Will Maines - Vilas County News-Review
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  • 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
  • Tuesday, November 28, 2017 10:07 AM
    WE HAVE ENTERED the season of peace on earth or at least peace and quiet in this nook of the North Woods.
    The summer visitors, fall leaf peepers and November deer hunters, they’re all gone. We love all of them for what they do for our North Woods economy, but after a long, hectic season of tens of thousands of visitors coming to enjoy the North Woods for a few days or a few weeks, it is nice to have a little break, a little time to catch our collective breath and enjoy the temporary peace and quiet.
    Now is the time we walk along our country back roads with no fear of being run over by a gaggle of visitors hurrying to fish here, camp there or check out gift
  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017 11:09 AM
    AS DEER SEASON opening days go, it was, well, opening day. It was not last year and it was not the year before. I hope it will not be next year.
    Admittedly, I put in a half-hearted attempt at making it three straight years of killing a buck opening morning, but even at that I would have hoped to at least see one deer wander past my stand sometime during the day. I did not.
    I did see five deer, three on the 5:30 a.m., 7-mile drive to the property I hunt, including what looked to be a basket eight-point a mile from my house, along with two more does on the drive home that evening, but in between, there was a lot of nothing.
    I sat in relative comfort in
  • Tuesday, November 14, 2017 10:48 AM
    SOMETIMES, THE “HURRIER” I go, the “behinder” I get.
    It seems like that malady strikes with greatest predictability every fall. That, I would guess, is because there is so much a person would like to do every fall with so little time to do it.
    Lazy, hazy days of summer? No sweat, except when the thermometer surges past 80. Otherwise, during the summer it’s easy to say “I’ll mow the grass tomorrow” and if it doesn’t get mowed tomorrow or the day after or the day after that, so what? There’s always next summer to tend to the lawn.
    In winter, a season which can seem interminably long, there is
  • Tuesday, November 7, 2017 12:26 PM
    AN AGE-OLD question: Should you sleep with your children?
    When I was young, the answer was a resounding “no.” Through my younger adult years, when I was raising my first children, the answer was still a resounding “no.” Then, about the time our third to last “child” came into our lives, my attitude changed.
    Now, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Though I know the act would have my dad rolling over in his grave, I now welcome my “children” not only onto my bed, but my couch, recliner and anywhere else I might be taking a snooze.
    And of course, the children I am talking about are
  • Tuesday, October 31, 2017 11:04 AM
    OH, WHAT A difference a day makes.
    On the next to last weekend of October, I spent a delightful afternoon taking a long walk with my two faithful canine companions looking for this year’s family Christmas tree. I should say that I was looking for the tree; the dogs were looking for anything and everything that smelled woodsy good.
    The sun was shining and no more than a very light jacket was needed that afternoon. Fast forward to the last weekend of October and oh, what a difference: snow, wind, cold. Someone flipped on the winter switch.
    Now, I’ve
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017 11:18 AM
    THE HUNT BEGAN with a pair of retrievers out in front, one an 8-year-old golden, the other a 6-month-old yellow lab. They scrambled madly in front of the hunter working ahead, to the right, to the left, running with reckless abandon.
    The hunter behind them, a senior citizen and veteran of hundreds of similar hunts through these very woods and others like them in his north Wisconsin bailiwick, moved slowly and deliberately, carefully searching the woods for his quarry.
    The hunter knew what he was looking for. He might have been wearing bifocals, but his eyesight was still keen when it came to spying out his quarry.
    Slowly, he
  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017 10:41 AM
    WHEN ONE RAMBLES around the woods and waters of northern Wisconsin and other wild areas for more than six decades, it is not surprising that every once in a while one might see something out of the ordinary. Sometime it’s something rare, other times something humorous and sometimes something awe-inspiring.
    In my time of wandering, I have seen a host of curious and interesting things. They remind me of a chapter from the book “Trout Madness,” by one of my all-time favorite writers Robert Traver. Actually, the writer’s name was John Voelker, but he used Traver as a pen name.
    For those of you not into trout fishing stories centered in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.), you
  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017 12:22 PM
    I DON’T KNOW what the Chinese are calling this year, but for me and my North Dakota duck camp crew this would definitely be the year of the pup.
