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….
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”
One thing that I really enjoy doing in the `Yak, is exploring new territory and this past Saturday I did just that.
The challenge of fishing in a new body of water is very appealing to me. However, I sort of got mixed vibes from the various posts that I read on-line about my latest targeted waterway, Budd Lake. As quite a few had posted about having little or no luck at all on the largest natural lake in New Jersey.
A little tid-bit about Budd Lake:
Budd Lake was named after John Budd, who acquired 1,300 acres of land in 1714. Prior to that, it was called Hattacawanna Lake. A glacial lake at an evaluation of 933 feet, Budd Lake has a surface area of 374 acres. making it the largest natural lake in New Jersey. It is 7-12 feet deep, and can have large algal blooms.
Now, the forecast was a chilly 47 degrees, rainy and with a breezy with a very gusty wind at times. “Hmmmmm… “Perfect! More than likely the lake would be deserted on such a “nice” day!” I thought to myself as I smiled while looking out the window. With that thought i mind, I got dressed, loaded up `Yak, grabbed my hat and headed out to Budd Lake. The beauty of where we live(Well….. there are many other ones….. like my “friends” those Bears on the patio! HaHa!) is the fact that there are so many great fishing waters within a ten mile radius of our house. And Budd Lake is exactly ten miles away.
I pulled in the lot a little after 9am and the wind was howling as the cold rain pelted my face. I actually had second thoughts about draggin` the `Yak off the Murano. “Ahhhhhh….I`ll hang along to shoreline as I paddle out” I said aloud trying to convince myself. With the wind blowing out of the north-west, I was in for some tough paddlin`. Not only was I going to have a long paddle, but paddling directly into the wind. And once I reached my destination on the lake, it would be blowing the `Yak across the lake…..and ideally I wanted to work my way back down the edge. In a nutshell, my arms were in for quite a workout fighting the wind while trying to fish as well!
Probably took me a good hour or more fighting the wind, to paddle across the lake. But I finally got there and was ready to have at it!
There were three reasons that I was rather intrigued with Budd Lake; Bass, Pickerel and Northern Pike…… all in the same waters! So being a veteran Esox-chasin`-son-of-a-gun, I started out with a couple of favorite go-too lures from my arsenal that would simply target any of the three species of fish I was after. I attached a blue and black Chatterbait to one rod and a chartreuse and white 3/8oz. Spinnerbait to the other.
I have my Shimano reels spooled with 30lb Power PRO and I run a 30lb. 6 inch wire-leader because I have had more than a couple of those toothy critters slash the line with their razor-like teeth. Personally I want to land my fish not watch them swim away with a big lure in their mouth.
I worked my way along the shore casting into brushy cover along the treeline. “`Ol Esox had to be here as it just looks too good!” I said to myself. Then BAM! Fish on! Felt like a good one at that as the Northern Pike thrashed the top water with his tail! The drag ran as he dove under my `Yak and crashed and shook his head on top of the water on the opposite side! I quickly walked my rod around the front of the `Yak to get the line on the other side. The drag peeled off more line as he dove down into the murky water of the lake! After about ten minutes of fighting, I finally netted the beautiful 35 inch Esox and had my 1st Northern Pike at Budd Lake.
After a couple pictures, I quickly released the `Gator back into the pond unharmed. “I have a feeling things are going to get “interesting” out here” I thought to myself as I made my way back to where I had left off.
After about thirty minutes, I got into this little shallow sort of cove or cut-out among the trees. Quietly I drifted a little closer so I could pin-point some casting into the cover. On the third cast, as the Chatterbait hit the water, a violent wake came towards it immediately! WHAM! Fish on baby! Here we go! Another nice pike thrashed about that I quickly netted. Another nice, colorful Northern indeed. My second of the morning.
Decided to start throwing the Spinnerbait on my second set-up as I have caught many Northern Pike and Pickerel on this color combo in my outings. And it didn`t take too long, as the drag started reeling off line! Fish on again! As my rod doubled over, I knew I had another really nice New Jersey Northern Pike! After a short battle, I netted the tired, fat toothy critter. And I had my 3rd Budd Lake Pike of the day.
Wasn`t long after that I had another strike……… but it felt a little different than the past three. A tad more sluggish. More of a pull and run. I had a good idea what it was as I set the hook. Yep….. I was right! A decent “Snot-Rocket!”…. Not quite the fight of the Northerns, but all and all a good one. A nice 22” Chainside Pickerel was quickly scooped into my net.
