Up Close & Personal Hunting Alligators

The research was done and now the time came to fish or cut bait.  My wife Pam and I took off to Braithwaite, LA to hunt Alligators.  From Council Bluffs we headed to St. Louis and then down I-55 for our first stop in Memphis, Tenn.  This was an enjoyable drive and we had the opportunity to see country we had never seen before. That night we enjoyed some of the finest barbecue we had ever experienced.  

From this overnight stop we were off to Louisiana for our overnight stay at Chalmette, LA.  This was a great opportunity to enjoy some fine Cajun cooking and we took advantage of the local restaurants. After a good nights rest we were pumped and ready for the hunt.  

At the jump off for the hunt, we met our guide Fred and Grant his assistant.  This was very educational and interesting.  These two men were from Florida where they took tourists on air boat tours of the swamps in their area for bird watchers. When we were out on the boat, Fred was able to identify every bird we saw and tell us something about the specie.  This added to the adventure.  In addition he had previously been a commercial hunter of Alligators in Florida for many years.  There was plenty of know how with these two men and we became very comfortable.  

During the month of September they came to Louisiana to guide for the owner of Louisiana Marsh Adventures.  This is Alligator season in Louisiana.  We had the expertise of these men with guiding, the marsh area, and handling alligators.  This made for a great trip. 

The first thing I was required do was sign my license to hunt Alligators in Louisiana.  Then we were given an orientation of what would happen and how we would hunt the beasts.  A critical thing was the placement of the bullet in the gator to bring it to a quick demise.  

 

If you look where Fred is pointing his finger this is the spot where the bullet would be placed to kill the gator. It is about the size of a quarter. There is a moon shaped curved bone that goes over the head of the beast and the spot where Fred’s finger is pointing is the spot.  This leads to the spinal cord.  When the bullet hits this spot the gator will crock off.  It sounded easy, but I was to learn how difficult it really was to get to that spot.  

Placing the round anywhere other than this spot would not kill the beast, and you may have a bigger fight than you had bargained for as it might make the beast angrier. 

Fred had a small rifle that shot a 22 magnum shell and that did the job.  This was the smallest caliber shell I have ever used to kill big game.  As I looked at the gun, I really missed my 30-06 and my 300. 

 
 

This is the air boat that took us around the swamp.  We were supplied with ear muffs to protect our hearing and life vests in case we fell out of the boat.  Grant told us just to stand up as the swamp was not more than waist deep  The engine was very loud and the ride was really exciting as we slithered over the top of beds of vegetation. 

Pam in the air boat. 

Just before I sat down. 

Grant getting ready to shove us off. 

Fred running the boat. 

We headed from the dock into the swamps.  We passed through a gateway that was built into a Levee separating the dock area from the swamp.  This was constructed after Katrina to prevent flooding in the future. In case of another hurricane the gates can be closed to prevent storm surge. 

Entering into the swamp, Fred explained how the gator were baited.  A quarter of a chicken is used as bait and hooked into a really big hook.  The bait is suspended above the water attached to a fiber glass pole with the line attached to a tree on shore.  They want the bait suspended high enough so that small gators cannot get at it and out of the water to avoid other creatures that would feast on it.  The picture below is not the best due to the sun, but it gives you an idea what you would find if a gator had not grabbed the bait.  Fred told us after the season was over it took two months before he could eat chicken again.

 
 

The line is tight at this location.  That means there is a gator on the end ready to be pulled in.  Fred said you can never know how big it is until you get it up to the side of the boat.  Sometimes big gators come to the boat gently and other times they raise holy cane and you never know what you have.  

This gator was not big, but what was interesting was a really big gator was holding onto it’s body.  He was eating on this gator and had eaten almost all of his tail.  When he saw us, he let go and sank back down into the dark.  Fred said he was a nice specimen and he wanted to come back and check this location as the big gator may want to finish his meal. Fred said he could see bubbles rising from the swamp.  That meant it stayed around.

We moved through the bayou checking out the locations where bait was set.  In each case there was a small gator on the hook.  I would pull it in far enough for Fred to get a good look and then decide if it was worth keeping.  In almost every case it was small and Fred would say, “We have more baits to check and we will keep checking until we find a big gator for you to kill.”

