Vacancies & Information
February 25, 2024 – What a Strange Winter!
Well since my last post, our weather hasn't gotten any more normal. All through January and now February, we have seen unseasonably warm temperatures and virtually no snow. There have been cold periods where the temps drop to -15 F or so for a day or two, but then without fail it warms right back up and highs during day have been consistently above 32. It seems we lose a little more snow each day and it has been weeks since we had any accumulation at all. It has made travelling with a snowmachine very difficult, although still possible as we have maybe 6" of snow in the shade and just enough on the lakes to get around. Ice levels are considerably lower than normal, but without much snow the little cold we have had has been able to penetrate and we have enough to safely get around, usually 12-18". Currently we are forecasted to get close to a foot of snow on tomorrow and Tuesday, so we may see a little bit of winter weather yet. As much as we need the snow, I had plans to drive into camp at the end of next week and spend the weekend, so we may be looking at a change of plans if the weather hits. Currently you can drive a truck down just about any road you want to, and this is the first time in my life that I have ever seen it like this in February up here.
As strange as the weather has been this winter however, we certainly can't complain about how nice it's been to get outside! Lindsay and I have enjoyed quite a few day trips out fishing so far and one camping trip for two nights on the ice. We have hit a variety of lakes and have enjoyed catching a number of the different species available to us in the area including walleye and lake trout, and stocked splake and brook trout. We were fortunate to bring home a really nice limit of brook trout on our camping trip and we couldn't believe the colour gradient of the flesh between fish, and how shockingly bright red some of them were:
Here are a few pics of some of the splake and walleye we brought home from other trips as well:
I also spent 4 days on the ice on an annual fishing trip I do with some buddies near Thunder Bay. We have been learning the lakes in the area so generally the trip has been more about comradery and the evening beers than it is about the fishing, but this year we actually caught quite a few fish. We had some crappy weather that went from very warm and sunny to rainy the next day, so there was very little snow to travel on between lakes and a lot of standing water on top of the ice. As a result, we only fished the lake that we were staying on and tried some new spots. We found some very aggressive schools of lakers and were actually able to limit out twice! And of course, we still had plenty of beer in the evenings - haha.
Aside from the weather and the fishing, we have been enjoying our off season and a bit of relaxation before we get busy again in the spring. We don't have any travel plans to head south this winter and have been happy to be spending a little less time on the road this year. However, we are headed down to the Toronto area for 2 weeks to visit family in early March. Mom will be joining Lindsay and I going down so she can visit her brother in Kitchener, while Lindsay and I head to Oshawa to see my side of the family. It will be a nice trip seeing everyone and we are a little overdue to get down there.
Our schedule is incredibly full for the 2024 season, so we would like to extend a big thank you to everyone booked with us! We really appreciate everyone riding out Covid and sticking it out with us through everything. It really feels like we are back to "normal" and we couldn't be any happier seeing everyone annually again. By the time we left last fall the lake levels had dropped to the lowest I have ever seen them, beating the previous all time low of 3 seasons ago. I am worried that if we don't see some snow by spring, or get a LOT of rain, we are going to have some lake level issues this year. But a lot can change between now and then, so lets just hope for some precipitation. For those who have been following along with our hunting journal from this year, I am hoping to get another instalment wrote and up this week.
Updated Vacancies – February 22, 2024
Current vacancies for the 2024 season:
September 28 - October 5 - multiple cabins available
Otherwise we are booked solid for 2024, but keep an eye on here and Facebook for any cancellations that might pop up.
As a reminder in September we drop our minimum occupancy requirements and the strict weekly rentals charging $50.00 per person, per night. Please call or email for specific availability.
January 14th, 2024 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 4, Days 7-10.
On the morning of day 7 we headed back into the spot where we had located elk while scouting on day 1, to be set up and glassing before sunrise. This time opting to walk the last 1.5 miles in as the road was a little sketchy for a pick up. It wasn’t long and we found a herd of elk on a ridge in the burn a little below us about a mile or so away. We sat and watched the elk feed along the top of the ridge until they disappeared over the back side as the sun started to get higher, presumably to bed. We didn’t have a good way over to them from where we were, but we knew of a trailhead we could use that would get us in pretty close so we marked their approximate location on the GPS and headed back for the truck.
It took us about an hour and a half to hike out and drive around to the trailhead and we had our packs on and were on our way in again, looking at about a 2.5 mile hike. It was pretty easy going as we were on a trail most of the way and were actually slowly dropping elevation on the way in. Along the way Linds and I had to stop to squat behind a tree so I told Jake to keep going and we would find him at the top of a little knob we were hoping to locate the bedded elk from. The plan was to circle the elk wide keeping them on our right until we got past them and downwind. We were hopeful we would be able to glass them up again from our new location and then begin to close the distance, and if that didn’t work, we would get the wind in our face and try to still hunt in through the relatively open burnt timber.
As Lindsay and I were headed to meet Jake, we were circling the elk about 500 yards out from their last known location, and suddenly we heard 3-4 “mews” from some cows inside 100 yards directly in front of us! We couldn’t see them for a small rise in front of us but we hunkered down and I checked the wind on my puffer bottle and it was headed straight to them. Worried we were going to blow this second herd of elk out of the country if they winded us, we opted to turn left hard and head straight uphill to try to get a more favourable cross wind and to see if we could see them from the higher ground. It was pretty steep country and with the small undulations in the ground we weren’t able to see into where we thought the elk were, but we could see Jake waiting for us at the top. We climbed up to him and told him what happened and we made a plan for him and I to circle around wide behind them to get the wind in our favour and to see if we could sneak within range, while Linds stayed back in case we happened to bump them back towards her.
Him and I set out making a wide circle into where we had heard the elk “talking,” and when we arrived there was nothing but a mess of tracks in the snow. It didn’t look as though they had left running as though they had winded us, but they had clearly continued on their path of travel. We also noticed the tracks had come from the direction of where the first herd of elk we had spotted that morning bedded down. We followed the tracks about halfway back to the bedding area to realize that it wasn’t a second herd of elk that we heard, but the original herd as they had gotten up on their own and were moving along. As it turns out Lindsay and I missed intercepting them by probably less than 5 minutes.
Jake and I spun around on their tracks and started going in the same direction they were headed knowing they had a pretty good head start on us by this point and followed their tracks for around a mile until they went through a saddle and dropped off onto the other side of the mountain. We decided to go back and regroup with Linds and sit the hillside until dark hoping they would come back through to feed as we were overlooking a bunch of nice grassy meadows. As a bonus we had some decent glassing from where we were sitting to keep us occupied until dark.
Shortly after settling into our spot for the evening we saw a couple of long legs coming though the trees behind us. It was enough to get our hearts racing for the split second it took to realize that it wasn’t an elk, but was in fact a horse topped with a blaze orange cladded rider equipped with a pack and rifle. We watched him go by us at about 75 yards continuing down the ridge, seeming to not have noticed us huddled under a tree below him as he went by. A little defeated that we had some competition we kept our heads up high and stuck out the rest of the evening. The herd of cows never came back through, but about a half hour before dark I glassed up a small bunch of elk in a meadow about 1500 linear yards away from us and probably 500’ or so above us. Even before we were able to set up a spotting scope, we could tell one of the animals was considerably larger than the rest and knew there was at least one decent bull in the mix. The spotting scope confirmed this and we watched as the bull and the few cows with him filtered in and out of this little micro meadow feeding. We didn’t think we had enough time to get over there and make a play that night, as there was no good shooting position to get within range, so the only play would be to try to sneak in close enough to get a shot amongst the burnt trees. We watched the elk feed until dark and begun our hike out with plans to return in the morning.
On our hike out in the dark, and not really to our surprise, we could hear the hoof beats of a horse behind us sharing the same trail. We hopped off the trail to make some room and the other hunter came through and stopped to chat a bit. He was very surprised to see other hunters back in where we were and even more surprised that we hiked in. We chatted for about 20 minutes doing the familiar dance you do with another hunter in the field, toeing the line of comrades but also competitors looking for the same prey, sharing information but vaguely enough as to not give away the animals we were both after. We talked very openly about the herd of cows that went up through the saddle as he was aware of them as well, but we kept “our” bull in our pocket and got the impression he was doing the same with some information. We left hoping we both weren’t after the same animal the next morning.
We got some snow overnight and the road into the trailhead was already a little icy so we threw the tire chains on our rear tires for our drive up. It was my first-time using tire chains and I’ve got to say, holy crap do they make difference! Almost gives one the confidence to try to drive somewhere they don’t have any business going – haha. Anyway, we reached the trailhead and started hiking in knowing we were already behind our friend on the horse as he was camped at the trailhead and we could see the fresh tracks in the snow going in. Undeterred we started out knowing there was a lot of country and a lot of elk back there and hoping we wouldn’t be on the same ones. The storm had broken but left behind a lot of fog in its wake making glassing a challenge, but as soon as we got to our glassing knob Jake threw up his binoculars and said “got them!”
On an exposed hillside made up mostly of shale and loose rock with some patches of grass and the odd burnt tree, there was a nice bull and 7 or 8 cows brightly lit up against the backdrop of the fresh snow. We were about 1200 yards from the elk, but they were on the other side of a large bowl. Going straight would mean dropping down and then climbing back up 1200 vertical feet, and doing so undetected (and safely) in the loose rock would be almost impossible. The much better option would be to side hill around the bowl into their zone, which would be about 1.5 miles from where we were. Lindsay volunteered to stay behind and watch the elk for us flagging with a spare orange vest if they moved, and Jake and I headed out, really hoping to connect as this was his last day before having to head home to Wisconsin the next morning.
We knew they had to have bedded in the timber we were working though and moved out of it to feed in the open early that morning, and we were hopeful we could get over there before the sun warmed them up too much and they moved back into the dark timber to bed. On our way around we found their fresh beds and tracks headed out of the timber from the night before, and we followed them to the edge of the open, steep, shale-y hillside. We knew we were only about 300 yards from where the elk had been feeding, but we couldn’t see them, as they were in a bit of a dip. We could glass Lindsay from our location and she hadn’t moved the orange vest, indicating that the elk were where we had left them. Deciding it would be impossible to get any closer across the loose shale we decided to set up on their tracks where they left the timber and where we had a pretty good field of view, hoping to catch them on their way back to bed.
As fate would have it, elk weren’t the only tracks we saw in the timber that morning. On our way around the bowl, we intercepted fresh horse tracks in the snow, but since we had glassed the elk up in the open and didn’t see any orange, we were hopeful our friend was working into somewhere else and didn’t know about “our” bull. As we got farther into the timber the horse tracks veered left deeper into the woods and we were headed right towards the timber’s edge, so we pushed on hoping we wouldn’t interfere with his hunt, but determined to get an elk. As we sat in the shade of the timber waiting for the elk to work back to us with the rising sun, we heard the familiar BOOM of a rifle behind us in the timber maybe 300 yards away. It wasn’t in our direction or at the elk we were watching, but as we would later learn from Linds, as soon as the shot wrang out the herd we were working took off straight downhill. The icing on the cake was the second shot a few minutes later which pushed the elk the rest of the 1200’ down to the bottom of the canyon where we lost them in the timber altogether.
As a funny side note, Lindsay ended up seeing a post on a hunting in Montana group we are in on Facebook where she recognized a hunter from his horse and dog that we were playing with at the trail head the night before. I reached out and sure enough it happened to be the same guy and we became Facebook friends and bullshitted a fair bit. He is a really good dude who had actually offered to help us pack meat with his horse when we met him on the trail had we happened to kill something. I’m not going to call him out by name but if he happens to read this, congratulations because we later learned that he killed a totally different bull bedded in the timber in behind where we were.
