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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then Curt jigged up his first crappie of the day right after that.
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.
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!
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~
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!
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.
I quickly dismantled a metal stringer that I had on board, and mended my net for the rest of my outing.
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” –
So I really don`t know what the moral of this story is…..…. Other than…..
Ahhhhhh Autumn is here. The leaves are turning color, the nights are getting cooler and the Muskies are fired up! Nothing quite as enjoyable as taking the `Yak out on a nice, crisp, cloudy Fall day and having a go at the “fish of 10,000 casts.
And that was exactly my plan today.
The forecast called for a rather hot and balmy day this past Thursday, but the weather was suppose to drastically take a nose-dive on Friday night….. and it certainly did. Usually I generally shy away from wetting a line for a few days right after a cold-front moves in, but this time of year, I take advantage of any window of opportunity when I can to fish. Simply because it`s the middle of October and there are only a matter of several weeks before it`s time to pack the `Yak away for the year.
So I loaded up my gear and headed out to Mountain Lake around 1pm eager to try my new “Believer” lure that my friend Pat Gallagher introduced me to the previous week.
As I drove around the lake, I noticed a familiar white SUV in the area I normally parked. As I pulled in the lot, I recognized my good friend Andrew Hunter Yutko with a few other guys loading up their kayaks. Two of the three I knew from Instagram as I follow their excursions. I asked, “So everyone`s leaving?” – Andrew said, “Yea we`ve been here since 6am, had a couple “follows” and these guys caught one”….We`re going to head over to Oxford” – I replied, “Ohhhh……ok. Hey!….that was a Muskie that just breached out there…did you see that?” – Andrew looks at his buddy and says, “Ahhhhhhh let`s stay here maybe Ken will be good luck!” – Then he introduced me to his friend Javier and we all started setting up to launch.
As I pushed off in the water, I took notice of the way the wind was blowing. My strategy is usually to paddle up-wind and drift back along spots that I want to target. Whereas Andrew has pedals in his kayaks so he can maneuver more readily in windy conditions.
I began working the outer edge of a weed-bed that had a drop-off with my Believer Lure. Andrew and Javier were about two hundred yards away working another edge of weeds. I retrieved the jointed lure slowly, working the drop-off, then finishing up with my version of a “figure 8” in a kayak. Making a clean “figure 8” is kind of tough especially when you can only sit in the `Yak. So my pattern was a combination between a “figure 8” and a sort of “U-sweep” which I did on almost every retrieve.
And I don`t think I was fishing even quite an hour…….then it happened.
As I retrieved my lure and started my “8” literally a foot from the `Yak, this magnificent Esox followed my lure! And as I made the “8” sweeping pattern BAM!!! Muskie on! The muskie struck so close the `Yak that I never even had to turn the handle on the reel! Quickly I grabbed the net and swooped up the beast of a fish! As I wrestled with the mighty Esox, I yelled to the guys, “I could use a little help please!” with that, they quickly jolted over to me. They quickly pinned me in with their kayaks for stability as I unhooked the beautiful Muskie. Up to that point, I had never ever caught a Muskie on the “Figure 8” and it was absolutely thrilling!
Andrew took a bunch of pictures and measured the Muskie, then I quickly released the 39.5 inch monster back into the murky depths.
While we fished for several hours thereafter, no more Muskies made it in the `Yaks. And that`s pretty much the norm when you`re after the “fish of 10,000 casts. But I have to admit, while I almost always fish by myself, but it sure was nice to have couple of extra hands out there today. And If it wasn`t for fishing, I would never have had the pleasure of calling Andrew and Javier…….just that. Good Friends.
One of my “Targeted” fish this year was a Snakehead and I took off last Friday to meet up with the man that probably catches more Bowfin than anybody else in the entire state of New Jersey, Mr. Bob Priest. Now “Bowfin Bob” catches hundreds of Bowfins each year, and he certainly catches a lot of Snakeheads as well. So after having a few conversations on-line, I decided to see if we could set something up to have a go at those “Snakes” together in the `Yaks. I told Bob that if he could put me into some Snakeheads, that I would gladly put him on some Northern Pike whenever he wanted to come up north. He agreed and plans were made to meet up on Friday morning.
