by Mark Walters
Anything for a Rat
This week’s column is about parts of a truly exhausting ten-days of my life. I had fun, but the wear and tear of being on the go in the outdoor world is tearing me up.
Thursday, October 30th
High 58, low 35
The sun is still an hour from rising and my 13-year-old daughter, Selina and I are paddling a canoe down a remote creek that feeds a flowage that is the backwaters for a cranberry marsh.
Our pup, Fire, will be fetching anything that we knock out of the sky “hopefully” if we are fortunate enough to shoot a duck or a goose. Our journey is a good mile and we have decoys set and a temporary blind made on what looks to be a beautiful morning.
There were not many ducks around us today but once again I watched my daughter, who is what I would describe as the perfect sportswoman. Selina could have shot at a pair of widgeon on the set but will not shoot ducks on the water.
Many of you may not remember this but Selina could have shot what may have been a state record sow black bear when she was ten The sow was with two smaller bear that we were not sure were cubs, even though they were quite large.
For a half-hour, that sow was in her sites and she would not take it. The next day I interviewed three professionals in that area and they all said it was a sow with 1.5-year-old bear. That was her 15th hunt that season and she did not fill her tag.
Today, we were busted by a pair of mallards and I made a lucky shot and dumped a beautiful drake. Fire made a very determined retrieve and the greenhead had three curls in his tail feathers and the decision was made that this duck should be living on our living room wall.
Perhaps the largest part of this day was the canoe trip back to the truck, which is quite the jaunt and anyone watching might think they are in Canada as the scenery is nonstop remote
I had no plan of trapping this fall other then the incredible experience trapping wolf with my good buddy “Big Elk” Jody Bigalke. That plan changed when I saw a whole bunch of muskrat houses and feeding stations.
First, Selina ad I obtained permission to trap and then I went home and boiled my traps and prepared for a life of living out of a canoe.
Sunday, November 2nd
High 52, low 31
Yesterday I put out most of my traps on the creek that feeds this flowage. I only had two hours of daylight. I should have skipped the creek and just worked the flowage. The water level in the creek rose four inches and the rats swam over my traps instead of stepping in them. I was really excited for this day but knew I was doomed after checking the first few sets and realized there was too much water between my trap and the muskrat’s foot.
Friday, November 7th
High 44, low 27
I have been working this floating bog for six days now and the danger is always present as I am walking 3-feet above marsh that floats and when one falls through if you are not holding onto a canoe you might not find bottom or the hole you fell through.
The exhaustion of paddling a canoe, always being wet, jumping on the marsh, and then pulling yourself back into the canoe dozens of times each day is incredible.
The drive here is forty minutes, I get back to my truck an hour after dark and my rule is when I get home I have to work for an hour with cattle or firewood before I can even open the door to come in my house.
Today I caught 13 rats and a mink. I borrowed my dog, Fire, to a couple of young duck hunters for a half hour and she made an excellent retrieve for them.
I am in what I call my busy season. It runs from August till the last day of deer gun season. I am so tired I have a hard time focusing; I love raising cattle, shooting ducks, trapping rats and hanging out with Selina.
If my investments work out I will slow down in 20-years and catch up on my sleep
Make hay while the sun shines! Sunset.
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank