Monthly Archives: November 2011

Was a Perfect Day for a Squirrel Hunt

There was a sky blue sky.

Virtually no wind.

No leaves on the trees.

The woods on the edges of my neighborhood, just a hundred feet or so away, were crawling with squirrels. I counted nine scampering about while hanging out front enjoying a slow smoke of a cheap cigar.

But those are pets, we don’t shoot our pets.

Or so I’m told/warned.

There was only one problem.

I’m an idiot. Why was described elsewhere, but bears repeating here:

I totally screwed myself this time. Something happened a few years ago when I shut down my canoe shop and got divorced at the same time. I took on a real “don’t give a shit” attitude that I’ve probably let go too far. On 90 percent of what makes up our daily lives, it applies and can be applied liberally. Go ahead, try it. Start telling me about banks, the recession, occupy anything, Republicans, Democrats, religion, anything to do with sports, Greece, the Euro, Israel, Iran, China, trade, manufacturing decline in the U.S., 30 percent of kids don’t graduate from high school and on and on and on. Don’t give a shit, really.

But when it comes to not taking the time to change the address on your FOID card, then not getting the renewal notice in the mail resulting in the expiration of said FOID card right at the beginning of hunting season, then a rethinking of that “don’t give a shit” attitude may be in order.

One must have priorities.

I am now at the mercy of the state police. Hopefully they’ll get that FOID card back to me in the stated 30 days.

I might be able to squeeze in a hunt or two if that happens.

I was told I don’t need a FOID card to hunt squirrels with bow and arrow.

I practiced a bit out in the yard on a squirrel sized target.

Yeah, okay, that’ll work.

Now if I can find squirrels the size of deer, I got it made.

The Last of the Turkey, for now…

I have one last bag full of turkey parts, just the meat to be exact. Just the dark meat to narrow it down even more. No matter how it’s injected, marinated, kept moist while cooking, when all is said and done the white meat is pretty much tasteless.

I tend to give that away.

For the last of the turkey left lying around I was going to do a turkey, pasta, garlic combination.

Throw in some oregano, some parsley, whatever else I have in the cabinet that sounds good.

Possibly some sun dried tomatoes.

A fair amount of parmesan cheese and lots of olive oil.

I actually have a few fresh tomatoes left from the garden. Picked all the green ones back in October before the first frost, kept them in a relatively dark place and here it is almost December and I still get to have one with dinner now and then.

That would be good with this one.

And some good bread. Something to sop up all the stuff on the bottom of the plate when I’m close to cleaning it off.

But then, a recipe showed up on a blog I like, using the last of his turkey parts. As he says…

My name is Chris Beckstrom. I am a musician, fisherman, home cook, beer enthusiast, and lover of Mexican food.

He put up a pretty nice turkey recipe on his CB Fishes site:

Turkey Chipotle Tortilla Soup

The problem is, I don’t have enough of those ingredients lying around the house and I’m too lazy to head out the door to get them.

There’s always the Christmas turkey. That’s not far away.

Thanksgiving Weekend in Missouri

Spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at my father-in-laws house 20 miles east of Branson Missouri. That’s the same as saying out in the middle of nowhere.

I had planned on driving around, which I did, taking pictures, which I didn’t.

The reason is that there are no straight roads in that part of Missouri. There are no flat stretches of road either. Taking pictures while driving was out of the question unless I wanted to drive off a cliff. Pulling over was also out of the question, the side roads with the best views had no shoulders.

What few pictures taken were all taken while wandering down the hill behind the house. We were tracking deer and following what started out to be a little trickle of water that runs past the house.

Mid day view from the house.

My father-in-law owns about 5 acres, but as far as I could tell, his nearest neighbor out his backyard was about three quarters of a mile away. No clue who owns all the land in between.

Out of the rocks, springs would flow.

The view down the hill.

Each spring made the creek a bit bigger.

And a bit bigger.

The woods are made up mainly of red cedar trees, this one was the biggest and oldest. The trunk was easily 3 feet in diameter.

My brother-in-law giving a waterfall some sense of scale.

That same waterfall. There's another, bigger one further down, but we never made it.

Why we never made it further down.

Even when you could see the sun light, it seemed much darker in these little canyons.

Chances are, out here, it will be number 3.

The view from the yard at sunset.