After a few hours, I had made my way almost along the entire edge and it started raining pretty hard. “Ahhhhhh…….. `bout time to call it a day” I said aloud as I was pretty chilled(which I get pretty easily nowadays because of the blood thinners I have to take) – I figured I`d make a couple more casts and get the heck out of there……….. And I went back to throwing the black and blue chatterbait…….
Ohhhhhhhh boy! What an explosion!! As a Monster Largemouth Bass attacked the Chatterbait! Making several sporadic jumps and flips before I could finally net her! A beautiful 5.8lb female full of eggs! I quickly took a picture of and gently released the “Mama Bass” back into the pond unharmed.
So I guess you could say I hit my Budd Lake Trifecta that day…… Pike, Bass and Pickerel!
Definitely enjoyed my 1st time out on Budd Lake. Quite the Adventure indeed. I`ll be back. And if you happen to recognize my `Yak or my hat, pull up and say “Hi” ………always enjoy talkin` to Friends out on the water.
Snakehead wranglin` was most definitely on my agenda last week. I planned on going down into South Jersey at least once while on vacation despite having a very painfully infected leg. Apparently the week before I had been bitten by something underwater while fishing/wading knee-deep in a really swampy covered lake. Guessin` it was probably a snake as it bit me on the top of my foot……twice! And now my top of my ankle was pretty swollen and hurt like hell, just a few days later.
My girlfriend was a bit upset that I hadn`t gone to the doctor….yet.
But……. I had a date with some “Snakes” down in South Jersey first.
I was going after `em on foot as I wasn`t comfortable draggin` the `Yak all around by myself. Definitely not 100% confident about doing certain things since suffering a massive heart attack a month and a half ago.
But now I had a bad “foot” to complicate matters a bit.
I studied some maps of the Delaware River for a few days, looking at the various tributaries off the main river. This is where I was going to be targeting……… Accessible areas of the “tribs” by foot.
Got up the next morning, Sharon made me an awesome breakfast & packed me a nice lunch with plenty of drinks. It was definitely going to be a hot one as the weather forecast was calling for a high in the 90`s in the area I was heading too.
Then I saddled up and was on my way. My destination was approximately thirty-eight miles south of Gibbstown. At least that is what I wanted to scout out a bit, as the area looked ideal. Swampy and accessible.
After a two and a half hour ride, I arrived in the general area…… if it wasn`t the exact spot, it was close enough.
Eager to start throwing some top-water lures, I hiked about a mile into the abandoned swamp area of the tributary that was probably five to six hundred yards from the Delaware River. Good thing I had covered myself with Deep Woods OFF bug repellent before I left my truck, because hot, muggy and buggy best described where I was walking.
I was planning on throwing a KVD Top-Water Frog to start things off. Working my way into an opening, I began casting.
After about the sixth cast into the thick, green-pea muck, a magnificent swirl missed my frog as the thick green muck quickly calmed back down. I worked the area carefully, attempting to provoke a strike. Nothing.
Then next cast, just as the frog was literally six inches from shore, a violent eruption!!! Snakehead!!!
Fish on!…….. then just as quickly…….. fish off.
But as I was fighting that Snakehead briefly, I saw two others swimming in this pool of muck next to the one I I had on. I didn`t actually see the fish, just the swirls…….and there were at least two other demons lurking in the dark, thick green muck.
Four more casts……… all quiet. Then I decided to toss the frog in and just give a a few short twitches and not retrieve. It had to be out there floating in the muck at least five minutes………..then BAM! A violent explosion as the Snakehead smashed the frog I set the hook hard! Fish on! The snake gave quite the acrobatic show as it broke water and thrashed about! Then dove deeply into the thick green seaweed! This is where the 20lb. Power PRO Braid line would come in handy as I muscled the snake out of the water-grass and onto the bank.
My first “Snake” of the day!
I quickly got the stringer out as this Snakehead`s next destiny was going to be with my knife, as snakeheads are an absolutely delicious delicacy!
Working my way through the bush, I came upon another likely looking spot and began working the frog. Casting under the very edge of an embankment that had bushes over hanging it a bit. “The perfect ambush area for a hungry snakehead”, I thought to myself.
I purposely tossed the frog in the bush, to make it drop in the swampy water below. No sooner had the frog hit the murky water below and BAM! Another snakehead was on!
