A few years ago I shot a deer and tied it to my trailer hitch rack for the ride home from deer camp. I snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook where one of my friends, a decorated Special Forces soldier, made the comment, "If you don't know knots, tie lots". He was right; I was busted. I still tie knots with the skill and finesse of a pre-schooler. It's embarrassing to admit as a guy who spends most of his free time hunting or fishing, my knowledge of knots doesn't go far beyond the Fisherman Knot and Palomar Knot.
To make matters worse, one of my good friends is a local guy named Steve Pennaz. Steve was the host of North American Fisherman TV and the creator of the popular segment, "Knot Wars". Not only does Steve know how to tie knots, he knows what knots work with different baits, lines, presentations, barometric pressure patterns etc...you get the idea. Last year we were trolling for walleye and Steve suggested I change baits. Not problem as I cut off my Rapala and grabbed a new color. In my defense, it was cold, windy, and rainy and the pressure to perform in front of the "Knot War" guy was on... about 5 minutes later Steve asked, "Is everything alright over there?". He showed me a new knot that's like the Fisherman Knot but instead of wrapping the line from the eyelet out you actually start about an inch from the eyelet and wrap it towards the hook. It's easy to tie and strong. Steve can almost tie it no handed he's so good!
So armed with my new knot (I don't remember the name) I headed to the St Croix River with a couple friends to chase smallies. I used the knot to tie on a Rapala Skitter Prop and proceeded to catch 20-25 smallies. About 3 hours into the day I hooked into a nice muskie in the 42" range. I did a decent job fighting the fish with light tackle and had it close to the boat and next to the net when she broke off. I looked at the line and there was evidence that it didn't break off but my knot had slipped.
To this day, I still suck at knots! So, in 2015 when most people will resolve to lose weight or drink less, I'm committing to learning how to tie knots!
If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.
If you miss Steve Pennaz and his Knot Wars, check out his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MANvsLAKE or visit his website http://www.lakecommandos.com/. He has new shows of his hit series Lake Commandos, airing on Pursuit Channel starting in January.
50 years ago this October Charlie Ehlen and Lee Tallakson, both Navy sailors with connections in the Midwest, met at a hunt club in Southern California. Over the next few years the two would find themselves starting families in Minnesota and cranking out kids, pretty much on the same schedule. For the next several decades the two families would cut Christmas trees together, spend countless weekends and holidays together, and most importantly, for the past 26 years spend the MN deer opener together at the Ehlen property near Randolph, MN.
My wife Kristin and I were fortunate enough to meet the Ehlen family at the MN Governors' Deer Opener in 2010 and we've been part of the group ever since...they don't actually invite us back but we keep showing up! Like many MN deer camps, the Ehlen camp, 5 miles west of Camp Ripley, is full of history, characters, stories, embellishments, good food, good friends and occasionally great deer. It's always a pleasure to share a drink with Lee and hear stories of years past. Lee and his Ty are tasked with Saturday dinner which includes Lee's South Dakota Hot Dish accompanied by BBQ ribs.... the perfect deer-camp meal completely void of vegetables!
Each year the experience has been unique with highs and lows. This year was no different; if there's a low it would have to be the lack of deer courtesy of the neighborhood wolf pack. There is strong evidence that the wolves in the area are decimating the herd...another topic for another day! This year the lack of action was irrelevant thanks to our only two deer in camp on opening weekend.
Twelve year old Max Ehlen from Sartell, grandson to Charlie, son of Steve and Kelli, had the pressure of a long opening day streak for the "Dialed Stand". This stand has produced a deer every opener for the past 25 years, including last year when my 14 yr old shot his first deer. Max apparently has ice in his veins because as the sun rose, he raised his 30-30 and dropped this doe in her tracks!
Max Ehlen and his first deer!
Not to be outdone, Heidi Tallakson, 12 yrs old from Eden Prairie, Granddaughter of Lee; daughter of Ty put her recently secured firearms training certificate to good use and shot her first deer...what this buck lacked in antlers he made up for in body size. A perfect first deer...we joked that Heidi is well on her way to being the next Eva Shockey!
Heidi Tallakson and her dad Ty
Ty, Heidi and Lee Tallakson
It's nice that as the years go be we measure the success of our camp, not by the size of the antlers or the number of deer on the Fred Ehlen masterpiece of a deer pole, but on the shared experiences of our kids and grandkids finding joy in the sport we've loved for decades.
Thanks again to the Ehlen family and everyone who took part in Ehlen Camp 2014. We look forward to 2015!