Anyway, Jake and I sat the hillside until the early afternoon in case all of the commotion pushed something our way. Unfortunately, it didn’t and after a while we were getting pretty cold so we made our way back across to Lindsay where she filled us in on what happened with the elk after the gunshots. We sat and glassed from that location until dark but didn’t turn up any more animals. We headed out that evening knowing Jake’s elk hunt was over but hopeful that Linds and I could turn something up with the 10 or so days we had left. We put together a plan to pack everything up in the morning and to head to Great Falls for two nights to resupply, shower, and eat some real food. When we would come back, we were planning to pack in our tent and woodstove and to spike out into where we had been seeing the elk to save the hour of driving and 1.5-2 hours of hiking in and out each day. Hopeful that after a couple of quiet days some elk new or the same, would be back in that secluded basin.
On the morning of day 9 we said goodbye to Jake and we headed off to the city where we enjoyed a lot of sleep and some really good food at a couple of restaurants. As usual, we also spent a good bit of time and a bit of money at the local Scheel’s as well! On the evening of day 10 we swapped our smaller bags for our bigger spike out bags on pack frames and packed all of the gear we would need for our first true spike out adventure the next morning.
January 7, 2024 – Happy New Year!
Happy New Year, everyone!
Well since my last hunting journal update (more to come this week), we spent the last week of deer season down at our cabin, came home in time to have a few family dinners and Christmas in Dryden, and then back home for a few short days before Lindsay, Cedar, and I headed into Press for New Year's Eve! We have had an extremely busy, but fun filled fall and holiday season with very brief stops at home before heading off again. We are back home for a while now that the holidays are over and it has given us a chance to slow down a bit, unpack, and start to get ready for some serious ice fishing. We don't have nearly as much travel planned for this winter as we did last year, and are looking forward to a winter with a little more time at home to adventure in our own backyard.
The end of deer season was a little slow as we had unseasonably warm weather through December. The last week of the season (closing December 15th) saw temperatures rarely dipping below freezing and virtually no snow. We were getting lots of pictures of deer but almost exclusively at night as they became very nocturnal in the warm weather. The warm weather did make for more comfortable sits in the tree stand then we are used to in December, however. We were hopeful to get one more deer for the freezer, but with only buck tags it made for a tough hunt until the last day of the season when a little broken spiker came out to Lindsay's bait pile and she was able to close out our season on a high note!
The availability of natural food sources for the deer was a lot higher this winter making them much less dependent on bait in December than they usually are. Of course this contributed to the more difficult hunting, but should be beneficial to the deer herd with such abundant food reserves and easier and warmer conditions. I don't mind a tough season of hunting every now and then if it helps out the herd health.
Coming home from the cabin marked the end of the 2023 hunting season for us and left us with about a week before Christmas to finish holiday preparations and to start to settle back into the house. We had a wonderful Christmas with Lindsay's family in Dryden and then again with Mom here in Ignace. The weather remained incredibly warm right through December with virtually no snow fall. In fact on on our drive to Dryden on Christmas Eve, it was about 40 degrees and raining. After Christmas we saw more rain and some colder temperatures which froze the rain water over night leaving virtually all of North Western Ontario covered in very slippery ice. It was dangerous even trying to walk outside for a few days between Christmas and New Years, but fortunately has gotten a lot better.
Since we still didn't have very much snow and the slippery ice was mostly covered, travel became much easier, so we decided to drive into camp for New Years. Lindsay, Cedar, and I drove up on New Years Eve and spent a very peaceful two nights out at camp. We didn't bring any fishing equipment, but just went up to check things out and to spend some quiet time together after the busy hunting and holiday season, and it was a really nice and quiet trip! This marks the first time in Press Lake Camp's history that we could drive into camp in December/January in a truck without the aid of a plow. We drove up for one Christmas up there when I was really young, but even that trip required us plowing the road open. This has been one of the strangest winters I have seen in my life.
The few times we have spent time at camp in the winter we have learned it is much easier to stay in and heat a cabin, rather than the main lodge, so we spent this trip in Cabin 2. Pictured below are some nice venison chops and potatoes we made for New Year's Eve dinner, and some pics of camp and the drive in. It sure is beautiful up there in the winter!
The weather still hasn't changed too much in the new year. Temps are getting colder with highs in the teens and lows around zero overnight. Yesterday marked the first real snowfall we have had and I would say we have maybe 6" of light fluffy snow at the most. Despite the warm weather the ice conditions are really good, as we were seeing cold enough temperatures at night to make ice as there hasn't been any snow on top to insulate it. We are actually yet to get out fishing (will be changing that here very soon) but have heard anywhere from 9-12" of good solid ice depending on the lake. I believe we will still be able to get into camp despite the fresh dusting of snow we received, so we are hoping to make at least one more trip up there before we get more. This time we will be bringing the fishing gear and snowmachine to see if we can find some walleye. Our plan is to do a little fishing around Ignace in the next couple of days, and then plan another trip up north for a few nights.
We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and we wish you all the best for 2024! We are looking forward to seeing everyone again this summer! Stay tuned for more hunting journal updates from this fall and an ice fishing report once we get out on the hard water.
December 6th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 3, Days 5&6.
On the morning of day 5 we set up to glass a new section of coulee, farther down then we had previously gone. We had a slower start to the morning not seeing a lot of deer, but turning up a few pockets of does and a couple of younger bucks cruising between them. We did see one very nice buck emerge from some buckthorn that I was very interested in, but in a matter of 20 or so minutes we watched him cruise about a 1/2 mile down the canyon bottom, up over the bank to the flat top and quickly out of our sight and out of our lives. I guess he didn't find the doe he was looking for. It is truly incredible how quickly and how much ground a deer can cover out there cruising at a walking pace.
We also turned up our spike elk again this morning and to our surprise he had gained a friend, one more spike elk. They were probably another mile down the canyon from us and fed out of view so we decided to make a mid morning move in their direction. The plan was to move maybe 1/4 mile or so at a time stopping at various vantage points to glass around and see what we could turn up. Well the day was very quickly heating up as the sun rose and by around 11:00 am it was in the mid 60's. Moving along the canyon bottom we found an easy spot to climb part way up the bank on the west side of the coulee, and decided to sit down on a flat spot to cool off and eat some lunch.
When we stopped we were all sweating from hiking with our layers from earlier in the morning still on, so we took the opportunity to strip down a bit. I peeled out my base layer top and put my orange vest on without a shirt, had taken my zip off base layer bottoms off from under my pants (zip off bottoms are great for taking off without having to untie your boots), and had taken off my boots to air out my feet. We were sitting there casually chatting, eating, and enjoying the beautiful weather, not really expecting to see much for deer. With most of our focus on what we could see with our binoculars down canyon we had been ignoring what was in our immediate vicinity, until Lindsay said "Hey, there are a couple deer straight across the coulee from us on the other bank. I think one is a buck!"
Well, we all dropped our food and lowered our voices as we pulled up our binoculars to see a very nice buck cruising and feeding on the hillside opposite us with a few does. I quickly pulled my rifle off my pack and got laid down behind it building myself a shooting platform and told Jake to grab his spotter and let me know if he thought it was a shooter buck. I grabbed the range at 350 yards and dialed my scope while Jake told me it looked like a pretty good buck. I found him in my rifle scope and agreed and decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 350 yards is the farthest I have shot at game thus far, although I practice at that distance and beyond as much as possible at home, so I took the time to line up and dry fire on the deer once. Everything felt really solid and I was very confident so I chambered a round and waited for the deer to turn broadside once more. That only took him a couple of seconds and I was squeezing the trigger. The rifle jumped and I saw the deer buck hard and head about 40 yards into some buckbrush with one of his front legs clearly not working properly. We knew he was hit hard and did not see him come out of the brush so we began celebrating and laughing that I had just shot a really nice buck and wasn't even wearing any boots!
After the shot we finished eating and got our gear together and headed down our side of the canyon to go start the steep climb up his side. It didn't take Jake and I very long and we found him piled up in the buckthorn exactly where we expected to, but we couldn't believe how big the body of the deer actually was. He had a very nice rack being a cool 3x3 with eye guards, but he actually scored lower than Lindsay's buck from this year, and my mule deer from 2022. But despite the size of the antlers he is by far the biggest bodied and most rutted up buck I have ever shot. At the base, his neck has to be bigger than a basketball, and the goo from his tarsal glands was running down his back legs like tree sap. He was on a very steep bank so we tied paracord to him at the front and back ends and worked him down the bank slowly to where we could work on him on flat ground and get the meat in the shade as we broke him down.
A few hours later and we had full packs again and started our 3 mile pack out while we still had some daylight. We got back to the truck shortly after dark all smiles as we had filled all 3 of our deer tags. We decided we would take the next morning off of hunting to finish butchering out all of our deer that we had been keeping on ice in Jake's HUGE Yeti 210, and a had a couple of drinks to celebrate that night.
The next morning Jake and I got to work butchering out the already deboned deer meat and Linds made a supply run to Great Falls to get us dry ice. For those who don't know, if you put dry ice on the bottom of a cooler it will act as a fridge. If you put the dry ice on top of your meat, the cold sinks and it will freeze the meat underneath it solid. Just be sure to add a couple layers of cardboard to prevent freezer burn and leave a vent plug loose as dry ice turns to CO2 as it sublimates and it can pressurize your cooler to the point of eruption - haha.
We got done our butchering midday on day 6 and decided we had enough time to go check out our deer spot one more time just to rule out if those elk were still around or not. We hadn't seen the two spikes since the morning of day 5 and were pretty sure there weren't any more elk in there, but we had to check it out one last time to be certain. We hiked almost 5 miles down the coulee in search of them and were only able to turn up more deer. And as luck would have it of course the best buck we had spotted so far was on this day, after we filled all of our tags. But that's alright we were all extremely happy with the deer we took, and satisfied there weren't any elk around we hiked our 5 miles back out in the dark planning on heading up into the mountains in the morning.
December 5th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 2, Days 3&4.
Well on day 3 we decided to sleep in a while as we were pretty tired from packing deer so late the night before, and Jake would be driving through the night and arriving sometime mid morning. He was towing a camper across country with him and we got the text that he had arrived at our camping spot and was going to grab a little sleep before we got there. Linds and I packed up our motel room and headed up into the national forest to find Jake and swap the deer story from the night before. While chatting a CO from Montana FWP drove by and saw us in orange with the deer skull and stopped in to say hi. He checked to make sure we all had our licenses in order and then we all shot the shit for a few minutes and he told us there had been a herd of elk in where we were deer hunting. We had heard this information once already but he was able to show us the private land they had moved out onto in case we wanted to set up on the land we could hunt, and try to catch them coming back. We thanked him for the info and he was off!
It didn't take too long and we were settled into Jake's camper so we headed out to go verify his rifle. The day was waning but I figured if we hurried we would be able to get back into our deer spot with the last hour of daylight and thought that might be enough time to make something happen. Lindsay decided since she had filled her tag and she was still tired she was going to stay back at the camper for the night hunt, and Jake and I headed out to search for a buck.
