Tag Archives: califon new jersey

The Little Musk Turtle from South Jersey

Last August, on one of my adventures down into South Jersey, I stumbled upon this little Musk Turtle that I surmised had apparently became the failed “dining-attempt” of a Cormorant or some other aquatic bird.
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The little turtle is missing his right leg, so more than likely, a bird had this little fella in the air and dropped it. Hence ending up on his back, wedged between stump and rock, this became his final destination in life.
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I was rather amazed at how intact this little creature was or as my friend Jason Beck put it, “Mummified” –
So I decided to take the little guy back home with me to Port Murray………as I had an idea.
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Figured this would be a nice one to add to my list of “Winter Projects” – The little Musk Turtle.
As you can see, he had become sort of “bleached-out” from basking in the sun over time, so the first thing was to attempt to add color back to the shell. But I didn`t just want it to look like it was just painted black and lose all of it`s character. So the I actually gave it a coat of shellac, rather than add color first. Once dried, I carefully stripped the coating of shellac down to almost nothing. Normally you would stain something, then shellac it, but I knew this would give me a nice, sort of translucent effect that I wanted.
Next I took a urethane-oil based Expresso stain and submerged the entire turtle in it for two days. The idea of using an oil-based stain was because it would “hold” or set better as compared to a water-based one. After it`s two-day bath in stain, I sat the turtle on bamboo shoots to partially dry. The trick here was to not let the stain fully dry.
After three hours, I took the stripper again, and very gently worked away the oil stain, exposing the detail of the shell. After I got it to a point where I liked it, I then took an Expresso water-based stain and gently colored in the shell simply using my fingers while wearing rubber gloves.
My idea worked and I restored a very nice hue back to the little Musk Turtle! Then in my travels, I found a nice piece of driftwood while out and about fishing out on Spruce Run one afternoon.
And that became my little Musk Turtle`s new home.
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See all of my Adventures here

On Thin Ice! an Ice Fishing Adventure

   When the discussion came up a few days before, about the possibility of hitting the “Hard Water”, well let`s just say it was pretty much a one-and-done answer…… Of course! Ice Fishing….this fine Wintertime activity, that I was introduced to by my best friend Curt thirty years ago, has remained one of our favorite things to do even in our mid-fifties. So we made plans to hit the ice after I did a little scouting for safe “hard water” – 
I called Curt up the night before and said, “Yep….. looks pretty thick in the lake yet. Come on up to the house at 10am tomorrow morning and we`ll give `er hell” –
Ahhhhhhh…….I thought it seemed thick. Boy……was I ever “off” on this scouting excursion!
We pulled up to the lake and both got out of the truck. I grabbed my auger and as we walked out, Curt said, “Well….it seems “ok”…….not really sure it`s as thick as you think” – With that, “I replied, Ahhhhhh it`s a good four or five inches”  – Him, “Drill a couple holes” – I don`t think I made eight cuts and whooooosh, I was through! – “Wow….. it isn`t that thick at all” I stated. Curt said, “Don`t stand too close to one another or we both might be taking a dip!” – I bent down and stuck my middle finger in the icy water along the edge of the hole I had just cut. “From the tip of my finger to the middle joint, is how thick it is Curt” –
Curt shaking his head said, “Yea…..we`re on probably two and a half inches of ice ya dummy!” Now me trying to “make lemonade out of lemons” replied, “Well I don`t think it`s too deep if we fall through Curt…..maybe four feet deep or so” – With that he dropped a weight on a line to test my “depth calculations” – “Ummmmmmm more like twelve feet deep Ken!” – Curt said this was the thinnest ice he had ever been on.
Me trying to lighten up the situation said, “Ahhhhhhhhhh the hell with it, let`s cut a bunch of holes and fish buddy-boy!” –
And that`s exactly what we did. I eagerly cut way too many holes as usual, while Curt set up the tip-ups.
I started jigging as he sat up the last few tip-ups and shortly thereafter, I yelled, “Got one Curt!” as wrangled up the first crappie of the day.
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Curt started jigging shortly thereafter and warned again, “Look at the water coming through these holes already. Do not stand too close or as I said, we will be getting a wet ass!”
Minutes later, we had our first flag of the day! Curt yelled, “Go ahead! Take it!” and with that, I hustled along the ice to the tip-up. The fish had ran off just about all of the line, as I bent down to grab the tip-up. As I felt the limp line suddenly shoot to my left, I snapped back and set the hook! Fish on! In a few moments, I landed a nice, Large-mouth Bass on the ice! Snapped a picture and released him to fight another day.
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Then Curt jigged up his first crappie of the day right after that.
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We had really solid action for a few hours, landing a some perch, and few more crappies. I had the “hot hand” for the tip-ups that day as I wrangled up a few really nice size “Greenbacks” through the ice.
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Then in the late afternoon, it started getting a lot colder and snowing/sleeting really hard and we were about ready to call it a day. One of the flags popped pretty close to the shore-line. Curt said, “Go ahead and take it!” – When I got to the hole, the tip-up was pulled off to the side and all of the line was off the spool! I quickly bent down and carefully raised the tip-up off of the ice……..and the line went slack. By now, Curt was standing near me and I said, “Damn it…… it`s slack…. I think he dropped it”- As I held the line, I felt an ever so light tug…….. then the fish started running wildly in circles! I quickly jerked the line and set the hook! Fish on and a good one at that! As I retrieved the line, again it went limp……..”I might`ve lost him” I said.
But I was wrong! As the heavy fish dove straight down towards the dark, murky bottom at this point! As I slowly worked the line in closer to the hole, we suddenly saw the football shape flash right under us through the ice! Wow! What a beautiful 21.75 inch Bucketmouth I landed on the ice! What a way to end the day!
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While we may not be as agile and are a lot more cautious on the ice, compared to when we were in our twenties, Curt and I always manage to have a good time. And that`s what good Friends are all about.
Thanks for reading about our Adventure on the Ice. G`nite~
See all of my Adventures here

“What happened in the Yak, stayed in the Yak!”

