Have a hankering for a good old fashioned smelt fry? Then check out the Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Smelt Feed being held this coming Saturday, May 1st. As this area’s oldest and biggest charity smelt feed, the Kenyon event could be one of the last chances this year to sample this unusual springtime delicacy.
Once a widely popular fish in areas stretching from Minnesota to Maine, smelt were often dipped or seined by sportsmen using nets from tributaries throughout the Great Lakes region. The spawning fish on their “smelt run,” as it was commonly known, no longer appear in the same numbers as they once did back during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
While several theories exist as to the disappearance of the Great Lakes smelt, most folks agree the heyday for this springtime fishing ritual appears to have come and gone…at least for now. Today, most smelt gathered in quantity are purchased through commercial fishing operations.
The Kenyon smelt feed has a reputation for attracting large crowds from throughout southern Minnesota so plan accordingly by getting there early. Kenyon is located within an hour’s drive of Rochester, Mankato and most areas of the Twin Cities. I urge you to come out and support my hometown fire department and their continuing effort to keep the smelt eating tradition alive.
Each time I hook a trailer up to my SUV I get a flashback to an incident that occurred about a dozen years ago. At the time, I was working for an ambulance service and on one particular sunny afternoon my partner and I responded to a trailer accident. A horrific accident, at that…one that left two people dead and another person seriously injured.
If there’s a side benefit to working in the emergency medical services field it's that you get to learn from other people’s mistakes. You share, to some extent, the grieving family’s sorrow…but you also can sometimes find compassion for the individual who caused the situation. Bottom line is whenever a terrible accident occurs everyone seeks to find an explanation as to why the terrible event just happened.
To be fair, the trailer in my “flashback” was not a boat, in fact, it was a farm implement pulled in the very same manner. The coupling was via a ball-mounted trailer hitch but the system failed. Furthermore, the attachment mechanism was so old it did not contain the necessary safety chains required by Minnesota law to prevent total trailer detachment.
As a result, what once was a trailer suddenly became an uncontrolled projectile traveling at 55 mph on a two lane highway. Combine this with the fact a car traveling in the opposite direction at a similar speed and…well, do I really have to say anything more?
The main problem with pulling a trailer whether it be for a boat, camper, snowmobile or similar unit becomes user complacency. Let’s face it, making the connection between the trailer and your truck is not nearly as exciting as the unit being towed for the outdoor fun. And sure, while most of us ensure we have the correct ball size, lighting connection, etc. we don’t spend a great deal of time beyond that thinking about it. But perhaps we should.
In fact, can you answer these important questions about your trailer:
The main point of all this is not to be a comprehensive dissertation on how to fulfill your due diligence for trailering safety when pulling one down the highway. Instead, with the fishing opener now just three weeks away and a busy summer upcoming, it’s just prudent to spend a little extra time right now checking over the components that so often get overlooked when lives are hurried.
I used to think trailer accidents were not that commonplace. Then about five years ago another incident occurred when someone driving by my house lost their construction trailer and it ended up in the ditch about 100 ft from my house.
The older a trailer becomes the more attention (and maintenance) it requires. Equipment wears out and will eventually break down. When we’re heading to the lake we don’t want to experience troubles. Quite often most trouble occurrences can be avoided long before heading out onto the highway.
Now when I connect my boat trailer to my truck I still think about those two young lives that were lost many years ago. The experience taught me that accidents do happen and can almost always be avoided by eliminating human negligence or error. It also causes me to double and triple check to make sure I have all the connections just right before any tires get rolling.
Pulling a trailer is an added responsibility and the safety element should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping you have a fun, but safe upcoming boating hauling season.
Want to learn more about safe boat trailering?
Over the years turkey hunting has taught me many lessons, but none greater than the wisdom I garnered on Tuesday, April 19th, 1994. You might ask why do I remember a particular day almost 16 years later? Simple. What I experienced that sunny morning in the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota has forever changed the way I hunt and think about spring turkeys.
The day started out much like any other morning in the turkey woods. I got out there early and set up along a field edge with a pair of active gobblers roosted about 80 yards just over a small hill. As the morning sun began to fill the eastern sky, I soon heard the tell-tale sound of beating wings bringing these lumbering birds down to my ground level from their roosts.
As most turkey hunters will tell you, a bird on the ground is definitely “game on” for the hunter. Personally, the only time I call to birds in the roost is when I hear other birds (hens usually) already on the ground. On this particular morning, however, it appeared to be just me against these two anxious toms.
The calling ensued with some soft yelps from my diaphragm call. The toms acknowledged with a raucous gobble indicating their accepting response. Even though I could not visualize the birds quite yet, I could sense they were inching closer as this springtime game of seduction proceeded. I would let out more soft yelps…the birds would respond in kind. In due time, the two mature gobblers inched closer, but never quite within my shotgun range.
Then it happened.