After four or five spots, we pulled in a really good looking beast.  Fred said we will remember this big boy and see if we can find something bigger.  He was estimated at 9 to 10 feet in the water.  He came to the boat slowly until the distance between his nostrils and his eyes could be seen.  That, I was told, was how you can tell the size of the gator.  We saw some gators swimming that were estimated at over 12 feet just by judging the distance from the nostrils to the eyes. 

 

 

Spanish Moss

 Looking at the canal we were on. 

Flying over the vegetation that was growing on the canal. 

 

This is the biggest gator we had seen previously that was hooked and we had passed him up to look for a bigger beast.  We came back to this location to harvest him after checking a number of spots.  He came to the boat slowly but as I felt the line he was really heavy. I handed the line to Fred and got ready to shoot.  I could not get a good bead on the sweet spot as the gator would not stay next to where I was standing. Fred was off to my left.  Also, I had the gun up quite a ways from the gator’s head. This was not the correct way to make the shot.  This was not like shooting a scoped rifle at a big animal.  Right at the time Pam took the picture, I was doing poorly.  I did it all wrong and took a shot.  Even though it hit the gator’s head, it did not kill it and suddenly it became really enraged.  I am not used to shooting iron sites especially at a moving target. 

 Fred told me to come to his left side and put the barrel of the gun close to his head at the right time.  The reptile was really enraged after I shot him in the head. He rolled and went back and forth. Finally, there was a pause and I put the barrel of the gun right above the spot and shot him. The small rifle was not heavy and I took the gun out of my shoulder and just held it with my right hand. All at once he went dead still in the water.  Fred kept him in the water and let him bleed out.  That way he would not have blood in the boat. 

There it is, calm as can be after putting up all that ruckus.  Fred estimated him at 9 to 10 feet.  He was maneuvered around until he was slid into the bottom of the boat.  All of a sudden his legs moved and it scared both of us to death thinking he was still alive.  Alligators, I was told,  have a lot of nerve endings in the extremities so his tail moved around also.  Fred taped his mouth shut and that made me feel better. 

Then he said, “I have two tags to fill.  Do you want to shoot another one?”  Now, I was not going to pass up another opportunity to shoot another gator and anyway we were having a great time.  We must have stopped at eight spots to see if there was a big gator there.  If there wasn’t, we moved on to another baited spot, all the time looking at the beauty of the bayou and observing the many birds.

Pam and I helped Fred move the gator into the bottom of the boat.  He felt like smooth soft leather and the top of the tail and the body that I thought was an exo skeletan was nothing but smooth and semi soft hide. 

The next location proved to be thrilling as this gator from the beginning did not like being hooked and he was excited to get onto the boat.

This beast was really angry.  He tried to take off and dive down. Next, he was trying to roll.  Fred handed me the line and I could hardly hold onto it.  Slowly I got him up to the side of the boat where I handed the line back to Fred.  This gator had a real nasty streak in him and I was concerned that with all the commotion I would not get a shot.

As I started to put the bullet in the sweet spot, he rolled and the round went into the water. I missed and shot the water.  Fred said, ” Take your time.”  The gator was not going anywhere and when he stopped rolling momentarily, I quickly took the opportunity to shoot.  I had the gun at the backside of his head and let him have it right in the quarter size spot on the back of his head.   He went limp.  You can see that I am holding the gun with two hands and the end of the barrel is just above the gator’s head.  I remembered my mistake after taking the first shot on the previous gator and learned a lesson.  That picture was taken right after the shot was made and you can see the blood coming out.  He was kept in the water to let him bleed out before he was boated.  

That made two gators and we had an outstanding morning.  First, we saw hundreds of birds then the beauty of the bayou plus the alligator hunting.  To show for our efforts, we got to harvest two of them.  My deal with the outfitter was to keep the gator head and hide.  I would have to wait for 6 months to get the tanning done or trade it out for one that was already tanned and prepared.  We took the trade, and that way we went home with a head and a hide. 

For meat, we bought some meat raised at an alligator farm rather than the meat from the bayou which would have been muddy tasting.  We were not interested in that.

