Friday, April 29, 2011

Skyler's Turkey #2 for the Year!! {BTD #4 for Team Grissom}

In addition to Skyler's field picture above, Skyler wanted a picture with Shadow and one of her outdoor kittens.

Skyler and Paul had their first "Daddy Daughter" turkey hunt yesterday morning (I wish I could take EVERY single day off of work to hunt -- but sometimes I can't).  I got to hear all about how much more comfortable the blind is when there are only 2 people inside instead of 3 and how much quieter it is w/o me in there talking to everyone...blah, blah blah  :)
They had a great time -- even though I am sure they missed me.  :)  They were in the blind that we set up this weekend and there were bunches of birds gobblin' from very first light.  One in particular couldn't resist Paul's calls and came in front of the blind after much "hen talking" from Paul.  Little did this tom know - our little girl can shoot!!  Skyler put him down in his tracks and was super excited!!  I grabbed a good portion of one of the turkey breasts and we had "turkey noodle soup" for supper last night which tasted great -- with leftovers for later.  Thanks for helping fill our bellies Skyler...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Morel Mushrooms are Up -- and Easter Fun

What a wonderful weekend!!
So glad Skyler still loves to dye eggs with me.
Our chicken eggs worked out great!

Saturday morning we went out to the timber and hauled the blind and accessories for miles to the truck (which was parked a LONG ways off because the ground was too soft to drive in).  We then went to Del's Metal (scary! -- did I type that?!?) and got $13 for scrapping my washing machine (that caught on fire and leaked water all over the floor the other night -- which, by the way Skyler noticed, did not set off the smoke alarm -- even though my smoke alarms sound EVERY night when supper is ready, go figure!).  I then got to help my friend Megan Klauer (go check out her photography blog here) shoot another wedding.
Sunday morning I was up at 6:30 to see if the 'ole Easter Bunny came that night.  By about 7:30 I realized the Easter Bunny had indeed come (whew - that bunny is wiley and fast!) and it was time to wake Skyler from her nightly slumber.  Our Easter Bunny has a bit of a sense of humor and, just like almost all previous years, the Easter Bunny left one egg filled with cat food along with all the usual eggs.  Our Easter Bunny must also have trouble seeing because he/she placed one egg right on top of a steaming pile of .... (I can't say it) in the yard.  The Easter egg hunts are also becoming much more difficult -- there are LOTS of places to hide eggs on 2+ acres  :).  I think it took Skyler close to an hour to find all her eggs -- and at the end we finally had to play the "hot/cold" game to help direct her to some eggs we had 'spotted.'

Below are some pictures my friend Bonnie sent to me.  On Friday I had told her that supposedly if you plant "magic jelly beans" the night before Easter they will sprout up into lollipops.  They gave it a try and I think you can tell by the adorable pictures that it was a big hit!!  So glad Bonnie tested out the theory -- it really does work  :)
Little Ben and his dad planting the magic jelly beans

Ben's reaction on Easter morning upon seeing that they grew into lollipops overnight -- a classic!

After our own family Easter egg hunt was over and we had a nice hot breakfast at home -- we headed to the timber (surprise, right?). We had a great time heading out to where we plan on trying to fill our 4th season turkey tags. We found the perfect spot to set up and again -- we all have tags to fill -- so here's hopin'!

Since our area's average last day of frost has just passed, I planted my more sensitive vegetables in my garden on Sunday afternoon.  What I hadn't already hoed up by hand Paul tilled for me (first time we have used a tiller on my garden in years -- and I gotta tell ya -- that saves A LOT of work -- Thanks Paul!  I think I am gonna throw my poor lowly hoe away!)  Skyler and I have tomato plants that we started from seed inside about 5 weeks ago that have turned into some pretty good-looking plants.  We'll have to see how they hold up now that we put them in the ground.  On the garden menu this year so far we have: radishes, onions, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, spinach, asparagus (ate some grilled asparagus with supper the other night), purple pole beans, sugar snap peas, strawberries, raspberries, sweet corn, chives, tomatoes and rhubarb (I baked a rhubarb cake yesterday morning before work).  I still need to plant my pepper plants and pumpkin seeds.  I absolutely LOVE to have my own fresh food from the garden!!

Sunday night we went to the timbers again and guess what?  We found some of the little grey Morel Mushrooms!!  It seems really early and I think it will still be a couple of weeks before the masses really come up -- but how exciting is that?!?  Have you been noticing all of the spring forest flowers?  The past two weeks have just been bursting with flowers!!  They are one of the many reasons that I LOVE spring!!  I am waiting for my new camera to arrive in the mail -- so didn't take any of my own pictures, but below is a pic I stole off the internet of Dutchmen's Breaches just like what we've been seeing.  You gotta get out there -- there are too many to list.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turkey #3 for the Grissoms!!

