12-12-13 – Trip Before Hitting The Road

While we had plans to drive a 1400 mile route to Isle, Minnesota later in the day, a morning off from work meant a trip to the ice was necessary. With a chill in the air, we rode the snowmobile down to the lake and started punching holes. It was still mostly dark and the fish were lethargic. Working both sides of a weed edge, we worked through various depths of water searching out active fish. It seemed as if it was going to be another morning where breakfast was the best option!

While we couldn’t throw in the towel quite yet, watching the sun growing on the shores across from us seemed as if time was still. If nothing else, the sun would give us a little optimism that the day would warm up. As the sun got closer, our holes expanded in that direction. We were all trying to chase down a beam of warmth to enhance our experience and that is what turned the bite in our favor! The fish were thinking the same thing! Following the sun line allowed us to stay on active fish.

For a few hours, the bluegill and perch kept us plenty busy! Before we knew it, our morning had come to an end and it was time to think about loading up the truck for the long trek ahead!

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12-9-13 – Where Did The Ice Go?

Hoping for a good bite, I made a trek to meet up with a few buddies at a location that has been fishable recently. Upon our arrival, we realized that the plank I had brought wasn’t going to cut it. The ice had taken a hit with the recent rain and snow. What was the next best option? Breakfast of course! We hit up a local diner to pass the time and try to come up with a back up plan.

With a full belly and a fair amount of snow on the road, we made a round about drive home to check on some ice in the mountains. Through work I have put in a fair amount of time on a medium sized body of water that is loaded with pumpkinseed. With intentions of finding them we punched a few test holes revealing 8″ of black ice!

With great ice under our feet, we roamed over a 15-18 foot basin looking for aggressive fish. Using our normal method of run and gun to locate them, it didn’t take long to put a few perch on the ice. The more we moved the less fish we found though. Thinking that the fish might have designated travel corridors, we set back up on the holes that proved successful.

Every few minutes fish would come through schooled up allowing us to pick a few before the next pod pushed through. Mainly we caught perch but a few pumpkinseed and largemouth bass came to play as well. With more snow falling and reports of poor road conditions, we packed up our rigs with some dinner in our pails.

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12-8-13 – Mixed Bag

I hit the road with a buddy after sunrise as we didn’t know what to expect for ice. We had made a plan the night before of places that we wanted to fish with each being more likely than the last to be holding ice. The first spot we checked was solid but was our last resort. Having a good feeling, we made the trek to our first choice location only to see a four wheeler out on the middle of the pond. Game on!

Although the ice wasn’t thick enough at only 4″ for me to be using any kind of vehicle, to each their own. We unpacked my car and started walking out. We punched a series of holes over a large area with varying depth and vegetation. We were to be targeting perch, pumpkinseed, and crappie so our depths ranged from 7-20 feet of water.

The fish were starting off the day slow but when located they readily bit. As time wore on, it appeared that the crappie were no where to be found but that the large perch (12″+) were cruising the weed edge in 15-19 FOW regularly. Working tungsten jigs with red and white jamei’s from Maki Plastics we hole hopped identifying a few locations that held better concentrations of fish than others.

For the majority of the day we worked over the areas that were producing allowing them to recharge with when when they slowed up. A few hours before sunset we decided to make a move to a location on the lake that the crappie hold up in the summer. While the fish were vacant, we were closer to the car. We packed up as the sun started to set and made our way home.

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12-1-13 – And So It Begins

For our area, this is early ice. The last few days people had made safe trips out on the hardwater across the state and it was killing me to be at work! We made the trek knowing that we might not get on the ice as we had no up to date reports. Regardless, there were multiple bodies of water in the area at varying elevations and we had high hopes that one would allow us on.

As we got our first glimpse of the water shortly after daylight, we thought we were in trouble. We could see different lines of ice sheets but we came this far and had to check. Taking all precautions possible, we geared up with our Clam Lift Suits, a throw rope for each of us, ice cleats, and a few spud bars. Making a game plan, all three of us walked in a line with a fair amount of distance between. The ice was better than we had initially thought but with a clear break in the ice 100 yards out, we weren’t in the clear quite yet.