After about a 20 minute drive and an hour or so hike we were arriving at the little cliffy edge of the coulee that we like to glass from. There is a great view of the canyon floor from there running up and down the coulee, as well as a great view of the opposing bank catching deer coming in and out of the canyon. It also sets us up to be in a position where deer will work the canyon bottom underneath the cliff edge and within rifle range without having to move. Well as we reached the cliff edge and were admiring the view of the open country Jake looked right below us and said "Hey, there's a deer!"
We threw up the binoculars and directly below us, 200 yards away, was a buck feeding with a small group of does. I asked Jake if he wanted to shoot it and his reply was "Let me get a look at it in the scope, but I think so." So we sat down quick and took off our packs. Jake built a rest to shoot off of and started checking out the buck. He was nice enough to ask me if I wanted to shoot it and I said "No, you take him. You spotted him anyway." With that we hadn't been to our spot more than 3 minutes and the first shot rang out. I confirmed to Jake it was a hit, but the buck just took a couple steps forward and was looking around as though nothing had happened. Another shot rang out and this time the buck kicked good and hard, but otherwise didn't move. I confirmed that Jake smoked him that time for sure, but the deer was seemingly unphased. It turned around and started to head the direction it had been coming from and we could see blood pouring out of the exit wounds, but the deer started to take a few steps headed for some thick buckthorn. A third shot rang out and I watched the bullet impact with the group of exit wounds from the first two shots, and to our surprise the buck was still on his feet. Well, that wasn't the case for long and he tipped over in his tracks, somehow absorbing 3 well placed shots from a .300 Win. Mag.
After getting the high fives and hugs out of the way (and some laughs about how quickly everything came together) we started off down the bank to go check out Jake's first muley.
A couple of hours later and we had packs full of meat and were headed for the trucks. My second pack out in two days and it felt great! We got back to the trailer and celebrated with a great dinner of butter and herb basted tender loins, stovetop stuffing, and instant mashed potatoes (which frankly have come a LONG way)!
The next morning we headed back out to check out some different country in the same area. We killed two bucks in two days pretty close together so figuring that area was a little blown out we wanted to go a little farther to see if we could stumble into the elk we had heard about, and to try and find another good buck. We spent the day glassing and saw quite a few deer, but no bucks that caught my eye enough to initiate a stalk. We spent the day glassing some really big country and enjoying the visibility and all of the amazing views. Of course I'm not great at taking pictures that don't have animals in them, but we did get a little excited when we saw this guy cruising solo:
Not the best picture as it is a screen grab from a video but we spotted a lone spike elk wandering near the bottom of the canyon abut a mile or so down from us. Unable to shoot a spike with our tag (branch antlered bulls, or cows only) we didn't make a play but were hopeful he wasn't alone. That was the excitement for the day as we spent the entire day glassing and didn't chase anything. Excited to come back the next morning to try to locate the elk, and hopefully our third buck, we hiked out to get some sleep.
December 4th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 1, Days 1&2.
So this year I am actually going to get my butt in gear and get a recap of our hunt out west up on the blog while it is still fresh on my mind. I meant to do the same last year but we seemed to have a lot going on and I just didn't get around to it. I'll be starting today with a recap of our first two days in the field, and will continue with daily updates on here with single or multi-day recaps. I'll be gone to our deer cabin for a week or so on Thursday to finish up our deer season here at home, so there will be a little break in the posts but I'll be sure to finish them up when I get back next week.
We left home on November 7th this year, opting to break the drive up over 2 days instead of driving straight through like we did last year. We got the bulk of the driving out of the way the first day, and only had about 5 short hours to Great Falls on the 8th, where we make our last few stops to grab gas and the last of our supplies. Another 45 minutes or so drive south and we were checking into our motel room that would be home for the next 3 nights. We had plenty of daylight left after getting checked in, so we took the opportunity to run up into the mountains and verify that our rifles were on and ready to go after travelling and changing altitude. Once dialed we headed back to our room to get some sleep so we could start scouting the next day.
Deer and elk season were both already open and we had each had a tag for both species. Since we were in Montana for the last 17 days of the regular rifle season, we took the first day to assess access into some different hunting areas that would be new to us this year. The plan was to see how the roads getting in there were and then spend a few hours glassing around to see if we could locate any animals. Carrying our rifles in case the opportunity to take something presented itself, but ultimately just scouting and seeing what was around. My friend Jake from Wisconsin would be joining us for a week starting on the 11th, so we were hoping to get the drop on some elk up in the mountains, were hoping to have some deer located in the foothills and if possible, have one down and packed out for a head start before his arrival. We headed out early on the 9th to begin our day 1 scouting...
The weather was A LOT different this year compared to last. In the lower elevation foothills there was no snow and the temps felt like beautiful fall days hitting the mid 60s at times. At higher altitude there was maybe a 6" snow pack and temps would be cooler but still ultimately very warm for this time of year. We headed out early in the morning to drive up to a burn to start scouting. We ended up driving down a road that was certainly passable (as we were driving on other truck tracks) but was a little narrow at times for our liking with a few good 40' drops if you were to slip off the side. Unable to turn around we kept poking along knowing that there would be a spot to turn around eventually as the other trucks that had gone in there must have. Eventually reaching our destination we hiked in the last little bit to our glassing knob and within 5 minutes we spotted a herd of elk out feeding about a mile from us.
We glassed around a while longer and didn't see much more so we headed off to check access to a nearby trailhead. We drove up to the trailhead only to realize that we had both forgotten the adapters to attach our binoculars to our tripods on the ground at the last spot. In the excitement of finding the elk we forgot to put them away, so back down we went. Not wanting to drive the last part of the road again we decided to hike in the 1.5 miles to grab our gear and back out again. Leaving our packs behind and going in fast and light made for a quick, but annoying trip back in to where we just were. After reclaiming our gear we set out to go a little farther south to check out a different burn. This one was farther back in and at a higher elevation and the road looked a little too snowed in for our liking to try to get the 13 miles back in we wanted, so we decided to take that spot off the table for this season. With an unexpected free afternoon, we decided to head down to the foothills to begin scouting for deer, which we had been planning on starting to scout and hunt the next morning.
We spent a great afternoon glassing up lots of pockets of does and seeing a few decent bucks out cruising from group to group looking for a hot doe. After watching deer until dark we headed back to our room excited about what tomorrow was going to bring.
The next morning we settled into our glassing position bright and early. We had a slow morning and early afternoon glassing. We saw some deer but not as many as the evening before, but we were confident that as the evening approached things would pick up. We moved once mid day to gain a different vantage and around 2:30 Linds glassed up a really nice buck that fed over the backside of a little knob and was was feeding and bedding with a doe on a little bench. At about 3 they were still there and looking like they weren't going anywhere so we decided to make a play on them. We were hunting in coulee country and glassing from a high point on one of the banks to see the canyon below us. We would have to drop down a couple hundred feet into the bottom and work our way down towards them and then climb back up into a shooting position.
We grabbed our gear and headed out making better time then expected getting over there. Operating on waypoints that we had dropped for a rough location of the deer and a location we figured we would be able to shoot them from, we began climbing up their side of the canyon. While climbing we checked the wind and it had been swirling around and was now blowing directly to the deer making it impossible for us to get to our shooting location without bumping them. This left us with the only option of circling around past them and coming up behind them, however doing so would mean we would be climbing up onto the bench they were on and would be within archery range before we could actually see them. We started creeping up the backside of their hill dropping our packs midway. The rest of the way up was incredibly noisy as all of the leaves and grass were very dry and crispy, but much to my surprise when we slowly rose up over the hill I could see the bucks big white hind end and rack as he was browsing.
The doe was a little higher on the hillside up from their bench, and unfortunately picked us off as soon as we started to rise up. She knew something was there but didn't completely blow out, she just kept working higher up the hillside staring at us trying to figure out what she saw. Hunkered down and unable to move or make a play on the buck we had to wait as we watched this doe slowly move farther higher and across the bank stopping every few steps to look back. We expected to see the buck start to work up the hillside following her but to our surprise he didn't, and she was finally out of our sight and we could move again. We rose up to check for the buck and we couldn't see him. I figured he did one of three things, moved into the thick buckthorn he was feeding on and we couldn't see him, moved south and down off the side of the hill into the bottom of the canyon, or worked north and over a fence onto private property.
We rose over the top of the hill we had been huddled behind and I went to check the canyon bottom and Linds went to my right to check the neighboring property. After just a few steps each in opposite directions, the buck exploded out of the buck brush right in front of us and started up the hill the same way the doe went. Linds had her back to the action but I whisper yelled and got her attention. She turned and saw the buck cruising up the hill and I was able to stop him at about 100 yards with a grunt. Unfortunately he was broadside to me but too severely quartered away from Linds for her to take a shot. With her scope still on its lowest setting she dropped to one knee to get more steady and the buck started walking uphill again. Another grunt and he stopped again this time around 150 yards and perfectly broadside to her. Wasting no time I heard a shot ring out and the buck kicked hard and headed uphill towards a fence and private property. I yelled for her to shoot him again to stop him but as we went up the hill she never had another shot. We watched as his head and front end got lower and lower as he approached the fence and I knew he didn't have enough in him to jump it. As it turned out he didn't even have enough to make it and fell over a few feet shy and way laying there dead. Linds had her first ever mule deer on our second day of the trip!
We drug the buck down onto the bench where we originally spotted him to butcher him out and few hours later he was deboned and in our packs and we were starting our 2 mile pack out. It was a bit of a grind seeing as we hadn't gotten used to the elevation yet and had an entire deer split between us along with our gear, but it wasn't too bad and we got the deer out in one trip. We got back to our room after midnight and were excited to sleep in a little and to go meet Jake when he arrived the next day.
To Be Continued...
November 6, 2023 – Another Season Has Come and Gone!
I would like to start this off by giving a big thank you to everyone who vacationed with us this year! This was the first summer that felt truly normal since Covid and it was so great to see so many familiar faces and a lot of new ones as well. I think it's fair to say that everyone is excited to be able to travel uninhibited again (us too), and camp was as busy as ever! It was a great season and above average temperatures through the fall made it a nice and easy shut down for us.
I've got to make this post fairly quick as we are putting together the last of our gear to head off to Montana tomorrow morning for our annual elk hunting trip. After a very busy season we are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in the mountains chasing mule deer and elk. Closing down camp and the month of November is a bit of a blur for us, it's a LOT of fun, but it is hectic. We were home from camp for one full day and night two weeks ago, before heading down to our deer property for a week of whitetail hunting. Then home for a very short three days to do laundry and repack before heading out the door again tomorrow. Our house is a mess of boxes and storage totes everywhere, but that's December's problem!
The deer hunting was slow, despite the weather turning cold and snowy just in time for opening day, but we were there about a week too early. We saw lots of does and fawns and a couple of spiker bucks, but nothing we wanted to take with only buck tags. Of course the last two days we were there we started to see the first fresh rubs, scrapes, and signs of rut, and then the evening of the day we left my target buck came out in daylight and I have a nice picture of him in front of one of our tree stands - haha. But hey, that's hunting! That same night we actually had a new bigger buck cruise by as well and who knows what else the rut will bring. We will be back down there for a bit in December and will hopefully be lucky enough to see him.
We had a very successful moose hunt this year with two bulls being taken during archery season, another two during rifle as well as a cow. My group of friends got an additional calf so far, and we are hoping to fill our cow tag before the season closes on December 15th. Fishing through the end of the season was a little spotty. There were days where they were biting great and others that they were slower and extremely scattered. We had very strange weather this fall where it would be close to a frost and then two days later it was 70 and sunny, and then two more days later it was close to a frost again and storming. A lot of weird pressure changes and the fish didn't seem to have time to settle back into schools between storms, but plenty of walleye were found to eat and lots of good fall bass fishing was to be had as well.