Another nice one for the stringer!
The Snake Party was on!
Over the next few hours, I fished the area hard and managed to call it a day and headed home with four nice size snakeheads in the cooler.
Got home around 7pm…….. had a bite to eat, then had some Snakeheads to fillet afterwords.
If ya like to fillet fish, like I do,…… you`d love runnin` your knife across the back of a snakehead. Beautiful fish to fillet. Very white and thick. Sort of reminds me of a walleye when you fillet it.
And if you like to eat fish, you`ll love grilled Snakehead! Out of this world. Awesome breaded and fried as well. Sharon used a Cajun Seasoning on the Snakes and I got to tell ya, it was like I was dinin` back on the Bayou in my Air Force days back down in Louisiana. Simply delicious.
After a full week of rain each day last week, I was really looking forward doing some NJ Turkey Hunting this past Saturday morning. The weather forecast wasn`t the greatest, but better than anything I had heard the last several days. So the alarm was set and my day began at 4:00am.
Now anyone that has ever chased “Thunder-Chickens, knows how the early hours wear on you as the weeks progress. At least my girlfriend always reminds me about my lack of sleep and my crankiness during Turkey season! She keeps me in-check.
So this particular morning, since I had gotten a Gobbler the week before, I decided I would roll the dice a bit and see if I could indeed “Go PRO” a Turkey Hunt. After I shot that Long-Beard the week before, several guys had asked my from various hunting forums, “Do we have a Video Ken?”. “Between calling and setting up the Go PRO, this would be rather challenging”, I thought as I headed out to my truck in the early morning darkness.
I arrived at the State Land where I hunt and made my way out across a few fields at 4:30am, heading towards a wooded lot. I like to try setting up in an area that will give me a fairly decent view within a 30-40 yard radius. Which can be tough when you`re hunting in wild roses. I cleared a spot and sat up against a tree and waited. A roosting turkey that was roughly 300 yards away, broke the cool morning air with a gobble at 5:25am on the nose. Then another much further away also gobbled back.
As it got a little lighter, I really liked the looks of the area I had chosen, even though the turkeys that were gobbling, weren`t really all that close. See I think a good number of hunters like to move in closer to a roosting turkey, and perhaps that works for them. Me on the other hand, I prefer to set up in a spot and see if I can hopefully coax them towards me as the morning progresses. Hey whatever works for you. Right?
However, things got a little “interesting” at around 7am, as another hunter had walked in and started calling within a hundred yards of me. Now this would really bother some hunters, but I really don`t mind it if it happens, because I always figure a different bird may come in from behind him and walk towards me.
He called several times using a mouth call and the turkeys never gobbled back. Then I lightly yelped and they responded to my calling by gobbling eagerly back. The birds were going back and forth way up on this hill that had to be a good 3-400 yards away. And they gobbled back and forth till around 8:30am…… Then the gobbling stopped completely and I didn`t hear the other hunter calling anymore either.
“I`ll bet he`s trying to get closer and moving in on those birds….let`s just sit tight and see how this plays out”, I thought to myself. As I worked a few clucks on my call, a gobble! And another! Two different birds were answering me and they appeared to be running together looking for a sexy hen(me!) – Now they were within 200 yards and definitely coming towards my direction.
I purred lightly as I knew I had the pair of Long-Beard`s attention. Sending them into a Gobbling frenzy!
As the birds circled a bit around to my right searching for that “hen”, I clucked lightly turning them directly towards me. They were now gobbling their brains out less than 100 yards out and coming in fast!
At about 50 yards the gobbling intensified even louder! I slowly put down the call……….. and raised my Browning A5……
Now…… without any further ado, here is my first Go PRO Turkey Hunting Video for you all to enjoy. If you think this was easy to do, put the call down, put the Go PRO on my head before the turkeys got to me, then pick up the gun,……think again gang! This one was tough to do! So turn up those speakers, as I think you`re really going to like this.
Please subscribe to my site and my YouTube Channel. Thanks for watching.
NJ Turkey Hunting is one outdoor activity that I really get excited about doing each Spring. The days are longer, the air is getting warmer & the Gobblers are gobblin` at daybreak! Getting up at 4am to hunt couldn`t be easier. But just don`t ask Sharon how I can get by weeks C & D from lack of sleep! ha! ha!
