Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For March 27th, 2009 Edition.
Early morning frost sparkled on the hood and windshield of Tom's Chevy truck as we headed north to visit an old friend we hadn't seen in four years. The forty-five minute drive on roads nearly devoid of vehicles was a pleasant situation for the driver who routinely fights morning rush hour traffic in Green Bay on his way to work.
A half-dozen or more deer, plus a majestic bald eagle added to our viewing pleasure as we whisked through the yet snow covered Northern Highlands-American Legion State Forest to our destination. Along our path I silently wondered, "What are the "poor" people doing today?"
The small parking lot was plowed and several different brands of trucks of assorted vintage were lined up against a rock solid snow bank, mute testimony that we'd have company on the ice.
At our age, any fishing or hunting adventure is approached in an unhurried manner. Several decades earlier both of us entered the fifth and final stage most outdoorspersons acquire. It's simply, "The going and the being there." Fish and game are simply a bonus, and perceived success or failure of any expedition is never measured by the weight of the stringer or the amount of game in the bag.
Our third companion was my black Lab pal, Belle, who once released from the rear seat made no haste in sniffing the tires of the neighboring vehicles and investigating the various assorted animal tracks that crisscrossed the snow covered parking lot. After changing from our traveling clothes and donning our ice fishing garb it was time to assemble our equipment.
Ah, yes, as dad often quipped, "Behold the fisherman! Mighty are his preparations! He rises early in the morning, disturbing the whole household and returns late in the evening smelling of strong drink - and the truth is not in him!" Today would no doubt make dad's old ditty ring true, except for the strong drink part.
First we slid Tom's portable ice fishing shanty-sled combination out of the cargo box of his truck. Next we gassed up the ice auger and loaded a ton and a half of equipment into the sled. Then Tom's new Yamaha 4 X 4 ATV chugged out of the cargo trailer, the sled was connected and I climbed aboard behind the driver for a half-mile trip to the Promised Land.
This was Belle's first ever ice fishing adventure, and her first ever experience with an ATV. As Tom and I slowly exited the parking lot Belle stood by the truck with a look on her face that we could easily read as "Those dirty bums are leaving me behind!" My urgent calling prompted her to engage her legs and the sad look changed into one best described as "puzzled." But once on the ice covered surface of the lake she took the lead and headed straight for the assembled anglers.
The weather spoke of spring. A southwest wind contained not a hint of winter's bite and Old Sol smiled warmly from a sky dotted with fleecy cirrus clouds. The early morning low of - 2 degrees was already climbing into the upper 20s with 40s on its mind. What more could a pair of senior ice anglers ask for? I actually did ask that question and Tom quickly answered, "fish."
Belle's reaction to the ice auger was identical to what she does when I start my chainsaw or Wifee Poo cranks up the vacuum cleaner. She retreated about forty yards to the safety of the nearest angler and with tail between her legs watched as Tom drilled six holes through three feet of solid ice. Once peace and quiet returned to the environment she raced back to her master with "relief" written all over her face.
As morning deepened and blended into early afternoon a steady stream of fish passed under the transducer of my fish locater-depth finder, few of which were inclined to inhale either a grub-worm or minnow temptingly presented on small jigs. However, an occasional short burst of activity by marginally sized blue gills and perch allowed us to build up a modest mound of what would eventually become tender, tasty morsels.
Belle spent the first few hours curled up on a heavy woolen blanket watching me as I tossed the little shavers back into the hole from which they mysteriously appeared or culled one out to become a higher number of those deemed to be "keepers." Finicky feeders began to become non-feeders about 2:00 p.m. Feeling slightly woozy, as my normal nap time passed, I invited Belle to accompany me on a short walk to shore where I promised her we'd find a suitable stick for a round of toss and retrieve. This offer was accepted with relish!
During the next hour my arm grew tired of tossing the stick, although my retriever seemed to have a limitless amount of energy, something I faintly recalled having some three or four decades ago. Shortly after 3:00 the team decided we'd had enough fun for one day and closed up shop. Belle took a shortcut back to the parking lot and was waiting for us by Tom's truck with her stick still firmly clenched in her mouth.
The snow covered roadsides we had passed on the outbound morning drive were now dotted with pools of water. The temperature gauge in Tom's truck registered a balmy 46 degrees, which felt more like 80 after the colder than normal winter just concluded.
Once back at our home Tom put on his chef's apron and began organizing a gourmet evening meal consisting of pork tenderloin tucked inside a loaf of Italian bread. A side dish of white rice with additional condiments added up to an "Oooohhhh it's so good" taste delight.
While Tom cooked I filleted our day's catch, 17 blue gills and 3 perch. The finished products were placed in a zip-loc bag and stored in the frig, destined to be the main course at tomorrow's breakfast.
Sound sleep for the three who had spent most of the day out-of-doors took place shortly after 9:00. Fresh hot coffee removed the sleep from our eyes shortly after 5:00 the following morning. After watching the weekly weather forecast and two or three fishing shows on TV, Tom began packing for his return to the real world. While he packed his bags I cooked up a gut-filling breakfast mixture of sliced baked potatoes, diced crisp bacon, sautéed onion and cheddar cheese, plus lightly floured blue gills fillets pan fried in olive oil and butter.
An hour later, as Tom and I shook hands, he thanked Peggy and I for a relaxing weekend. I reminded him we'd be seeing him again, plus his son, Mark, and two grandsons in less than a week, as - guess what - we're going to try this same routine all over again next Saturday!
I wonder what the "poor" people will be doing?"
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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