Spring thaw reveals last fall’s hunting mystery

I’ve been waiting a few weeks to post this one hoping my friend would come through with some additional pictures.   Seems last fall a buddy and his son were watching two nice bucks on their trail cameras hoping to get a shot at them during the Minnesota archery season.   To no avail, the deer just disappeared and nobody else hunting the area reported any sightings well into the fall season.

Of course, when you get pictures on your trail camera this can be sort of a teaser.   Yet, the mystery grew intriguing because two nice bucks literally vanished and left a bunch of hunters scratching their heads as to where the deer could have disappeared to.

Well, lo and behold, last month (March 13th to be exact) one of those hunters stumbled upon the answer.   He was down by his lakeside dock when a peculiar sight caught his attention.   What he found was the skeletal remains of two nice deer, horns locked, decaying in the grass.   No doubt these two boys were in the heat of the battle during last season’s rut when they met their unfortunate demise.





Some might say the pictures are rather gross in appearance.   Others might say the pictures show a disturbing sight where two fine bucks in the prime of their life succumb to an unfortunate occurrence of nature.   Either way, the pictures show that nature is not always kind to its inhabitants.   It also shows that nature can provide lots of drama for those who care to learn and discover more about it.

The pictures I had hope to also include in this blog were some of the living shots my buddy took with his trail camera.   I thought that would be a fine way to pay tribute to these once nice bucks.   Time being of the essence, I decided to finally publish these pics anyway without the other shots.

Now that last fall’s hunting mystery is finally solved it’s time for new storylines to develop in the woods.   Still, the story of these two bucks locked in battle will remain in local deer hunting lore for many years to come.   For this group of hunters they read and hear about this sort of thing happening all the time in the woods.   It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to actually live it first-hand.

©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Step Back In Time At This Destination

Some might wonder how you can do a destination review when you’ve never visited a specific place.   It’s a good point.   But when that destination is Seven Pines Lodge located in western Wisconsin the reputation of this historic landmark definitely precedes it.   Indeed, if you’re looking for a sportsman’s get-away experiencing life much like it must have felt back in the early 1900s…than this place is your unique retreat.

Imagine spending your next vacation in a rustic lodge that reflects a lifestyle that has been far removed from our modern world.   Spend your afternoon wading through a small trout stream much like President Calvin Coolidge did nearly eight decades ago.   In fact, if you’re looking for a quaint, fly-fishing experience that is steeped in rich sporting history then the Seven Pines Lodge is in a class by itself.   Spend your days on the water in search of the elusive trout…then relax in the evenings at the lodge by kicking back near the fireplace with a fine cigar in one hand retrieved from the cigar cellar and perhaps a glass of cognac in the other.    Certainly, it’s places like the Seven Pines Lodge that help us connect with our sporting heritage by occasionally allowing us to take a few steps back in time…and to dream.

Honestly, I defy any flyfishing angler worth the cost of their fancy gear to look at this promotional video for the lodge and tell me that they don’t want to immediately book a stay.   Seriously!   If you are looking for a total experience of a lifetime and not just another fishing trip…how can the Seven Pines Lodge not capture your imagination and peak your interest?

Most times when I choose lodging accommodations I’ll admit that I generally seek out the most modern facilities I can find.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled into thinking that a resort was going to be nice and it turned out to be a dump.   Generally, you can avoid this unpleasant occurrence if you know the accommodations are newer and as a result are more likely are “kept up.”   But that is not always the case.

The Internet is great way to get fooled by having expectations elevated only to discover upon arrival that reality comes nowhere close to matching those lofty hopes.   At the Seven Pines Lodge you don’t have to worry about that.   In fact, the few people I’ve discussed this place with who have been there have all agreed that the Seven Pines Lodge surpasses all expectations and that one can be assured of having a good time.   In few places can you spend a few days enjoying the relaxing aspects of life while at the same time feeling as though you are living amidst so much fascinating history.

