Will Maines - Vilas County News-Review
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  • THERE MAY NOT BE any joy in Mudville, but all over north Wisconsin there is joy in the hearts of all ice fishermen.
    Thanks to winter deciding to settle in early in earnest, a fair number of area lakes already have ice thick enough to venture out on quite safely. Not to say a person should just go tramping out on any given lake without 
  • “THE ICEMAN COMETH.” This is the iceman that brings snow on the ground and early ice on north Wisconsin lakes. This also is the iceman that stirs hot-blooded whitetail bucks to action, chasing does around the woods in a frenzy during late October and well into November.
    Come to think of it, rutting whitetail bucks might be seen about the same as
  • DURING MY SOMETIMES misspent younger days, I firmly believed that the months of October and November were to be reserved solely for the purpose of hunting.
    I hunted nearly every day or at least as often as I could sneak out of the house before my
  • I THINK MOST PEOPLE would agree with me if I were to say that fall is the best season of all and also the most fleeting.
    Spring, summer and winter all bring something to the table that anyone or everyone can enjoy, but to sort of paraphrase a famous circus man “not only can you find some of the people who love fall all of the time or all of the people who love fall some of the time, but you
  • A LITTLE SNOWFALL never hurt anyone. True? People in North Dakota could give you the answer after 20 inches slammed part of that state last weekend.
    A video posted by a resort in
  • WHY IS IT THAT when a person is counting down the days to a much anticipated trip it seems to take about a week for 24 hours to pass by? But when the trip is finally in progress, it takes only an hour for an entire day to pass? That’s the way it was for me on my 10-day annual trip to paradise, otherwise known as the prairie country of
  • SEVERAL TIMES ALONG a path I have followed for more than 60 years of rambling around north Wisconsin, I have learned that you don’t want to mess with cold, near-freezing water.
    Some adventures I’ve been a part of were
  • SOMETIMES, YOU NEED a little craziness in your life. With friends, family and dogs like I have, you would think I would have plenty of craziness in my life. But last week, I actually welcomed, nay encouraged, a little more craziness to accompany me for a day.
    The occasion was an afternoon of
  • I SURVIVED; A JUG of Crown Royal did not. That would be a brief summation of the 50th annual reunion of the 1969 UW-Eau Claire Third East Bridgeman dorm floor inmates that I was a part of last week. Held in Door County for three days, the reunion not only included a few dollops of Crown, but also many other things for which
    When I decided to use the above line as an opener for this week’s column, I first checked on, ugh, the internet to see which music artists most successfully recorded the song with those words in
  • SOMETIMES IN ONE’S life, there are times when you need to find a place where you can be alone with your thoughts. I experienced one of those times last week, when a good friend who was only 68 years old was taken to a higher and better place.
    Born and raised in
  • IT HAD BEEN a while, so the idea of hitting the road for a three-day weekend of camping made great sense to me and my lovely wife.
    With dogs, fishing kayak, camper, and all the various and sundry things campers need for a successful outing loaded up including a carefully cushioned fresh jug of Crown, we turned the truck northwest for
  • WHEN YOU VENTURE outdoors, you never know what you might see.
    I’ve been roaming this north Wisconsin country of ours for two weeks shy of 70 years. Though during the very few first of those years I wasn’t actually doing the roaming, letting my mother’s or my dad’s feet do the walking while I
  • ONE OF THE best books I have ever read, one I treasure and place up there with every anthology of Gordon MacQuarrie stories ever printed is “Trout Madness,” by revered Michigan Upper Peninsula writer John Voelker who wrote under the pen name of Robert Traver.
    After writing the novel
  • “There are places I’ll remember all my life. Though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places had
  • I MAKE IT a practice to never offer advice to anyone except my children and they generally ignore it anyway. Today, I will offer a piece of advice; a piece of advice I would hope every fisherman would heed.
    Never take an
  • SIXTY-SIX DAYS may seem to be a relatively short period of time, but for me the next 66 days will seem like an eternity. That’s how far away the opening day of North Dakota’s duck and goose season is.
    As that opening day draws nearer and
  • IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO be a yooper, if only for a day. Last Saturday, my wife and I decided it was our day to be yoopers.
    Our original plan was to head for Black River Harbor in Michigan, hike to most or all of the beautiful waterfalls on the Black River in its final mile or so run to Lake Superior and then to
  • COME FEAST OR FAMINE; war or peace; snow, rain or sunshine, one thing remains for certain in this north Wisconsin country I call home. The beauty of the country, no matter what people or bad weather try to do it, has and always will be with us.
    I spend a good deal of time in the outdoors, whether
  • I SUPPOSE AT graduation parties one would expect conversation would mostly be directed toward heaping honor upon the college or high school graduate being fêted. Oh sure, additional commentary would drift acceptably to such topics as family, friends and pets perhaps, but when you live in north Wisconsin all such topics are usually dispensed with rather quickly in favor of
  • WHEN IT COMES to fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors, I have a million memories; probably more. I’ve had wonderful memories of the outdoors etched in my mind for decades and some of those moments, small as they may have been, have never left.
    I remember specifically my first
  • OLD FISHERMEN TELL a lot of stories. Old fishermen have a lot of sayings. Most of the things old fishermen say are fibs and some things they say are outright blatant lies. I know that for fact, for I am an old fisherman.
    There is one paragraph of old sayings, most likely made up by
  • THIS HAS BEEN perhaps the best first month of a fishing season I have enjoyed for many years. I’m finding out this being retired stuff isn’t bad at all. 
    Give me a nice spring afternoon with the choice of raking leaves or going fishing and guess which option I choose. Mow the grass or go fishing? Easy answer. Stay home and
  • I AM JEALOUS. I just got off the phone with a young couple, good friends of mine. I am jealous because they just got back from visiting in North Dakota where they spent time with family. I am jealous because they got to see some of the millions of wild ducks that nest and breed in the prairie pothole country of North Dakota and I
  • WHEN IT COMES to the outdoors we live and play in, it’s always a good feeling to harvest part of the bounty it provides: a couple of walleyes for the frying pan, venison for a roast, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other wild delights, mushrooms and the list goes on.
    It also feels good to put something back into the
  • THROUGHOUT MY ENTIRE LIFE, I have never considered myself to be anything other than an “average Joe.” 
    I have caught a lot of fish in a lifetime of fishing. I’ve killed my share of bucks, ducks, turkeys and such, but as many times as not, I come home empty-handed from an outing; sometimes as a result of
  • CATCHING FISH ISN’T the only thing that makes a fishing trip successful. That’s probably an overworn saying, but no matter how old or overworn, it is very much true.
    Since the first of May, I have been fishing six times. My first outing was in
  • WHILE SOME MIGHT argue it is possible that there is never an absolutely perfect day, I had a couple last week that would heartily dispute them.
    Finally looking like spring should look like in early May, I got the hankering to go catch a trout fish last Friday. The hankering was strong enough that I found I couldn’t wait for Wisconsin’s season to open Saturday so I did the next best thing, heeding the advice of Herbert Greeley, the unknown brother of
  • “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven.” — “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds

    FOR EVERYTHING THERE really is a season and that season right now, is spring. With snow falling a few days ago, one might have argued that we were still waiting for spring, but as happens virtually every April, snow will
  • WHEN IT COMES to a hunting story, the hunter never knows how it will begin, nor how it will end when all is said and done.
    Certainly, that was the case with my short, two-day turkey hunting expedition to Illinois last week. A beautiful Wednesday afternoon, I arrived in Jo Daviess County where I would stay with the
  • OPENING DAY HAS come and gone, and I was not there. The second day has come and gone, and I was not there. Today, Wednesday, is the third day and I am not quite there yet.
    Since I was a very young boy, opening days have been very important events in my life. They began with
  • THOUGH MOST FORECASTS say winter will return in force late this week, during the past seven days I was able to get in some great springtime walks. A day when a warm sun pushed temperatures into the 40s, my dogs and I took advantage with a long hike along a seldom-used side road that is nonetheless plowed all winter for the
  • APRIL 1 HAS COME and gone, and with it, all the corny jokes that people try to play on each other. I used to try and get in on that action, but in my old age have given it up as a lost cause. Mostly because the people I know have given my warped sense of humor up as a lost cause.
    People aren’t the only ones who can play an April Fools’ joke. Mother Nature has long been good at it. Take this year for instance. With 
  • THE SNOW IS still deep. The snow still keeps us from taking familiar and favorite walks through the woods. The snow looks like it may never go away. I’m as ready as anyone for snow and ice to go away, and believe it or not, there are tiny spots where already, there is evidence the sun and calendar will have their way with
  • SOME PEOPLE CALL it shack happy; some might call it stir crazy. I call it marking time. Whatever you call it, this is the time of year in north Wisconsin when people who have been cooped up all winter start thinking of bustin’ out.
    It’s not just people either. I am acquainted with
  • WHEN THE SUN finally sets on this winter and, believe it or not, it will, there will be no way of sugarcoating its severity. When you get dumped on to the tune of more than 70 inches of snow in February alone, not to mention enduring a January ice storm and cold spell of actual 20 to 30 below readings on the thermometer for days on end, you have had
  • IN 1970, A ROCK ‘n’ roll song entered the American charts, climbing all the way to No. 1 on the Cashbox list and to No. 5 on the Hot 100 list.
