Game Cams, You Can’t Have Just One

19 Dec

TMH Cam (1)

By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

About two years ago I finally started using game cams. We had given one to my dad for Christmas awhile back, but since he couldn’t figure out this advanced new technology very well, it wasn’t really used. That was until I finally remembered we actually had one of these things and we wanted to figure out where the bucks liked to hang out on the land we hunted.

So one day my dad and I finally went out and strapped the game cam to a tree on a common deer trail we knew. I took the typical goofy test pictures to make sure the thing was on, and walked away. We came back the next day to check it out and see what was on it, and already had like twenty-some pictures. We were of course excited to find out what was on it, but we didn’t have a laptop or anything with us at the time so I couldn’t view them until later.

TMH Cam (2)          Upon getting home, I immediately put the card in the computer to check it out. I was excited to see whatever was on it, which consisted of a few does, a small buck, and even a squirrel or two. After checking the cam a few more times throughout the next two weeks and getting a continuous flow of pictures, I told my dad we needed more cameras. At first we borrowed both of my brother’s game cams and had a fair amount of pictures coming in every week. Some of some good bucks, plenty of does, and many pictures of windy branches.

 

My beautiful picture

By the end of the fall and winter season I was running seven or eight game cams, watching almost every major area possible on the land. I would check them every other day or so, and with the help of a laptop, my dad and I could sit in the pickup and flip through the cards before we even left the place. By this time, I had figured out how to use the different picture burst modes and set a few cameras to take videos. It’s interesting to see how many different critters go by, and even funny to see when the animals notice the camera is there and come investigate it.

I’ve caught videos of squirrels climbing up my cams and knocking them sideways, pictures of deer basically taking selfies while sniffing the camera, and of course even videos of my dad trying to figure out how to change the settings when I wasn’t around to do it. Game cams are extremely fun to use, but make sure you keep watch on the cards and the batteries, or you may be disappointed to find out you didn’t catch a picture of the deer that left those massive prints right in front of your camera.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

 

Feeling Like Robin Hood

16 Dec 2015-08-07 001

2015-08-09 007By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

I got my first bow when I was about thirteen years old. I barely used it except for the occasional target shoot or a few fish. I decided to try for archery paddlefish again over summer, so I picked up my old bow and decided it was time to practice.

By this time my bow was really small for me, so I designated it to be my fish shooting bow. Before paddlefish season started, I decided I needed a lot of practice because I had maybe only ten to fifteen fish on my bow and arrow count. I had been out after paddlefish with a bow before, but it had been years. But this time I was also going to be going from shore instead of a boat, so I began chasing carp for practice.

upload 9.2015 322            The weekend before the paddlefish season I went out to my local lake and began looking for carp. There were a fair amount around, and I would pick them out by the dark lump in the water along the shallow edge of the muddy shores. It’s actually pretty easy to spook a carp, so I did my best to sneak through the tall grass and find a decent opening. Not even five minutes into my adventure, without having shot my bow in several months, I looked down the arrow and let it fly at a carp. I surprised myself; I got him. I had him on and reeled him on in to shore. I was excited as could be and ready to look for more.

upload 9.2015 264I walked the shore for about two hundred yards, spooked a bunch, missed a few shots and a couple wiggled off the arrow, but all in all I had arrowed and retrieved twelve carp in under an hour. It certainly wasn’t a whole lot of practice, but for not having shot my bow in so long, I was feeling great. I packed up, and an hour later my dad and I headed out to Yankton to sit at Gavin’s Point Dam and try for a paddlefish.

Paddlefish are a much different situation, though. They don’t like to just hang out on top of the water and wait for you to shoot at them. Paddlefish jump out of the water for a brief second or just come up and roll over. They are there and gone in a split-second. I sat there on a rock for hours and hours, bow drawn at certain times waiting and other times hoping I could just draw2015-08-07 019 and get a snap-shot.

To pass the time waiting for paddlefish when the hours were slow, I was launching arrows at nearly every bighead carp or gar that would pass by. The first gar that came by, I looked at my dad and said, “There’s no way I’m going to hit that thing.” But I’ll be darned, I knocked the arrow, let it fly, and got one of those super narrow gar on my first shot. I would go on to shoot about five more gar, and approximately fifteen bighead carp through the weekend.