After nearly 90 minutes of playing the part of the seductress hen, with my heart racing with adrenaline, what I experienced next made me gasp in horror. Suddenly, a flock of about 10 hens appeared and predictably diverted the attention of my big boys. I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. for this experience to end on such a sour note. Yet, it appeared all my earlier hunting efforts to sway these toms closer to me were about to become futile as the "kings of the woods" were now being escorted away by their entourage.
I sat there fumbling through my hunting vest hoping for an answer. I tried a box call…nothing. I tried another boat paddle call…again, nothing. I reached into another vest pocket for a different mouth call. Still, no response. During this entire time I could see these hens moving in the opposite direction of me taking with my two hopes for a successful turkey hunting morning.
I was growing desperate. I reached into one last pocket and removed a slate call I had not practiced with all spring. With the turkeys now 125 yards away from me and heading in another direction, I viewed my use of this call as the equivalent to a Hail Mary pass in football—it was my last ditch effort to salvage the game.
I gently scratch a series of “C”s using the striker peg and immediately something quite magical and mysterious occurred. Within 15 seconds those hens I accused of dragging my toms away were now suddenly on top of me looking for the source of that sound. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what I said in turkey-speak, but it made those hens angry, or at least, very curious with me. So much so, in fact, it brought them in too close for me to utter any additional turkey sounds.
Of course, by this point no additional calling was necessary. Along with the angry entourage of hens were my two nice toms now standing only about 25 yards from my seated location. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions that morning. I went from high hopes…to seeing my hopes disappear before my eyes…to then finally living the intense, heart-pounding action of scoring on a nice tom turkey. All of this done in just a matter of a few hours.
Indeed, on that day I learned to NEVER GIVE UP!! Turkeys can be fickle, unpredictable birds that will often times leave you scratching your head trying to figure them out. Oh, sure, I’d like to claim it was my superb calling skill back during that 1994 morning which allowed me to bag my third Minnesota gobbler. Truth is, it was more my stubbornness to accept defeat that eventually paid the turkey hunt dividends.
In what is sure to cause some heated coffee shop discussion among deer hunters, acclaimed deer author and photographer, Charles Alsheimer, has penned an upcoming June article for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine entitled “Has the QDM Bubble Burst?” (Click on the link to read an excerpt from that article)
In a nutshell, Alsheimer suggests that due to cultural and sociological factors, both landowner and hunter attitudes about QDM are causing some individuals to re-think their positions on the highly popular deer management concept. Consider these major “pitfalls” now challenging the ultimate success of QDM:
I’ll be quite honest, I have never been a supporter of QDM. To me deer hunting is much more than engineering the deer herd to produce bigger bucks. Sure, QDM supporters will say the management concept produces a healthier deer herd by using more selective harvest practices, as well as proper land management techniques, but the main motivation for most QDM enthusiasts is more deer sporting bigger racks.
What I think, and hope, will evolve from this is a conservation-minded thinking that melds together many of these deer management theories. QDM serves its supporters well if the measure of success for every deer hunt is seeing trophy class animals on a more regular basis.
Unfortunately, that is not how every deer hunter thinks. Sure, most hunters will agree a big-antlered deer is a trophy in any hunter’s mind. Still, I believe there’s a majority of deer hunters who take to the woods each fall carrying with the notion any deer harvested should be considered a "trophy" in the hunter’s mind. In other words, deer hunting management should be more about creating deer hunting opportunity and perhaps less focused about the size/frequency of seeing the deer’s rack.
So, what do you think? Are you a strong supporter of QDM who takes issue with people talking about the perceived demise of this popular deer management concept. Or, have you been someone reluctant to jump on the QDM bandwagon because you’ve long had issues with the deer management principle. Either way, leave a comment below and tell us what you think.
Walk the isles of most outdoor sporting goods stores these days and you’re apt to see an abundance of turkey hunting gadgets. Indeed, the choices between game calls, choke tubes, ammunition, decoys, hunter blinds, and so on, can leave a person quite perplexed, if not downright dizzy from the entire shopping experience.
No doubt about it turkey hunting has become a goldmine for outdoor product marketers. With product options galore, the wannabe spring turkey slayer is bombarded with choices surrounding nearly every aspect of the hunt.
Yet, the successful turkey hunter needs to put all of this into proper perspective. With Minnesota’s first turkey hunting period about five weeks away, the decisions you make now in choosing the correct gear could ultimately determine your success in the field.
Here’s some quick pointers to keep in mind as you gear-up for the spring turkey hunt:
Bottom line: Don’t let the myriad of turkey hunting equipment options confuse you, especially if you’re new to the sport. TV hunting shows and videos will lead you to believe you need this particular call or that type of camo pattern to be successful. Don’t fall prey to all the marketing hype. Head to the turkey woods with a solid game plan incorporating ONLY the equipment you really need for the experience.
Did I miss something? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what equipment you think is necessary to succeed as a turkey hunter this spring.