Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Wonderland Hunt

I've never seen snow like this-it was almost fake in it's Winter Wonderland over-the-top snow flocking.  Even clothes lines were piled 3" high with clinging whiteness.  Every possible twig, branch, and blade of swamp grass were coated with snow, changing in one day a wet soggy landscape into something we'd see in a snow globe.  I loved it.

Rewind 48 hours.  I had made the trek down to LaCrosse to take delivery of a new bike-not just any old bike, (and in my racing years, that was every year!) but a "Fat Bike"....a really fat bike.  Needless to say, it will extend my riding and smile when I'm out in the county forest this winter... but that story is for another post.  The forecast started a week ago-"Winter Weather Advisory" and I'm usually pretty pessimistic about what the TV weather man has to say, so not worried about my travel.  Besides,  I had just a few overnight hours to wait before I had a chance to muzzleloader hunt the famous St. Joseph Ridge, south east of La Crosse and the bike would just have to wait.

The Muzzleloader hunt was a last minute plan that fell into place when I needed to make the trip to LaCrosse.  My good friend Kirk guided me on his father in laws property high up on the ridge- land that he's told me about and I would love a chance to hunt.  The rain and snow forecast didn't deter us and we set out up icy hwy 33 to "The Ridge."  Long story short....we made our way in the dark to a ridge side ground stand and spent the next several hours watching squirrels.  Fog and rain would move in and out and it looked like that would be the only thing moving (which ended up being true).  Later,  a few push drives produced nothing, so we fired off the load (to help dry the gun), wiped and oiled the smoke pole down and called it a day. 

Heading back from LaCrosse in pelting rain, the prospects for an additional hunt were slim.  The rain gave way to snow exactly one mile north of Sparta and stayed with me the rest of the drive home.  As the day wore on, the ground and trees became more and more coated and I began to think maybe chasing rooster pheasants may work out instead.  It would give Molly another chance to hunt after this long gun season layover.  The following day, after giving the deer hunt another try (no luck) the lab and I headed over to try our luck on birds.  I figured we at least would see pheasant tracks and know if they were around.  That was the plan.  The 40 minute drive was just an amazing scene-snow on everything and bending trees to the ground.  The large blocks of tall grass we hunt were plastered to the ground and even though Molly nose checked hundreds of spots, all we put up that day was one grouse-no roosters to be found.  Oh, Molly did bring me a pheasant wing-freshly chewed on by some thankful coyote I'd imagine.  Either way, we had a nice long hilly hike back to the truck and just appreciated another chance to load the double up and hunt.  The hunting with Molly will soon give way to cross country ski season, a bittersweet thought, for it's been a great fall for her, but for the moment I'll just savor the cold air and the new landscape before me ready to be discovered all over again.

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