2015-08-07 001I spent the entire weekend sitting on shore and shooting arrows, but I think I only really took two or three shots at paddlefish. Paddlefish were a major challenge for me to get a decent shot, but I was having the time of my life shooting at the other fish that came around. I may have left empty-handed for paddlefish, but it was extremely fun and I took the lesson that I should practice even more. A little later that summer I went back out and took out another thirty carp in about two hours.  I had never felt more like Robin Hood in my life.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

Paddlefishing for the First Time

14 Dec

paddlefish 2010 travBy Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

The first time I went paddlefish snagging I was about fifteen years old, and it was still the best paddlefish season I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget that first catch, because to this day it’s still the biggest fish I caught in my life.

Getting up early was the first tiring part of the day, but setting the anchor in the rapid current below the dam was the absolute worst. My brother Anthony and I were each holding anchors, dropping them, and waiting, but we had a rough time getting the anchors to catch. While my other brother Jeremy positioned the boat over and over again, it was after lifting the anchors up and down four different times that we finally had the boat set in one place. It wasn’t even fishing hours yet, and I was already drained of energy. I waited a bit to get my energy, and then took my FIRST cast.

paddlefish 2010 trav2I cast down river, and on the second yank I snagged into what felt a brick wall. I couldn’t believe it, I had hooked into what felt like a monster. I immediately knew this was going to be a pretty long, tiring fight. Given that it was only the second yank, my line was at pretty much the farthest distance of the cast, meaning it was DOWNRIVER a long ways, and I was supposed to pull the fish UPRIVER, against the current of the dams. I began reeling, and worked on bringing it in.

After about five minutes of reeling, I was feeling pretty dang tired, but the problem wasn’t really that I wasn’t strong enough to bring it in, it was the fact that the fish was pulling so hard it was digging the string deep into spool of my bait cast reel. The string was trying to feed into the spool where it shouldn’t, so the reel wouldn’t cooperate well while reeling it in. So that made the next ten minutes of reeling an absolute pain.

I finally got the fish to the boat, and upon bringing it in I basically didn’t have the energy to hold it. At first Jeremy held it up, but then after a moment he handed it over to me. I basically had to balance the thing in my arms because after fifteen minutes of fighting that fish I was tired as could be.  It weighed almost 45 pounds, and at first we thought it was 45 inches measured out, right at the keeping length, but it turned out to be around 44 inches. That being said, my giant fish I had just caught had to go back into the water because he was in the slot size for paddlefish. It was an extremely exciting catch, but definitely a sad moment to let it go. For the rest of that day I was so tired I barely tried more, but to this day, I’m still looking forward to catching one even bigger.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

 

Sunset Flood Fishing

4 Dec

bros in the sunset fishingBy Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

A few years ago, I had never seen the water so high at our favorite Platte area fishing spot. The entire shoreline we normally relaxed on and fished from was completely under water. The big tree that we used for shade was now so deep in the water that I could practically swim to the top branches. I didn’t know if we could expect to catch much, but my brothers and I figured out that it was pretty good fishing standing on the trail that was now underwater.

We all stood a little over knee high in the water, side by side, casting lures into our flooded beach. We figured that our trees that were usually behind us were probably now our best bet at catching fish by casting near them. Bass especially tend to like being around shrubs or plants in the water, so that’s what we tried.  The plan worked out well and we caught a few bass between the three of us. What I didn’t expect though, was catching a walleye out of what couldn’t have been more than six feet of water.

I had decided to cast straight forward into the open water and just bring it toward me through the underwater flooded grass, but I got a bite almost right away. I knew my fish felt different than a bass, but when I got in closer I was surprised to see that it was about an eighteen inch walleye, not a bad catch for an unexpected bite.

My brother Jeremy happened to have a little fish basket with him, so we tied it off to a weed underwater and let the fish basket rest near us so we could add up our catches.  We couldn’t believe that a walleye had just came out of such shallow water, so of course we kept fishing the same spot in hope of more.