With the average temp warmer than usual right through the end of our season, I noticed two big differences this year. The first is that the lake hadn't turned over by the time we left, which is very odd as it usually does early to mid October depending on weather. Secondly, a lot of the poplar trees still had leaves on them when they are usually totally deforested by the end of October. It was a beautiful but strange sight leaving camp with fall colours still in the trees. The water was at an all time low when we left camp so we need to hope for a decent snow pack this winter and a wet spring. Two years ago was the lowest I had ever seen Press, and I think this year topped it. The narrows on the north side of The Big Island was basically unpassable unless you were in a small boat and pushing through with a paddle. The southern narrows weren't a whole lot better, especially if you got out of the channel into the mud flats which usually resulted in the boat getting stuck in the mud. Here's to hoping it will look different in the spring or we could be starting at a real deficit.
Well I should get back to packing! I'll be writing up a big post when we get back with all the stories from our trip and hopefully some great pictures as well. I will be sure to get a few of the fall fishing and moose hunting pictures up then as well. Might need a two part post - haha. We will will be gone for about three weeks, but if you need to get a hold of us please just email or call and leave a message and we will get back to everyone when we get home. Booking inquiries are handled in the order that they are received, but thanks to all of you guys we have very few vacancies for next year!
September 13, 2023 – We Had Our First Frost!
It has been a very busy summer so I haven't been as diligent at updating the blog as I should be, so my apologies. Lindsay has taken over updating our socials (which has been very well received!) and has been doing a great job of posting a lot of pictures on there weekly, so I hope that suffices in my absence on here. We are by no means getting away from doing the blog for those who don't pay as much attention to social media, so we will still be here as well. I will be trying to get back to monthly updates on the blog at least. We have been receiving a lot of picture submissions since she has been getting the weekly posts up, and we really appreciate everyone who has sent them in! Without pictures we can't do a Walleye Wednesday and a Fish Friday, so thank you!
The weather has been sporadic lately to say the least. Early last week we had temperatures in the 90's, immediately followed by a big cold front pushing the temps down into the 40's, and with that came a pretty major storm. We were very lucky that we didn't get hit too bad out here at camp, but unfortunately Ignace was a different story. Ignace had a half hour of extremely high winds knocking down trees all over town damaging property. Some folks had damage to their rooves or their homes and sadly our friends at Ignace Airways had their twin otter damaged pretty badly. We are happy to have avoided the storm but are really feeling for all of those affected. Since the storm we have seen overnight temperatures down in the 35-45 range, but the days have been absolutely beautiful and sunny with highs reaching 65-70. Last night was our coldest night yet however, and we did see our first frost of the season. I think it is safe to say that fall is here, but this is my favorite weather and time of year. It's great having the woodstove going in the evenings, nice and cool to sleep at night but warm during the day, and best of all: NO MOSQUITOS!
The fishing has been a little more volatile with the sudden pressure changes associated with the weather we have been having. Lately groups have been having about 2 days a week where they are a little less aggressive but otherwise are absolutely hammering as usual. I think now that the weather has stabilized a little bit we will stop seeing those slower days in the mix, or will have fewer of them at the very least. The fish are pretty much where they should be for this time of year, we are still seeing lots of numbers and size being caught on humps and structure adjacent to deeper water. As the water temps are cooling we are starting to see the beginning of the fish transitioning back into some shallower water along rocky shore lines and weed edges. My recommendation is still to work the humps, and if you want to cruise some of the other habitat nearby it is certainly worth your time. Here are a few nice fish caught since my last post (my apologies if they overlap with what Linds has been posting):
Despite getting some periodic rain, the lake has continued to drop most of the summer and the water levels are very low. I would say with the exception of 2021, this is the lowest I have seen the lake. Both narrows and the Rock Gardens can still be navigated, but require attention, and some of the reefs (7-70 for example) are shallow enough that they can be hit. Hopefully we will get a bit of rain this fall and a lot of watershed from our snow pack to bring things back to normal for next spring.
As our fishing season is beginning to come to a close we are excited to welcome that cool air that feels like hunting season. So far duck season is open and we have been out once without any luck. Sadly the big storm we had pushed most of the local birds south before the season opened, but it won't be too long before we have some more birds joining the ranks from up north. on the 15th grouse season opens and we are pretty excited to get some "bush chickens" for the freezer, and on the 23rd archery season opens for moose and we will be welcoming our first groups of moose hunters. It's crazy that another season has almost come and gone, but we are eagerly waiting for our favorite time of year and all of the hunting we have planned - stay tuned!
July 28, 2023 – Hard To Believe We’re Almost Half Way Through The Season
I apologize for not getting a post up here sooner. A few weeks ago I had an aunt pass away and was gone most of the week to the Toronto area to visit family and attend the funeral. Once home, it took a little while to get caught back up and get everything back to normal, but we are all caught up again and I figured it was about damn time I get a post up on the blog - haha!
Well, despite the incredibly dry spring and early summer we had, for the last month or so we have been getting lots of rain. It was well needed as I'm sure everyone knows that Canada has been on fire. That is still the case out west, but locally we have seen our fire ban lifted, and the grass in the yard is actually green again. Not to mention the yard and the road on the drive in aren't so dusty, and smoke from the wildfires is basically nonexistent at this point. Water levels are low, but not outrageously so. However, had we not got that rain I think it would be a much different story. Getting into Hut is still possible although getting more and more difficult, especially with larger boats.
Fishing has remained pretty incredible all year. I am seriously not kidding when I say that since the border has been open I hear weekly that the fishing is the best groups have ever had, and the fish are consistently the biggest they have seen. We haven't seen a large influx of really big (say 27" +) walleye, but the average size now seems to be running 17-21". However, we did have a massive walleye caught by Laverne on his 88th birthday. This 32" giant made for a pretty special birthday present!
Lindsay has started upping our social media presence with weekly Walleye Wednesday posts, and has been reaching out for photos from everyone's trip. So far we have been getting quite a few so a big thank you to everyone sending in pictures, and if you haven't sent any and have some good ones, please forward them along! Below is a nice sample of some of the submissions and the walleye being caught this summer:
The walleye are definitely in the deeper water now and are being found on the shoulders of reefs and sharp drop offs in anywhere from 15-25' of water. 7 Pine Island, Gull Rock, Rosie's Rock, and The Flats are producing heavily as are just about any other structure found. Walleye are still being caught in good numbers in the current of the English River, whether it be upstream or down, but as the year goes on those fish tend to start running a little smaller than the ones being caught on the reefs.
The northern fishing has been phenomenal as well. We have seen several fish 40"+ so far this summer and a LOT between 35-40". The smallmouth bite had slowed down a bit a few weeks ago, but seems to be picking back up again for those targeting them. I have heard of a lot of nice bass being caught this week.
Lastly, we have received some pretty cool sunrise and shore lunch pictures, especially since the fire ban has been lifted.
Otherwise not too much is new around here. This summer has been the first to really feel "normal" since Covid and it sure is nice to be back into our regular rotation and seeing everyone up here and enjoying our fishing once again. The season is almost halfway done and like usual I can't believe how fast it goes.
June 8, 2023 – We Are Rolling!
I apologize for not getting any posts up here yet, as we are already into the third week of our season. Getting into camp a little late (only 10 days before our first guests!) made our first month or so pretty busy, but we are starting to get caught up and back into our normal weekly routines. Opening up camp this spring thankfully went without a hitch. We went from battling snow and colder conditions through about the middle of May, and then everything flipped and we were faced with one of the hottest springs I have ever seen. I say "spring" a little in jest because we lost the ice on the lake in 3 days, and within that week started seeing days over 80 degrees! We didn't really get too much of a spring this year.
We were blasted with 10-12 days of extremally hot and dry weather through the end of May and into Early June. Fortunately, it has started to cool off a bit with the highs closer to a more normal 70-75, however it has remained very dry and we are currently in a fire ban. We don't have any fires too close to us here, and I'm hopeful it will stay that way. Canada of course has a number of larger fires out west which is flooding you guys to the south with smoke. I have received a few emails inquiring about the smoke conditions up here and so far we are very clear. We aren't currently affected by the smoke from out west and there isn't anything local enough to be smoking us out.
And now, for the paragraph you've all been waiting for: FISHING! So far the walleye fishing has been really good all year. Through the first two weeks of our season they were still being found in the rivers in shallower warm water. We were surprised to see them in the rivers so late this year, especially considering the hot bright weather we had for weeks in a row. As this week has progressed the walleye have begun to move out of the smaller rivers into the lake, but are still being caught in the English River at both ends of the lake, with the Rock Gardens really starting to shine. on the main lake the walleye are beginning to be found in the shallow warmer water along weed beds and wind blown rocky shores, and I imagine within a few weeks we should start to see some being caught on shallower reefs. Presentation has been very typical, a jig tipped with a minnow or your choice of live bait seems to be the best, but of course plenty of fish are being caught on artificial bait as well as lures and crank baits. Average size has been 16-21" with the biggest of the year at 28.5".
The small mouth and northern fishing have also been phenomenal all year. The smallies were on nests through the first couple of weeks of the season and were aggressively hammering just about any bait that came to close to home. I think they are still on nests in some cases but are also starting to branch out and feed a bit, and as a result are still aggressively hitting baits to recover from their spawning season. We have had a few northern over 40" caught already as well. Some were targeted, but as usually is the case most of them were caught by anglers fishing for walleye and ended up hooking into a giant that is there to feed on those same walleye. The English River towards the Old Bridge has been producing a number of very large northern, as it tends to.
We haven't received too many photos from guests yet so if you have or take any from your trip please forward them along! We love getting pictures up on here and our social media pages for all to see. Here are the few we have this year so far:
We would also like to give a big thank you and shout out to Fred and Mary Winchowky for sending us a new flag. For those who made it up last year you probably noticed we didn't have our flags flying as we usually do. This certainly wasn't by design, but was because we were having a hard time sourcing good outdoor flags that will last an entire season, and because our old ropes had broken and the poles needed to come down in order to be re-strung. Anyway receiving two new flags and a wonderful card in the mail this winter was just the kick in the butt we needed to get the poles fixed and the flags back up. Thanks again Fred and Mary!
Otherwise all is going well at camp and we really happy to be back to normal and seeing everyone again. This is the first summer since Covid that has felt "normal" and we are sure glad for it. Mom is doing well and is making a great recovery from her broken arm, she is very happy to be out of a cast and just in a brace now. She is still up on the weekends helping us out with cleaning and getting a chance to see and visit with everyone. Keep an eye out on Friday nights through Saturday if you are looking to say hi!
BOOKED!! LAST MINUTE VACANCY – JUNE 3 – 10, 2023
We just received a cancelation for June 3rd - 10th of this year. This vacancy is NEXT SATURDAY!! I am also discounting this cabin again, waiving all minimums and offering it up at 30% off. This means if you are able to fill this last minute vacancy, it will only cost $250 per person for the week. There is a small catch though - this cabin is only available this year, as it is spoken for in future years. The cabin available is cabin #2, which is a 2 bedroom each room has a Queen bed, and twin bunks.
This discount is only being offered on this booking, this year only. The option to book this cabin next year will not be available.
Give us a call at 807-934-6911 asap to snag this spot!