I always put in for a couple of permits during the “Lottery” and usually get them. However, the day that the over-the-counter left-over permits go on sale, I am on-line right at 10am that very day, attempting to score permits for each week A,B,C,D & E(for Saturdays). The reason I try to get all weeks is simply because I don`t always know when I`ll have a chance to chase `Birds with work & all. And because I`m a disabled Vet, all of my fishing, hunting licenses & all permits are free in New Jersey. So why not right?
Last week was “A” week in New Jersey & it didn`t start out real well for me anyway. Monday was opening day & I planned hunting a couple hours before work. Now usually right around 5:30 to 6am, right at daybreak, I start to hear the first gobbles of the morning. But that first morning, not a single turkey was gobblin` anywhere even remotely close to where I was hunting in Warren County. Called it a day & headed back home by 8am to get ready for work.
As per Sharon`s suggestion, I decided to hunt every other day rather than get up every single day at 4am, so that I could catch up on sleep a bit every other day. She`s a smart gal & knows I get a little cranky from lack of sleep this time of year. So the next time out was Wednesday & the Springtime morning air was very cool & crisp as I shuffled out the door at 4am. Now another reason why I was really excited about Turkey hunting this year, was the fact that I had a Brand New Browning A5 3.5″ Shotgun to use! I`ve never had a new Browning in my life as I`ve always hunted with my old Belgium Brownings. I was really anxious to crack an old “Tom” Turkey with it!
I decided to try a different spot that morning a couple miles past where I was on Monday. I hiked way out into the darkness across several fields, stopping & listening. Hoping to hear the first gobble open up the morning air. But nothing. By 7:30 I was beginning to question what the heck was going on. “How the hell could this be?”, I thought to myself. By 8am I was on my way back to the truck……… & about 75 yards from the truck I hear “Gobble Gobble…..Gobble Gobble” – A turkey! Well within working distance. So I set up & decided to have a go at old Tom. Well I worked that bird for an hour & a half & at 9:30, he had decided that either something wasn`t quite right or he caught up with a hen & wasn`t interested in me anymore. He probably came within 60-70 yards then just walked away…….gobbling as he went further & further from me.
The third time I planned hunting was this past Saturday. I decided to stay in Warren County, but go to a new spot and really hike way out in this new territory. It had rained the night before, so with the wet leaves I decided to play “Run-and-Gun” rather then set up decoys, knowing I could move very stealthily through the woods that morning. “Which might just give me a little edge at daybreak”, I thought as I walked out to my truck that morning.
I arrived at my spot & scurried across the wet fields making my way to a wooded lot. As I approached the last field, I heard my first gobble at 5:20. It was still dark enough that I made my way to the treeline barely at first light. Then another gobble! Now I had a couple birds probably within 300 yards. So I sat up against a tree in a clearing……. and waited till it got lighter out. At about 6am I lightly worked my slate with a very light yelp. Gobble Gobble! A response!………. Still a good distance out. So I waited for them to fly down before I called again. About twenty minutes later, another gobble a good distance to my right. Old Tom was on the ground and started talking. As I worked a few light purrs & clucks, the Tom Turkey stated really getting excited and was turning towards my direction. Within thirty minutes, he was closing in fast on me! The last gobble was easily within 50 yards of me. However I still couldn`t see him. He was coming through an area thick with wild roses, so he`d have to step right out in the open in order for me to have a shot. Another gobble! This time he seemed right in front of me in those wild roses. I put down the call & raised my gun…… anticipating his next move being right in front of me. I waited…… & waited. Gun raised towards the roses……. nothing. No more gobbles…. “Where the hell is he?” I thought to myself. Then he gobbled the opposite side of me, probably 80 yards away! I quickly put down the gun & grab my slate & started clucking a bit wildly, trying to see if I could bring him back in.
And it worked! He turned back & was bee-lining right towards me again!
This time I kept clucking a tad faster as he got closer, then switched to a couple light purrs. And this brought the Tom right in. At 30 yards he showed, I slowly raised my Browning and BANG! I dropped the old Long-Beard in his tracks!
My “Run-and-Gun” tactic in the wetness had paid off & the morning NJ Turkey hunt had turned into quite the adventure indeed. **Scroll down to see all of the pics.
Dingo, our Aussie Cattle Dog wanted to be part of the “Wild Turkey-Photo-Shoot” too!