Pam and I with the two gators. 

Fred and I with the two gators.  I am 6’3″ so that gives you an idea of the size of the two of them. 

What a trip!  So much excitement in such a short period of time and we enjoyed every minute.  The plus was traveling around the bayou on an air boat and enjoying the outdoors, including all the birds and vegetation.

We highly recommend Louisiana Marsh Adventures. (https://www.louisianamarshadventures.com)

Sierra Trading Post

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank. 

Huntin Dem Gators

Last winter when it was cold and miserable outside while sitting by the fire staying warm inside, researching and reading something interesting was the order for the day.  I enjoy the history channel  programs.  One program really caught my eye and it was called “Swamp People.”  Hunting alligators looked really dangerous and took a lot of skill.  Getting hooked was easy and every week the program was watched with fascination.

American Alligator.jpg

On a trip with our favorite tour company in South America, alligator was part of the buffet among other things that were not very interesting.   A number of the people in the group tried it out, and it tasted really good.  I can truthfully say it reminded me of chicken.  It did not taste like chicken, just reminded me.  Locking the experience away, the research was started to see what would I have to do in order to have the experience of an alligator hunt.

I was amazed at how the locals of the area hunted these big prehistoric monsters.  It was assumed that they slipped quietly through the swamps and when eyes poking up were spotted, they blasted them with a high powered rifle in the head.  That is my preferred method of harvesting big game and most important dangerous game.  From Buffalo, to Hogs to Bear, never give them a chance.  Those animals can put a really bad hurt on you short of death.

They baited them by hanging a piece of chicken from a limb on a really bad and big looking hook and then periodically checked to see if the bait was chomped down on and the hook swallowed.  As the hunter approached the location where the bait was tied, there was no movement.  After the hunter picked up the line and started pulling it toward him, the water parted and the devil himself rose up to take a chomp out of the person who did this to him.  The fight was on.

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It was amazing how a person could hold onto those enormous gators.  I saw sizes up to 11 feet and they were really angry.  When the gator’s head was in the right position next to the boat, it was shot with a small caliber bullet right in the back end of the head.  It was amazing.  The big animal went totally limp after all that ruckus it raised.  Hauled into the boat, these beasts were enormous.

I talked to my wife one day about going on an alligator hunt, and as she walked away to take care of some business, I am sure she said, “go ahead, I don’t care.”  To this day, it has been assumed, she did not hear me, or did not want to hear.  Anyway, the research was on.

Learning about your quarry and who they are is one thing that should be done before going after something of this nature.

The American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensi) is the largest reptile in North America. As I watched all the shows on TV, they looked greenish black to me but they are apparently black of color. The color of the water where the shots were made might have been the reason for the color  Big head, long tail, and a round body with short thick limbs make them easy to spot. That huge tail enables the monster to propel itself through the water. and the tail accounts for almost half the length of the beast.

Their diet is mainly fish, turtles, various mammals, birds and other reptiles.  There are approximately 5 million gators in the U.S.  Florida has an estimated 1.25 million with Louisiana second.  Based on the article I read, their range appears to be moving northward.  Wait till they get to Iowa.  When father winter sets into the prairie, it will all be over if they make it this far.

The big gators are very territorial and will defend their territory.  I don’t know against whom, unless it is another big creature or a hunter.  They live in freshwater such as marshes, wetlands, rivers, and swamps.  Mating season is April through May.  I thought that hunting season would be during this time of the year, but not so.

The female will lay about 25 to 50 eggs and they generally hatch around mid August. What was really interesting was how nature determines the sex of the creature.  Temperatures of 86 degrees during incubation produces females and temperatures of 93 degrees produces males.  After they hatch, that is the sex they will become.  I am sure there must be other creatures of the wild that experience the same type of sex determination.

First stop was Florida, and a good place to begin the research and find an outfitter that would meet my requirements.  The state is plush with possibilities, and since Pam decided to go and we would be taking coolers and driving, we then focused on Louisiana.  This state is number 2 in population and the Alligator is the state reptile.  If you are on the east coast, go to Florida.  You will find an outfitter to meet your needs.