    The name of the song was “Indiana Wants Me” and the lyrics soon explained that the fellow being sung about was not wanted as a valued contributor to society. Instead, he was wanted for
  • THE 2019 AMERICAN BIRKEBEINER ski race is history. For me, there were three important takeaways from this year’s race: 1. I finished. 2. I finished.3. I finished!
    One down, one to go. This year gave me 19 completed 55K Birkies and next year, will be my
  • I LOVE OLD things. I love old duck decoys, old boats and canoes, old fishing rods, old hunting clothes, old guns and many other things old. Yes, I love old things.
    I have loved one old — nope, not gonna go there — rather, let’s go with a forever young of heart, woman for
  • ANOTHER PLUM LAKE ice fishing tournament has come and gone. Fishermen came, fishermen caught fish, prizes were given away and everyone went home happy.
    But not before they suffered a little first. With temperatures that dipped to the minus 25 neighborhood last Saturday morning, fishermen had to
  • IN ALL OF Wisconsin, I don’t believe there is anywhere in the state boasting more pure beauty than the woods and waters of Vilas County. Call me a homer if you will, but for me, this part of the country has it all.
    We have the
  • SO, HO-HUM, the thermometer reads below zero again today. Same old, same old.
    It definitely doesn’t exactly make me eager to get out and ski 10 or 15 miles today, but with the 34-mile American Birkebeiner awaiting me only three weeks away, ski I
  • LABELS — WE LIVE with them every day. They tell us how many grams of fat, protein and carbs are in the stuff we eat and drink. They tell us how many watts the light bulbs in the package are. They tell us something is U.S. Department of Agriculture approved. They tell us all kinds of things.
    My labels remind me of some of the best days of my life. My labels are
  • SOME PEOPLE MIGHT think it’s crazy early to think about it, but I believe it’s never too early to consider the world of camping.
    Last week, I took the first step toward kick-starting the 2019 camping season for my lovely wife and me. A little time on the computer, a few cuss words for the
  • TIME FLIES WHEN you are having fun. For some people who aren’t all that fond of snow, ice and cold temperatures, winter is not much fun and is a season when time slows to a crawl.
    For others, winter may not be the favorite season, but it is, if you should choose to make it that way, definitely a season for outdoor fun. The fun comes in
  • ONE YEAR ENDS, another begins. Thus, the march into the future begins to tells us the continuing story of life while the pages of history are filled with what we have left behind.
    Beginning at the beginning, where all good and true volumes of history begin, January and
  • AND SO IT begins. With a shade less than two months to go, the countdown to the American Birkebeiner has begun. With that beginning, my four-year retirement from the Birkie has ended.
    Finally surrendering to four years of badgering from my Birkie mates of the past 30 years, I
  • THE STORY YOU are about to read is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me . . . Ooh! Pow! Bam! That was close. Never saw lightning strike like that so near and out of a clear blue sky on a cold December morning. 
    OK, so maybe it’s not the whole truth and
  • NORMALLY, WHEN I set out on an outdoor adventure, it involves fishing rods, shotguns or deer rifles, cross-country skis, snowshoes or hiking boots.
    The adventure may be a simple walk with the dogs or by myself on a dirt road or it could be cross-country over hill and dale. It may be a partridge hunt, summer afternoon of panfish jigging or hours spent with my back against a tree listening for
  • ALL CREATURES, GREAT and small, leave tracks and trails behind as they move from the beginning to end of their life spans. Sometimes, it is tracks along the trail, other times, evidence left behind with only bones and fur to tell the story and still other times, merely by the pattern of their actions. It has been thus since the dawn of
  • I WAS SUCCESSFUL the opening morning of deer season this year. At 7:30, a buck, which carried the funkiest set of antlers of any buck I have ever killed, was hot on the heels of a doe when he crossed my path, not the first of his breed to let lust be his ultimate downfall.
    That opening morning, featuring a temperature reading in the low
  • EVERY DEER SEASON is different. No matter how many years you hunt, anywhere from two to 102, you never see it all. Sure, if you have hunted for decades you will have seen the same weather patterns, same temperatures, the same amount of snow or lack thereof as in other seasons, but there is always something
  • OLDIES SONGS FROM the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are my favorite songs. They are my kind of music, the music I grew up with.
    One of the favorite words to put in a song title back then was “love.” Sure, there are many songs still today that use love in the title, but the music is not the same, nor is the word used in its simplest, purest form. Last weekend, as I began a winter of work I love, I thought of
  • IT’S ALWAYS AMUSING to see the reaction people have to the first significant snowfall of the season. No, not that first skiff or two we get that usually melts within minutes or hours, but that first real snowfall that gets plows out on the road and cars in the ditch.