After fishing for quite a while, we were now casting into the beautiful South Dakota sunset glaring off the water. We caught a few more bass and maybe another walleye or two, but it was relaxing to just stand there and fish in what felt like a completely new area.

It was a pretty great brotherly bonding moment and I’m glad my wildlife photographer sister Nicole caught a picture of us out there, because it turned out to be a pretty sweet photo.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

How I Picked Up Kayaking

23 Nov kayak on shore TH 2015

kayak on shore TH 2015By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

My dad and I had been talking about it on and off forever: “When were we getting kayaks?”

We kept putting it off and instead stuck with fishing from shore. That was, of course, until one day my dad showed up and honked the horn. I walked outside and saw a single kayak on the pick-up. He said, “let’s go try it.”

It was a typical South Dakota day – there was a crazy amount of wind.  Our small, local lake was only two miles away and my dad said he had already tried out it a bit. I was all excited and I looked out at the water and saw the rolling white caps. Nothing extreme, but I was definitely thinking it’d be a little nicer to try on flat water for the first time.

Trav on the kayak TH 2015That certainly wasn’t going to stop me though; I had a kayak sitting next to me and an ambition to get in and paddle around. I threw on a life jacket and hopped in the wobbly thing and paddled away. Within minutes I had complete balance and was cutting up and down waves and using the choppiness to my advantage. It turned out to be a perfect first test of balance. I would sit still in the kayak and feel how the waves affected the kayak facing one way, then face a different direction and do the same. I quickly adjusted to it and learned the best way to maneuver around.

I knew kayaking was something I was going to want to do often, so I turned back to dad and said “well now we need two more of these.”

A half hour later my dad and I went back to Menards and picked up two more Viper, 10’4” kayaks, one for my brother and one for me. They were brand new and wrapped up in a big chunk of plastic wrap.

bass off a kayak TH 2015Within a few days of owning them, we bought rod mounting kits to turn our kayaks into personal fishing boats. We had the kayaks in the yard and the power tools to cut and drill holes to fit the rod kits. After about an hour, we had every kayak prepped and mounted with two rod holders in the back, ready to go fishing. Later on, we also added an additional rotating rod holder by the cup holder for quicker convenience, and I could now use one rod holder to hold the net I would need to bring in the fish. We had developed our own ultimate personal fishing tools.

Ever since owning one, kayaking has been my favorite hobby. Of course by that I mean kayaking and fishing at the same time, but really it has been my go-to for everything when I wanted something to do. Kayaking is something I can enjoy for hours on end, and pretty much the only reason I’ll get out of it is because I was getting sore from sitting for so long, or it’s been a good day and I’ve got a few fish on the stringer that are about to become a tasty meal.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

A Good Reason to Get Lost

19 Nov

black hills scenery on top of rock - travis hIt’s the last weekend before college starts up again. It’s my birthday. My plan to visit Canada didn’t work out. Where do I go for my last adventure before the semester? The Black Hills. The Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most beautiful places that the United States has, and always has adventure to offer.

My brother Anthony, his friend Adrian and I headed out to the Black Hills with very little idea of where we were actually going to go while we were out there. All we knew was we wanted to hike something, catch some trout and sleep in a tent.

The start of our lost adventures begins with me not being able to find proper directions on my smartphone to the campground area we wanted. The service can be a pain out in the winding, deep valleys of the Spearfish Canyon area, but we knew there had to be a campground around. After checking out two different campgrounds in the middle of nowhere and finding everything full, we drove in complete darkness to somewhere we didn’t even know existed. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it had a deep valley, its own little lake, a big dock, and sign that said “Kayak Ln.,” so it felt like home to me. We set up our tents in the pitch black darkness and explored the campground the next morning.

upload 9.2015 190Although the campground was amazing, our goal of the trip led us to the Devil’s Bathtub. We packed up camp and loaded our backpacks with pudding packs, oat bars, and water bottles and headed out to adventure up the trails. My brother Anthony had also brought his fancy pull-apart fishing pole for when we found somewhere that looked promising to fish. The water up there is naturally cold, but that didn’t stop us from taking the brisk, chilly dip in the deep pools of water you find along the streams. Along with that, we passed around the fishing pole and all caught a little trout or two. We tossed them back in and kept walking. The Bathtub was great and we spent several hours there, but the next day’s adventure was where being lost became amazing.