A recent news story about a Wisconsin man who died having fallen out of his treestand has me thinking about treestand safety. This morning I had an awesome bowhunt; while waiting for a deer to show up I witnessed an amazing sunrise, had 3 coyotes come to within 20 yards, a flock of turkeys flew down 20 minutes later, bald eagles circled above.... And while I didn't see any deer, I couldn't bear the thought of not having any more experiences like this, not to mention the impact on my family, because I was too stubborn not to wear a safety harness.
This is my 7th year bowhunting and I'm proud to say that I've never sat in a stand without a harness. In fact, I'm probably overly careful so in addition to always maintaining three points of contact I generally attach the carabineer connected to my harness on a footpeg as I go by so I'm always maintaining 3-4 points of contact with the tree.
Sadly, the family of the man who died at the base of his treestand is thought to have fallen out as he left the tree. To be honest, it's the climb or descent that usually gives me the willies too...
Today I used a new product from Hunter Safety Systems called the LifeLine. It keeps you connected from the base of the tree all the way up to your stand by incorporating a simple knot on a rope that you slide up and down as you climb. In the event of a fall the knot cinches and holds you in place. According their website "82% of hunters who end up in a hospital (or a grave) from a treestand fall ARE wearing a harness at the time of the accident." And 86% of tree stand falls happen during the climb up or down from a stand."
I view this as a $40 insurance policy that insures many safe and successful hunts in the future.
Happy (and safe) Hunting!
What's not shown are the hours practicing, studying deer, familiarizing herself with her bow, days, weeks, and months spent with her dad preparing for this moment. The emotion has little or nothing to do with the kill shot; it's the result of setting a goal (first deer), working hard (practice), perseverance (waiting many hours in a treestand), trials and tribulations (misses, near misses, busts), and doubt (from naysayers and anti-hunters). After several days of searching the deer was never recovered. It happens to the best of us. Fortunately Amherst, VA hunter Reagan Bryan, was undeterred and was able to shoot and and recover her first deer one week later. Persistence pays off...another good life lesson!
This story embodies everything that is right about hunting. In a time when kids expect instant gratification and have an over-developed sense of entitlement I think the world would be a better place of more kids hunted!
An armada of modern kayaks built for fishing slipped silently into the moving waters of the Mississippi River north of Clearwater early Saturday morning, as some 40 members of the Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association gathered to compete in a friendly competition based on the successful hooking and releasing of Smallmouth Bass.
Anglers worked shorelines, riffles, pools and island edges as their kayaks enabled them to deftly ply the moving and sometimes very shallow waters.
Born out of sealskin-covered craft first used for hunting and subsistence living by Aleut, Inuit, and Yupik peoples of the sub-Arctic and other northern regions, modern fishing kayaks are no longer the very tippy craft of yesteryear.
Todays kayak are built from modern polymers and other space-age materials and are designed like small fishing battleships, ready to take on any river, lake or ocean. New designs and improvements have allowed even wary skeptics the chance to counter the popularity of the motorized fishing boat in an affordable fashion.
Affordability has been the key to the success of these boats and the crowds have joined in on fishing tournaments and and kayak fishing clubs around the country.
The Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association is no different. It boasts nearly 500 hundred active members that gather for weekly outings and tournaments. Members meet to share ideas on fishing, rigging kayaks, and learn the latest innovations in rod holders, depth finders, trolling motors, downriggers and more.
Dan Meer, owner of Clearawters Outfitting Company, host of this years’ Bronzeback Classic Fishing Tournament said, “I’ve seen a rise in sales and rentals of fishing kayaks this year. Kayaking allows everyone to get into the sport at affordable prices compared to traditional fishing boats and motors. It’s a very quiet and gentle sport that has no boundaries. We have first-timers that get so addicted to kayaks that they enthusiastically talk the sport up, getting friends and family involved.”
This tournaments’ anglers, who traveled to the Mississippi from all over the Midwest, cast their lures in hopes to cash in on a host of prizes that included rods, reels, kayak gear and cash prizes. Two new kayaks were given away to winning anglers.
Tournament anglers met early Saturday morning at Clearwater Outfitting Company in Clearwater, loading kayaks onto the shuttle trailers under dim street lights. They were then transported to a starting point upstream to float the 9 miles down river in search of their three biggest fish of the day. Each fish was carefully measured, then photographed on cell phones. Images were e-mailed to the contest headquarters after the fish were released back into the river.
Tournament Recap by Paul M Hansen
Pictures by Mitch Kezar, www.kezarphoto.com