back in the Saddle Corralling Cutthroat

"What's been happening? Got any pics?"

When I got that e-mail from a one of my new and well respected friends yesterday, I quickly came to the realization that I was losing focus. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for a few reasons, but I've spent a wonderful summer in Idaho, I'm getting ready to go fish in paradise for 8 months and actually get was the kick in the butt in needed to help me refocus.

Heck, everyone for three counties is Elk hunting right now, which means I've got hundreds of miles of streams all to myself.

Crisp fall mornings lead to beautiful clear skies and 73 degree sunny afternoons. How can I waste this wonderful opportunity? Shame on me.

Fortunately, as soon as my waders broke the surface of the crystal clear river water, I quickly remembered why I'm so lucky to be here. Sure, the fishing started slow, and I felt a bit rusty and complacent as I started making my way upstream, but I soon found a groove.

Caught a few beautiful Cutthroat trout, including this beauty from Kirby Korner....

...and his big brother just up in the next bend.

Rumors of another Elk down. Hopefully stay tuned for good news.