    We got to experience our first “significant” snowfall of the season Sunday. I got to experience part of it on the road on a drive home from
  • I AM A hunter. I am a meat eater. I hunt for much of the meat I eat during the course of a year, although the older I get, the less I worry about whether my meat comes from a deer feeding on an oak ridge or a cow raised on a farm.
    When I do hunt, I
  • FOR EVERY WINNER, there is a loser. Then again, sometimes the loser winds up being a winner and the winner ends up being a loser. And no, I am not talking about the Milwaukee Brewers being winners even though they lost game seven. The Brewers, even though they did lose that final game, are most definitely winners for their season-long body of work and
  • SOME PEOPLE HUNT partridges, some hunt turkeys and ducks, some hunt bear and deer. Me, come this time of year, I hunt Christmas trees. 
    You might say it’s way too early to be thinking about Christmas tree hunting, but don’t tell the folks at Walmart, Kohl’s, Menards, Ace Hardware and several other places I have been in or seen advertising for. They are all up and running full blast with
  • THOUGH THERE IS no place like a lifelong home, there also are places near and dear to your heart that you get to call home every year, even if for only a short time.
    My home away from home for 27 years has been 
  • SOMETIMES, THE BEST parts of a hunting trip have nothing to do with having a gun in your hands, the sounds of shots in the air, the excited commands to dogs or a full bag of game.
    Sometimes, the best parts of a hunting trip involve
  • IN EVERY PERSON’S life there is a time to say goodbye. For me, that time was last Friday.
    Don’t get your hopes up. You’re not getting rid of me that easy. I have most definitely not said goodbye to this gig, but Friday, I did pull the plug on
  • PARTRIDGES HAVE MY number. If you’d rather be scientifically correct, ruffed grouse have my number; always have. 
    Last weekend was no exception. With the start of another partridge season, I prefer the colloquial name, I was once again left with my mouth agape and no partridges with which to
  • THE OLD GUY walked slowly along an even older logging grade, remembering the days when the trace served as an entry point for some of the best partridge, duck and
  • “FOR EVERYTHING THERE is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
    You may associate this line with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds back in the ’60s or you might know it as Ecclesiastes 3:1 from the Bible, although there are slight differences in the words depending on whether you are listening to
  • TED AND BILL had their excellent adventure. I have had mine.
    Last week, my lovely wife and I, along with eight other former “inmates” of Third East Bridgeman Hall at what in the 1960s was still known as Wisconsin State University-Eau Claire, along with their wives, celebrated
  • IN CASE YOU haven’t noticed, the days are shortening and the first little signs of the best season of the year are starting to show up. That would be autumn, fall, if you will, and in case you haven’t noticed, fall is far and away my favorite season.
    I know some people will say
  • I HAVE LONG been of the opinion that California is home to 95% of the crazy people in this country, but Sunday, after driving Interstate 39/94 from Portage to Madison and later in the day back again, I am convinced that
  • FIFTY-TWO DAYS and counting. Down to less than two months and I will be in my happy place. Less than two months until the little white house on the prairie welcomes me once again.
    Though I could not imagine a better place than the woods of north Wisconsin to have lived in for my entire life, for nine days each year, my favorite place in the world is the prairie country of far northern North Dakota, where the sky is filled with the sounds and sights of hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese and other birds.
    I could not imagine a better place than the many square miles I
  • A LITTLE PEACE and quiet. Sometimes, that’s all a person can ask for and if the person gets it, it’s enough. My lovely wife and I found our own little corner of the world last weekend where peace and quiet abounded. For us, for the better part of two days, it was enough.
    We packed up our camper Friday evening and Saturday found us sitting around a campfire in a secluded campground over Fifield way, next to a lake where no motors are allowed and on a road where no ATVs or UTVs are allowed. It was beautiful.
    Of 17 sites, half were occupied. The campground population included a young family, two families with teenagers and the rest old codgers like us. It was a very
  • SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Others believe that what goes around comes around. Both old sayings have a lot of truth to them. This summer, in my meanderings through the woods and upon lakes large and small, I have found ample evidence of the truth in such sayings.
    Just in the last week, I checked out four of what have been my favorite duck hunting, and sometimes fishing, waters to see what I could see. What I could see were acres and acres of water with very few or no strands of wild rice dotting the surface. Partridge Lake, Rice Lake, West Plum and Irving will offer very little rice for pickers this fall, at least as far as
  • IT WOULD SEEM rather odd that during a spell of 87 million consecutive days with temperatures rising above 80 that one’s thoughts would turn to days of snow. And yet, as I slowly pulled a mower over several miles of Razorback Ridges cross-country ski trails last weekend, that was exactly what I was thinking of.