    Three young pups of the Labrador retriever ilk and two young pups of the teen-aged-boy ilk provided most of the highlights of this year’s hunt. The boys shot the ducks and the pups, ranging in age from 6 months to 10 months, did the retrieving.
    Oh and don’t worry about the old guys; they did all right, too.
    But it was the young pups who were the stars of the hunt. I hunted with Nick and Nate Lofy for the first two days of the hunt before turning them loose on their own. Opening morning was
  • Tuesday, October 3, 2017 11:17 AM
    “WHEN CHEKHOV SAW the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life.” — Phil Connors, weatherman in “Groundhog Day.”

    Chekhov may have seen a winter bleak and bereft of hope, but never did he see one longer than the one I endured this past winter, yea verily every winter for the past 26 years. And though my winters have been long and bleak, they have never been bereft of hope. Through each and every one of those long, bleak winters, I have 
  • Tuesday, September 26, 2017 11:21 AM
    LAST SATURDAY WAS the opening day of duck season in north Wisconsin. I decided to be a nonparticipant when the opening hour struck. Sunshine and temperatures rising to 87 or so is simply not duck hunting weather.
    In the afternoon, I changed my mind. Two men and a young yellow lab pup changed it for me. Granted, my hunt was a halfhearted affair, during which I had no real desire to kill a duck, but for the three of them I did not have it in my heart to not hunt.
    As I reflect today, a day that would have been
  • Tuesday, September 19, 2017 12:34 PM
    SOMETIMES YOU HAVE to leave home to realize how good you have it there. It’s an age-old lesson, but one that needs to be repeated every once in a while.
    Last weekend, my wife and I left home for a couple of days, learning on our abbreviated camping trip that up here in the North Woods we truly do have it better than anywhere else.
    Understand me, we had a good time and our camping destination of Hartman Creek State Park near Waupaca is a lovely oasis of trees, trails and small lakes. It
  • Tuesday, September 12, 2017 11:00 AM
    THE TIME IS at hand.
    Come this Saturday morning, it will be time to hitch up well-worn light hunting pants, the ones with patches on the knees and sorely worn cuffs, and it will be time to head for the woods in search of the wily ruffed grouse.
    There are really three parts to every grouse season; beginning with the season opener through about the end of September, when temperatures will oftentimes be in the 70s or even 80s; then through early October into early November, when the leaves come down and shooting gets to be a little easier; before finishing with
  • Tuesday, September 5, 2017 11:24 AM
    FOR THOSE OF you who remember country music when it wasn’t fake country music, you might remember a John Denver tune from 1981, that philosophized “Some Days are Diamonds (Some Days are Stones).”
    While that philosophy applies to almost any day, it oftentimes identifies very much with days spent on the water fishing. I recently spent a day on the water with two friends, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, that fell in the “stones” category.
    We started our day
  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017 2:18 PM
    IF YOU DRINK coffee, you probably remember a popular coffee jingle that went “The best part of waking up, is Folgers® in your cup.” Not being a coffee drinker, I couldn’t tell you if Folgers is great, good or downright lousy coffee, but as someone who once sold newspaper ads for a living, I have to say it was a pretty catchy jingle.
    In my world, the slogan fits just fine, except that I would modify it a bit to say “The best part of hunting, is a full belly after a great meal of wild game.” Yeah, yeah, it 
  • Tuesday, August 22, 2017 10:47 AM
    IT’S A WARM day as I hit the trail, perhaps in the high 70s. And yet, as I begin my trek through the woods on this odyssey which will give me temporary escape from humanity, I know the hike is a job that needs to be done.
    Besides, I erroneously reason, it should be cooler back in the woods under a canopy of oak, birch, maple, and assorted pines and fir. Cooler than out here in the hot sun, where I have parked my truck. “It had better be cooler,” I mutter aloud, because I’m looking at a hike of about 8 miles, depending on which turns I take. “It had better be cooler,” I mutter aloud again, because the single, 16-ounce bottle of water I’ve brought with me is looking quite small.
