Will Maines - Vilas County News-Review
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  • TOO DAGGONE HOT; in three words, that would about sum up my days of duck hunting in North Dakota this year.
    For the 29th time, I pointed the nose of my truck west a few days before the North Dakota duck season opened, got the little white house on the prairie opened up and stocked with all the food a hungry gang of duck hunters would need, and
  • A WEEK OR so ago, a guy named Bubba, fresh from an extended stay on a bar stool at Buster’s Bar, suggested I ought to write some “how to” articles for big-name outdoor magazines.
    You know the kind, featuring
  • ASK FOUR PEOPLE what their favorite season is and you might get four different answers.
    There are good things about all seasons, but for me, there is only one season that is No. 1. That would be 
  • SUNLIT, WARM DAYS in September are meant to be fully used up. No idling around a box that shows moving pictures of oversized men slamming each other into a near senseless state on a field marked with white lines. No taking lazy naps when nature is calling. No raking leaves or such other menial tasks that are always best left for
  • THE TOURISTS HAVE had their time. The summer homeowners have had their time. I don’t begrudge them their time at all. Many of them are my friends and along with the new friends I meet each summer, I welcome them.
    But there is a time coming and that
  • “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” —Forrest Gump

    During my 72 years on Earth, I have opened many boxes of chocolate, most of the time getting a delicious piece of candy, while sometimes a bitter chunk of
  • A million things to do, and not much time to do them.
    Any sportsman who has embarked on a mission involving fish, wild animals, beer or wild women, knows that a lot of preparation must be taken care of before the trip ever starts.
    In less than a month now I will be taking a trip for the 29th time. The destination: North Dakota. The mission: catch some fish, hunt some ducks, eat a lot of food and tell tall tales that
  • In this world, there are great men who have excelled at many callings. Some are great statesmen who lead their nations. Some are fantastically talented musicians, artists, teachers and such who, like a moth drawn to a flame, follow their muse.
    Me? I’m
  • THIS HAS BEEN a pitiful fishing season for me. Not that the fishing has been poor, not that the weather hasn’t been conducive to fishing, it is I who have been lacking this fishing season.
    Oh, sure, the season started out just fine. I
  • LAST WEEK, I made three trips from my house west of Sayner to Minocqua. Each time, I arrived at the intersection of Highways M and 51, I found myself waiting in line behind a number of cars before I could continue my trip.
    The first time, I was
  • SOME PEOPLE HAVE a whole bunch of grandchildren they get to spend time with now and then, only to send them home spoiled rotten to their parents when the visit is over.
    After what most children put their parents through during their growing up years, it’s
  • FORAGING HAS ITS fruits. Last week, I foraged for my first wild fruits of this year, and when all was said and done, the end result was a very tasty wild raspberry pie.
    Along a logging road running through a recently logged area, I
  • LAST WEEK, I mowed my lawn for the third time this year, which in my opinion has been three times too many.
    That is an opinion not shared by my lovely wife, who firmly believes lawns should be mowed on a timely basis, which to her is at least twice a week, ending only when a foot of snow covers the lawn. However,
  • RETIREMENT, I THOUGHT, is meant to be years of doing no work, watching Brewers games on TV every game for six months, and unlimited fishing and hunting time throughout the year.
    I got news for you. It
  • FAVORITES COME AND favorites go.
    In my almost 72 years of living in this special part of north Wisconsin, I have had many favorites come and go. And no, I’m not talking about girlfriends, although there were several of those whom
  • SLOW, SLOWER AND slowest; in these days of fast food, fast air travel, fast everything, going slow, slower or slowest is by far the best way to go. That applies especially to the times that find us exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.
    I am not a snowmobile or ATV/UTV enthusiast. I don’t put down those who do enjoy their outings on the machines. I
  • WE WHO LIVE and play in the northern half of Wisconsin are very lucky. We have vast acres of forest, thousands of lakes large and small, hundreds of streams and unlimited possibilities for having a good time with what Mother Nature provides us with.
    Last week, my wife and I spent three days camping at
  • OF ALL THE creatures on Earth, large and small, none are more dear to my heart than ducks and geese. I know I’ve said this before, but for me the truth is that without waterfowl, this planet would be much lesser for their absence.
    With all the hours, days and weeks that I hunt ducks each year, I
  • ASIDE FROM IT being too “daggone” hot outside, the month of June is off to a promising start.
    You might say it started last Sunday when my wife and I, along with two good friends, Judy and Matt, attended the 2021 Northland Pines-Eagle River Union High School’s Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony, at which I
  • STEAK OR LOBSTER, burger or hot dogs, apple or pumpkin pie, it’s tough to name a favorite food to eat in any category, and that goes for wild game and fish as well.