    From the age of 7, I grew up as a downhill skier for years at Mus-Ski Mountain in Sayner, later at the Porcupine Mountains’ Powderhorn and Indianhead Mountain, both in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I bought my first pair of cross-country skis in 1982, and two years later, I skied my first American Birkebeiner. That was almost my
  • FISHING IS A sport to be enjoyed alone. Fishing also is a sport to be enjoyed with good friends. As a rule of thumb, any day spent fishing, whether alone or with friends, is a day well spent.
    Another rule of thumb for me, at least when I wish to fish, hunt or otherwise enjoy the outdoors, is that on the days I go solo, one fisherman other than myself on a mile of trout stream is one fisherman too many and the same goes for hunting. If I am grouse, deer or turkey hunting on a 4-square mile section of woods, one other hunter is one too many and so it goes.
    That’s not to say I don’t ever enjoy hunting, fishing or other outdoor activities with other people. While I never
  • WHILE MANY PEOPLE have just begun to enjoy all the fun stuff that summer brings with it, there are visionaries like me who are not content to live in the moment, but would rather plan for bigger and better things to come just three months hence.
    Sure, there are those who would say speeding around lakes at high speeds while riding inflatable tubes or cruising on large pontoon boats are the preferred national pastime, but I have no truck with those people. 
    Patio parties where people alternate sips of “summer-ades” with delicate bites of caviar might be magic for some people and nighttimes in the backyard watching fireflies flickering in the dark might be magical for still others, but
  • IT IS OFTEN said that photos tell a story. They do and some go farther; some tell a slice of history.
    Last weekend, while digging through a pile of papers and assorted other stuff that has been collecting for umpteen years on one of my bookshelves, I found a photo that tells a story and lots of history.
    I play a small part in it. The photo really is all about my dad, Uncle Neal and Jim Thomas. I am just a footnote to the picture, sitting in a canoe with the three of them standing in back of it, all of us holding some of the ducks we shot that day in North Dakota.
    It was the only time in my 27 years of hunting North Dakota that I
  • AH, THE BEST laid plans of men and mice. Last weekend, my wife and I had a great camping plan, but unfortunately, it not only went awry, it flew off the tracks and into a bottomless chasm.
    Things started out quite well Thursday, when I set up our A-frame camper at a secluded site right above Plum Creek at the Plum Lake campground. There were very few mosquitoes, the sun was hot, the beer was cold and the dogs were happy to be out of the house.
    Before my wife got out of a meeting at 8 that evening, the dogs and I saw something of the wild I had never seen before. While I read a newspaper, Gordie was keeping guard. All of a sudden, he
  • “THERE ARE PLACES I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments with lovers and friends I can still recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life I’ve loved them all.” 

    —“In My Life,” The Beatles

    In my life, there are places I remember and though some have changed, some forever, not for the better, I still love them all.
    Among those places, the lake I grew up on
  • ANYTIME ANYONE THINKS they know everything there is to know about anything, they usually are just setting themselves up to look like a fool or at the very least, a know-it-all who really doesn’t know that much at all. 
    Take me for instance. Though I hardly think I know everything about anything there is to know about, I always figured I knew most of what there is to know about the fishing holes to be found in my immediate bailiwick.
    Well, thanks to an unsuspecting fisherman who wandered into a certain sport shop to buy a carton of night crawlers recently, I now have another lake added to my go-to list. Not knowing I am an inveterate wild goose chaser, this
  • WHEN WILL THE craziness end? From ice fishing just four days before the opening of fishing season in early May, to sweltering August-like 85 degrees in late May, our weather has been anything but normal. Quite simply, the mood swings of Mother Nature have been crazy.
    For fans of the global warming argument, the early part of the year did little to back up their claims. Day after day of below zero temperatures during much of January and well into February, seemed to refute any signs of global warming.
    A month of March weather when the thermometer stubbornly refused to give us, what for decades has seemed to be a treat of, at least a few days in the 60s or even 70s, further advanced the views of
  • IT HAS BEEN said that never has a boy been made that couldn’t use a new toy. I would agree. This boy went for a voyage in his new toy last weekend and though we have barely begun the honeymoon stage, I do believe we are in for a long and pleasurable relationship.
    I haven’t given my new toy a name just yet, only describing it as weighing in at 43 pounds with a length of 10 feet, 4 inches. She (I have decided that since all great ships traditionally were given female names, that this vessel must be a girl) does not have a name yet.
    Based on my lovely wife’s first impression of her, I should perhaps call her Plain Jane, but that would be decidedly unfair to a lady who, upon my first impression, is quite beautiful for the
  • THERE WAS AN old TV commercial you might remember that stated something like “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven.” I beg to differ.