BOOKED!!! LAST MINUTE VACANCY – May 27th to June 3, 2023
AS OF 9PM MAY 19TH THIS VACANCY IS BOOKED!
We just received a cancelation for May 27th - June 3rd of this year. Yep, that's right, I have room for you NEXT SATURDAY!! To sweeten this opportunity a little more, we are offering this vacancy at a 30% discount, and we are waiving all minimums! This means if you are able to make this availability, it will only cost $250 per person for the week. The cabin available is cabin 7, which is a 3 bedroom each with a double and twin bed.
This discount is being offered on this booking, this year only. Full pricing, and minimums on this cabin will resume 2024
Give us a call at 807-934-6911 asap to snag this spot!
May 5th, 2023 – Waiting For The Snow To Melt
Well, we are home from our last trip of the winter. This off season has been A LOT of fun, but it has been pretty busy and we are looking forward to being home now and getting back into a routine. And above all else, we are looking forward to getting back into camp and getting back to work. Between our trip to Cuba and Texas (end of March through early April) we got 3 heavy snow falls, all 8-12" each. I believe that ended up being 50% or more of the accumulated snowfall for the winter, all piled into the end when we are hoping to see it start to melt. Fortunately while we were in Texas through the end of April, a lot of the snow here at home melted. But, of course that was followed by one last winter storm garnishing our lawns with close to another foot of snow, and closing the highways and delaying our arrival home from Texas by a day.
Since getting home about a week ago, the weather has warmed up quite a bit and all of that last snow storm has finally melted off. Here in town there is still quite a bit of snow in the bush and of course there are still piles around town from plowing. The smallest ponds are all open now and the bigger ponds and smaller lakes are beginning to look pretty sad, and the ice is pulling away from the shore. We haven't been up north towards camp yet, but I have been in touch with Roger who has been in and out of Wintering Getaway, and he has informed us there is still quite a bit of snow on the road in places, and the lakes still have a fair amount of ice. He was hopeful we might be able to get all of the way into camp on Saturday, so tomorrow morning we are going to pack up some tools and see if we can get into camp. The forecast looks nice and warm over the next couple of weeks so I think we should see the ice and whatever snow is left melting off quickly. We are as excited and anxious as always to make that first drive into camp!
Texas was a busy trip but we did a lot of fun things! For a quick backstory, one of my best friends and fellow PLC guest Jake and his now wife Elizabeth, got married about an hour South of Austin in Canyon Lake. Since we would be going all the way to Texas for the wedding, we figured we should make a trip out of it and go down for a couple of weeks. We decided to drive down after checking the prices of flights, and needing a rental vehicle etc. and were very glad we did. It was a bout a 26 hour drive but we split it into two longer days and a very short and final third day taking us into Austin for the start of our trip.
We arrived in Austin and started our vacation with a highly anticipated dinner at Dai Due, a local restaurant owned by chef and butcher Jesse Griffiths. Jesse is involved with the Meateater crew, and creates a lot of wild game butchering, cooking, and food preservation content for his own social media presence as well as Meateater's. I have enjoyed learning from his online content for a while now and it was amazing getting to finally eat at his restaurant. Pictured below is a wonderful charcuterie board we shared, and although the pictures didn't turn out the best so I didn't post them; I had delicious dry aged Nilgai steak (Nilgai are the world's largest antelope species and are known for their incredible table fair, which I've definitely wanted to try), and Linds enjoyed some wild boar confit.
The next day we relocated to a very interesting urban campground Lindsay found online that is actually right in the city of Austin. The campground was a gypsy village, but in the best way possible. The property was lined with old trailers and renovated jet stream campers, and the owner has chickens, goats, and donkeys. We also had 8 whitetail run right beside our tent one morning. Anyway, we set up our tent at the campground, and spent the next three nights through Easter weekend there. We even cooked up a nice Easter steak dinner on our Coleman cook stove!
During our time in Austin we checked out a bunch of local bars and restaurants, and we had an amazing lunch of Texas BBQ from famous Terry Black's BBQ. We spent some time checking out a couple of the city parks, and we met up with Jake and Elizabeth for a day of shopping and being tourists. We stopped by the Yeti flagship store and enjoyed a drink at the attached bar.
We left Austin and met back up with Jake and Elizabeth at 4 Amigos Ranch near Eagle Pass, which is a border town along the Mexico border. The 4 of us were booked for a 3 day, 2 night wild hog hunt. Lindsay and I had invited Jake and Elizabeth along with us on the hunt as our wedding present to them, and since we were there, Jake and Elizabeth decided they wanted to pay for each couple to shoot a ram on the ranch as well. We had an absolute blast hunting together and 4 Amigos Ranch was an incredible place to stay and their staff took very good care of us. The hunt starts with your arrival at 2 PM, there is an orientation and everyone verifies their rifle on the range. Then you are dropped on stand around 5 for the first hunt, where you are picked up for dinner a little after dark, around 8:30. After dinner you can go back out for a night time spotlight hunt from about 10-12:30. The next morning starts early as the ride to the stand is at 6:30 and you hunt until about 10. Pigs don't move much during the heat of the day so the afternoons are slow and you can hang around the lodge. Since we were hunting rams as well, our guide Lee took us out during the day to spot and stalk them. Then it was back in for a late lunch, rinse and repeat the two evening hunts as the previous day, and one last morning hunt the last day before packing up and heading out.
While sitting on stand we got to see a ton of the exotic animals that ranches like 4 Amigos have on their property, and really enjoyed watching them all feed and interact. We saw nilgai, oryx, axis deer, buffalo, water buffalo, audad, blackbuck, red deer, white tail, a whole variety of various goats and rams, and of course, wild pigs. The pigs are mostly nocturnal but you will see some just before sunset and shortly after sunrise. Nobody shot any pigs on our initial evening hunt, but during our first night time sit, Jake and Lindsay both filled out their 2 pigs each. In addition to the 4 of us, there were 8 other hunters at the ranch as well, and there were quite a few hogs taken on that first night hunt. The next morning we didn't shoot anything but enjoyed watching the variety of animals coming and going. During that afternoon, Lee took us out to hunt for the rams. Elizabeth shot her rambouillet ram first, and we were able to creep into 50 or so yards of it sleeping in its bed. Next Lindsay was up and she shot her corsican ram about an hour later. We were able to locate it and 5 others in a group and she shot it as they were clearing an opening between some brush. That evening hunt I shot my 2 hogs and lucked into a massive one at 205 lbs. During our hunt there were 24 hogs taken by the 12 hunters in camp and the average size was about 70 lbs, with about 5-6 breaking 100 lbs. I lucked into the biggest of that particular trip, but the biggest hog they have taken on the ranch was over 300!
We were all done hunting except for Elizabeth being short one pig. We were confident we could get the last pig at day break the last morning, so we decided to take the second night hunt off and celebrated (maybe a little too hard) the great hunting we had that day. We had a great time sharing stories with the other hunters in camp and Lee, who was a lot of fun to hunt with and took excellent care of us while we were there. We got that last hog the next morning and loaded up some very heavy coolers of meat. This was the first guided hunt I've been on and 4 Amigos Ranch did a great job taking care of us, I definitely can't say enough good things. And to top it all off, the food was absolutely incredible!
After the hunt was done it was off to Canyon Lake to start getting ready for the wedding. It just so happened that while we would be there, Willie Nelson was playing a show on his 90th birthday tour, and opening for him were ZZ Top. So two nights before the wedding, a number of us from the wedding went to the concert. It was a blast! Willie definitely still sounds great despite his age, and his son who tours with him sounds almost indistinguishable. ZZ Top still put on a great show as well, and Billy Gibbons can still get after it on the guitar!
The last few days of the trip we spent with Jake and Elizabeth and their families at the ranch where their wedding would be. It was a wonderful time meeting lots of people and and engaging in the usual pre wedding activities. You know like, beer, cornhole tournaments, beer, campfires, and of course, beer - haha. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and we all had way too much fun at the reception afterwards!
Now we are back home and are chomping at the bit to get in to camp. I took mom to Dryden two days ago for a check up on her arm. The surgeon says everything looks great and is healing well! She is officially out of a cast and in a brace for 8 more weeks, when she will have her final check up and should be totally good to go. She is feeling great and isn't in too much pain, and of course is very happy to not be in a cast any more. Naturally, we are going to be busy for the next few weeks, so I don't know when the next post will be, but I will definitely get a fishing report up some time after opening weekend.
March 29, 2023 – Home for a Short While Between Trips!
Well we are back from Cuba, and we had an absolute blast! The weather was gorgeous, as were both the ocean and the beaches around Varadero. We didn't have a whole lot planned for this trip, except spending some time with my Mom's brother and his wife, and enjoying some down time on the beach and next to the pool. Well it's safe to say we accomplished just that! We arrived a couple of days before Brian and Marj, so we had some time to settle and to get familiar with the resort. Once they joined us we enjoyed our time visiting and having some nice dinners at the a la carte restaurants around the resort.
After Brian and Marj returned home we spent our last 5 or so days doing more of the same. We did go into Varadero one afternoon for a day trip to do some shopping and to eat at a local restaurant. We had a wonderful cab ride there in a convertible Bel Aire from the 1950's. Unfortunately we weren't really thinking and didn't get any pictures of the car. We did get to see the famous Beatles Bar, which is dedicated to the band. My mom was HUGE fan of The Beatles in her youth so she enjoyed seeing all of the memorabilia. We also had an amazing lobster lunch right across the street from the bar, at a wonderful little restaurant.
Unfortunately on our last day there Mom tripped on a small set of stairs and broke her arm right above her wrist when she fell. The resort had great medical staff but were limited in supplies and facilities so they got us a taxi to the International Clinic in Varadero 15 minutes away. There they were able to do X-rays and confirm her arm was broken, but they didn't have anyone in who could reset the bones. They gave mom some painkillers and sent us off by ambulance another 45 minutes away to Matanzas. The hospital in Matanzas was pretty large at 4 stories and was very well equipped compared to the smaller clinics we had been in. There we met with an orthopedic doctor who would be able to reset mom's arm, but wanted to wait at least another 2 hours before using any sedation, as we were within 6 hours of mom eating and drinking water and they were worried about nausea as the sedation was wearing off. Well, it was already 8 pm, and our transfer to the airport for our flight home was at 7 the next morning, so we were beginning to get worried about time. We decided to have them put mom's arm in a half cast to immobilize and brace it for travel, and we would head right to the hospital in Thunder Bay the next day when we landed around 3 pm. So, they did jus that and we were on our way back to the resort, arriving back around 11 pm. We got mom home safe and sound the next day and got her arm reset and casted.
I brought mom back to Thunder Bay last Wednesday for a follow up appointment Thursday morning, and it was determined that the bones must have moved again inside her cast, and surgery was recommended to make sure everything healed correctly. Fortunately they were able to get us in for a quick surgery Friday, and mom and I came home Saturday. She is at home and settled back in now and the recovery process can finally begin. Despite how crazy it was for a little bit, everything went really well, and mom is doing well all things considered. It has taken some time but she is even getting used to having her dominant arm in a cast - haha.
The weather is starting to feel like spring up here. It's still dipping fairly cold at night to about 10 degrees F, but the days are getting longer, are sunny , and are getting up above freezing. We are off to Texas for a couple of weeks for a friends wedding and a wild hog hunt on April 6, but I'm hopeful that when we return near the end of April that we will have very little snow. Once we get home from this last trip it will be about time to try to get into camp and start getting ready for this season. We are really looking forward to getting back out there and getting to work.
