About 2 feet away from me as I type this is a litter of seven golden retriever puppies that are 19 days old. Their mom, Ruby, and their grandma, Fire, are sharing the parenting duties. Fire is in the nest box cleaning up after her grand children as many hours a day as Ruby, and it is a really cool story to watch evolve in our living room.
This week I am writing my annual yearly review, with hopes for the future of this column. As crazy as it sounds, this is the 29th year that I have done this, and it allows me to be home for the holidays.
Last January I drove down to Louisiana and spent nine days at my brother Tom’s hunting camp, which is on the Mississippi River near Natchez, Mississippi. This was my third trip to hunt hogs and deer in the bayou state and I love it. Remote, super-tough people and lots of laughs are all a way of life for this exhausting experience, and last year I harvested a couple of 150-pound feral pigs that were very tasty.
Last March I paddle trolled for walleye in my canoe at De Pere on the Fox River from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next day. This experience became an automatic annual trip. The air temperature got down to 15 degrees, everything froze and I kicked butt on walleye, including a 29-inch, 10-pounder. That trip was a 100-percent challenge and extremely rewarding.
When I am home, being a part of Kids And Mentors Outdoors (KAMO) is a big part of my life. We take kids on outdoor experiences, and there is not a week that goes by, between the seven KAMO chapters in Wisconsin, that we are not positively affecting the lives of a great many of our youth. I am very proud to work with such an incredible group of people.
If I could describe the perfect week it would be at Shultz Lake, which is a fly-in fishing camp, about 60 miles northtwest of Red Lake, Ontario. Back in 1982, my brother Mike; along with my dad, the late Robert Walters; our family friend Elmer Schlief and myself made our first journey to Shultz Lake.
With a group of friends, I once again visited Schultz Lake in 2018. We are really good at catching big walleye and northern pike. We stay up very late at night, eat well and laugh a lot.
My canoe addiction brought me to Green Bay in mid summer, where I was paddle trolling with Flicker Shads and crawler harnesses. I was 2 miles from shore when I hooked into a 21-inch walleye, and I was very proud. I was pulling a left and right board and had a line straight back.
The right board went under water and I was thinking I had a snag. Then I was thinking it was flathead catfish or huge sheephead. My canoe was pulled around for 25 minutes before I saw and landed a 47-inch musky that was incredibly fat. I slept in the cattails that night and the next day I limited out on walleye.
I own an 18.6 War Eagle that is pushed by 90 horsepower Etec and I would rather be in my canoe.
This fall was exhausting. My life is exhausting, but I am exhausted because my quality of life is incredible. The hobby farming that I do kind of puts me over the edge, but I eat well and like to share. My woodstove also beats listening to a forced-air furnace.
This year I did experience some challenges for the first time that are going to have to be dealt with, and I am trying to figure it out so I can hopefully make it 45 years in a line of work that is actually a way of life.
Some newspapers no longer run outdoor columns and some simply do not exist. I took a big cut in pay and I am really trying to figure out how to stay above water in an industry that is built around honorable people.
When you fall through the ice, you have to get yourself out of the water. When you flip a canoe in a storm in the dark on Lake Michigan, you have to get back in your canoe. When you fall out of a tree, you have to hopefully get back in the tree.
I am 57, and when I am 70, I hope to catch a bigger musky out of my canoe on Green Bay and write about the incredible experience.
Thanks for reading,