As we neared the break, our spud bars revealed 4″ of good black ice. At the break we knew it was less right off. The first hit wasn’t a clean break but the water bubbled out. A quick check by hand told us not to go any further! Instead, we headed parallel to shore and traversed through the woods around the poor quality ice to found a better place on. For the next hour we worked carefully over the entire area that we could possibly fish checking for any inconsistencies. At the end of out search it was game on!

After grabbing our gear, we made our way back out with only the essentials. To keep the sled light, we only packed a few rods, jigs boxes, an underwater camera, and a vexilar for each of us. With underwater camera and auger in hand we started punching a spread of holes trying to locate pockets of fish. The weeds were still healthy throughout the area and from what we could tell, the fish were spread thin.

As we started fishing, we quickly realized that the fish were holding deep and the odds of catching anything suspending was slim to none. Because of the clear ice, any movement from above was highly visible. The majority of the fish we caught were within a foot of the bottom in the weeds. Only a handful of smaller perch came cruising open water. To combat spooking fish, we took extra caution when putting our buckets/vexilars down and tried going without our cleats on. While putting down the buckets quietly was effective, not using cleats wasn’t. It’s hard to fish when you are falling down every step!

Throughout the day we tried many different color combinations but we all seemed to settle with red and white. White jig – red plastic, red jig – white plastic. It didn’t matter. I took the best of both worlds. I used a red jig with a white with red flake jamei from Maki Plastics. This day reaffirmed us that you don’t need to have live bait to be successful. We also found that the fish wanted a slower cadence than we would usually follow. The fish weren’t super aggressive but would usually bite if located. Many of the bite came very light. Spring bobbers were almost a must to detect bites!

While it was great to be back on the ice and the crappie bite was phenomenal as the sun started to set, we knew that we should be off before dark as the shores were weak. With the past few days of warmer temperatures and rain, it will be interesting whether or not we will be on the ice this coming weekend. If not, its back to the woods we go for the start of Vermont’s muzzleloader season!

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11-30-13 – Freezers Are Stocked For Winter

Well the blog has taken a backseat the last two months while Vermont’s deer season has run most of its course. Neither of us filled a tag during bow season but we had numerous opportunities at small bucks and doe with fawns. With nearly 2.5 months to hunt, the urge to shoot the first deer we see isn’t very high. During the past few weeks both of us were able to put a buck on the ground. Although any deer is special, we both had months of history with the deer we shot. Now that winter is on its way, action on here will pick back up. Check out below for stories of our success!

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These voles were a couple of friends that I made while sitting on the ground.

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Dylan’s Buck

When rifle season began, the weather wasn’t great. Warm, rain, and crunch are the factors that we have come to expect in recent years. On the positive side, my girlfriend started hunting this year and she was excited. With my work schedule, I  wasn’t able to hunt at all opening day. She was able to get out with her father and brother for a few hours on Saturday. When Sunday morning rolled around, I was excited because of some of the recent activity on my trail cameras.

We hit the woods early but ended up pushing deer the entire way to where we intended to sit. We were both feeling a little down on our luck thinking that we had forced the deer out the small area that we were in. Fortunately, the deer were just staying ahead of us. As the sun started to rise, the woods came alive. As we sat watching over a scrape line, I heard something coming in behind us. As I turned a buck chasing a doe sped their way through behind us. Unfortunately, the deer never offered a shot and made their way out. We switched up where we were sitting thinking that they might come back through. About 45 minutes later a doe with two fawns came through. Having some errands to take care of mid day, we left the woods.