After walking the pups and having supper with Sharon on Thursday night, I set out to the garage to start setting up my rod and reel combos as I decided to take three set-ups down there with me at daybreak. Each reel was stripped down, oiled up and spooled with 20lb. Power PRO braid line. Next I went through all of my gear. Setting up my tackle bag with all of those brand new top-water frogs/lures that I had bought on-sale after Christmas at Dick`s last winter specifically with Snakehead fishing in mind. Loaded up all of my gear, then loaded up my `Yak, then off to bed. I was psyched and hardly slept a wink that night.
Met up with Bob at a WaWa around 9:30 on Friday morning and we made our way to a tributary that was only about two hundred yards from the actual Delaware River. The ideal spot for these invasive demon fish.
As we unloaded the `Yaks, Bob said, Now listen Ken, I said I`d show the area where Snakes are, but the rest is up to you” sort of like he was prepping me in case I couldn`t work a little magic and wrangle up one that day! I said, “No expectations Bob……. Let`s get to it!” –
Bob suggested that we each work a side so we split with him going left and me to the right. Within the first hour of fishing we were “on the board” as I landed a little Bass that was about 15 inches long using a Ribbit Frog. This got me pretty excited as this was also my first time using top-water lures.
After fishing for a few hours, I got into some really shallow water and switched to my other set-up which I had rigged with a KVD top-water Frog. I diligently worked the edges of the lily pads with the frog……..then it happened….BAM! Fish on! And it felt like a decent fish as the drag started screaming…At first I thought, “Might be a nice Bass”……but then as I got it closer to my `Yak, it thrashed the water and appeared to be really dark…….. Could it be a Snakehead? Or was it a huge Largemouth Bass?
I got it closer and the mighty fish violently thrashed the water again showing itself…… “It`s a Snakehead!”, I said out loud and quickly went for my net!
So without any further ado, here`s the Go PRO Video of the day`s adventure way down in South Jersey;
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.
There are so many different critters and interesting facets in the New Jersey outdoors that I come across. I thought I`d share this with all of you, as I think you`ll enjoy it too.
While I was out and about scoutin` some new deer hunting territory last week, I set up a couple trail cameras to see if there were deer moving in the area. When I checked them over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised at what sort of “Rare” creature showed up to have his or her picture taken.
The New Jersey Flying Squirrel! Yep…….. I did say “Rare” didn`t I? See the reason that I said that they are rare, is because they are nocturnal and unless you`re out and about in the night, most folks rarely have ever seen one!
Now they don`t fly exactly fly like a bird, but they are able to glide from one tree to another with the aid of a furry, parachute-like membrane that stretches from their wrist to their ankle. That`s exactly what it is, a built in parachute.
Notice the times these little devils showed up on my cameras………Definitely enjoy the night don`t they?
There are two types of Flying Squirrels in New Jersey. The Northern Flying Squirrel and Southern Flying Squirrel. The Northern is is likely to be found in coniferous and mixed coniferous forests, where as the Southern Flying Squirrel, which is more common in my area and likely to be found in hardwoods where there might be hickory or beech trees. Flying squirrels eat a variety of foods which include seeds, nuts, fungi, fruit and insects. Now the Southern Flying Squirrel is considered to be one of the most carnivorous squirrels, because from time to time, they will supplement their diet with eggs, birds, and carrion.
Here is a picture of that same tree. Look at the size of the Grey Squirrel on the left, compared to that little devil of the night on the right! Pretty amazing isn`t it?
Hope you enjoyed learning a little about those “Rare” New Jersey Flying Squirrels………..
