About Brandon

I moved to the Upper Peninsula along with my wife and children in 2006 from South East Michigan. This blog is a snap shot of our life here in the UP throughout the years.

Looking Back…. Looking Forward.

It happens every year about this time. I start to realize that summer is ending and winter is coming. But before winter gets here it will be my favorite time of year Autumn. Notice I didn’t say Fall. Fall is a the time frame between summer and winter. Autumn however, is perfect tempatures that allow you to walk all day on a carpet of leaves that are still falling and not break a sweat. Its early foggy mornings over beaver ponds and its the best time of the year.

An urgency creeps in this time of year and I begin rising a little earlier in the mornings working a little longer in the evenings and generally trying to get as much accomplished as possible before the leaves start to fall and its time to get into the woods.

Each year that season kicks off with a Manitoba trip in mid September. This year will be a little different with the addition of an early teal season in Michigan for the first time in my lifetime we will be able to hunt teal starting September 1st. I intend to take full advantage of it but still the trip to Canada is the real kickoff of the season and with that in mind I spent sometime looking back over pictures of previous years trips. These following pictures are from my 2011 trip and are pictures I had never taken the time to edit and post. Hope everyone enjoys.

Duck hunting

Decoying ducks, you hold your breath.

 

Manitoba Decoying ducks.

Here they come.

 

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Take um!

Take um!

 

Screaming Teal Across the decoys!

Screaming Teal Across the decoys!

 

Tumbling teal!

Tumbling teal!

 

 

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Where have we been?

Well truth be told we have been in the UP mostly. Traveling a little to see family and this last week we spent it just a little south of Traverse City in Mayfield. Laura’s family on her Dads side is from this area and we have the opportunity each year to go back to the town with her family for the “old towners picnic”. Its all the old families getting together and telling stories along with eating some great food and pie. Its a trip I look forward to each year spending time with my Father in law and listening to stories about his childhood vacations to Mayfield. Each year we spend a little time trout fishing on his grandfathers home waters and recently my Daughter has started joining us on these trips. Adding another generation to the history of fishing for trout.

For several years I have wanted to go farther down stream and find where this little water way enters into a larger stream. This year I was able to do that and it was well worth the trip. The brown trout were hungry and three of the four I kept for supper came out of the bigger water. But I just could not resist working my way up to one of my father in laws “favorite holes” and catching one more keeper. A nice side note to that story is he put on quite a show in the 12 ” of water fighting and jumping into the sunlight before making it to my net. I cleaned and froze all four of these trout and picked a little wild mint for seasoning. I plan to cook them this week for my father in law. I would imagine its been 30 years since he had a trout dinner. Hopefully next year after retirement he will have a little more free time and can catch me dinner.

Catch and release is great but every once in a while you need to go back to your roots. The trip to Mayfield every summer is all about the family, its history and our roots. Dinner time!

Quite a bit more I could say about Mayfield Michigan but Ill leave it at that for now. One of these days Ill post up about the Adams fly and my wife’s family connection to this staple in every flyfisherman’s box.

North Dakota in the fall.

Last year we started what has apparently turned into an autumn family tradition. Michael was turning ten last fall and we took a trip to North Dakota so he could do some duck hunting with me. This year we decided to take the trip again and its really more about family time then it is about the hunting. Simply put its a vacation for all of us we take lots of time off each year and lots of trips but those are generally to visit family. Something we truly enjoy doing but something is different about going away just the four of us and spending time doing only what we want. We spent time driving around and looking at the country. Discovering sights like this.

We spent time eating pie in the local cafe, watching movies at night and did you know that you can make pop corn with nothing more then some oil a pot and popping corn? This kids didn’t but they learned how to on this trip. How is it my kids got this old without knowing about kettle corn? We stayed up to late, the kids and Laura overslept most mornings and I hunted alone on those mornings but they made it out for a couple hunts and we all truly enjoyed our trip.

Like many of my hunts this year the most memorable ones seem to be wrapped up in what decoys I am hunting over. I took Madolin’s bufflehead decoys along on this trip with her permission. She wanted to be sure they were hunted over so they were truely decoys and not just some decorations on a shelf. A concept she certainly picked up from eaves dropping on my conversations with others. So my first hunt of the trip found me shooting a few drake bufflehead over her decoys. Not that I am opposed to shooting bufflehead. They are not considered the most wary of ducks nor are they the top choice for the table but they decoy with reckless abandon and offer fun sporty shooting. The drakes are easy to identify on the wing as they almost glow white compared to the hens in the flock. I admit it I like shooting them even if some look down there nose at me for it. In less than an hour I had finished out my limit much to the delight of my daughter I had bufflehead in my mixed bag.

The rest of my bag this first hunt was made up of lesser scaup. What we call Bluebills in Michigan and of course shot over my own decoys. The decoys in the picture were carved last year, simple clean line gunners that have taken a little abuse over the last year but still solid and functional. They are solid cedar carved from some very knotty 6×6’s I had laying around. Low chunky heads were used as well to ad to the strength of the blocks. I see more of this pattern in my future although I think I will hollow the next batches and use clean cedar. Carving knots sucks.