    For my money, nothin’ says lovin’ and nothin’ says delicious like something cooked over an open-wood fire. Whether pan frying, broiling, cooking something foil wrapped or something buried in hot coals, nothing beats cooking with a wood fire.
    I learned my first wood cooking lessons from my dad. At the time, my dad was one of those people whom you might say couldn’t boil water. He had one dish only that he prepared every time he and I went on an overnight fishing trip. That dish consisted of a pound of bacon done in a frying pan over a campfire until it was crisp, with a can of
  • ON ANY OPENING day of fishing season, there are usually three scenarios that could play out for any given fisherman.
    The first and the most optimistic that any fisherman would hope for is a day of good weather, a huge population of fish wishing to commit suicide and a stringer of fish going home to the frying pan.
    The second, which no fisherman in his right mind wishes to see, is a day of high wind from the north, a full-fledged snowy blizzard and a lake where the fish population seemingly was totally wiped out over the course of the winter. Most often, after a day of fishing like that, the experienced fisherman will quit early, go home, sulk and
  • THIS IS THE time of year when it is good to be a bird-watcher, even if you are only semiliterate in the pursuit of bird-watching as I am. During these early spring days, like so many other people, I delight in watching various species of songbirds traveling through or taking up residence right here until autumn arrives. 
    I am not totally without knowledge of all the songbird species and can readily identify such easy ones as goldfinches, robins and other common ones, but when it comes to identifying the gazillion different brands of sparrows for instance, I am at a loss.
    Luckily, I have a
  • THIS COUNTRY, THIS world in the last two weeks lost two of the finest people to ever walk the face of the earth.
    One, of course, was perhaps the finest first lady this country has ever known in Barbara Bush. No one, not even political enemies of her family, could find harsh words for such a first-class lady and I think it’s fair to say we’re likely not to have another like her in a long, long time.
    The other loss was that of a man who was a world-class humorist of the outdoors variety. Pat McManus, who died April 11, at the age of 84, published several books of outdoor humor, many of them featuring real, although often exaggerated, characters who were part of his growing up years in Idaho.
    His wonderful stories were
  • Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:15 AM
    LIVING IN FAR north Wisconsin certainly has its high points. Maybe not a mid-April snowstorm delivering 15 inches or so of the white stuff, but lots of other high points.
    The highest of the high is having more than 1,000 lakes of all sizes and descriptions to go with hundreds of thousands of acres of woods to play in right here in Vilas County.
    Since I broke three ribs a month ago — they are healing nicely, thank you — I have been restrained to visiting the same half-dozen places several times each week. One of the best therapies for broken ribs I have found is
  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 9:08 AM
    IF ONE WERE to ask me, I would say there is no more spine-tingling a sound ever made in the woods anywhere in the world than the gobble of a mature tom turkey. Okay, so maybe a 6-foot rattlesnake shaking its rattles a foot away from your ankle might be a wee bit more spine tingling, but not in the good way that a gobble is.
    Gobbling, a sound that, once you hear it for the first time while you are sitting with your back to a tree before dawn on an early spring morning, is a sound that will hook you for life on turkeys.
    I got my first taste of turkey hunting in the mid-’80s when I journeyed to central Missouri with my cousin, Art. He had
  • Tuesday, April 3, 2018 10:26 AM
    SINCE THE DAWN of mankind, never has there been a stronger bond of trust, love and partnership between human and beast than that of a man and his dog. Together, they have roamed the ends of the earth, working together for mutual benefit, asking for nothing in return, save an unbreakable sense of caring and companionship.
    I reserve my love of dogs for working dogs, especially the hunting dogs which have been part of my life since the day I was born.
    These are dogs with which one would roam the forest and climb the mountain; dogs which earn their keep whether retrieving ducks, flushing partridge and pheasant or keeping a saber-toothed tiger from
  • Tuesday, March 27, 2018 10:50 AM
    THERE IS AN old saying about how things happening in Vegas, stay in Vegas. That is, for the most part, also true of hunting camps.
    Things happen in camp that should not be reported, especially to wives, back home. Then again, some of those things, with the passage of years, become fair game for public revelation, especially the ones falling under the category of good, clean fun.
    Over the past 27 years, there have been many fun moments in my North Dakota duck camp, some of which shall never be revealed to the public and others which now seem innocent enough so as to be related.
    One of the biggest pranksters with whom I have ever shared a duck camp is my old friend
  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018 11:08 AM
    IF YOU REMEMBER your oldies music from the 1960s, you probably remember a song by Bobby Fuller Four “I Fought the Law.” You also might remember the oft repeated line in that song “I fought the law and the law won.”