No, I didn’t book my stay at this great place during the upcoming vacation season.   Unfortunately…or I suppose fortunately, depending on how you look at it…my vacations are already planned out for the upcoming months.   Yet, you can be darn sure that the Seven Pines Lodge will be topping my list of places to visit during 2007.   I might suggest that you consider adding it to your list of places to someday visit, too.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

In This Case It’s Not Just The Size That Matters

If you live in the Northern states near waters where the coveted fish known as the muskie lurks, by now you have undoubtedly heard about the heated controversy.   Oh, this is certainly not a new controversy…just an old one that keeps rearing it’s ugly head from time to time.   Since 1949 to be precise.

It all started back in the summer of 1949 when an angler named Louis Spray caught what many believe to be the world record muskie – a record that has stood for over half a century.   But not everyone believes those accounts…and perhaps with good reason if you dig a bit deeper into the story.   Problem is, how do you dispute a record claim when all you have to go on as evidence these days are a few sworn affidavits and photographs of the monumental catch?
That doesn’t mean this record-setting story is without its distracters.   In fact, several groups of knowledgeable researchers have recently tried to once and for all shoot some holes into this colorful story and have the long-standing record listing disqualified.   But in an 8-0 vote, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame elected to keep the record as it now stands and to once again deny the contesting testimony of those who have their strong doubts of its legitimacy.

As for me, I really don’t know what to believe.   On one hand it is a classic fishing story with the lead character cast perfect for the part.   If Mr. Spray aspired to gain notoriety for his achievement…well, he certainly did that.   A full 56 years after his famed catch and even 20 years after his death…the legend lives on to be perfect fodder fitting for any lake country tavern debate.

But here is something that is much more clear.   I ask you this…why are the directors for the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame all comprised of residents who live in and around Hayward Wisconsin?   Here is a self-proclaimed organization that strives to be the clearinghouse for all of our North American angling records and yet the leaders totally lack geographic diversity.   Why?   Is it out of convenience to conduct organizational affairs…or does the organization have some ulterior motive that perhaps has a slight bias toward tourism in the heart of Wisconsin’s lake country?   As an angler who likely will never see his name listed on their record books…I still want to know.

Personally, I feel the famed tale of Louis Spray’s fish will continue to grow until someday when the record is broken and then few people will care about it at that point.   Truth is, sportsmen have an uncanny interest in and affinity toward whatever is number one in the record books.   Whether its the biggest buck ever shot or some other spectacular record breaking sportsman event…the clamor that persists over the sporting achievement has few equals.

Perhaps this is why the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame wants to find every reason to justify Spray’s fish.   Until the next better fish comes along the focus of attention and angling spotlight remains on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward for being the site of this record-breaking catch.   It’s easy to establish that the community of Hayward has a vested economic interest in seeing the current record endure any challenge to the claim.   It’s also easy to substantiate a claim that most of the directors who voted to uphold the record potentially stand to gain by any tourism dollars that might filter into the community based on the area’s decades old big fish reputation.

Now understand that I am not stating that any improprieties HAVE occurred in the past with the Hall or its directors…but, it should be a paramount priority for this group to be organized in such a manner not to even give that perception.   C’mon, we’re not talking about a good ol’ boys club here…we’re talking about a non-profit organization entrusted by all of us to be the guardians of our fishing heritage.   Indeed, it’s time for the Hall to clean up its act and diversify the leaders who govern.   If the records it holds are marred with controversy and persistent doubt, then it might as well fold because its losing credibility and respect among the people it needs the most – the angling public.

In the minds of many anglers, Louis Spray has an asterisk by his name because his record-setting entry is suspicious, to say the least.   In my mind, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame will also have an asterisk next to its name until it proves to the angling world that their recognition program is above reproach.

In my opinion it wasn’t Louis Spray and his angling claim that was on trial most recently…rather, it was the highly questionable manner in which his record seemingly endures the test of time in the Hayward, Wisconsin community.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.