Last Saturday I had made plans to chase some Shad up north, with a buddy & his son. Was really looking forward to wranglin` up a few fiesty Shad. But that didn`t happen. We called it a day around 10am as a steady rain stated to fall. Now I`m definitely not one to call it quits because of a little rain, but hell, when the fishin` sucks, I ain`t getting a wet ass & not catching anything!
So we said our goodbyes & parted ways for another day.
But I was still locked in that “fishing-mode” as I pulled into Dunkin` Donuts & grabbed a coffee.
As I headed back towards the house, they were calling for the rain to blow out by early afternoon. “Perfect” I thought to myself. Time to get my `Yak & head out to the Passaic River as I had some “New Territory” to scout out in the Great Swamp.
Got home, changed my gear, loaded up the `Yak & away I went. Forty-five miles to my destination to be exact. By the time I arrived, The rain had stopped & the sun burned off the clouds & it was turning out to be a beautiful Spring day in Jersey.
Tied down all of my gear in the `Yak & made my way slowly down-river working my Chartreuse Spinner-Bait among the blow-downs & submerged brush. As I diligently searched for those toothy river-Wolves lurking in the murky waters of the Passaic.
I was using my left-handed Gold Calcutta Spinner Bait Reel paired with an Ugly Stick Rod tossing the spinner-bait accurately in precise spots that I knew would hold a Pike……sooner or later.
Then……BAM! Pike on! And a nice at that, as my pole doubled over. As Esox thrashed on top of the water, I estimated it to be about three feet long.
Here`s the Go PRO Video I shot that day:
He was a dandy as he was 34″ & a little over eight pounds. Definitely a nice way to start the fishing season eh?
NJ Striper Fishing from a boat, is something that I had always read about in the magazines, but had never actually experienced. So when a friend asked me if I`d like to join him on his boat & have a go at it, I was all in!
Plans were made & I received a text from “Captain Bob” on Friday asking if I could be at his house at 4am the next morning to head down to Atlantic Highlands. “Heck yea!” I wrote back. I could hardly sleep that night, almost like a little kid the night before Christmas!
I was at his house at 4am sharp & ready to go. Jumped in his truck & away we went. Like I said earlier, I had never ever fished from a boat for Stripers, so this was a totally new learning experience for me.
We stopped & grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches before we got to the marina, and at that time I took a half a Dramamine……. And yes, I get sea-sick in the calmest of ocean waters! And we didn`t need `ol “Chum King Ken” to show up that morning! ha! ha!
Arriving at the pier at the break of dawn,
there was barely a breeze & the water looked
really calm. Captain Bob was out the day before in the same weather conditions, & told me they managed to catch twenty Stripers!
So I had my fingers crossed, hoping for a little De’Ja’ Vu that day.
The Captain decided that it would be best to troll as they hadn`t done anything with bait the previous day. So he set up two poles with umbrella rigs & explained to me what to do when one jumped on. Now at that point, I was really gettin` pumped & ready to nail a few sea-cows!
And it wasn`t too long before it happened…….BAM! Fish on!
I caught my 1st Springtime Striper in a boat!
As the morning went on, I wrangled up a few more beauties out there. And I have to say this, Captain Bob was probably the most gracious Captain you`d ever meet on the high-seas. He actually let me catch every Striper that morning! And I caught a few beauties!
Captain Bob kept us on the fish for a few hours, before the boat traffic got too heavy. We only ended up with seven that morning, but the ones we caught, were all really nice, big Stripers!
And of course, I had to bring to Go PRO……… So here is the clip I shot of the day`s adventure.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed catching those Big Springtime NJ Stripers!
NJ pheasant hunting on Thanksgiving Day, has been a long time tradition that my good friend Curt Ryder and I have enjoyed doing for quite a few years. Heck come to think about it, we`ve probably been doing this a good fifteen years or more. There are always a lot more pheasants stocked on Thanksgiving eve as compared
to the regular, weekly stocking days, so there`s plenty of action!
We met at our usual spot on Rte. 46 this past Thursday and made our way north into Sussex county to have a go at some early morning “birds” at sunrise.
As we got out across the first field, it wasn`t long before a very excited Jake bumped the first bird! Then he settled down and hunted great the rest of the morning.
Here is the Video I shot of our NJ Pheasant Hunting Turkey Day Adventure last Thursday;
A good day of NJ Pheasant Hunting on Turkey Day indeed!