So there I was…….. Playin` in the rain this past Saturday….. not a soul out & about on the water. Figured I`d have a go at some Toothy Critters to start the year off right. I got to the river at noon & decided to try to wait out the rain in my truck……for a friggin` hour & a half!
Finally I said the hell with it and tossed the Yak in the pond. I worked various drop-offs and weedbeds for about two hours……..nothing. Then I decided to mix it up and tied on a jerk-bait as at this point, I really didn`t care what jumped on.
“Whooooooooah! Helluva nice Bass!” I said aloud as I bare-handed the chunky, football-size green-back. As I admired the big Largemouth, I figured the bucket-mouth had to go somewhere between 3-4lbs….
A reeeeeeally nice fish indeed! Especially for it being January and the fact that this was my very 1st fish landed in the New Year! I was pumped up as I sat there in the torrential down pour admiring my big Bass. “Let`s take a few pics and put you back in the pond” I told the Largie. So with that, I brought out my net and carefully laid the beast into the cold water, while I set up the Go PRO for some pictures. I figured I`d let the monsoon blow over a bit, and snap a few pictures.
Then that `ol magic kicked in……..BAM!
Fish on!
After about ten minutes, the rain quieted down…….. As I pull the net into the Yak…….. it was empty!!! My friggin` big greenback, Bucket-mouth had escaped! Through a hole in my net! “Son of a bitch!” I barked out loud. Boy was I pissed…… and laughing at the same time.
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I quickly dismantled a metal stringer that I had on board, and mended my net for the rest of my outing.
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Lo and behold, I did manage to nail a decent pickerel shortly thereafter. And my makeshift mended net worked just fine. By the way, if you look closely, you can see the “Snot” runnin` off of him too…. hence the name “Snot-Rocket” –
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So I really don`t know what the moral of this story is…..…. Other than…..
What happened in the Yak, stayed in the Yak! 
`till next time…..
See all of my Adventures here.

The Bunny Tale! a Rabbit Hunting Adventure!

Started out the New Year with my Brother and a couple of long-time Friends from Califon, doing something that I had not done since 1991…..Rabbit Hunting! Geez come to think of it, I had not hunted with these guys easily in twenty five years or more.
So when I was leaving Mom`s on Christmas eve, saying good-bye and all, I shook my Brother`s hand and he asked, “Hey bud, if you don`t have any plans on New Year`s Day, Hanky, Pete and me are going rabbit hunting and we wanted to know if you wanted to come along?”
“Well hell, I have plans now! Sure I would love too” I replied, “Just text me what time we`re meeting”
Let me enlighten you a bit, as to whom these fellas are and why they`re special to me. First off, there aren`t very many folks around these parts anymore, that are actually from Califon.  But the four of us, Pete Samski, Hank Stillwell, Keith Beam and of course, myself, are true Califon Natives as we all grew up here. As a matter of fact, both Hanky and Pete, being a little older than me and my Brother, played softball and also were members of the Califon Fire company  and hunted with our Dad. So that`s why this rabbit hunt was special for me anyways……..to be able to hunt once again, with these gentlemen that also hunted with our Dad. Both of them know what it was like in Califon, in days gone by……a time when hunting was more of a  mainstream activity in town.
So we met up at 9am and finally got to the spot around 9:30….when we got there Keith asked, “Well what are the teams?” Pete said, “Ahhhhh I guess I`ll take Kenny….. can you shoot? he asked busting my chops!
I replied laughing, “Hell yea Pete….. I got three shells in the gun!” and Hanky said, “Hey that might get expensive if you miss a lot!” and we all laughed as we trekked down the dirt lane to begin our hunt.
We took turns driving different patches for each other, in other words, Pete and me drove a patch for Keith and Hanky then vice-versa. The first patch I heard Hanky say “Ohhh…there goes one!” then shortly after that I saw Keith put his gun up……. but never shot. When we got to the end of the brush patch they both said they had seen a few rabbits……. but neither shot! I chimed up and said, “Did you guys come here to hunt or what? Keith give me your gun”…… as I pulled my phone out of my pocket I said, “Here shoot some pictures with this, since you don`t want to shoot your gun!” haha! And we all laughed like hell.
They drove the next brush patch for us……. nothing. No bunnies. So we were up again to drive. As I kicked around in a patch of rhododendrons a rabbit tore from the cover as I quickly fired off two shots……missed. Moments later, Pete fired off a round…..missed. Then in less than a minute, he kicked up another one…..and missed. Keith and Hanky were laughing like hell, “Now that shooting is going to cost you boys some money!”
I said, “Damn….. I swore I rolled that rabbit!”…..”I just need to settle down a bit” as we all laughed.

Over the next few hours, we laughed and joked and just had a really great time……..
To be able to hunt with the three of these guys again was a true Califon camaraderie indeed.
And I did settle down, as you can see….
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Someone once said, “It`s more fun to think of the future than dwell on the past”……
Ya know what I think?
I don`t believe that person grew up in a town as magical as Califon with these kinds of Friends way back when. As for this politically correct world that we live in nowadays,…….well…….
“Do forgive my evil ways……
Sometimes I have a real hankerin` for the past with true old Friends and some fine rabbit stew”
Happy New Year everyone.