I started out with lodges with all the amenities, but moved off of that idea as there were not many of them. Some really plush vacation spots were found, but I just want to kill an Alligator.  We are not looking for a week long swamp experience in an exquisite and expensive resort.  Most of what I found was in the New Orleans area and there were lots of options.  One was really interesting and I would have to book a year in advance.  At my age I may not be around next year, and so moved on to look at another option.  The hunt at this location was basically a day, with guide, boat, and lunch provided. When talking with the owner, he wanted to know how big a gator I wanted to kill.  Having no idea, I said one that is representative of the area, but at least eight feet.

There is a season in September when the beasts can be hunted.  Licenses are required and being an out of stater I had to buy the out of state license.  What was interesting was all of the outfitters charged for my wife to come along, and that was $250.00 extra.  She is coming with me as we intend to dine on some Cajun food, and she is in charge of the camera.  We are planning on killing one.

The outfitter we selected was Louisiana Marsh Adventure in Braitwaite, LA 70040.  Phone is 504-684 3432.  You can also locate them on their website at (www.louisianamarshadventures.com).  Ask for Mike. I found him very informative and helpful.

What Pam and I want out of this experience is to harvest a gator that is representative of the size for the area.  We also want some alligator meat, the head, and the hide.  I found out that I can buy a head and hide from Mike and take that with me home along with meat that is pre-packed and frozen.  Otherwise, head and hide would take some time to get tanned and processed.  We decided to come back with a hide and head that was on site.  That way we would not have to wait to get the animal back.

The hide will be given to a friend of mine that has a hobby of leather working.  He is looking forward to getting the hide. Hopefully he will make alligator purses for our wives.  The head will go on the mantel above the fireplace in our lower level.  Right above it is a picture of a very beautiful country pond.  The head will be very fitting there and make a good conversation piece.  We have friends that are looking forward to the meat.  They are good sports will and gag down most anything.

 

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck, Hank

 

Alligator Recipe

 

Ingredients: 

 
 
  1. 2 lbs. alligator tail meat cut into 1 inch squares
  2. 3 cups milk
  3. 1 cup mustard
  4. 2 tablespoonfuls creole seasoning
  5. 2 cups fish fry mix of some brand
  6. 2 cups pancake mix
  7. cooking oil

Directions;

  1. Soak 1 inch cubes of alligator in milk for two to three hours.
  2. Drain milk and season meat with creole seasoning.
  3. Add the mustard to the bowl and stir the cubes coating well.
  4. Mix fish fry and pancake together and put in shaking bag along with the coated cubes.
  5. Shake the living daylights out of the mixture.
  6. Fry in oil until golden brown,  suggested temp is 375 degrees.
  7. Serve with slaw, your favorite high caloric french fries, Tusker Beer if available, and fish dip. 

Bon Appetit 

Back to Webster South Dakota

Wow, the weather just stayed rotten during the last weeks of May and the first of June.  Looking at a trip to the panhandle of western Nebraska was totally out of the question not unless things turned a little more mellow.  My favorite haunt for the last 20 years is the Glacial Lakes region of eastern South Dakota.  So it was with deep intent that the study of the weather and frontal movements in that area began.

The fronts just rolled through with winds and T storms through the area.  There is always one thing that is constant and that is the wind.  It is either blowing or howling in the Webster SD area.  I noticed there was an opportunity for a high pressure to move in for a few days and the forecast was for clearing skies and breezes, more or less and probably more, from the south.

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After church on a Sunday, the weather was studied for the last time and the decision was made to go in the afternoon and fish the next two and a half days.  The next problem was a room.  The motels were full, but I could stay at two different ones if I did not mind changing.  I am by myself so that is not a problem.

The drive up was uneventful except the cars once in South Dakota went by me like I was standing still.  The speed limit is 80 mph and the natives drive it plus.  Pulling the boat and I maintained a steady 70.  I need to point out that in the Sioux City, Iowa area on I-29 law enforcement places a remote radar detection device that takes a picture of your vehicle and license plate and if you are going faster than the speed limit, you are nailed.  It has already cost me $65.00 so if you are traveling north or south in the Sioux City, Iowa area, pay attention to the speed limit.