    Everyone has their favorites when it comes to wild game and fish. What some people won’t eat is
  • LAST WEEK WAS a pilgrimage for me, long overdue, to the Bois Brule River in Douglas County. Gordon MacQuarrie, for those who have not had the great good fortune of reading his many stories of The Old Duck Hunters Association Inc., was an extraordinary writer of outdoor tales, many of which are regarded as among
  • THE COLOR FOR the week is unmistakably green. It might be pastel, lime or just plain green-green, but everything is coming up in some shade of spring’s color.
    There are
  • SOME PEOPLE LOOK forward to Christmas Day as the greatest day of the year. Some people, especially children, think Easter is the day of days to get a basketful of colored eggs and candy. Dreams of turkey drumsticks, stuffing and
  • AS OPENING DAYS of fishing go, mine was what you might call a soft opener last Saturday.
    On a day that was too beautiful to be caught doing yard work, I finally succumbed to my lovely wife’s “eye,” a most baleful eye when she wishes to send a message with it. I
  • THERE ARE TIMES when I hate winter. This is one of those times. Snow on April 25? Not cool. Still, it isn’t the first time in the nearly 72 years I’ve lived here in north Wisconsin that we’ve had new snow on the ground this late into April and it won’t be the last.
    Actually, it’s not the April snowfalls that really make me hate winter in the spring. It’s the ones that come in May, at times totally disrupting the opening day of fishing season. That’s happened more than once.
    Looking back, I remember one opening day in particular
  • FOR SALE: ONE Illinois first-season turkey tag in mint condition, low mileage, well-maintained and cared for, brand-new cost $166.25, will accept best offer.
    As you might infer, my turkey hunting adventure in Illinois last week ended in a trip home with
  • LAST SATURDAY WAS a very sad day for me. It may not seem to make much sense to say it, but at the same time, it was a very happy day for me.
    Along with many other people who knew Kathryn Reed during her nearly 104 years, I entered the room where her funeral service was held feeling great sadness that she was gone, but
  • I LIKE WINTER. I like winter as much as the next guy. Snow for skiing and ice for fishing makes me happy. That said, I am as happy as the next guy to say goodbye to winter.
    During the winter, with dogs that every day need to get out for a run/walk, I
  • ANYONE WHO HAS ever owned a pickup truck or a dog knows that there will be that inevitable day when there will be a final farewell said to both of them.
    That moment came home to me last week. Happily, it was not one of my dogs. Rather, it was
  • THERE IS NO doubt about it. Wisconsin does not like me. Worse yet, Illinois loves me. OK, OK, just kidding about Illinois.
    Seriously though, the computer that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources uses to determine who gets a turkey tag for which season segment does not like me. Instead of a March Christmas present consisting of my first choice for a turkey tag, this year, I got
  • IT’S THAT TIME of year. Not only has COVID-19 changed everyone’s lifestyle for a year, but winter as usual has done its thing in keeping people held a lot tighter to hearth and home than they would like. My lovely wife and I have been no exception to the rule.
    So what do you do to cure a case of cabin fever? As
  • WHILE RESTING DURING an afternoon hike with the dogs, I spent time with my back against a huge Norway pine a couple days ago, while the warm rays of the sun quickly worked its way through my light jacket. As I sat there, I thought a thought that was probably as deep and profound as any thought any person has
  • “EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL in its own way, like a starry summer night on a snow-covered winter’s day.”
    Recognize those lyrics from Ray Stevens and his No. 1 hit song “Everything is Beautiful” from 1970? Kind of sums up what we here in the North Woods live with every day of the year, be it with a spring rain shower, hummingbirds working a flower bed in summer, a maze of brilliant fall color or
  • IT WAS DIFFERENT. It felt strange and it was fun.
    Sunday morning, instead of lining up for an American Birkebeiner with a few hundred other skiers in my start wave and sharing the Birkie trail with more than 7,000 other skiers from Cable to Hayward, I
  • THERE IS COLD. There is more cold and then, there is get me the heck out of here and put me on a beach in Waikiki Beach cold.
    That is the cold of the past couple of weeks. In 71 years of living in the North Woods, I have seen many cold snaps come and go. This was a nasty one.
    There have been worse. In the
  • IT HAS BEEN said there is no fool like an old fool. I would say that saying is oftentimes true. I would say that the time I spent outdoors with a temperature reading well south of zero last weekend would prove I can be an old fool.
    I was still young the first time I showed total contempt for a below-zero temperature reading. That was the day when I
  • IN A FEW short weeks, it will be time for the 2021 American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, which annually covers 50 kilometers for skate skiers and 55 kilometers for classic skiers from Cable to Hayward.
    The Birkie has been a part of my life since 
  • THERE WAS A time when I would spend half my winter sitting on ice 24 inches thick with a hole chopped in it, waiting for a fish somewhere down in the deep to come along and attack whatever it was I was dangling on the end of a line.