I will need to finish this post later. Its time to get some work done. Check back later for the rest of the trip.

Just a great day to be alive.

Growing up I can remember the warm fall days when the leaves were falling and the sun was shining. I always loved autumn as a kid and when I got older and started to hunt it added an entirely new level of enjoyment for me. One of the main differences between where I grew up in SE Michigan and living here in the Western UP is that fierceness of mother natures march of the seasons. Fall was a drawn out process in my childhood with several stints of Indian summer but here although it comes in with the same warm days and gorgeous colors it progresses quickly and soon the trees are standing naked and the sky is turning grey. Now don’t get me wrong I am not complaining because when the trees stand with little leaves left, the sky turns slate, the temperature starts to drop and the winds start to blow that is when the diving ducks show up and there is nothing I love more than sitting on the big water, looking at the long lines of decoys and laughing at myself and the absurdity of hunting in such conditions. But before I get to that time between fall and winter and start chasing divers there are still a few warm clear days and because I know how quickly they will be gone it creates a sense of urgency to find some time to enjoy them before they are gone. This last week was filled with those days and I finally put an entire day aside and spent it following my Chessie Bella around the grouse woods. It was a perfect day, 50 degrees and sunny. Leaves were falling fast and we had lots of birds to chase. The only draw back was with 25mph winds I could not hear a grouse flush so I had to watch the dog even more closely to see birds take wing. Bella is five and a half now and is truly a joy to watch in the grouse woods. I don’t get the chance to follow here all by myself very often. Generally I am with other people and she needs to work for the group. But when its just the two of us I can let her nose lead the way. We find a lot more birds this way see lots more of the land and to see her figure out the puzzle and push those birds into the air.. its something special. I thought this picture summed up nicely the day and how lucky I am to have such large chunks of wild and public land to roam around on.

The Manitoba teal rig 2012

So I have been carving decoys on and off for quite a few years now and recently it has went from a causal past time to another of my many obsessions. I am not entirely sure of this but I think Laura prefers this obsession to my others since at least when I am consuming all my free time carving I am at home instead of for example when I am obsessed with a wintertime trap line and gone dark to dark three days a week. This most recent rig of teal was created for our Manitoba hunts. We have several small water spots up there were the teal are thick and since we had to eat 60 ducks during our 6 day trip this year to stay below our possession limit and stay legal shooting teal is extremely important. After all its easier to eat two teal in a sitting then it is to eat two mallards. In addition to use in Manitoba the rig will be used the first few weeks of season here in the UP as well. I am really quite happy with this rig of nine it seems to be a perfect number for a teal rig. Next year two will be removed from the rig and replaced. Those two being removed were started the day my twin niece and nephew were born and after those two little green wings are hunting for a year I will set them aside and the next time they hunt will be by the twins. I imagine during the Ohio teal season.

All my decoys are carved from local white cedar when called for I also use locally milled basswood for heads and white ash inlays for strength on wingtips for example. Decoys are hollowed hand carved and hand painted with oil pant.

The light was never really good for pictures in Manitoba but here you go… working decoys doing the work.

Manitoba hunting trip 2012.

Another Manitoba hunting trip has come and gone. I was joined again this year by my good friends Doug and Robby along with my dog Bella and Rob’s dogs Cali and Drake. All Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and all are related to each other though various parents. Although labs have been on previos trips, Chessies are becoming the breed of choice among my closes hunting friends.

Opening morning, September 8th, found us in a cut wheat field waiting on Mallards and Canada Geese. God was kind to us this morning with a beautiful sunrise leaving me this view from my blind.

Bella at sunrise or perhaps a" bella sunrise".

The morning was picture perfect and it rained both mallards and geese at times. The dogs worked well and the hunt was over quickly leaving us the rest of the day for scouting, exploring new areas and generally enjoying ourselves.

 

 

Hello world!

Apparently its appropriate to title your first blog post hello world. So I will follow in that tradition. This site was created to give myself and my wife a way to share our adventures in the UP of Michigan with our friends and family. Since most of our recreation is outdoors related, with hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring the wilds. The majority of our posts to the blog will be about those area’s but if something else interesting comes along we will be sure to share that as well. What you wont see on this blog are tons of links to commercial products. Yes I use all sorts of gear in the field and some of it is really well built but I tire quickly of those that use the outdoors to promote themselves and the products they are pushing. You won’t find any black hoodies in the pictures nor will you find any prostaff memberships. For me hunting is about the traditions of the past and nature. The less complicated the process the better.

 

As a bit of a test to learn more about this process I am going to insert Madi’s decoys. I do quite a bit of decoy carving and these two were started on Madolin’s eighth birthday this year. I finished them this week and they are rigged and ready to hunt. Carved of our local white cedar and painted with oil paints I suspect they will last long enough that hopefully I will find myself sitting with Madi and my grandkids someday hunting over them.