Next morning after grabbing bait, advice, and 5 gallons of coffee, the boat was launched at the Kanago boat ramp.  Wind was right out of the east at about 5 mph.  The water level looked a little lower than it did last year.

Fishing was started just 100 yards from the boat ramp working a chartreuse jig and crawler in eight to twelve feet of water.  Getting more shallow put me into moss beds and coated up the lure.  At eight feet no moss was picked up.  Good returns on the fish finder showed plenty of fish in the ten foot area.  After working the area for about 45 minutes moving south east from the dock, I headed northerly to the first big island.

The southwesterly corner of the island and half way up I picked up small mouth bass
 

On the northerly side of the island and staying in at least 8 to 12 feet of water, I worked the jig along the shore.  Bomb the rod bent over and the line moved back and forth.  What does that and there is only one thing that I am sure of and it was correct.  I started picking up small mouth bass.  They are fun to catch back and forth and they take off and run just like a northern pike.  Plus you may have to work the catch around the boat to the other side as they have a lot of fight.  There is a slot limit in South Dakota and you can keep only fish under 14 inches or over 18 inches, and they eat really good. 

Moving up along the side of the island to where some timber sticks out, walleye were boated.  They were not big but were above the 15 inch range.  As long as the boat was kept in about ten feet of water, I got a lot of hits and now and then a fish.  As fast as it turned on, it turned off and I did not catch a thing.  It was time to move.

The northerly tip of the first island, and it was at this location walleye and small mouth bass were caught. 

On the lake at 6 AM my energy level began to run a little low.  At noon, it was decided to take a break enjoy some lunch and check in at my next motel, and take a nap if I could get in the room.

The wind was still out of the east, but picked up a little.  Putting the boat back on the trailer alone was a bit of a task, and fortunately a fisherman came over and gave me a hand.  There is always someone willing to help when you are alone.  I counted the boat trailers and there was 37 at this location.  There is another ramp north that I did not use this trip.


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Back on the lake by 3:30 PM, I fished the area of Bresky Bay and then got nothing. I then fished the islands on the northwest area of the lake.  Not a thing was caught and not one strike was felt.  Moving down the northerly side of the lake, the old school bus point was fished for about 30 minutes.  The minute the boat got less than 5 to 8 feet, moss was picked up on the bait.  The graph did not show much and never got a strike.

Bresky bay.  You can always find it 

 

From here I headed southeast to the standing timber on the south side of the lake that protrudes out into the lake.  No runs, no hits and no errors.  The graph showed nothing and there was little time spent at this location even though years ago there was some really nice fish hammered.

This in the past has been a good location.  Just southeast of school bus point and years past fish were caught here. Water is about 15 to 20 feet deep.  

 

From this location the boat was moved into a bay that is surrounded by timber on three sides.  There is a buoy line that you are not allowed to cross as it puts you in a federal reserve.  It is easy to spot. There is a lookout tower on the south shore hillside.  Some sparse standing timber marks the buoy line.  I would love to fish that bay because no one is allowed to go in there and it has to be a regular fish market.  We will never know.

There is a poacher following me around.  That is the tree line in the bay the buoy line is just beyond the trees.  Over the years I have always had some good luck at this location.

 

Staying in the 8 to 15 foot range produced nothing.  The water at this location was a little warmer than the water back on the west side of the lake.  Also I was continually having moss problems.  Moving out to 20 feet and hits were made and I picked up a nice walleye.  My limit was made for the day and it was time to head back to the dock.

 

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck. Hank. 

Fishing a New Lake

Last fall we had friends tell us about fishing Johnson Reservoir at Lexington, Nebraska.  Since it is only a 3 hour drive from Council Bluffs, IA we decided to give it a try.  The state of Nebraska in the early spring had put out a list of the top Walleye lakes and this was one of the closest ones to us.  The really good ones were way out in the pan handle of western Nebraska.