    Well, last week, I penned a new song, similar in theme and with the same result. It goes “I fought the ice and the ice won.” Not Ice-T of TV and music fame, and not Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is charged with removing undesirable illegal aliens from this country.
    No, I fought with a foot-high ridge of ice melted off a roof edge and I most definitely lost. The judges score was Ice: 3, as in three broken ribs, to zero, as in zero damage I did
  • Tuesday, March 13, 2018 10:33 AM
    A FUNNY THING happened on my way to “da U.P.” last weekend.
    I forgot to leave my wallet at home and as a result, I came home from da U.P. much lighter in that piece of leather than when I left. And it’s all the fault of my lovely wife.
    She knows better and, grudgingly, I must admit I know better than to turn me loose for several hours while she is sitting in two days of meetings.
    Usually on these trips, I try and wander around the outer areas of Marquette, Mich., Ishpeming, Mich., and Negaunee,?Mich., with an occasional detour farther “up Nort’ ” as they say in that country, all the way to
  • Tuesday, March 6, 2018 11:57 AM
    AS PEOPLE ARE wont to say, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Two months may seem like an interminable time when one is anxiously awaiting a special occasion, but now that we have turned the calendar to March, it seems to me that it will be but another short wait until one of the most magical and special days of the year. The opening of trout season is upon us.
    In the last couple of decades, I have received my greatest pleasure from trout fishing on the fabled rivers of northwest Wisconsin, along with hidden spring ponds in that area that take a walk of up to a mile to reach, a walk that relatively few fishermen are willing to take.
    Waiting for opening day, I have
  • Tuesday, February 27, 2018 10:59 AM
    YOU CAN’T FOOL Mother Nature. You’d better not try fooling around with her, either.
    Try that and you’ll find yourself shoveling a foot of snow every day for a week. Mother Nature doesn’t like to be told that winter is on the downhill slide. She doesn’t care for idle thoughts of a premature spring. She laughs at those who have thought to doubt her prowess when it comes to proper weather for proper seasons.
    Take Jimmy the Groundhog, for instance, and you’ve got an entirely different critter, no pun intended. Jimmy is a fake. He is as bad as all the TV weathermen who
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018 11:37 AM
    The first photo of myself that I have ever seen was of me sitting in one sink of a twin set with my cousin, 15 days my junior, in the other. We were only months old and getting baths. I’ve tried to erase that photo from my memory for more than six decades, but so far, have been unsuccessful in my efforts.
    Nowadays, I enjoy looking back through old photos of my family and friends; some really old, old photos; some from only a year or so ago. 
    What sparked my interest today in going back through the scores of photo albums my wife has compiled was a clue in a crossword puzzle I worked last week that asked for the name of the first U.S. president ever to be
  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 11:05 AM
    WHAT TO DO? What to do? What to do? In this middle part of February, when winter has lost much of its luster for those of us who live in the “great white North,” it’s time to think about things we want to do; that is, want to do anywhere, but here, in the great white North.
    It was not always so for me. There were winters in my younger days that I wished winter, at least sort of, would never end. Back then, there was never enough time to ice fish as many times as I wished, never enough time to snowshoe or ski miles upon miles through the backwoods, and never enough time to spend cold winter nights sorting tackle, ordering new tackle and dreaming of tackle I could never afford for the upcoming spring fishing season.
    Nowadays, I
  • Tuesday, February 6, 2018 11:12 AM
    THERE ARE FEW things in this world more soothing to heart, mind and soul than a trout stream.
    I cut my fishing teeth on one such stream; a burbling, gurgling stream that winds 4 miles from Plum Lake to Big St. Germain Lake. Plum Creek holds thousands of memories for me. Most memorable perhaps as the place where, as a 5-year-old, I caught my first trout.
    Since then, there have been scores of trout streams that have lured me to their banks and into their cold waters in search of what I consider the most beautiful fish in the world, the native brook trout. Only slightly behind the brookie in beauty are the brown and rainbow trout, both of which have filled me with wonderment and
  • Tuesday, January 30, 2018 11:35 AM
    IT’S AMAZING HOW a 20-minute walk can bring back so many good memories of so many good times.
    Every winter, I search out places where I can walk my dogs without worrying about having them getting hit by a car, snowmobile or some other motorized vehicle. There are just a few such places near my house and Sunday afternoon, I took them to one of those places that holds a treasure trove of great memories for me dating to when I was 6 years old.
    Mus-Ski Mountain was the name of the ski hill west of Sayner that operated for a decade in the ’50s and ’60s. Musky Mountain, as it is called on the map, is the seventh highest point in Wisconsin. No wonder they
  • Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:01 AM
    YOU MIGHT NOT think so, but it is true that sometimes a person can have a great outdoor adventure while barely setting one foot out the door.