I'll be sure to post again when we get home from our Texas trip, hopefully with a few more pictures than we took in Cuba!
February 22, 2023 – Apologies for the Absence, It’s Been a Busy Winter!
I apologize for not having posted anything for a while, and for not getting the journal from our Montana hunt done yet. As things tend to always go, it has become a pretty busy winter. Shortly after getting through the holidays, my good friend Jake from Wisconsin came up to visit us for a weekend of ice fishing and visiting. We had a great time and a very successful weekend of fishing walleye and lake trout. We had a nice walleye dinner one night and were able to send Jake home with his limit as well. Linds also caught this beautiful laker that was around 10 lbs:
Two weeks later I was off to Thunder Bay for an annual 5 day fishing trip with friends, but not before Lindsay and I spent 2.5 days making over 100 pounds of sausage with deer and moose from this fall. We made burger patties, jalapeno and cheddar brats, andouille, chorizo, breakfast sausage, summer sausage, and kielbasa. It was a busy couple of days but we really enjoyed it and have been enjoying the spoils of the hard work, especially on the ice.
The day before leaving for my trip to Thunder Bay, I got a message from Jake informing me that he had told his brother in law Adam about the fishing we had while Jake was up here on his trip, and that Adam was now on his way North to do some DIY ice fishing of his own. Now it may sound a little sudden and crazy that Adam would pack up on such short notice and come all the way up here from Wisconsin, to try his hand ice fishing where he has never fished before, all while living out of his truck. However, Adam films and hosts his own Youtube show and social media platform called Free2Prowl, where he films and posts all of his experiences. He has a retrofitted F-150 that he travels and lives in while on the road chasing various wildlife, and hunting and fishing adventures.
Unfortunately I was off to Thunder Bay the next day for a trip that had been planned for months, so I wouldn't be able to fish with Adam and show him around. However, I was able to meet Adam in Thunder Bay on his way through. We chatted for about an hour and I gave him some tips and waypoints and he was off to Ignace to start fishing. We kept in touch basically daily while I was fishing on my trip, and he was exploring the area around home.
We had a great trip in Thunder Bay and explored a few new lakes. It is a relatively new area for us to be fishing, and there are a lot of lakes that we can access, so we have been exploring and learning more and more each year. This year we fished 4 different lakes and caught fish in all of them varying from walleye, lake trout, brook trout, and splake.
I got home with two days to spare before we were on our way down to Wisconsin to visit Jake and his fiancée Elizabeth, for Elizabeth's bridal shower. Adam would be on his way back to Wisconsin to continue his fishing trip the day after us, but in the meantime we were both in Ignace, so I was able to take him out to a lake he hadn't been to yet. We had a blast fishing together and had a good day, catching 10 lake trout varying from around 1-3 pounds. The next day Lindsay and I were on our way down to Wisconsin, and were there through this past weekend, returning home Monday night. If you want to see more of Adam's trip up here or to follow him along check out his socials on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Tik Tok at Free2Prowl.
Now we have a week of downtime to get caught up around the house and then we are off to Cuba with Mom for two weeks. We will be joined by her brother Brian and his wife Marj for one of the weeks and are really looking forward to spending some time with them. Currently we don't have too much planned for the trip and are really looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. So far this winter has been warmer than usual, but when temps have dropped it has been very cold, so we will enjoy a break from it.
We have ordered our calendars and news letters and they should be printed soon. I suspect we won't be able to get them out until mid March after we are home from Cuba, but you can expect to start seeing their arrival then. I'll be sure to get another post up once we get back from Cuba to give another update as we get closer to spring.
January 11, 2023 – An Unseasonable Warm Winter!
Well despite some colder temperatures and a fair amount of snow through the end of November and December, January has been incredibly warm. We haven't got any fresh snow in a while and temps are swinging between 10 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. There seems to be enough good ice to travel by snowmachine and to ice fish, but it is definitely not nearly as thick as it should be. Some lakes still only have around 8" of ice and in a typical year we would see over 12" by now. We're lucky we got a bit of cold at the beginning of winter to build the ice or we wouldn't hardly be doing any fishing at all yet. And since we have enough ice to go fishing the warm temperatures aren't all that bad, it certainly beats -40!
So far Lindsay and I have only been ice fishing twice. Both times to a small stocked lake close to town where we can chase splake. They are just little guys but are great pan friers and are a blast to watch come in and hammer your spoon in crystal clear water. This weekend we are planning to get out a little more and will be spending two nights camping out on the ice in our portable shack fishing for lake trout and walleye. We are both really looking forward to our first couple nights out there in 2023!
Mom is doing really well and has been enjoying the warmer winter so far. She is busy as usual volunteering and helping out all over town and having weekly lunches with friends. We are currently in the midst of planning a 2 week trip to Cuba with her over the first two weeks of March and we are all very excited!
We had a very busy, but very fun and exciting fall. As I detailed in a previous post, we didn't have much down time between coming home from camp and going deer hunting, and then returning home for 3 days before heading out to Montana for what ended up being 3 weeks. We were headed to Montana with 2 elk tags and 2 deer tags, so we weren't overly worried about taking a deer during our first trip down to the cabin. We were joined by some friends from Thunder Bay who were looking to take a deer home for some meat, and Matt did just that shooting a nice doe opening weekend. They left on Monday morning and Lindsay and I stayed the rest of the week relaxing and hunting. Despite seeing a lot of deer we didn't see anything that we wanted to shoot, as we weren't planning on taking anything unless it was a really nice buck.
After a very busy 3 days at home, we were headed for Montana. We had an absolutely wonderful trip and spent 17 days hiking and hunting both the mountains and their surrounding prairies. We got hammered with early season cold and snow the first week there and were pushed out of the mountains by about a foot of snow after only 4 nights. At 3:30 in the morning we had a couple of inches, by 6:30 when we decided we should start packing we had about 8-10" and a couple hours later as we were leaving there was a foot or more. Well right before we started packing up camp as were enjoying a quick cup of coffee and getting dressed, it was quite clear to me that there is none I would rather be getting snowed into the mountains with then Lindsay, so I asked her to marry me! After she said yes, and we were done embracing and enjoying the moment, we immediately got to work tearing things down so we could get on the road out of there.
We relocated to a nearby motel for a while until the storm stopped and we could come up with a new plan of where to set up camp. We ended up spending 6 nights at the motel as another few smaller storms and crazy cold temperatures (down to -15 F in November) kept us there longer than planned. We hunted from the motel each morning and I was able to shoot my first mule deer during that leg of the trip filling the 1st of our 4 tags.
After the weather stabilized, we decided to head about 50 miles south to change units and to try to get to more accessible roads as we had seen about 30" of snowfall up in the mountains and probably 18-24" down on the flat prairie where the wind was blowing drifts 5' tall in some extreme cases. We set up our tent in the mountains again and decided to try to focus on elk for the last half of the trip, hoping to fill Lindsay's deer tag if we stumbled into a deer along the way. On our first morning of hunting we glassed up a herd of elk and spent all day watching them bedded in a small patch of timber, waiting for them to come out into the open and to feed down their side of the canyon into rifle range. We had lots of time so we decided if they didn't come into range on their own we weren't going to try to force anything for fear of being seen and bumping them out of there - we could always come back first thing in the morning and try again. Well, after watching them work in and out of the patch of timber all day, occasionally almost coming inside our 500 yard limit, they spooked. With 90 minutes of daylight left, and as they were feeding directly down into the area we wanted them too, either us or the pack of coyotes that started howling spooked our 20 or so elk and we watched them leave our lives at a full run, never firing a shot. We were able to relocate the elk that night right before dark, but unfortunately they must have moved over night and were no longer there the next day.
We decided to give that area some time to recover without any pressure so with 3 days left of the season we headed to a new area that we thought could have elk and should certainly have deer. After watching a lot of nice bucks move onto a privately owned ranch from the publicly accessible area we were hunting, we decided to go ask permission to hunt the private land thinking we could quickly fill Lindsay's deer tag and then spend the last 2 days trying to relocate the herd of elk. The folks who owned the ranch were incredibly nice and welcoming and after a brief introduction they told us we were more than welcome to chase the deer on their land. Well, like a lot of the trip things didn't exactly go to plan. Despite there being deer everywhere, due to some really unfortunate equipment failures it took us 5 stalks on 5 different white tails over the last 3 days of the season to fill Lindsay's deer tag. But after a lot of frustration, and a lot of crawling through frozen and very flat cow pastures, Lindsay shot a great 8 pointer to fill her tag and wrap up our trip.
For those who are interested I'll be writing a sort of day by day journal of our hunt and will share it on the blog in the next week or two with some more pictures and to elaborate on the hunt and all of the challenges we had.
After returning home, I went for one last trip to our deer cabin with a friend looking for a deer for his freezer, and one more for ours before the season closed on December 15th. Over that weekend Johann was able to take a nice young buck and I shot a yearling doe, before closing down our cabin and the 2022 hunting season just in time for the holidays. While we were gone to Montana, my moose hunting group was able to fill our cow tag at home, and Lindsay's group with her dad and grandpa filled theirs the opening week of the season in October. So all in all we had a great 2022 hunting season, made a lot of memories and had a lot of fun, and have full freezers for the year.
Take care and keep an eye out for the next post detailing our Montana hunt!
January 3, 2023 – Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas and happy new year!
We just wanted to take a quick moment to wish everyone a happy holidays! We have been very busy since closing down camp hunting through November and early December, and then enjoying the holiday season. We have had a great winter so far, and with ice fishing season really taking off we are looking forward to what's to come.
Things are starting to slow down now that the holidays are over and we are getting back to normal so I will be back this week with a weather and ice fishing up date and a post or two to share all of the fun we had hunting this fall.
We hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday season with friends and family, take care!
November 6, 2022 – A Quick Stop at Home
I didn't have time to write anything before heading to deer camp, but Press is shut down and we are home, although only briefly. We got home from camp on Tuesday, October 25, and were on our way deer hunting by Thursday. We spent 9 days at deer camp coming home yesterday evening, and will be on the road for Montana around 3 AM Wednesday morning.
We had a great fall at camp! The fishing stayed very steady right through the final week of the season, and with the exception of a few days that last week, the weather was really nice and unseasonably warm. We had a slower moose hunt than normal and went 0/2 during archery season and 2/4 during rifle season. Both of our archery groups had cow tags and despite many days in the field and a lot of moose seen (one group saw 10 animals, only 1 cow) neither were able to get in close enough for a shot. Cow hunting with a bow can be a real challenge as our terrain is not overly friendly to spot and stock hunting, and cows don't generally come to calls. Both groups had a great time and saw 10+ moose each, with multiple opportunities on bulls, sometimes it just doesn't work out.
Rifle season started rough as the first few days of the week were very cold and windy with a mixture of rain and snow. Not a lot of animals were seen the first few days but by the end of the week two groups had filled their tags; one with a bull and the other with a cow and calf. My personal group of friends are yet to fill our tag as we ran into the same issues as our archery hunters, we have a cow tag and could only find bulls! Finally our fourth and last group had fewer hunters than normal and ended up going home mid week, I believe a little defeated after multiple days of very poor weather. After Wednesday the weather broke and the rest of the week turned out to be beautiful and temps shot up from low 20's to 70 three days later.
