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Dick Ellis Blog:
10/9/2019
Fall brings with it something for everyone in the field from the angler to the hunter.  Just a few recent sessions of shooting the bull tell me that autumn is for the youngest of outdoorsman just learning the games to those of us more seasoned with our eyes focused dead ahead on for example, the whitetail rut. James Wallace captured this great buck on trail camera during summer scouting. James Wallace, my nephew-in-law (is there such a ...
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Open Water, Searching for Yesterday

Sunday’s inaugural hunt for lake trout, steelhead and browns on the Milwaukee Harbor was locked out by 12-degree temperatures and new ice on the landing. Jim Olsson rescheduled our trip for this coming weekend with the weatherman’s promise of mercury climbing toward 60, but couldn’t keep his boat off the water for a test run Wednesday afternoon.

“We had five-foot waves crashing over the side so we turned back and stayed in the river,” Jim said Wednesday night. “We did catch two fish.”

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Ian Eckerstorfer shows off a nice brown taken on the
Milwaukee Harbor Wednesday afternoon in Jim Olsson’s boat. 
Scotty Rydzik is also shown.

Jim also said this early Thursday morning that in a very short stretch, he encountered as many as two dozen dead ducks on the Milwaukee River.  We’ll try to get answers for the reason why. Stand by on that.

Third partner Rob Tobin couldn’t stay off the open water either, and found great trout fishing Wednesday.  “Just crushed the trout,” Rob e-mailed. “They are so active. Trolling and jigging.  So great to get off that ice.”

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Rob Tobin celebrates getting off the ice by slamming open-water trout off Milwaukee.

More to come on that when I get my own feet wet Sunday. Just know if we don’t get a west wind we will probably be bumped again but we will be out as soon as possible. But I didn’t stay home.  I did take my first hunt of the new spring for shed antlers and decided to travel back in time while doing it. I hope your childhood memories of hunting and fishing are as vivid and easy on the soul as mine are, and that I think, is what I was really trying to find on the forest floor of the Cemetery Woods.

The woods that called us so often decades ago was a mile behind our home in New Berlin. It was big, dark and scary for an eight-year-old traveling with six-year-old brother John and 10-year-old brother Jim, but the demons that surely lived there were worth the risk when we were led by 16-year old-brother Steve and his lifelong friend, Bobby Kinosian. 

My most vivid memories of biting wind and cold tells me were walking through the fields owned by the cemetery toward the big woods in October, maybe November.  Those fields had once been a giant forest sprawling all the way to our back door. They evolved with the cemetery plans for more dead people.  But before the plots actually began to go in, those fields were also places to put up wild pheasants, and then to play football and baseball, with 20 neighborhood kids ready to scale the fence and abandon the field with the first glimpse of the cops, or worse, the “Cemetery Grouch” in the old blue Ford pick-up.

We would travel past Fisher’s Pond on our journey to the woods, where in summer months the neighborhood boys would gather to build rafts and hunt frogs. Bobby and Steve led, mostly carrying bows and arrows, or BB guns.  Early though, they carried axes, a shovel and knives.  Building an underground fort takes planning, and effort.  I remember watching the big guys digging out the cavern, dropping maybe 40 foot high aspen and cutting them into logs that would serve as the roof, covering the roof with dirt, and eventually, cutting the marsh grass that would make the floor warm for little brothers hiding from the winds. Those are memories.

During March Madness a few years ago, talking over a beer to an old friend who lived in a neighborhood directly opposite the big woods where we lived, talk turned to old days, old memories, and young hunts.  “Did you know,” he said, “that we found an underground fort out there once?”

In the day, there was actually a pheasant taken one afternoon by Steve and Jeff Eckmann with a barrage of BB gun fire and broken stock over the head of the rooster. It was a proud feast to bring home to the “village” by young warriors.  Steve said no bird, prepared that night by Mrs. Eckmann, ever tasted better.

I have memories too of Jim Ellis taking a cottontail with the bow on our hunting grounds when we were 10 and 12, and returning to the expected celebration at home.  What we got instead was a royal screaming at by older sisters disgusted by our cruelty.  Steve, though, shuffled us hurriedly to the basement to clean the rabbit, with a smile and a soft, “nice job boys…” And things were better again.

I tried to reclaim those memories this week. Micah and I walked slowly through the Cemetery Woods looking for antlers.  Sighting a deer in far southern Wisconsin in the 1960s was rare, but on this day tracks were everywhere in the spring mud and the little snow that was left.  We didn’t find an antler. The underground fort is gone in the wake of dump trucks and progress in the adjacent field on the edge of the woods. And the drone of heavy traffic, non-existent then, fell on me from the west.

But from deep in the woods I thought I saw the hint of an old blue Ford pick-up moving slowly on the winding road of the cemetery to the east. And was that a faint, angry voice that carried on the winds, and over the cattail marsh to settle over me…

“Hey…Kid….get the hell out of here…”

Thanks for connecting with On Wisconsin Outdoors.  Have you “Liked” Kwik Trip Outdoors yet, and claimed your chance for a $100 gift card?

Shoot straight.

Dick Ellis