FUN in the OUTDOORS with GOOD FRIENDS
Last summer, a few friends from Texas and I went “up north” to Saskatchewan to fish for walleye, pike and lake trout with Bryce Liddell, who owns and operates a fly in fishing camp on a remote lake. We became instant friends and we Texans invited Bryce and his friend Gary Drieschner down for winter fishing, hog hunting, and game cooking. The festivities began last week and I am just back from several fun filled days. I’m sure Bryce and his buddy will be heading back up north with a pretty good idea of what we Texans that love the outdoors, do in the wintertime!
THE OUTING BEGINS – Early in the week, Bryce and Gary spent a couple night hunting wild hogs near Graford with my friend Deryl Markgraff, who is an expert in thermal night hunting. Our Canadian buddies were exposed to a new and exciting way of hunting hogs when the evening shadows fall and, as everyone knows, the wild porkers become most active. When I “linked up” with the crew at Lake Tawakoni on Wednesday, the guys were still pumped about the night hunting experiences they shared with Deryl.
GIANT BLUE CATFISH – Lake Tawakoni is the undisputed king for a winter destination for trophy blue catfish anglers, and my friend David Hanson has been putting clients on the big fish action longer than anyone I know. The guys met at the dock of Anchor Inn Marina just after daylight on Wednesday and were joined by Jeff Rice, who owns the Buck and Bass Ranch located 45 minutes away, near Yantis on the upper end of Lake Fork. Other than being the best catfish guide I know, Hanson is also a superb cook and after a day on the water catching blue catfish up to 56 pounds, he prepared an early fried catfish dinner with all the trimmings. We left Hanson’s ranch a bit stuffed with all the good food, but happy. Just after sundown we arrived at Rice’s ranch, situated on a timbered ridge on the upper end of Lake Fork. The area is thick with wild hogs that make their home in the remote bottomlands and are pulled out of the cover by Rice’s many corn feeders.
ON TO THE HOGS – Because of a lack of moon, or the Polar Star being in the wrong culmination, or whatever natural force that dictates hog movement, the hogs were sticking tight to their beds and not hitting the feeders during the daylight hours when we were hunting. Deryl and Gary did “sneak” out at night with the thermal gear and located one boar that had decided the corn was just too tasty to avoid. The evening meal was what I jokingly refer to as one of my “signature” dishes; smothered wild pork loin, mushroom gravy and rice! The next day, we headed southeast to join my other buddy, Mark Balette on his ranch near Groveton to continue our adventure!
ROUND THREE WITH THE HOGS – Mark owns and operates B & C Outfitters and hosts scores of hunters throughout the year on his ranch. This is definitely his most busy time of year, but he devoted a couple days to hosting our group. After settling into the lodge, I heated up some wild pork BBQ, baked beans and potato salad for lunch, and later, Mark gave everyone a tour of the place. Our Canadian friends were impressed at seeing for the first time, the many species of exotic animals that roamed the ranch. On the first evening hunt, several guys put hogs on the meat pole. Gary was the most successful of the group and arrowed three hogs with his crossbow, but everyone had a great hunt and left with fresh pork. During the second day of the hunt, Mark Balette and I made 25 pounds of smoked sausage from a summer sausage kit from Butcher Packer Supply. While “cranking” out the sausages, we recalled the first time we made sausage together from a freshly harvested wild hog and doe whitetail, just over two decades ago!
I won’t kid you, there was a great deal of good natured kidding and an equal amount of what we Texans refer to as BS going on during our stay together, but everyone shares a love for the outdoors and with an average age of what I would estimate to be upper fifties with a couple of guys a bit older, myself included, there were many, many hunting stories to tell.
If you think we Texans have stories to tell, you should hear some of the experiences of a north country bush pilot who has spent a lifetime flying into remote fishing and hunting camps and guiding hunters in some of the most remote country in North America. It’s one thing to get a good eating 200-pound “meat hog” off the hunting lease, but quite another to deal with a 1,500 pound Yukon moose that goes down in three feet of frigid water, five miles from a remote camp, and many air miles from the nearest civilization.
We parted ways after these fun-filled days, making plans to fish together next summer in Canada. Closer to home, Markgraff and I planned a mid-week night hunt for cotton tail rabbits on his lease near Graford. The two of us love putting our game to good use and rabbits are thick. With any luck, we will be able to “vacuum seal” some tasty rabbit for upcoming meals. Yep, that’s the way we outdoor folks roll! May this lifestyle go on forever!