I went out alone for the evening and had another encounter with a nice buck. Around 4, I checked to see what time legal shooting hours ended. Being in the softwoods it seemed to be getting dark early. A few minutes later I heard a grunt over the hill from me. I got ready but ended up having a deer come into the side of me. Not being able to identify it for almost a minute, I had a feeling that it was a buck when I could hear the dirt hitting the trees as it made a scrape. When it poked its head out I had no shot at its vitals but was impressed with its head gear. It was on a trail that would cross about 20 yards in front of me. With the base of a large spruce in front of me, I waited for the deer to come out. As time went by I thought it should have came out by now but it hadn’t. I poked my head back out and could see its hind quarters still flickering his tail. Back into my position I waited again. Still nothing. I turned back and he was standing broadside, staring at me 25 yards away. Not being able to turn, we had a stand off. I told myself that I would turn when he moved. As his head dipped, I turned and he disappeared into the raspberry thicket nearby. Bummer! A few minutes later A doe came in to check things out. No bucks was following though…

The next morning I tried to convince Mary to come back out with me but she couldn’t because of work. She told me that I would shoot one though. I returned to where we had sat the previous morning. It was pouring rain but I felt like I needed to be out there. As the sun rose I noticed a rub made since the morning before only a 15 yards away. I knew the buck would be back. At 8am the rain stopped. Eight minutes later the doe with twins came right into me but got spooked by activity at a house nearby. The deer worked out slowly. Twenty minutes later, I caught a flash where the doe entered my area. Before I could get my gun up I saw antlers. Game on. He worked through with his head on the ground. It was the buck that I had seen the morning before.

Through the birch slash I couldn’t pick a shot as he moved quickly. He ended up chasing the doe with twins back into view and split them up. The twins went down by me and the buck and doe disappeared again into their bedding area. About 45 minutes later he came in on a string and turned broadside at 4o yards. I took a small window for a shot and he hunched up. My second shot was on a dead run a 20 yards. I dropped him in his tracks. What an exciting morning! He ended up weighing 136 and was a 5 pointer with a 14″ spread.

Although I wish Mary could have shot him or at least been there, I am certainly happy to put some meat in the freezer!

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Bobby’s Buck

After a limited bow season due to the baby, I was ready to get back in the tree with my rifle.  While moving stands a week before the season I came upon a fresh scrape under the tree of one of my rifle stands.  I decided to hang a camera over the scrape to see what was going on there.  Within the first four days I have three different smaller bucks on camera hitting the scrape with a number of doe frequenting it as well.  On days five and six I had pics of two really decent central Vermont bucks which just stoked the fire even more.  Even after seeing a larger number of decent bucks on camera there was still one that I had been getting pictures of all summer that I was after.  His name was “Crabby”,which was given to him after the first time I got him on camera, he seemed to have had a bit of a crab claw on his right side.  Along with the numerous pictures I also had this deer under me at 18 yards during bow season but was unable to get a shot due to a few branches that he seemed to know where there.

The first two weeks of rifle season were frustrating.  Both me and my father were seeing a ton of deer but only smaller bucks, and those that were legal all seemed to have busted up the racks.  The second Saturday I had 16 deer within 30 yards of me at once, one small 4 point that didn’t seem to care to much about the doe, I chose to pass on him.  Where I hunt the flood gates seem to open when the rut kicks into full swing.  We have a lot of doe on our property and there have been days when we’ll see multiple racked bucks cruising the pastures in search of our hot does.  This year was different, it just hadn’t happened.  The second week of the season brought us not so ideal conditions for hunting and deer movement.  The temperatures were very cold, we did have a few inches of snow which helped some.  Deer seemed to be moving only at night as I had very few tracks by my stand on the hardwood ridge behind my house.

The last weekend was more of the same, however this time I had come up with a plan.  From what I could see for tracks it looked like a lot of our deer were spending the day bedded on a thickly covered ridge with ceder and pine trees.  I knew that there was a decent buck in there as I had seen his tracks heading there for the past couple of days.  All I needed to do was to get them out of there and on their feet.  I dropped a buddy off to sit and circled up and around to the top of the ridge.  Hoping that having two hunters on the ridge would get the deer on their feet.  I wasn’t in my spot for more than a minute when I heard some deer coming.  The second deer I saw had good bone on his head!  Once I was able to see that he was for sure a legal buck I had to find a way to make a shot.  I took the only shot he gave me as he stopped facing straight away from me.  It was close but I made it count as the deer piled up.  Walking up to the deer I realized that it was Crabby, the same buck that out maneuvered me during bow season and that I had so many pictures of.  I am very pleased with the outcome of a lot of hard work scouting and the patience I had early in the season.

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