Yesterday morning was Paul's turn.  Paul had a new property that he had been wanting to hunt and since it was practically on his way to work, he decided it would be a great place to go.  If he didn't get a bird he would just be on his way to work.  However, as luck would have it -- Paul was in a terrific spot.  All of our prior hunts have been made more difficult as there have been an ABUNDANCE of hens and only one tom to each large flock.  This was not the case this morning.  Paul got set up right where he needed to be -- and was able to call turkeys across the Edwards River...almost unheard of for a turkey to cross such a large barrier (sometimes even a fence is more than a turkey is willing to cross -- they will walk for hours on one side of a fence).  After quite an exciting morning, Paul made a great shot on this well-deserved 21# bird.  Now that we have all filled our tags for this season we will have a couple of days to sleep to a normal hour!  Paul is gonna do some calling for friends during the upcoming season and then we all have tags again for 4th season so we will be chasin' once again. Other than the ticks that we have been pickin' off our bodies -- it has been great to get out to the timbers we feel so comfortable in.  Congrats bud!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BTD...{Big Turkey Down}

Stats: 21.5 pounds, 1 and 3/4" spurs, 10" beard
This season for Paul and myself opened on Saturday morning.  As you know, we hunted for Skyler until she got her bird on Sunday morning.  Since then, Paul and I have hunted every day but one. This season has been the CRAPPIEST weather for turkey hunting.  We have had LOTS of wind, LOTS of rain, snow and cold temps.  Not really a nice day in the bunch.  This morning was the nicest of them all.  Paul and I went to a spot we have hunted in past years.  We know where they typically like to roost so we set up accordingly.  Paul and I tucked down beside a tree (whew, love bein' outta that blind!) and at first light we began to hear hens in the trees around us.  There was one gobbler who talked some, but not a bunch.  When they flew down we had one hen come directly to our decoys (a jake and a hen) but the rest all flew to an adjacent grassy hillside out of sight.  The tom was responding to Paul's calls, but he would not leave his group of hens -- can ya blame him?

Neither of us had much time as we were planning on making it in to work for our normal schedules so instead of waiting it out, we decided to sneak our way out toward the truck (and the direction the birds went) and see if we could find the birds.  I was sticking close behind Paul to make us likely to be spotted when he spotted this tom strutting across a gully about 100 yards away.  We dropped to our knees but really had no cover or any way to get to cover w/o being seen.  We had no way of making a better set-up so Paul began to call to the tom.  He would respond with gobbles but never left full strut or his hens.  We watched this show while he wore a path in an area about 10 square feet for about an hour before I decided that I needed to make something happen.  (This is about the same time that I called into work and whispered that I would be late...they know me well enough to know that I was hunting something -- sorry Jan -- still trying to come up with my code word  :-).

Paul agreed that I could try to sneak up on the birds (there was only one tom and Paul was adamant that if there was only one bird -- I got the shot as he has a bit more opportunities to get out hunting than I do).  There were about 15 birds total in the bunch (mostly hens) and turkeys are known for their incredible vision -- so I figured this was probably a long shot.  I began to belly crawl.  I had to crawl up and over 2 deadfalls on the way which isn't easy in a belly-crawl position with a gun.  Any time I broke a twig Paul would cover for me with some hen calls.  Finally, when I had made it to within about 50-60 yards, I knew I had pushed my luck far enough and should try to pick a shot if possible.

I steadied myself -- waited for a small opening in the brush and squeezed the trigger.  That was the end of my hunt, but a memory that will last a lifetime!  Thanks Paul -- it would have been tough to try and call while I was belly crawling -- plus it is always the best time hunting with ya!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Turkey Season...2nd try and our past week

Skyler's favorite hunting is turkey hunting.  Here she is with her turkey from Sunday morning.
After four days of waking up WELL prior to the crack of dawn...we finally had a turkey to cooperate and Skyler connected on this 21# bird with an 8.5 inch beard and 1 inch spurs.  We got really CLOSE to the turkeys by sneaking in underneath their roosts and quietly slipping into the blind while it was still dark (although this morning it was clear and we had a full moon to light our way).  After what seemed like forever, the gobblers woke up and started putting on a show while still in the trees.  We had four gobblers up in the trees, one of which was strutting up in the branches.  They were all gobbling to the hens roosted above us as well.  We had a hen and tom decoy (thanks Klauers) placed only about 10 yards from our stand.  Once they decided to come down they ALL came down at once.  Skyler just had to decide which turkey to take aim at -- but she had to hurry because they were all so close, one wrong move would send them to the next county.  Skyler took aim and made a perfect shot -- just about severing the turkey's head off.  Paul and I both also had tags so as soon as she shot I thought I would set up on any bird who hung around -- but the thrashing of Skyler's turkey, which tipped the decoy over, was a bit too much for their nerves and they were all gone in a flash.