    As I walk, I 
  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 10:49 AM
    IT IS A work in progress. As the budding saga of Gordie the yellow lab wonder pup continues, the work of developing him into a working duck retriever is still very much in the beginning stages of progress.
    As with any pup, much of the success, or failure, associated with developing it into a reliable working dog lies with the trainer. To be honest, I don’t aim to finish up with a dog any reputable field trial dog handler would want in his stable, only a good working dog who just happens to like me and my wife, who can work and play hard all day, spend the evening next to me on the couch watching a ball game and finish by curling up on the end of my bed all night.
    As far as training goes, I guess you could
  • Tuesday, August 8, 2017 11:48 AM
    FISHING IS NOT just catching. Fishing isn’t even all just fishing. Fishing is personal time, quiet time, easy time; fishing is a time for renewal and getting away from it all.
    That was the case for me when I was, say, 8 years old or so. At that age, I was lucky enough to have the privilege of using a resort owner’s boat, my cousin’s grandfather’s, any time I wanted to all summer long.
    From that age on, I would 
  • Tuesday, August 1, 2017 10:50 AM
    A LAKE LIES quiet in an early morning shroud of fog. The early riser’s cheek is kissed by the cool wetness. Cattails stand silently, not so much as a breath of breeze to stir a gentle rustling.
    One cannot see far from shore and small balsams at the water’s edge across the small bay look like hazy mountaintops through the gloom.
    It may look and feel like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but through the damp coolness, this is a morning to fan the fires within the heart of a duck hunter.
    Although it is only August and the hunt still
  • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 10:48 AM
    IT MAY NOT be a good thing to live in the past, but for certain places, there is good cause to often revisit one’s roots.
    One such place is a small lake of 100 acres, give or take a few, which is not too many miles from my house. It is, among all the places in this world, the one place that is more deeply ingrained in my soul and my heart than any other.
    I fell in love with it in
  • Tuesday, July 18, 2017 11:09 AM
    FISHING IS A nasty, dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Being of noble carriage, I decided last weekend to make the sacrifice and went fishing. Not once, but twice I sacrificed. If I weren’t so darned modest, I would say my actions were worthy of knighthood, if not sainthood, but shunning the spotlight, I will forego such recognition and let the knowledge that I fell on the sword for others be reward enough in itself.
    The weekend began
  • Tuesday, July 11, 2017 10:22 AM
    IT TOOK A while, but finally, after a bunch of weekend rainouts, my wife and I got to take our new camper out for a weekend family campout; the family consisting of two humans, a dog who thinks she’s human and a wild yahoo of a 14-week-old yellow lab pup who we are quite sure is 75% devil and only 25% angel at best.
    For me, it was a second outing with the camper; the first having been the day I picked it up at Coates RV in Cloquet, Minn. That was a very peaceful, pre-puppy camping trip with just Molly, “the Golden Wonder,” along for company. On that overnight test campout we caught trout and bluegills, slept very peacefully at a 
  • Monday, July 3, 2017 11:09 AM
    I TALKED TO a fellow the other day who wanted to know what section of Plum Creek would be best for fly fishing? My flippant answer was none of them.
    Then, to my amazement, he said that he had just finished fly fishing a section of it where he had caught a few trout, all of them quite small. He wanted to know which section might hold bigger trout. Again, my flippant answer was none of them.
    For a while then, we talked about 
  • Tuesday, June 27, 2017 11:10 AM
    “IF YOU WANNA catch fish, you gotta do it right.” That is advice I have been given almost my entire life, even to this day, and it is advice I have given on many occasions.
    Wanna know something? That advice is a bunch of baloney.
    The instances are many of that saying being false, but the instance that sticks out in my mind more than any concerning the old adage came about long enough ago that the bag limit on walleye was still
  • Tuesday, June 20, 2017 10:33 AM
    IT MAY ONLY be late June and for sure there are 13 weeks until the opening day of North Dakota duck season, but surely you didn’t think I could go very long without a column that had at least a reference or two to duck hunting. Today, I have a special reason for including a little bit about the ducks.
