The weather here in Central Illinois has been beautiful the last couple of days, and it looks like it will continue for a couple of weeks. When the temperature starts to drop, there is something inside of us the starts dreaming of the giant whitetails we are about to chase.
Normally this time of year we would be moving deer stands and setting up food plots, placing our cameras and getting our shooting lanes ready for fall. This year I am taking a different approach. The last couple of years I have felt our hunting group has been in and out of the woods too much. We have five or six of us that hunt 150 acres and it seems like we all have deer on the camera up until mid-September and then it all changes. The deer seem to know when the activity starts in late summer. The season is right around the corner, and it is time for them to move on.
Some of my friends finished most of the mowing in early August and a couple of them are heading out this weekend to move stands and put-up cameras. Me, I am going to sit this one out. No cameras going up for me this year. All it does is show me the bucks that are around in the area and somehow, I never see the same bucks when season arrives. I know we hold some big bucks in our swamp but with all of us in and out of there they get wise and move out pretty quickly.
I am going back to the way I use to hunt. No cameras. Instead of using the cameras and sitting wherever I see the most bucks this year I will just go hunt different stands based on the wind and conditions. Maybe this will be the year I break through and drop another trophy. If not, I will settle for a nice doe for some meat in the freezer. Then I will wait on big luey.
I am getting more excited. I actually drew a dove permit this year. I have tried for years to get permits and I have never been able to obtain one. Of course, this year, I forgot to get it into the first lottery, so I figured I was really out of luck. To my surprise I was able to get a permit for September 4th. Hopefully there will be a few doves around, if not at least I am getting to sit in a dove field for the first time in several years. Of course, if there is anyone out there looking for a dove shooting partner all you have to do is call or email me and I will help you out.
The first week of August we were planning on going to Wisconsin to do some crappie fishing. Our freezer is pretty low, and we haven’t been to Wisconsin in a couple of years. I love Big Lake Chetac in Birchwood, WI, but I waited forever to get a cabin for my wife and I. I called around to almost every place and for the life of me couldn’t find an opening. After a couple of hours trying to find something on the lake; I had one place that I had forgot about. Fred Thomas Resort. They have advertised in the past and I have been to the property a time or two when we have been on the lake, so I made the call. To my excitement, they had a cancelation of a condo, and it was a perfect fit for just me and my wife. For the first time ever Leah and I were taking a trip on our own. Our youngest was going to stay with our oldest, which lives in Appleton, WI for the week so it was just me and the wife.
Once I booked this stay, I started scheming to mess with my buddy Al. See he had been harping on me for a couple of months about booking something up there so we could hang out with them. I decided I wasn’t going to tell him I was planning on getting up there catching a few fish, then finding him and getting a picture of him in the background and send it to him. If you know me, you know I like to mess around maybe too much but I get a kick out of it so its just who I am.
I told my buddy Al I found a place on a river, and he about lost his mind. He was telling me how bad our fishing would be, and Leah was not going to be happy about it. I was just stringing him along.
They left at 4:00am so we waited until 6:00am to leave. The thinking was we shouldn’t run into them on the way up so my plan would go off without a hitch. Of course, my wife thought I was crazy, but I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. As we were driving north, we dropped of Ella at Payton’s, and I had Leah try to find out how far ahead of us they were because I knew we both had to stop at Walmart to get supplies for the week. We found out they were only 20 – 30 minutes ahead of us so once we arrived at the Walmart exit, we decided to get some gas and stop for some Chinese to fill our bellies for the day.
After finishing up lunch we headed down the road to Walmart. We proceeded to look in the parking lot to see if there were any boats and if we could see any of the other crew. Of course, I notice a boat in the parking lot, and it had Wisconsin plates, so I thought we were all good. Little did I know that one of the gentlemen on this trip lived just across the border in WI. We decided to park way on the other side of the parking lot from them so if it was them, they wouldn’t see us. Sure enough we finished our shopping and I looked out at the boat and I could tell it was our crew.
I spent a few minutes trying to decide whether to sit there for awhile or how to get by them without being noticed. I decided to go near the entrance of Walmart and sneak out that way. As I entered the frontage road we look over and there is my buddy Al staring right at us. A few minutes later we receive a text that reads “Green Toyota Tundra with topper and stickers on the back pulling a boat just like yours. Happy, Happy, Happy”. We were busted and I proceeded to try and deny it was us, but my goose was cooked. Either way we ended up with a good laugh. Another one of Andy’s misadventures.
The fishing has always been great but we have missed the last couple of years so I wasn’t sure how it would be. The first day we found out. It was as tough of fishing as I have ever seen up there. We were used to catching fish every day and at least 30 – 50 a day but this year it was hard to get a ½ dozen in the boat. It seemed like we would catch a fish about once an hour.
Since the crappie fishing wasn’t great, we tried fishing for bass and northern. We caught a few largemouth, smallmouths and northern but nothing to write home about. We enjoyed our days on the lake, as we always do. We just didn’t catch as many fish as we would like.
After several days of trying my buddy and his crew decided to head 20 miles or so north to this small lake they had heard about. They went on Thursday afternoon and caught 17 really nice crappie. Most were over 12” which is pretty dang big for Wisconsin.
Since they had such a good afternoon on Thursday, we decided to pull our boat out and head there for our final day of the trip. We arrived shortly after daybreak, and it wasn’t much more than 15 minutes, and our first fish was in the boat. After a couple of hours, we had our limit and headed back to the cleaning station. We didn’t keep anything smaller than 10” that day so we had a nice amount of fillets to head home with.
One thing this trip taught me is if the fish aren’t biting on the lake or just aren’t there don’t be afraid to boat out of that lake and try some others in the area. Lord knows in Wisconsin you don’t have to go far to find another body of water. One thing you must do in Wisconsin is if you’re going to different lakes you must clean your boat and trailer so you don’t transport unwanted flora into another lake.
We had a great trip and our first without kids. I will say it was a little different. We did what we wanted when we wanted. We didn’t have to worry about getting kids fed or making sure they were enjoying the vacation as well. It was a great relaxing week and I look forward to many more with my beautiful wife. I love my kids and miss them dearly, but I also look forward to the next chapter of lives and what adventures it will bring.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!