Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tip-toe through the tern colony

I’ve walked many miles lightly in my years. That includes tip-toeing around feeding grizzly sows with cubs and quietly trying to leave a pre-dawn house with a “you wake ‘em, you take ‘em” rule about disturbing sleeping children.

Wednesday morning I took feather-footing to the max as I followed Charlie Cope and Nathan Ofsthun into the least tern nesting colony in north Wichita.

The super camoflauge of least tern eggs and chicks lets them blend well with the open sandbars that are their nesting habitat.

The super camoflauge of least tern eggs and chicks lets them blend well with the open sandbars that are their nesting habitat.

Even with his great eyes, GPS coordinates and birding experience Ofsthun had to go slow as he looked for eggs and huddled chicks.

Several times I couldn’t see chicks the biologists pointed to 20 or 30 feet away.

When I looked away I sometimes needed a few seconds for my eyes to pick an egg or chick out even though I knew they were there.

As we came and went I concentrated only on stepping in the smudges made by the man walking ahead of me. It was like trying to make it through a mine field.

This year’s nesting successes have been as impressive as chick’s camo. The photos turned out pretty nice, too.

Sometime between Friday and Sunday you should be able to walk your way through the story on the front of our B section of The Eagle. Be sure to also go online to see a photo gallery of about 15 pics.

15 minute feast

Tonight we’ll have a heck of a meal that’ll include a fork-tender roast, soft red potatoes, cooked onion slices and corn on the cob – all with a nice, flavorful gravy.

And it’ll take me longer to blog about it than it took to actually prepare the meal.

This crock pot holds a complete meal - a moose roast, onions, potatoes and corn on the cob.

This crock pot holds a complete meal - a moose roast, onions, potatoes and corn on the cob.

I started by putting a frozen moose roast in the bottom of our crock pot. Venison will work as well.

So will beef, for those who have to slum it with store-meat. :-)

Next is a can of condensed  French onion soup. Atop of that goes large slices of red potatoes and onion.

On the very top, hoping to keep them out of the liquid to come, are several chunks of corn on the cob. It’s set to cook on low for 8-12 hours.

Because it’s cooking long, low and with plenty of moisture it’ll be perfect when served tonight. As well as the soup, moisture from the veggies and meat will make a wonderful sauce that can be spread over the meat and smashed-up potatoes.

In the past we’ve varied things up a bit by wrapping the venison roast in cabbage leaves. I’ve also added small, whole beets and carrots.

No matter, it’s one of the quickest meals I prepare. It’s also one of our favorites.

The fetch that begins every day

Evenings at home may come to a close reading in bed, working on the computer or catching one last look at the weather forecast.

The fetching of the newspaper begins every morning I’m home. All of them, no matter if it’s a 4 a.m. start for a duck hunt or sleeping in. No cup of coffee first, no turning on the news, no quick shower. The newspaper comes in before my day can progress.

When I’m gone Kathy has no choice but to participate in the program.

A large, black Labrador Retriever sitting in the hallway, tail thumping, staring first at us and then the front door is the morning reminder when we stagger into a new day.

Hank's been fetching the morning newspaper for most of his nine years. It gives him the mental satisfaction of having a job within the pack.

Hank's been fetching the morning newspaper for most of his nine years. It gives him the mental satisfaction of having a job within the pack.

That simple task is an important part of our relationship. It’s one of Hank’s beloved jobs.

The main reason dogs are so easily trained is their ancient instinct to be part of a pack.

They don’t care if they’re the pack leader or a simple pack member, just as long as they belong.

And like in the wild, each member of such canine packs has their place and job.

Hank started fetching the newspaper as soon as he came to our home when he was  six-weeks-old. At first I teased him with The Eagle and gave it a light toss in our driveway. Within a week or so all I had to do was open the front door and he’d be off, returning within a few seconds with his tail snapping happily and the newspaper in his mouth. It’s as important to him as finding that mallard that sailed off before falling 200 yards from the blind.

He’s happy he’s done something for his pack-leader (me) and I’m happy I didn’t have to walk outside in the rain, snow or cold.

My neighbors are even happier they didn’t have to look at me stumbling down the driveway with a serious case of bed-head bad hair.

Fish pic – what I did on my summer vacation

For me, wilderness northern pike are like crack with fins. The fish are absolutely savage, attacking lures with a ferocity that makes the wolves that prowl nearby shorelines seem like packs of golden retrievers.

This 45.5-inch northern pike was my best from four days of fly-fishing in northern Canada. Smaller fish, though, often gave better fights.

This 45.5-inch northern pike was my best from four days of fly-fishing in northern Canada. Smaller fish, though, often gave better fights.

In four days I probably caught about 150 total fish, ranging from 10 to 45.5 inches.

But as I remember from trips in the past, the best fights don’t always come from the biggest fish.

The largest pike of the trip was basically a steady pull that wasn’t that hard to control with a nine-foot, eight-weight fly rod and a 20 -pound-test leader. The fight was maybe five minutes.

The best fights were usually from fish in 32-38-inch range. I’m guessing it’s because such fish are so much younger in the cold waters that yield very slow growth rates.

My second-best fish- 44.5-inches – was an exception to the rule. It left a long and fast wake heading for the nine-inch fly as soon as it hit the water. The green and white flash at the strike looked as deep as a dinner plate and line flew from my reel fast enough to leave a small blister on a finger.

That fight was about 20-minutes, some of which the fish towed the boat across the quiet bay. Guide/friend Arnold Stene and I agreed it probably outweighed the longer fish by at least three or four pounds.

I’ll cherish the memories of the fight and the photos for a long time but the part that meant the most was the amazing speed and power in the strike.

That’s the main reason I think fly-fishing for northern pike is my favorite freshwater fishing.

News from duckville good and bad

Good news and bad news on the waterfowling scene.

Delta Waterfowl, a conservation group, recently published an in-depth news release about what’s happening this year with waterfowl production.

Click this line to read it.

It  looks like populations migrating this fall will be similar to last year. Some species may see a slight decline in numbers compared to last year but still have populations above the long-term average. That’s pretty good news.

And once again the U.S. produced more ducks than Canada. For decades, if not centuries, it was the opposite.

That there are on-going fears of escalating prime waterfowl habitat loss in the U.S. is the bad news. The report also takes a look at what impact the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could have on some species of waterfowl.

Interesting reading, though not what many will enjoy learning.

Canadian fishing camp

Greetings from northern Saskatchewan. I got into Winnipeg about 2 p.m. on Wednesday and my luggage arrived about 9 p.m. Good thing, it came on the last flight of the day and we left the hotel for fishing camp at 5 a.m.

I’ve been coming here for about 20 years and things haven’t changed much, thankfully. I’m even in the same cabin I first used those many years ago.

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Always great sleeping up here if you can get used to the 18 hours of daylight.

Kinda cool that I fell asleep at about 10 p.m. listening to the call of a nearby loon and awoke at 6 a.m. to the same sounds. Can’t remember the last time I slept eight hours so soundly.

Yesterday’s early morning probably helped, as did fighting some serious waves fishing yesterday afternoon. That makes for a lot of work with a fly rod but it’s productive.

I think I landed about 35 northern pike but nothing over about 31 inches. I’m fishing with the same guide I had the first trip up. Back then he looked ten years younger than I did. Now, he looks 10 years older. Life can  be tough in the north country.

Flying out to another lake today with some hope of bigger fish. No wind so far.

The view from Cabin 2. Yesterday we fished about 6 miles beyond that farthest island.

The view from Cabin 2. Yesterday we fished about 6 miles beyond that farthest island.

Hope that holds!