Unfortunately, that beautiful warm weather followed us deer hunting for the week. Lindsay and I didn't have intentions of shooting a deer unless we stumbled into a really nice buck as we still have our Montana trip coming up. If successful, we won't need any extra meat. We are also fortunate that deer season is open for two weeks after we get home, so if we don't end up doing well out west we have plenty of opportunity to get a deer or two for the winter. We are very lucky to be in such a favorable position because it sure was a tough week of deer hunting! We didn't see temperatures below freezing until two days ago, and had a couple of days that hit nearly 70 in the afternoon. As you can imagine there weren't a lot of deer moving and very few of them were bucks. That being said a friend of ours was able to connect on a nice doe opening weekend with limited time, and we did watch quite a few other does, and passed one small 8 point we would like to give another year or two. Slow hunting aside, it was a great week with friends and a highly anticipated break after a busy season.
Well that's a quick update in the meantime. When we get back from Montana I will be sure to have a few updates about our hunt, and once all of the dust settles we have more pictures to post from the end of the season. Some final fish pictures and some various hunting photos as well.
Take care and for those who are out, happy hunting!
October 1, 2022 – Sorry For The Absence
I'm sorry for the big lag between posts, as usual the fall got away from me. Camp has been busy all fall and as fishing season is quickly fading into hunting season, the leaves are changing colours and the fish are still hammering. Mom has been doing very well and her hip is healing up great! The doctor gave her the all clear to return to camp at her 6 week check up, so she has been out helping us on the weekends again for the last 5 weeks or so. I am taking her to Dryden this week for the 12 week check up, and I believe if everything still looks good we are all said and done with the doctors. A big thank you to everyone who has been reaching out to check in on Mom, she has really appreciated hearing from everyone!
The weather was really nice through August and the first half of September. In fact, we had a couple days in September that were downright hot. Through the second half of September and now into October, we have had a few colder spells that have lasted 2-3 days, but between them have been nice breaks of warm sunny weather. The colder day have temperature swings from about 38-55 degrees, generally feeling a little cooler with the wind, and the warmer days range from 40 - almost 70 degrees. So far we have only had 1 frost, but we are forecasted a couple of cold nights dipping a bit below freezing towards the end of this week.
By the beginning of August the water levels were pretty much caught up to normal. Probably still fairing a little higher than average, but very close to what we would expect that time of year, and nothing quite like this spring. The lake continued to slowly drop through most of September, and about a week ago I noticed that it is beginning to come back up as the temperatures are cooler, and we have gotten a bit of rain. I would say currently we are still in that same area of very close to average, maybe a touch high, and the lake is behaving normally as the water levels tend to slowly climb through October. I haven't noticed that the lake has turned over yet, but with the impending cold temperatures, I wouldn't be surprised if that happens soon.
The fishing has been phenomenal all summer long, and that hasn't stopped through the fall. I think almost every week for the first 4 months of the season someone told me it was the best fishing they have either ever had on Press, or ever in their life. We didn't have any real monster walleye caught this year, but I did hear about quite a few in that 26-27" range. The average size however, has really increased, and there are A LOT more walleye being caught in the 18-21" range than we were seeing pre-covid. The current bite is pretty standard for this time of year. The walleye are concentrated on the humps, mainly out on the big lake and are being caught as deep as 30', and as shallow as 12-15' on top of the reefs. We tend to see a lot of really nice fish caught this time of year in the deeper waters surrounding the reefs, and that has been the case so far this year as well.
The bass seemed very active this year, and also have increased in average size a bit. The sprig bite ran later than normal as the bass were still on nests a lot later into the year with the late spring and high water. Now they have moved up onto the reefs and are absolutely hammering off of 7 Pine Island. The pike have been pretty typical this year with lots of walleye being T-boned on their way to the boat, and almost weekly reports of a 40"+ fish being caught.
Hunting seasons are beginning to open up and we have been doing some duck and grouse hunting. The ducks haven't been overly cooperative so we have had a few tough hunts, but have managed to come home with a handful of birds and have had a couple of nice meals. Certainly can't complain about that. Our road sees a lot of traffic from grouse hunters at the beginning of the season, but now that we are into the 3rd week and there are a lot less hunters around, the birds are starting to come out a lot more and we have been able to pick a few of those up to replenish the freezer for the winter!
We are into the second week of the three week archery moose season, and we currently have two hunting groups in camp with a third arriving later this week. So far no tags have been filled, but both groups have seen moose. Just the usual story of lots of bull sightings and everyone has cow tags, or difficulties getting within bow range. I believe the rut is really kicking off right now though as there has been lots of moose sign and activity everywhere, so I suspect the groups will have a lot more action before the week is out. Rifle season opens on October 15th, and we have three cow tags and one bull tag in camp for that week.
That October 15th week is our last week open, so as of writing this we only have three more weeks left of the season. It's crazy how fast the summer goes by. Lindsay and I have a pretty busy fall planned so we are starting to get very excited. I will be moose hunting with a group of friends for opening week of moose, and Lindsay will be spending the beginning of the week hunting with her dad and grandpa. Once we close up camp on the 22nd, we have about 5 days to get home and then head down to our deer cabin in Barwick to prepare for the opener of deer season on the 29th. We will spend a week down there, likely coming home on November 5th, and then we are off to Montana for a couple of weeks on November 9th to try to fill two elk tags and two mule deer tags. We are doing a DIY hunt and will be spending a couple of weeks in a tent in the mountains. We have spent a lot of the summer getting in shape and ready for this trip and are getting very excited as it approaches. November is a lot of fun for us so I don't like to squander it sitting on the couch when there are open hunting season to be had!
Well I think that's all for now, I have received quite a few pictures from folks so thank you very much! I will try to put together a post here in the near future with a lot of them from the last few months.
July 27, 2022 – The Fish are Moving Onto the Reefs!
Now before I get into all the good stuff like the fishing report and pictures, I have a few housekeeping announcements that we need to make. The first is about Mom having a bit of a fall. Next is regarding our landline situation, and then I will follow that with two new rule changes to the fish and game act for this year and going forward.
On July 8, Mom tripped and fell outside the grocery store, and unfortunately broke her hip. Fortunately for her and us it was my ex Hali who was essentially the first one to find her, and was a huge help in getting her up and taken care of. Mom (reluctantly) went by ambulance to Dryden where they determined she had a break and would need surgery, so she was flown to Thunder Bay. There she had a partial hip replacement and was flown back to Dryden a couple of days later. She was released from Dryden on the 16th and was brought back home by Lindsay's parents where they got her in and settled on their way out to visit us at camp for the week. Since then, Mom has had some pain from the break but nothing she can't handle, and is recovering well. It will be 3-4 months before she is able to resume all normal function but knowing her she will be getting herself into trouble before then. We would like to say a big thank you to Don, Mary, and Jake (Lindsay's parents and grandpa) and to Hali for all helping out and getting Mom taken care of.
About a week ago we received a phone call from our phone provider Bell Canada, that they would officially be decommissioning our very archaic radio phone system. Truthfully we have been expecting this to happen for some time and aren't really surprised. Now that we have our very reliable Starlink internet, we have found Wi-Fi calling through a cell phone to be a very good substitute to having a landline. So, our response has been to have our current business number (807 934 6911) ported over to a cell phone that we will be able to use both at camp in the summer and in town during the winter. What does this mean for you guys? Truthfully, not a whole lot with the exception of us no longer having a different winter and summer number, and that you will now be able to text us at the above number if you would like. I think this is actually going to be a convenient change for everyone, not to mention cheaper for us!
Next are a couple of rule changes. Both are in response to the rising aquatic invasive species problem in North America and that is unfortunately spreading through Ontario. The bulk of the spread in Ontario has been limited to more populated areas that are also adjacent to the Great Lakes, say around Toronto. However, the spread of those invasive species is increasing and the government is trying their best to keep them out of our pristine waterways up here in the north.
The first rule change is very simple, and for those of you who travel through Minnesota you will be familiar with it. You must now remove the plug from your boat hull and livewells when travelling across land with your boat. The plug will need to be left out of the boat until you are ready to launch at your next location, with the only exception being that you are allowed to keep water on board in one vessel (livewell, bait bucket, etc.) to keep live baitfish alive.
The second change is a little more complicated. In an attempt to monitor and police the movement of baitfish across the province (for example: bringing bait from the invaded lakes in the southern portion of the province north up here) the province has been divided into various baitfish zones. Baitfish can be moved between these zones if you are headed from our clean northern water south, but it is now illegal to transport the bait from the south to the north. To police this it is now mandatory that if your primary address isn't within the borders of the baitfish zone that you are fishing, then you must keep the receipt from purchasing bait on your person at all times and be able to produce it for an officer if you are checked on or off the water. For folks crossing in Pigeon River who stop to get bait along the way, both Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls are within our baitfish zone and it is legal to bring that bait with you as long as you keep and bring a receipt. Same goes for anyone crossing in International falls, you are still within our zone and bringing bait acquired along the drive is still legal. For our own purposes, we are now required to give every group a baitfish card that you will have to bring with you when you come to get bait, and that we will tally your bait on. This will act as your receipt. We have spoke to officers from the MNR and this is their recommendation to keep things as easy as possible for both guests and outfitters alike, and so we don't have to provide a new receipt with every bait purchase. You will only need one card per group if the group is expecting to fish relatively closely together. If you are completely splitting up it might be best to get one card per boat. You will have to remember to keep the card on you while you are on the lake.
Lastly, and this has been the law for a while but it does not hurt to have refresher:
It is illegal to (or attempt to) deposit or release into, or within 30 metres of, any waters:
- live or dead bait or baitfish, including fish eggs, gametes or fish parts
- the water, soil or other materials used to hold any of these items
Essentially, don't dump your bait buckets or worm bedding (even devoid of worms) within 100' of any lake's edge.
Okay, now onto the more interesting stuff! Until this week the weather has been great. We have had a few hot days or short periods of intense heat, but it never seemed to last too long. Whenever we got any rain it was mostly during the night or it wouldn't last very long during the day, and the average temps were 70-85. That was until this week however, where we started off the week dipping down into the 50's! Now the days have warmed up and when the sun is out it is actually quite hot, but it has rained almost every day this week. Hopefully it breaks tomorrow and folks will have a nice day and a half to round out their week. The mosquitos are still bad but have definitely improved since a few weeks ago. We are really hoping all of this new water doesn't spark another hatch.
The fishing has been really, really good! I have been hearing weekly from groups old and new alike that this is some of the best fishing they have ever seen either on Press, or in a lot of cases in their life. The walleye were slow getting to the humps, likely from a late and aggressive may fly hatch a couple of weeks ago. Since then, they have been moving onto the various humps and are being caught out around Red Rock and on the reefs on the big water too. 7 Pine Island and Gull Rock have been producing well, as I'm sure are most of the other reefs out there.
We have been receiving a lot of fish pictures lately, so a big THANK YOU to everyone who has been taking the time to send them in! Below are some pics from the Oswald crew:
Here are some from the Stauffer group:
From the Western group:
And lastly a picture from Garret Pratt from 2021:
Well I think that is all for now!
June 24, 2022 – We Have the Fish House Back!
Well, as the title suggests the water level has been dropping quite a bit and as of this week we are back in the fish cleaning house. The water is still very high for this time of year but it is getting a lot closer to normal and it is nice to have our building back. Currently docks 1-3 have power restored and I will be working on the rest this weekend through early next week. Unfortunately most of the receptacles ended up under water so I am assessing and repairing any damage. It is advisable to bring an extra extension cord if you are coming over the next week or two, just in case it needs to be run from the cabin or across from docks 1-3.