    In my early days of ice fishing, my tip-ups consisted of
  • IT SEEMS TO me the middle of January is a good time to do some dreaming. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and dreaming.
    Mostly I’ve been dreaming about two things: trout fishing and duck hunting. It probably comes as no surprise then, that I have been rereading my various volumes of Gordon MacQuarrie’s “Stories of the Old Duck Hunters.” It also should come as no surprise that I have been rereading
  • WHEN LIFE GIVES you lemons, make lemonade. I don’t think anyone would argue that 2020 gave us almost all lemons and that so far, 2021 hasn’t been any better. That said, I do know of some very good lemonade that will be brewing just a little more than a month from now.
    The American Birkebeiner ski race, a big part of my life since 1984, will
  • IT IS NOT a good thing when people try to live in the past. It is, however, a very good thing when people stop now and then to look back at their past.
    As I always do a few times a year, last week I revisited a small piece of the past that was a huge part of my life in the 1950s and ’60s. With Gordie the wonder dog scouting ahead, I
  • I HAVE NO reservations about reservations.
    Shoot, I make reservations all the time. Just last week, I made a reservation for dinner at Clearview Supper Club, one of our favorite dining places, and I had
  • CHRISTMAS TIME IS really here.
    I know that because yesterday, our entire kitchen and dining areas, including chairs, tables, counters, stovetop and even part of a couch in the living room, were covered with
  • SOMETIMES, YOU DON’T have to go very far at all to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, you don’t even have to go outdoors to enjoy the outdoors. Sitting next to my living room picture windows, I have been able to see a small piece of the outdoors from the comfort of my recliner.
    Since the day we built our house in 1980, we
  • FOR EVERYTHING THERE is a season. The Bible tells us this. Pete Seeger wrote a song in 1958 titled “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season).” The song used the Bible verse to express Seeger’s feelings about the state of the world.
    And, of course, the American rock group “The Byrds” recorded their version of the song in
  • WITH ALL THE bad 2020 has brought us, you wouldn’t think it, but this year has been very good to me in more ways than one. I realize this may sound very dumb to say, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been part of the reason why it’s been a very good year. Let me explain.
    The good stuff this year began with
  • EVERY OPENING DAY of deer season is different. And yet, every opening day of deer season is the same.
    In my 59 years of deer season openers, I have hunted on days when there was a foot or more of snow on the ground. I also have hunted when not a white flake was to be found. I’ve
  • THE OPENING DAY of deer season is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Sounds like something Forrest Gump would say.
    Thing is, it’s true. Every deer season opening day is different from every other one a hunter has experienced, even if that hunter will be experiencing his
  • I THINK IT would be fair to say that 2020 has been an upside-down year. Most people would probably say there have been far more downs than ups, but looking at the bright side, I choose to relish my up times far more than I anguish over the downs.
    Throwing the pandemic aside, how could you
  • THIS IS A tale of three hunts. All three were successful, each in its own way.
    I was hankering a pa’tridge pie last weekend because I have not had one in quite a long time, and it
  • LAST WEEKEND, I did something I had never done before.
    No, I did not shoot a Boone and Crockett buck. No, I did not catch a 40-pound muskie and no, I did not go five for five on fast flying mallards driven by a
  • IT’S A FUNNY thing. The older I get, the more miles I walk in the woods.
    I suppose it only seems that way. Fifty years ago, I would often take off on rambles of 4, 5, 6 or more miles through brush, briers and down abandoned logging roads without thinking twice about it. At the end of my trek, whether with ruffed grouse in the game bag or not, it
  • “The years run too short and the days too fast.” —1978, “Time Passages” by Al Stewart

    IT ALWAYS AMAZES me that time runs so slow when you are waiting for your favorite trip of the year, while days spent on the trip fly by like
  • IF I WERE sitting in a psychiatrist’s office today, and if he or she would ask me if I was in a good place, I wouldn’t waste a half-second in telling the good doctor that I am in the best of all places.
    I am, as you read this, happily
  • SOME DAYS ARE simply meant to be lived in north Wisconsin.
    One event that transpired this last weekend was one that is always about the most exciting and revered day of the year for me. That would be the opening day of
  • LAST WEEKEND, A funny thing happened to me on the way to the turkey woods.
    Looking to find a foolish gobbler walking along the same logging road that another walked last spring, his last walk, I ran into some ruffed grouse instead.
    I should mention that
  • THIS RETIREMENT THING isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. I, for one, am exhausted by it.
    When you think of retirement, you might well think of Ma and Pa Kettle finally selling the farm for 10 million bucks to a speculator who incorrectly thinks there is a vast deposit of gold under the back cornfield and then, using that money to
  • IT’S AMAZING WHAT you’ll see when you spend some time outdoors.
    In 71 years of roaming this planet, I have been fortunate enough to see plenty of amazing things while fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, snowshoeing or doing anything else that has put me in