I’ve been to Missouri twice in the past. I’ve always noticed that there is something odd about the sky and how the clouds relate to their surroundings. Not sure how to describe it, but if you do a search on the paintings of Thomas Hart Benton, you’ll see I’m not the only one that noticed this.

Check this out, you’ll see what I mean.

Thomas Hart Benton

__

Funny How? Funny Like a Clown?

Well, I thought it was a little amusing anyway.

No, not the picture.

Nine months out of the year my car has everything in it that I could possibly need to pull over on the side of a road somewhere and go fishing. Waders and boots, a change of clothes that include warmer layers for those colder days, both air and water. Sometimes I get that wrong and my nuts make a mad dash for the deep recesses of my abdomen in a vain attempt to keep warm. But for the most part, I’m pretty well covered.

I pay for this Boy Scout – Be Prepared attitude by endless comments from those dumb enough to get in my car.

“It stinks in here.”

Open the window.

“It won’t open.”

Oh yeah, the short. Damn electric windows. Open the back window and I’ll drive faster, get a breeze going.

“It’s not helping.”

You didn’t want to take your car, remember?

This being the end of the third week of November, the weather wasn’t awful. Air temps were in the mid 40s, I assumed the water temps would be about the same. I’ve done days like this before and have still been able to catch a few fish.

I was looking through my old reports for a November pattern. Back in 2002 we had a fall very similar to what we’re going through now. Relatively warm days and the evenings haven’t gone below freezing all that much. Back then I used to keep meticulous records and November 2002 shows that I caught 318 smallies alone. The individual reports from that month show some pretty good days of walleye and white bass too, with one day producing 75 white bass. I haven’t kept detailed records like that in years, no interest anymore.

The one thing I did notice in the individual reports was that just about all of them mentioned hauling around a bucket of minnows and using a simple hook and split shot for all my fishing. Back then I used to seine my own bait fish from a ditch that fed the river. It seemed to never run out.

I don’t seine for bait any more and even though I have a wading bucket, it’s one of the few things I don’t bother taking out of the garage. I just can’t bring myself to haul a bucket of bait fish around any more.

When I wandered out the door today, I had a couple of stretches of the Fox in mind. Within 10 minutes I was letting the car idle along a mile long stretch. On the opposite shore were spots I’ve fished in Novembers’ past. The river was up a bit, but that wouldn’t affect getting across the river. It would actually make some of the shore line spots bigger and deeper. In other words, perfect.

I’ve pulled perfect fish from these spots in the past. This one is from Thanksgiving weekend in 2002. The light sweatshirt gives away the air temps.

I mentally ran through all the other spots along here where smallies have been caught in November.

It seemed to be pretty consistent over the years.

Today, I drove away. Headed for another stretch further up stream.

The same thing happened here. I drove along checking out all the spots where I’ve caught fish in the past in November. It was a pretty extensive mental list that consisted of a few different species. I think this stretch was where back in November 2002, I had a 50 smallie day, plus a handful of walleye and other species.

I drove up and down the river, stopping at the different parks along the way. Walleye hole over there, smallie hole here. I remember catching a bunch of white bass out of that spot. I did this for a good 3 miles of the river, never getting out of my car. These were just a few of the many miles of the river I’ve covered endless times over the years. I’ve done them year round. I suddenly no longer had the urge to stop, suit up and go through all the machinations of fishing.

In the famous words of Brian Eno…Been There, Done That, Been There, Don’t Wanna Go Back.

I headed home. Part of me expected to be disappointed at my attitude, but that part never appeared. I laughed it off instead. I seem to be taking on the attitude that this has all been done before. How many times can the same information be regurgitated and be called something unique. I did a Google search on Fox River Illinois Fishing and got 1,060,000 results. I think somewhere in there is all the November Fox River fishing information anyone is ever going to want and need.

No point adding any more.

So, I won’t be heading out fishing much for the rest of the winter, now what.

I totally screwed myself this time. Something happened a few years ago when I shut down my canoe shop and got divorced at the same time. I took on a real “don’t give a shit attitude” that I’ve probably let go too far. On 90 percent of what makes up our daily lives, it applies and can be applied liberally. Go ahead, try it. Start telling me about banks, the recession, occupy anything, Republicans, Democrats, religion, anything to do with sports, Greece, the Euro, Israel, Iran, China, trade, manufacturing decline in the U.S., 30 percent of kids don’t graduate from high school and on and on and on. Don’t give a shit, really.