The weather has been a little all over the place the last couple of weeks, but for the most part has been very good, although hot. Temps are still dipping into the 60's at night usually, cooling the cabins down a bit for sleeping. Day temps however, have been reaching 80-90 degrees, with one day this week peaking at over 100. We could do with a little cooler temps during the day but we have been having the odd day of overcast giving a bit of a break from the sun. There has been enough rain to keep the bush wet but not enough to be a nuisance, and we have had a fair amount of wind with a couple of fast but intense storms. Fortunately for us, we weren't hit at camp nearly as hard the surrounding area. The couple of rain storms we have had paired with the high water this spring has unfortunately been the perfect storm for mosquitos. I definitely recommend bringing lots of bug spray and a Thermacell as they have gotten absolutely awful over the last two weeks.
And now for the part you have all been waiting for, the fishing report! So far we have been hearing nothing but great things about the fishing, I have even heard from several groups that this year is the best fishing they have ever had! We are seeing really good numbers of fish, and since Covid we have seen a big increase in the average size of the fish being caught. It seems the walleye are averaging 16-17", with lots being caught over 20". Despite the high water the walleye are being found in their usual spots. They have mostly moved out of the smaller rivers like Wintering Creek, but are still very active in the current of the bigger rivers in areas like the Rock Gardens and down by the old bridge. Wind blown shores and points are also producing well. I haven't heard much about folks fishing on the reefs and haven't gotten out lately to try myself, but I think it shouldn't be too long before they are being caught on those as well. We have had a few groups go into Hut and have all done well and have reported that it is nice and easy getting up there with the current water levels. Here are the fish pics we have received so far this season:
A big thanks to Jesse Virlee and Mike Houser for sending us these pics. If you get any good fish pics while you are up please do not hesitate to pass them along so we can share them.
We have had some confusion about vacation dates this year. Last year our season opened on the earliest possible day, May 15. This means that our opener this year jumped way back to the latest possible day, the 21st of May. Going forward the opener will be one day earlier per year until it hits the 15th, and then it will jump back later again. This is explained by 365 days a year not being evenly divisible by 7 days a week, so dates will shift a little each year. We have had a few groups not realize this, thinking their dates are a week earlier than they actually are, as their correct dates are around a week later then normal. If you have any questions or uncertainties about your dates please reach out to us to confirm them so you don't plan to come the wrong week.
Lastly, we have been receiving lots of questions about our address for filling out the ArriveCAN app as guests prepare to cross the border. Please use the following address when filling out the information:
2054 Valora Rd
We don't really have a real address out here but we have the one listed above on some various paperwork so that is what we use for our purposes, and it is accepted by ArriveCAN. You can also use our camp for your emergency quarantine location.
Well I think that is all for now, it has been great being back to "normal" and being able to see everyone again! We're looking forward to the rest of the summer.
May 28, 2022 – The Water Is High And The Fish Are Biting
Well it has been a busy week with us getting into camp a little late, and having to deal with the high water. Despite all of that however, things have been running smoothly and the fish have been biting! It feels great to be back to "normal" and to be able to see everyone again. Reports from the opening week guests (and a little scouting of our own) has revealed the walleye are all spawned out despite having a late spring. Some fish are still being caught in the rivers, but most have moved out, and can be found near the river mouths or along wind swept rocky shores. The Narrows have also been productive. 8' - 12' of water seems to be working well, and since the fish are hungry from spawning the choice of bait doesn't seem to matter too much.
It was my 30th birthday on opening weekend this year, and as our first groups of the year know, I always have a bunch of friends up for a weekend of fun and fishing. Here are a few photos from our couple days on the lake:
The water level is finally starting to slowly drop but it will be a few weeks before we get our fish cleaning house and shed back. In the meantime we have a temporary fish cleaning station set up in the front yard with picnic tables. We do not have power to the posts by the docks yet, as they are still under water. It will likely be a few weeks before that is restored as well. The weather was beautiful all week with cool mornings giving way to warm sunny days often reaching 70-80 degrees. This week is calling for a bit more rain and one thunderstorm. Here's to hoping we don't get much more rain!
We no longer have water running over the road, and everyone has been raving about how good it looks with all of the brush pushed back from our plowing into camp this year. Everyone has also been pleasantly surprised with the condition of the road itself, which is another great sign. We drive the road so much and tend to get used to it, that we get a little blinded to how smooth or rough it actually is. It's been nice to be having feedback from guests again, and even nicer that it has all been positive!
The docks are starting to show their age and some have a little damage from the ice pushing into shore this spring, but are all held together and functioning. I am hoping to be able to get to them a little bit this week and get them repaired properly, as well as install handles on them to aid in getting in and out of boats. The docks for the campground are sadly in really rough shape so it is kind of a first come first served and use at your own risk basis. Once we recover from Covid a little, and the price of lumber isn't so outrageous, I plan on building a couple more new docks. The plan is to replace some of the cabin docks and then move the old cabin docks into the campground area to replace the old tired ones there. Those are our first generation of docks and have served us well for over 20 years!
So far everyone has said that their border crossing experience has been friendly and easy. We have only had one vehicle of guests randomly screened, and the rest crossed smoothly with their proof of vaccination and completed ArriveCAN. As mentioned in previous posts you can no longer bring baitfish across the border, and to that list they have decided to add eggs, chicken, and chicken products such as dog food. If you need any of those items it is best to plan on getting them once you have crossed the border.
We now have Starlink internet up and running at camp, and our internet service has improved significantly! It is currently still only available near the lodge but we are hoping to be able to extend that range to the cabins. Now that we have reliable internet, and there isn't much demand for our phone, we are adjusting office hours to:
Friday - Saturday: 6:30 AM to 9:30 PM
Sunday - Thursday: 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM
We are keeping our usual office hours for Friday and Saturday to accommodate guests paying their bills Friday, and those arriving late on Saturday. The Wi-Fi will still be available 24 hours a day, and in the event of an emergency we will still be around, but we just ask that if you think you will need bait or fuel in the evening that you get it before 6:00. We would like to be able to sneak away for the odd evening of fishing too!
Well I think that is all! I hope that is a good update and I will try to keep them coming to keep everyone in the loop about water levels and how the fishing has been.
May 9, 2022 – The Snow Is Melting, Things Are Wet, And We’re Into Camp!
Well, after 4 days of having a massive loader on the road with a plow on it, we have gotten the road into camp open and brushed waaaay back. In the deepest spots the snow was still 2-2.5' deep, and in the sunny spots the road was melted right down to the gravel. Plowing the snow was a relatively easy and quick job for the machine and could have been done in a day, but since we have it up there we have had our operator take a few days and really push back the Alders along the shoulders of the road. It has been a long few days for him spending more time sideways on the road then actually travelling down it, but the line of sight and ability to pass an oncoming vehicle has improved considerably. This is actually the first year I can remember where I haven't had to fire up a chainsaw to get in, the loader was more than capable of handling any downed trees and brush sticking out on the road.
The weather has warmed up significantly lately and has caused the snow to melt very quickly. This paired with the rain we have been getting, and are forecasted to get, has a lot of North Western Ontario flooding. So far highway 105 (which goes north to Red Lake) washed out completely removing a pretty large chunk of the pavement, as did our Highway 599, fortunately north of us; just before Pickle Lake. There is a lot of water currently running over our road into camp, but fortunately it is such an old road and packed so hard that it isn't washing out anywhere. There are a couple spots with as much as 18-24" of water on or running across the road, but it is still solid underneath and drivable. We do have some more rain in the forecast, but we are hopeful to see the road dry up over the next couple weeks. Another plus is that we got a fair bit of snow before we got any real cold last fall and it doesn't seem like there is too much frost in the ground. As a result the road hasn't gotten too muddy despite all of the water. Of course there are a handful of spots we have rutted up with the loader and the truck, but so far the road doesn't look like it should be too rough. Not any worse than normal anyway, haha!
Everything at camp looks to be in good order! It's always a very pleasant surprise to do the first inspection and not find any damage or unfortunate surprises, such as a bear in my bed! The ice is also starting to pull away from shore and the bay in front of camp is opening up nicely. I don't think we should have any issues with ice by opening day.
Well, I think that is it for now. We will be moving up to camp this week to really dig in and start getting ready for our first guests arriving late next week. I'll try to post some more updates and photos before opener and will have a fishing report sometime after opening day!
April 13, 2022 – The Winter That Won’t End And Some New Orleans Pictures, Finally!
Current vacancies for the 2022 season:
May 28 – June 4 – 3 Cabins available
August 27 – September 3 – 1 Cabins available
September 10 – October – Scattered openings every week
Well, I guess Mother Nature is getting caught up for the drought last summer. We are in the middle of April and still have about 30" of snow in the bush and still have close to 36" of ice on the lakes. And to top it all off, we are forecasted to be hit by a massive blizzard that could be another 12-18" of snow before the weekend. We have been seeing warm days where the snow has begun to melt, but most nights it is back down to 20-25 degrees F and everything refreezes. We are hopeful that by next week we will start seeing it go fast, but until then there isn't a whole lot we can do besides enjoy the late ice fishing season and wait until it is all over. We do have a plow lined up to get us into camp late next week or early the week after as a contingency plan in case things aren't melting, and fear not I'm sure the lake will be open in time for the season opener on the 21st of May.
As I mentioned above, we have been out doing a bit of ice fishing. Walleye season closes on April 15th, and this time of year they tend to concentrate near the mouths of the rivers they spawn in and feed quite actively before dark. With the days getting longer we enjoy getting out for lake trout in the morning and then either switching spots or lakes and fishing for walleye in the evening. Of course I'm not great at remembering to take pictures but here is a shot of some walleye Lindsay, myself and one of our friends caught last week.
I think we are all done chasing walleye until May as we have a bunch of family coming for Easter and we will be getting ready for that, but I do hope to get out for trout once or twice more next week before the ice starts to go.
I'm a little late I know, but here are some pictures of our trip to New Orleans. Of course we did an airboat tour, which was Lindsay's first time being on one so we had lots of fun! We were fortunate enough that my Aunt Kristen was able to join us from Atlanta for the last few days of the trip as well, which was awesome as we don't get to see her nearly as much as we would like to. She even came down in time to make it out fishing with us on the Gulph.
We were there over Mardis Gras which as you would expect was both crazy busy, and an absolute blast. We spent a little too much time enjoying the sights and parades ourselves though, and didn't take too many pictures. Mom has always loved parades so she really enjoyed going down and catching one or two of the parades daily. The highlight of the trip for me (and I'm pretty sure everyone else too) was of course getting out fishing. I have read about how great the Red Drum fishing is off of Louisiana, and boy it did not disappoint! We hired Captain Ed from St. Bernard Fishing Charters (who I can't recommend enough) for a day on the gulf, and the 4 of us caught A LOT of fish. We were mainly targeting bull reds and sheepshead and we must have caught at least 20 reds close to or pushing 20 lbs. and easily another 25-30 sheepshead. We all had a great time and cooked up a really nice meal when we got home!
All in all we had a really great trip together, and after 2 years of Covid it was nice to be able to get away from home and explore the world a bit. I hope everyone has a great Easter, we are looking forward to spending it with my mom and Lindsay's family. We are even cooking up a Louisiana style shrimp boil with seasonings we brought back north with us, alongside some of the red fish we brought home as well!