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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 2-3-2016

by Mark Walters

Back to the Mississippi

Hello friends,

A couple of weeks ago, I did what I call a survival trip on the backwaters of the Mississippi River near Trempealeau. I hiked in on the ice for about 4-miles in, what at the time, was terrible ice conditions, slept outside with an air temperature of minus-16 without a tent and I also hunted coyote.

The best description for this area is remote, a maze of land that is with marshes, channels and small lakes. The ice conditions are so iffy that most people do not travel back here unless they have an airboat.

This week I returned here on a two-day adventure with 21-year-old Ross Moll and my golden retriever “Fire”.

Tuesday, January 26th
High 29, low 13

Last time I was back here, I found a frozen channel that was close to a mile long and had water that was from 3-7 feet deep. My newest plan was to try northern pike fishing, as well as, coyote hunting and spend the night in a tent.

Like last time, I would be pulling an Otter Sled that had about 50-pounds of gear in it. Ross, who is big enough to be a linebacker for the Packers, would be pulling about 80-pounds and to make things even more interesting, Fire would be pulling her own sled with a load of about forty-pounds in it.

Fire is five and I think she has only pulled a sled on one other trip. At first when I put the harness on her she was fine. When she had to go forward and pull a load she was not. Fire would rear up on her legs and do her best to pull the harness off.

We had a lot of gear and I knew she could do the job so what I did was put a rope on her collar and lead her forward while she pulled her load with ease.

I have had six goldens in my day and the last five have all pulled sleds on three separate trips (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and The North Country Trail the pups pulled their loads for over 120 to 170 miles and loved it).

So Ross, Fire and I had some tough slogging as pulling a load is physical and we had some issues with water on the ice, where you just had to believe that your boots would not leak and that there was plenty of ice under the water to hold your body.

For about 20 years I have been exploring this area but until this winter I have only gone 3-miles into it and this year I am in about 4-mles. There is a place where I have caught hundreds of northern pike of which at least 50 were over 30-inches.

Passing gator country for better coyote country where you hope you are going to find “new” gator waters is a big decision.

So the three of us find the channel. Ross and I put out three tip ups apiece and start to build camp. Once the tent is up, we tarped it and then put a tarp on the floor and then about six-inches of cattails on the floor. Next we rolled out two sleeping bags apiece and put one inside of the other with the zippers on opposite sides.

Our camp was completed when I rigged up a propane light that would be hanging inside, out of the way and cannot fall.

THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Cedar Country Co-operatives