Wintertime Deer Hunting in New Jersey can be challenging especially when you combine a brutally cold day in January with a gusty wind. But regardless of how hard the wind was howling that morning when I walked out on my back patio in the dark, I was determined to have a go at it and get up in my tree stand before daybreak. And I did indeed have second thoughts!
Now every hunter has his or her own rules when it comes to deer hunting. Some won`t shoot does, others will only shoot trophy bucks and then some of us like to have a freezer full of venison to enjoy throughout the year. Well…….. I certainly like to crack a nice big buck just like any other guy or gal out there, but as the season progresses, I have to focus on fillin` my freezer. And that`s exactly what I did the other cold morning when I was out and about.
I jumped up in my tree at 5:40am and as I looked up at the stars in that cold crystal clear sky, the trees readily swayed back and forth in the strong wind. Definitely was having some doubts as to how or even if the deer would be moving this morning.
Then at around 8am, movement caught my eye about 150 yards out. Seven or eight deer began to skittishly
meander the hillside then disappeared. I quickly turned on the Go PRO………..
So crank up your speakers and jump up in that tree with me and let`s see how it turns out!
This year I swore that I wasn`t going to go Grouse hunting way up north, as my hip has been giving me some on & off trouble. And the swampy areas can certainly make for a very challenging hike when you`re out and about hunting up there.
Now my best friend Curt usually heads up just about every week, if he can and always fills me in with his weekend “hunting reports” on his way back to Jersey on Sunday eve.
At this point in the season, he`d been up to Tug Hill only twice as work has kept him busy weekends. Well two weekends ago he called me on his drive back home to give me his report and tells me how he must`ve had forty “flushes” that weekend but only shot two grouse.
Now that really got me interested(ok ok….. maybe salivating!), I said to Curt, “Hell….. maybe ya could`ve cracked a few more, if ya had another, maybe a even faster “gun” up there with ya“
Curt said, “Who….you?” I said, “Ahhhhhh yeah what the hell, let`s go up next weekend!” as I figured someday we might not be able to do this. Me with a bad hip, bad knee and three back surgeries and the fact that Curt is a diabetic and starting to have issues with cramping in his legs, was enough justification for me to say the hell with it, we`re going up.
So I packed my gear and gun on Friday night as we would be leaving at Curt`s by 3:30am on Saturday for our four and a half hour drive north. Sharon put together our meal bags so Curt and I had plenty of grub to eat for two days of hard hunting.
On our way up, we stopped at “Fat Nancy`s” on the up by Pulaski so I could get my out-of-state hunting license. While at the register, the Lady kept staring at my Hat and finally said, “That`s the most interesting Hat I have ever seen“…….. I grinned and said, “Thanks……. it`s my lucky fishin` & huntin` Hat and hopefully it won`t let me down this weekend”
Getting into Tug Hill, we stopped at the first spot of the morning and Curt`s bird dog “Jake” was raring to go as we threw on our hunting jackets.
We joked as we started walking down the old logging road as to who would crack the first grouse of the day!
Which wouldn`t take too long……..as Curt was quickly on board with the first Grouse of the day!
It was very,very windy on Saturday and we still did relatively well ending up with two Grouse and three Woodcock at the end of the day.
Got up Sunday morning and Curt suggested we go grab a hot breakfast down at Lloyd`s Diner which sounded good to me. Well why we were there, I noticed this bottle of ketchup on our table……..
Curt was like, “Hey Ken….you like hot foods, put some of this on your scrambled eggs!“
Ha! Ha! I said, “I believe I`ll pass…… Don`t need any Fire in the Hole out there huntin` this mornin`!“
Now the weather was a bit different this day as we had to contend with a steady light rain and windy conditions almost the entire day. But we still wrangled up a few birds!
And you must know by now that I usually have my Go PRO! So without any further ado, here`s the Video that I shot of the weekend`s adventure up north.
Always a good time up north with Curt and Jake. And isn`t that what good Friends are all about?