So proud of Skyler once again!!  I took this picture of Paul with Skyler because he puts in so much work to make sure we all have great places to hunt and that we all have a great time.  The work he puts forth prior to this hunt makes this bird just as much his as hers -- which Skyler is very appreciative for.  What a fun way to spend time as a family.  We love it that we were all able to be a part of this hunt...some day soon she is going to have to graduate up from the blind and we will most likely have to hunt with her in groups of 2...but for now we still try to limp around with the blind.  The advantage at this point is that it keeps it fun for Skyler.  She gets to read, lay around and we can all move and whisper inside the blind -- where if we were out of the box (blind) -- the stakes suddenly will become much higher.

Sunday Paul and I hunted until exactly 1:00 p.m. when we unloaded our guns and headed for home.  I don't know if we exercised any turkeys -- but we were both exhausted from hiking up and down hills for hours -- our feet were on fire and our legs were burnin' too.  What a great feeling!

This morning we got up at 3:00 so we could drive to Mercer County for another hunt.  However, neither Paul nor I were able to fill our tags.  We had a great time trying and still made it home in time for all of us to go to work and Skyler to make it school on time too.

I haven't had my camera out for a while but we have still been crazy busy.  I can't remember much about the prior weekend but...
*Saturday night we went to a Veteran's fundraiser supper with Paul's family.  Skyler decided she wanted to spend the night with Papa and Karen and ended up going home with them after supper.  So where do Paul and I almost always go when Skyler is not with us?  Yep, Paul and I went to the timbers to listen for turkeys for 2nd season.  Paul was using an owl hoot call to make the turkeys shock gobble, which worked.  It also brought an owl in VERY close who apparently thought he had found a friend...very cool.  After dark we met up with some friends for a night out.
*Sunday morning we helped a friend plant trees all morning (I found a partial arrowhead, woo hoo!) until we picked Skyler up at about noon.  We then went to work seeding a yard in the afternoon.  I got a quick run in before we had a fish fry using some of the Bluegills we caught while ice fishing this winter -- yum!
*After work Monday we mowed our in-town yards for the first time this year.  We then played basketball until dark.
*Tuesday after work Skyler had her first official softball practice so I got some jogging in when I ran up to the school to meet Paul and Skyler for practice.  Paul is helping out coaching the girls again this year which he enjoys doing and is so great at!  I have fun catching up with the other moms while we watch the girls play.
*Wednesday after work Skyler and I got to hang out with my friend from down the road and her twins until it was time to leave for Skyler's student-led conference at school.  Skyler did a great job showcasing what she has been busy doing at school.  Last week she brought home her 3rd report card for the year with straight A's again...2 A+'s.  She does such a great job!  Skyler's current teacher, Gina Rowe, received the "My Favorite Teacher" award which was presented from WQAD (she was one of only five teachers selected).  Skyler and her entire class were on the news (click here to see the clip) just prior to her conference tonight (from when the award was presented) -- which Skyler was very excited about.  I am so glad that Skyler has been fortunate enough to have many great teachers throughout grade school -- one of the many reasons we moved was so that Skyler could have a better schooling experience than many kids receive.  We haven't been disappointed.
*Thurs night we were busy getting groceries, mowing and getting packed for hunting and staying at the cabin on Friday night.  Gotta pack lots of warm blankets and clothes since the temps are taking a dive and the winds are supposed to be pretty strong.  I wrote $160 in checks for our deer permit applications tonight (and we aren't done yet -- will be buying more deer permits later).   We spent $105 on turkey permits so we could hunt this month, and $54 for all our hunting licenses -- proof that hunters contribute the largest portion of state funds used to help preserve the animals we love to hunt.
*Friday night we stayed out at the cabin again on the property where we hoped Skyler could get a big turkey on Saturday.
*Saturday.  Up at 3:45 because the spot we have chosen to hunt requires us to walk directly underneath roosting turkeys and we need it to be DARK.  Well, it was.  We couldn't see our hands in front of our faces.  It was cloudy so not one little star was out to light our path.  Well Saturday came and went without a turkey -- but Paul and I reevaluated, moved the blind and were ready for Sunday...the day Skyler took her big Tom down.  After Saturday morning's hunt -- I got to help my friend Megan photograph another wedding.  It was a fun day but I must say it was a pretty long day by the time my head finally hit the pillow in the cabin at about 10:30.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women In The Outdoors/NWTF - Local Event