    See, last week, I was honored and saddened to be able to write and deliver a eulogy for a very good friend. I never actually duck hunted in the same blind with this friend, but I did share several days of youth season for about four years with his oldest son.
    Paul Lofy was 
  • Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:10 AM
    THEY SAY YOU can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach him a new fishing lake.
    Last week, fishing with a friend from New Mexico who wanted to catch some Wisconsin bass, I headed for one of my old standby lakes that “never” fails me. You can guess what it did.
    We started fishing shortly after noon and after two hours of tossing assorted plastics, crawlers and jumbo leeches along the shoreline of the small lake, I had caught a grand total of two largemouth, one 14 inches, the other 8. My friend had none.
    Between us, it was
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017 11:51 AM
    THE JURY IS in. The votes have been counted, although the only one that really counted was that cast by my lovely wife. My vote was worth a little influence, but ultimately, as I have learned over the last 46 years, the final word is given to her.
    As a result, our now 9-week-old yellow lab is officially Gordie; not my wife’s first choice, but the only one of mine she deemed acceptable.
    As I wrote last week, I was tossing several names around; some of them good, some admittedly atrocious, but in the end, it was a tribute to my favorite all-time outdoor writer, Gordon MacQuarrie, that we settled on Gordie.
    For my hockey fan friends, you are welcome to believe he’s named after
  • Tuesday, May 30, 2017 11:34 AM
    HOUSTON, THE BOY has landed. After a series of machinations, and joking phone calls and Facebook posts, a little 9-pound bundle of yellow fur, sniffing nose, bright eyes and unbounded energy has landed in my lap.
    Still without a permanent name, the 8-week-old yellow lab is 
  • Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:29 AM
    WHENEVER I FIND myself at a loss for words while trying to describe my innermost feelings, my intense passion, my absolute love for ducks and duck hunting, I turn to the master.
    Gordon MacQuarrie, a Superior boy, who was born in 1900 and died far too soon in 1956, is still regarded by every literary scholar I know of as one of the three greatest outdoor writers ever to put words to paper.
    When it comes to ducks, many
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017 10:38 AM
    AS MAIDEN VOYAGES go, this one was a winner. Last Friday was a lovely day for a voyage, a voyage that began at an early hour with my truck pointed northwest to Duluth, Minn., thence southward 15 miles to Cloquet, Minn.
    After an hour at 
  • Tuesday, May 9, 2017 11:44 AM
    FISHING SEASON IS officially open.
    While a tiny portion of the fishing fraternity probably started the season at the stroke of midnight, Saturday morning – night, if you will – in hopes of being the first to 
  • Tuesday, May 2, 2017 10:54 AM
    YOU WOULD THINK that with my wife being mere months away from age 66 and with yours truly being even fewer months away from age 68 that we would not be having a baby. But we are, sort of.
    First off, there definitely was 
  • Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:16 AM
    THERE IS MUCH to be said for the quiet-man approach to the outdoor.
    While there are some people who believe it takes something with wheels and a gas engine to have an outdoor experience, and while there are others who enjoy motorized and quiet-man outdoor experiences, I am of the old-school type who believe the greatest rewards of the outdoors are only found while walking on one’s
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017 10:44 AM
    I CAN THINK of 200 things I love about turkey hunting. On the flip side, I can think of only two things about turkey hunting I do not love.
    The first would be dragging myself out of bed at 4 a.m., every morning. I am one of those who feel some time like 9 a.m. is a gentlemanly time for rising, while 10 a.m. would be even better. Few things can make me willingly rise at the wee hour of 4 and turkey hunting is one.
    Easing the pain of rising last weekend during my Illinois turkey foray, was the familiar voice of Wisconsin’s beloved Bob Uecker. So how in the world did I get Uecker to handle my wake-up call? Simple. Last summer, the Milwaukee Brewers, at one of their fan giveaway days, gave away
  • Tuesday, April 11, 2017 11:30 AM
    ’TIS THE SEASON. No, not that season. The jolly elf is still many months away. This is the season for some serious bird-watching.