But when it comes to not taking the time to change the address on your FOID card, then not getting the renewal notice in the mail resulting in the expiration of said FOID card right at the beginning of hunting season, then a rethinking of that “don’t give a shit” attitude may be in order.

One must have priorities.

Up a Creek, Again

The plan for the day was to go out to Marseilles State Fish and Wildlife Area to do some squirrel hunting. Only I had forgot that it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Rather than waste a rare 60 degree November day, I decided to go fishing.

The Fox was flowing at just over 1800 cfs. The two areas I had in mind require wading across the river, but that flow level is just about at my comfort level for wandering across the river. I’ve done it before many times, but it gets a bit tricky. If the water temps had been over 60 degrees, I probably would have gone, but with the water temps in the 40s, even the high 40s, taking a spill would be very unpleasant.

I opted to continue my test of a creek wintering hole theory.

It had been a little over two weeks since my last visit here. When I arrived there was a guy a bit older than me getting ready to take his dog out for a walk in the woods. He had the biggest German Shepherd I had ever seen, pure white. We talked of fishing, which led to deer hunting, which led to squirrel hunting and comparing raccoon recipes. One of those rambling conversations between strangers with similar interests. His dog finally made him shutup and finish the walk.

The trees had given up the last of their leaves and the low sun light left long streaking shadows through the woods. The ribbon of water that was the creek meandered through from the north. It was up a little from some rain, but even from a distance I could tell it was still crystal clear.

The Illinois Creek Chub Trout were everywhere in the creek. The cold water seems to have no effect on them at all. The first fish caught was one of the biggest Creek Chub Trout I’ve ever caught.

According to different Departments of Natural Resources, they tend to be in the 4 to 8 inch range with some getting as big as 12 inches. The one caught was easily 10 inches, possibly bigger.

Every cast had small swarms of Creek Chub Trout attacking the small lure I was using. This supports my wintering hole theory. I already know it doesn’t freeze over, I’ve been there in January, but didn’t fish. If there’s that many Creek Chub Trout around, why would a game fish leave.

I thought for sure the walk down to the hole would produce a couple of smallies. They were there just a couple of weeks ago.

But no matter what I threw or how slow I moved it, nothing showed any interest. Except for the Creek Chub Trout. They were relentless in their attacks.

The last vestiges of green were staying close to the forest floor. Just enough sunlight was now coming through to keep them a bit warm. The bright green was a shock to the eyes, all else had pretty much taken on the browns and grays of late fall.

When I got to the hole, the sun was just leaving the far edge. The sun shines down on this for the better part of the day. With the clear water I would think the sun might heat up the creek bed a bit. The current through here is negligible and every little bit of warmth helps.

I started out with a small lure that looked like a small chub. There were no hits. Then I switched to a 4 inch tan Senko on an unweighted keeper hook. I’d let this sink to the bottom of the hole and let it sit there. Maybe move it a bit, then let it sit some more.

This got me four smallies on, but I didn’t land any of them. I did get to see them before they impolitely spit the hook. Two were small, less than 12 inches, but two were much bigger. Based on what I got to see, and based on how heavy they were, both were over the 16 inch mark.

For the next half hour I knew the bite was dead, but I was reluctant to leave and kept casting into the hole. It was still near 60 degrees. The sun was still a few feet above the high bluff to the west of me. If I moved a bit, the leafless trees would let the sun hit me and warm me a little more. I lit a cigar, it would take about 20 minutes or so to finish it. I cast out into the hole, tucked the rod down into my waders and stood staring off into space.

There’s a road about a half mile away, but nobody uses it much. There are few homes along that road. Down in this little creek valley, even the wind dies down and hushes. The birds were liking the last of the sunlight too. Was surprised at how many were out in the woods calling. I recognized one call as that of some kind of woodpecker. The rest will remain unidentified due to the lack of interest in the need to know those things.

I leaned against a log tucked up against the shore and took long breaks between drags on the cigar in an effort to make it last longer. A perfect way to watch the day end.

I have a feeling these fish aren’t going anywhere. Come January, I’m sure we’ll have a few days that get above freezing. I won’t go out if it’s lower than that. The plan was to bring along a bucket of minnows, but instead I’ll bring the bucket and make sure I have some small hooks. And some beef jerky. Chubs have a thing for jerky. Catch a handful of chubs for the hole, hope the sun is out and the log didn’t move.