On Saturday, May 14, 2011 from 7:30-5:00 p.m. (rain or shine) a National Wild Turkey Federation - Women In The Outdoors event will be held at the Rock Island Conservation Club on Big Island in Milan, Illinois.  This is the 9th annual event offered here locally.  The sessions which are offered include Archery; Muzzleloader/Shotgun; Basket Weaving; Zumba; Dream Catcher Workshop; Handgun Shooting & Safety; and Kayaking.  There are great door prizes, raffle tickets, and a silent auction.  A continental breakfast, an AWESOME lunch and drinks are all provided on site (I know the food situation wherever I go is ALWAYS one of the most important items).  Bow and arrows, shotguns, handguns and shells, etc. are always provided on site making this a hands-on event.

For more information:
Contact:Berta Garcia

Although I won't be attending this time, I have had a great time in the past.  There is sure to be a great bunch of girls/women who may just enjoy the outdoors as much as you do.  So if you are up for a fun day, give Berta a call.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Youth Turkey Season

Day 1 turkey hunting photo
Saturday and Sunday made up the Illinois Youth Turkey season.  We knew of two young boys as well as our Skyler who partook in the fun.  Our family was up bright and early both days but were unfortunately skunked!  These pictures show that Skyler isn't much of a "morning girl" (which drives Paul and I crazy at times) -- but as soon as the action begins to heat up -- she is up and ready.

Day 2 turkey hunting photo -- look familiar?
We know exactly where the turkeys are and where we need to be to hunt them, but we unfortunately do not have permission to cross that fence -- so Skyler's tag was left unfilled.  We would rather it be left unfilled than to teach her an unethical way to harvest an animal -- which would have made the hunt easy, but less than respectful.  She wasn't too disappointed as we did at least get to see some turkeys as well as hear a bunch.

The view from the cabin
We were lucky enough to get to stay at an awesome cabin on the property which we hunted tucked back in the woods both Friday and Saturday night.  It was our first time staying at this particular cabin and we LOVED it!!  We all agreed that this weekend was one of the best we have had for a long time (and that is sayin' something since we find ways to have fun every day together!).  The cabin is all knotty pine with huge windows overlooking their own personal lake.  There was a goose tending to her nest on a little island right outside and bluebill ducks scattered around.  There is no electricity in the cabin and although there may be running water -- we were too afraid to try it out.  Without electricity we filled our time in the following ways:

1.  Fishing at the pond.  2.  Taking long walks in the evening.  3.  Laying on our backs under the stars, looking for satellites, shooting stars and constellations - my favorite activity.  4.  Listening to the coyotes howling and screaming nearby which made the turkeys gobble like mad.  5.  Playing card games by flashlight.  6.  Reminiscing.  7.  Skyler and I had extra time to continue reading the book that I read to her every night.  The simple joys are the inner glue that holds our family together so we love it when our fast-paced lives get to slow down a bit so we can have an even bigger dose than usual of those simple joys in our simple lives.

After sunset, we got to watch the little-known bird called the Woodcock -- they were everywhere -- the most we have ever seen at one time.  Woodcocks are a small woodland bird who is often only seen if flushed from cover or in early spring when they perform their sky dance courtship display.  Ever since we discovered them about 20 years ago we have looked forward to March and early April when we head out to timbered properties edged with grassy fields to watch the dance.  This is what happens:

You hear nasal "Peents" in the grasses (Skyler thinks the sound resembles a short cicada (locust) song).  Soon the peculiar calls come faster and faster. Suddenly the calls stop abruptly and the bird jumps into the sky. He ascends in an ever-widening spiral flight to a height of 250-300 feet. He hovers momentarily, then descends in zig-zag fashion, almost like a quickly falling leaf accompanied by a whistling sound and vocal twitter. Upon landing, the male fans his tail and wings and struts about boldly, hoping that at least one hen will find his dance irresistible. If a female succumbs to the charm of the dance, the birds mate. If there are no takers, the dance continues even after all light has left the sky.

Unfortunately, I ended up missing my little nephew's birthday party this weekend (and other fun events) because of turkey hunting.  I think our family and close friends understand that hunting is very important to us  -- and sometimes we can't make it to even very special events... we will make it up to little Drew.  Happy 1st birthday buddy!