We were in search of Hippie Hole, the well-known cliff jumping spot in the middle of an enormous valley. With the help of some random kid on a dirt bike, he led us and our Monte Carlo down a trail meant for nothing other than off road vehicles. Along this trail, we drove up hill after hill where we were able to see for miles and miles. We loved the view, but before we ran out of daylight we made our way to Hippie Hole first.

upload 9.2015 195After hiking some pretty rough terrain, jumping up and down boulders and trees, we finally got there. We each took the polar plunge twice into the water, and spent a good amount of time just relaxing in the cove behind the waterfall you jump over. Running out of daylight, we headed back to that peak we passed to see the land and watch the sunset.

This trail, in the middle of we-don’t-know-where, led to probably the most amazing view I have personally seen. We climbed up this giant rock, and just sat there. That’s all I needed to do to enjoy the moment, just sit there and look around. Stare at world.  We spent every last moment of daylight we could, looking around, just enjoying nature in all its natural beauty.

Paddlefish: Mission Accomplished

16 Nov pfish 2015 travis h

pfish 2015 travis hBy Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

One of my absolute favorite seasons that South Dakota has to offer is catching Paddlefish. Snagging paddlefish is a very special event for me, because I only draw a snagging tag about once every three years. Paddlefish are one of the biggest and most extraordinary fish that you can find in South Dakota, and they taste amazing of course.

My dad and I headed out to Gavins Point Dam in Yankton in the evening of the first Saturday of the season. The place was filled with people and I had about two hours of fishing time left in the day, so I found myself a spot and started casting away. My dad did not have a tag, so he opted for watching everyone fish and scoped out which places seemed to be the best if a spot opened up. In my two hours of fishing, I caught one paddlefish that measured approximately twenty-seven inches from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail; that’s how paddlefish are measured. I also lost a few lines to some snag spots. I couldn’t wait to keep fishing the next day.

The next morning came and I was sitting on shore at 6:45 a.m., fifteen minutes before people are allowed to start casting. The shore was beginning to fill up, but I had my perfect spot set and was just waiting for the clock to tick down. At 7 a.m. sharp, every person on shore picked up their poles and cast out, including me.

I cast out as far as I could, yanked once, yanked twice and had a fish on. I looked to my left, and see that the next two people down from me ALSO had fish on. I was working on reeling in my fish when my neighbor’s line happened to cross into mine because his fish decided it didn’t want to come in easily. He got his line in but it was tangled in mine. His catch turned about to be a bighead carp, and my fish was still out there swimming around. We spent a couple minutes untying the lines and after that I cranked in my fish- a paddlefish.

I measured it, and it came to be almost at the absolute mark of thirty-five inches, the biggest you can keep for the bottom half of the slot limit. Paddlefish between thirty-five and forty-five inches have to be thrown back, and I’ve seen a very select few above forty-five caught, so I had decided I had my keeper in just a matter of a couple minutes into the morning. I was almost disappointed to be done so quickly because half of the fun is catching and releasing a few slot fish, but then again I was also excited and lucky to have caught one that measured to be a keeper.

After tagging my fish and cleaning it, I stuck around just to watch other people fish, as well as help people bring theirs in. If someone had a fish coming in and no one with them to grab onto it, I was running for the water’s edge to grab the tail and pull them up the shore. There were paddlefish hauled in much bigger than my own, but almost all of them were thrown back due to the slot size. I even helped haul in a fifty-pounder that measured just shy of forty-two inches. I felt bad for the guy who had to let that one go, but at least it was a great catch.

While I spent that extra four hours helping people bring in fish, I witnessed about fifteen more people keep paddlefish under thirty-five inches, and only one keeper above forty-five inches. It made me realize how lucky how I got on my first catch of the day, but it was time for me to get packed up, and I headed home. I can’t wait for my next chance at paddlefish though, because I’m definitely going for the one over forty-five.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

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