A busy week in the outdoors
By Ben Gruber
It was another great weather week for us here in central Wisconsin. Sometimes, at the end of a week, I sit down to write this column and question if I have done anything worthy of sharing with you all. This was not one of those weeks.
I took a trip to the Horicon area late last week. Belle, our 7-month-old lab puppy, got dropped off at Full Throttle Retrievers. Jessie Richards is a hunting dog trainer, and I was impressed by her energy and passion when I spoke to her. The breeder that I got Belle from recommended Richards to me also, so it made it easier for me to commit to the training program.
Belle will be gone for 10 weeks with Richards for basic gun dog training, and then I may send her back for another 12 weeks after hunting season. I had planned on doing all the training myself but quickly realized that if I wanted a top-notch retriever, I needed some help. Still, it was tough to drop her off. I felt a little bit like dropping a child off at boarding school.
I will try to keep you up to speed on her progress. I am curious to see how this goes as I have never sent an animal away for training.
While in the area, I could not resist a stop at the Horicon Marsh. What a beautiful place. A combination of National Wildlife Refuge and State Wildlife Area stretching across 32,000 acres, it is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the U.S.
In my short walk there, I saw at least 50 species of birds. Frogs were calling, prairie wildflowers were in bloom, and I saw plenty of deer fawns too. It is worth more exploration for sure. Next time I go I will take my canoe. I plan on making a day of it when I go down to check in on Belle.
Thursday my buddy Josh and I competed in a bass fishing tournament on the Biron Flowage. I used to work with Josh, and we try to do a lot of duck hunting together come fall. It was good to get a chance to fish together.
Usually I am too busy in the summer for much fishing. When I saw a poster at work that one of the guys was putting together a friendly and low-key bass contest in the middle of the week, it was too good to pass up.
We hit the water at 9 a.m. after breakfast in Wisconsin Rapids. The boats at the dock ranged from tournament-style bass boats, a rickety old boat that I think was used in the filming of the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” to our low-riding duck hunting boat.
The duck boat was our secret weapon as it allowed us to navigate through the rapids into the tail waters below the paper mill dams. We worked harder than we thought we would need to, but we did manage to catch a six-fish limit of smallmouth bass. Most of them barely made the 14-inch mark on the ruler, but Josh did catch a really nice one. We put fish No. 6 in the livewell with exactly 17 minutes left before weigh-in.
We were one of two teams to catch six legal fish, and it was good enough for second place. The first place guys had us by a few pounds, so we have some work to do for next year.
We did not get rich, but we did get to hang out with a good group of folks, make some new friends, and catch up with some of my co-workers outside of the job. Though, we did win enough to pay for lunch and a tank of boat gas. Good times.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.