Not all outdoor adventures are successful and sometimes you get more than you bargained for. On other occasions getting the job done seems like no work at all.
This was one of those mixed bag weekends. After a successful turkey hunt, we decided to get a little trout fishing in and had one of those more than you bargained for adventures. It’s nice to have success, but sometimes it can be bittersweet. I’ve learned to take away what you can from your good and bad experiences and use them to better yourself in the future.
If you missed last week’s column, youth hunter Kody Olsen was up to bat again. He harvested his first bird last spring which was a nice big tom. This spring the challenge was a little different. After seeing how good my strutting jake decoy works, Kody wanted one of his own. He had passed on jakes his first few seasons because he wanted to harvest a mature bird, but this was different. He was looking into his future as a turkey hunter and seeing that sometimes harvesting what you would normally pass on is necessary. I pass on nearly every jake I see but every few years my decoy needs a new tail. I have found that real tails outperform synthetic ones by leaps and bounds, but am not really sure why. It may be that their eyes are good enough at close range that they can distinguish a real from a synthetic feather. I have also seen a show that stated birds see in the ultraviolet spectrum and that their feathers give off special signatures. Again, I’m not really sure what makes them prefer the real thing, but that’s been my observation.
This time I let Kody scout a new area and decide where we should hunt. As part of this year’s hunt it was time for him to start making some decisions and learning from them. He located birds on a neighboring property and obtained written permission to hunt them. We met near his house before day break and set off. As we started up hill, lesson number one was learned. There was a bright light on the barn that would silhouette you as an approach was made up the green field. We had to choose an alternate route but it was pretty tall grass with lots of briars and roses. The chances were if we pushed on, we would spook birds. He was able to recall a trail through it and we made our way to the top of the field relatively quietly. After the hunt, we drove around the property and there was a perfect hedge row that takes you to the field without the steep uphill walk through the silhouetting light and pricker-filled field. An easy quiet route in is the first thing you should look for after determining that the property holds birds and he learned a great lesson by not doing it right the first time.
As the sun started to brighten the sky, we started to hear birds gobbling all around us. We had made it into our spot without spooking the birds and chances looked good. After they hit the ground, they shut up. We sat for an hour or so when we heard a bird yelping. It sounds like a hen but as it approached we saw it was a jake. He made his way in pretty fast to confront the decoys. He walked right up to them which were about 20 yards from Kody. As the bird started to head out and we knew the show was over, he took the shot and downed the trophy bird. You see, this was his goal and the fan for future use was the trophy. Before I left, I showed him how to clean a bird again and explained to him how to process and protect the tail, so it will last many seasons. He and his dad thanked me and invited me to go fish for trout with them at their favorite spot, because we couldn’t hunt the next day. I jumped on the opportunity being that I am long overdue for a trout dinner.
Once again, I showed up before sunrise for another adventure. I jumped in the car with them and off we went to fish the East Sidney Dam. Most of you that follow my column are probably scratching your head at this point. I learned long ago from Mike Mayhood that Bob McNitt, the previous writer of this column and local outdoor legend, that you should never write about the small spots you fish, like trout holes. They will get over-fished and possibly damaged. The dam only has enough room for a hand full of people and isn’t a very well-known spot. The reason for this was instantly apparent when we pulled up. There was a “No Parking” sign and two signs that said “Restricted Area” on them. I got worried but they assured me that the guy at the dam knows them and it would be fine. Long story short, after being there a few hours and catching a few trout, perch, rock bass and a bullhead, a game warden was seen approaching. Lucky for us he was an understanding ECO named George Wilber, who was informing us it was no longer permitted to fish there. He agreed in the past it was fine but after someone decided to take their child tubing below the dam last year after the beach was closed down because of an algae bloom, it was deemed no one was allowed anymore. ECO Wilber agreed that it was sad how everyone lost the right to fish there due to a few people’s actions and someone who wasn’t even fishing, but in fear of liability, that’s exactly what has happened.
Because of this incident, I will not, and recommend no one else, go into any possibly questionable area without written permission. Had ECO Wilbur thrown the book at me for this simple mistake, it could have cost me up to $4,000 in fines for trespassing on a federally restricted area. Besides that, it could have damaged my ability to guide in our state. It’s not worth the trouble and money, so be sure or don’t go.
Good wishes, congratulations on the bird Kody, and everyone get the word out that the dam spillway in East Sidney is now closed to fishing.