    I had one of those great outdoor adventures last weekend, in one of my favorite places, the land to the north of us known as the land of “Da Yoopers” otherwise known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.).
    I was the designated driver for my lovely wife who was on a working assignment at a synod council meeting in Gladstone, Mich. I whiled away the hours Friday evening and Saturday morning by watching Bay de Noc ice fishermen in plain view of my motel window and daydreaming about some of the many real outdoor adventures I’ve been a part of in
  • Tuesday, January 16, 2018 10:58 AM
    EVERY NOW AND then, it’s a good thing to go back to the future.
    Last weekend, in order to get a job done, I found it was time to go back to the future. I didn’t have Michael J. Fox to help me out, but when all was said and done, I got the job done. Now, I’m hoping that by this weekend, I’ll be back to the standard time zone in good old 2018.
    This all has to do with grooming Razorback Ridges ski trails, which is something I have been doing for 37 years, but couldn’t do last week until I went “Back to the Future.”
    Going way back, back to when I
  • Tuesday, January 9, 2018 11:30 AM
    I REALLY DON’T know what I would do if I were forced to live in a city.
    I suppose I would find a way to survive. I did in Eau Claire during my college years when that city had less than 40,000 residents. Even in those days though, I escaped from the madness of traffic and people that defined even a “small city,” for the woods and waters of home every weekend that I could.
    These days, it doesn’t take a city to make me long for places with lots of woods, waters, mountains or wide open prairies. In the summer, especially, I avoid our larger metropolitan areas like Minocqua, Eagle River and Rhinelander like the plague, and if I have to wait for two cars to pass by me at the intersection of Highway N and
  • Tuesday, January 2, 2018 11:43 AM
    NO ONE LOVES the peace, quiet and solitude that places like north Wisconsin offer a person of the outdoors. Born in 1949, I am a product of the ’50s and ’60s, during which time I began not only my fishing and hunting careers, but also my lifelong career of finding wild places where I can escape the hustle and bustle, pardon the cliche, of everyday life.
    Perhaps I am outdated, but I simply do not need mechanical devices of transportation to enjoy what the woods and waters of this place where I have lived all my life have to offer.
    Perhaps the closest I came to being a motorsports enthusiast was
  • Tuesday, December 26, 2017 12:15 PM
    BABY, IT’S COLD out there. We all knew it was coming and now our first cold blast of the winter is upon us. Cold though it may be, bitter cold is the weatherman’s most overused definition of it; in reality it’s only mildly cold for a Wisconsin winter. 
    I have competed in cross-country ski races in temperatures well below what we have experienced so far. One of the most frigid ski races I was in was the very first Badger State Games 20K classic race, for which the start was held off from mid-morning until mid-afternoon when the thermometer reached all the way up to 17 below zero.
    After a mandatory layer of Vaseline® was spread on my face and with racing gloves switched out for leather choppers with wool liners, I
  • Tuesday, December 19, 2017 11:14 AM
    NOT THAT I’M counting, but as I write these words it is just seven days until Christmas, a day that lags only behind the opening day of duck season as the best day of my life every year. Of course, those two would only be the best days of the year, if you discount the annual celebration of the day of the year I met an innocent college freshman coed in an Oak Ridge dorm who has now been a part of my life for nearly 48 years, more than 46 of those as my lovely wife.
    Now, agreeing that other than the above stipulation concerning my lovely wife that no day is more exciting than the opening day of duck season, there is still much to be said for
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2017 11:07 AM
    IT’S OFFICIAL. CHRISTMAS is officially in effect at my Clark Griswold-style residence.
    It began almost secretly way back in October, when this Griswold clone watched his first airing for the year of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” with Griswold, crazy Cousin Eddie and the rest of the gang.
    Since then, I have watched all or part of the movie, oh, perhaps a dozen times or so. I haven’t figured out yet which is my favorite scene; the one with Griswold at the perfume counter or the one where Griswold ogles a swimsuit model in his backyard swimming pool.
    Then again, I think
  • Tuesday, December 5, 2017 11:20 AM
    It’s 40-some degrees as I write this Dec. 4 and according to the local weather gurus, it will wind up somewhere in the 50s before all is said and done today, with significant rain thrown in to boot.
    Were it not for a forecast of highs struggling to hit 20 degrees beginning tomorrow, with some snow and high wind added, it would be hard to think of winter and all the outdoor fun the season will bring.
    There have been a goodly number of years when I might have been out skiing several times by this date, but this time around, I’m downright glad we got this unusual, mild — nay, summery — break the first week of December, as it gave me a