    Last weekend, I saw many kinds of birds, primarily songbirds, most of which I could identify, but not all. Other friends were bird-watching too, spotting several species I would not be able to identify; accepting that when birders of their stature say they saw and took a picture of a sawtooth, purple-humpbacked warbler I have to take their word for it that they know what 
  • Tuesday, April 4, 2017 10:12 AM
    MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE, including probably a majority of hunters, that the main purpose of a hunting trip is to kill some specimen of a wild animal.
    To be sure there is. Among the many purposes of hunting, there is that of killing a wild animal for food by some, for trophy bragging rights by others.
    For those who
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017 11:15 AM
    RAIN. WHEN YOU don’t have it, you beg for it. When you get more than a day of it, you curse it. Poor rain doesn’t stand much of a chance.
    During the past week, as I sat in my recliner watching raindrops splash the window, I welcomed the precipitation. Though the calendar tells us it is spring, there is still snow on the ground and I 
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:19 AM
    SOMEONE ONCE TOLD me college book learnin’ isn’t everything. Having spent five of the best years of my life as a college student, occasionally even going to classes, I used to disagree with that statement, but in the ensuing 45 years since I ended my college career, I have come to realize college book learnin’ isn’t everything, but it certainly is
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:03 AM
    THERE ARE THOSE who say March and April are their least favorite months here in the North Woods and you could count me in with those who say that. There are those who would say there is nothing to do in the outdoors during this time, at least until turkey season opens in mid-April and for the most part you could count me among those
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017 10:53 AM
    IF I WERE to believe in reincarnation, I would have to believe I spent time on planet Earth at a different time as a wild duck. I’m thinking either mallard or wood duck drake. If not a duck, then a magnificent Canada goose.
    I say that because
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2017 11:30 AM
    SUMMER HAS COME and gone in the North Woods. As we all knew, winter had plenty of cards up its sleeve and for now we are back in the soup or to put it more accurately, in the snow.
    Unfortunately, for some, the return to snow and cold came too late. Chief among them would be all the people involved with the greatest show on snow in North America. Those would include
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2017 11:00 AM
    WINTER IN THE North Woods isn’t what it used to be, or is it?
    This past week might have fooled some people into thinking we will have an ultra-early spring, but for anyone who has been around here for 40 years or longer, there is no thought of winter being over just because we’ve had better than a week’s worth of May weather lately.
    Hope may spring eternal, even for those who believe “Mighty Casey” will someday redeem himself at the
  • Tuesday, February 14, 2017 10:45 AM
    “TROUT MADNESS” BEGINS where a good book ought to begin; at the beginning. This wonderful collection of trout-fishing stories from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.) has been in my possession since 1960, the year it was published under the name Robert Traver, the pen name used by a U.P. district attorney in Marquette County and later Michigan Supreme Court judge
  • Tuesday, February 7, 2017 12:02 PM
    I HAVE BEEN a camper my entire life. Many of my most enjoyable outdoor adventures have included a tent, a sleeping bag and a campfire.
    My first tent, so to speak, was a wool Army blanket stretched over a clothesline tied to two trees about 6 feet apart. It formed an open-ended pup tent about 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. Never mind that the two trees were within 6 feet of the front of our house; I was camping in the great outdoors at the age of 5.
    Our first “real” family tent was an 8-by-8 umbrella tent
  • Wednesday, February 1, 2017 8:09 AM
    SOMETIMES, IT PAYS to be an ordinary Joe.
    Like many, or perhaps most people growing up, I had dreams of being a superstar. Whether it was being an Olympic champion, the next Henry Aaron or the president of the United States, I imagined I could do any of those things and more.
    As I grew up, I realized I was not going to be another
  • Wednesday, January 25, 2017 10:38 AM
    ONE OF THE most important things I have learned in my 67 years on planet Earth is that it is far better to live in a small town than a large city.

    To me, a traffic jam is sitting at the stop sign at the intersection of Highway M and Highway 51, waiting for three cars to pass by before I pull out. In my one and only driving expedition in Chicago, Ill., it took me 90 minutes to go 16 miles and then, to get out of the city, I waited 30 minutes to get through a toll gate, where I was asked to contribute a dollar to help prevent Illinois from going broke. The dollar didn’t help.

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