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The weather had been horrible in the spring and fishing would not have been very good.  Cold temps with lots of rain and wind in the central part of Nebraska would not make it worthwhile to make the trip.  When we got into the first week of June, temperatures changed and there was a series of high pressure areas through the mid section of the state.  We decided to give it a try and my wife, Pam, said she would come along. This is the advantage of being retired.  You go when things look good.  You do not have to wait for a weekend and hope you won’t get blown or rained off the lake.

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The lake is really close to Lexington and the the town has a population of ten thousand plus.  It is a good size community for central Nebraska.  There is plenty of good restaurants and lodging is good plus there is plenty of opportunity to park a pickup truck with a boat.  This is important for a fisherman that does not want to rough it.  Read my book “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman,” available through Lulu and Amazon.  In my old age I have become soft or I just like to have comfort when I go hunting or fishing.

We checked on line the availability of place to buy bait and there is only two.  The first one is a gas station and convenience store.  They have everything you need.  The second is on the west side of the lake.  They have good advice.  You can always drive down to Elwood just a few miles south of the lake and they pride themselves selling Arkansas shiners.  A smaller minnow with a streak of silver down the side.  I have to admit this bait produced better results.

We drove out in the morning.  On the west side of the lake is a fish cleaning station and a boat ramp that is really great.  The facilities are owned by the state and you need to buy a Nebraska Park Permit.  The permit is issued for each 24 hour period that you are on the lake.  We had planned to fish the afternoon and evening, the next morning and then home.  One permit was all we needed.  The boat ramp is very good and you can launch from either side.  The ramp drops quickly into deep water so there is no problem of getting the boat off and back on the trailer.  I have fished alone at a strange lake before where the ramp was in shallow water and I have made a horse’s backside of myself getting the boat off and on the trailer.

The ramp is at the inlet from a stream for the lake.  We were told to fish about 20 yards from the inlet and on the opposite of the lake.  We were also told there was an 18 inch slot which is a really nice fish.

 
There is Pam fishing diligently.  What is amazing is when she pulls out a book and starts reading, she catches a lot of fish.  The secret to taking you wife with you is a good motel, good food, and a good book to read while they fish. 

There must have been ten boats all jigging or still fishing from the dock.  We found an opening and started fishing working jigs recommended by the bait shop.  At this location we did not pick up a thing and decided to move over to the easterly shore line and work a drop off that weaved the length of the lake.  The center of the lake is deep.

Boat ramp to the left, inlet to the right.  When we first got here there must have been 10 boats.We did not see anyone catch anything.

 

Wind was south westerly and so the fishing as the sky clouded over picked up for us.  We worked the red and white jig in eight to fifteen feet of water.  We picked up fish.  That part was good, but the walleye were in the twelve to fourteen inch range.  This is a good sign which means they are spawning and the lake is reproducing.  We also picked up white bass.  Now, we both like the meat of white bass after you remove the red meat from down the lateral line.  Here again the fish were small and we pitched them all back.  As of the afternoon and evening we did not boat a keeper fish, but we were busy taking them off and putting on another shiner.  A successful day is catching even if you don’t keep any.

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As evening approached we pulled out and were both starved.  Also, the shade from the clouds came and went and we got a little thirsty.  Always take plenty of water.

Off the lake we headed into town and on the west side of the road is a Mexican restaurant.  If you like Mexican food, it was outstanding.  I do not remember the name, and it was not a chain, but the food was plentiful and really great. It is the first Mexican restaurant you come to, so you can’t miss it.

The next morning we hit the lake early and wanted to be off before the weather hit.  The forecast was for rain and wind and at the time we put onto the lake there was northerly flow and we had a low overcast.  We skipped fishing at the inlet and headed over to the east side of the lake and began to jig where we had caught fish before.  It was still somewhat hot, but nothing like it been the previous day.  Catch and pitch was what was going on, and then it totally turned off, and the temperature went down a little.  This must have been the frontal passage and it was time to get on the road.

We got off the lake and covered the boat in the parking area and headed back to C.B. The timing could not have been more perfect and the rain began to pour and it came down in buckets.

We caught fish, but I believe this lake is fished really heavy as there is housing almost all around it.  If you want white bass, this is probably one of your better choices.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank.

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Hiroshima/Miyajima Island

We were down to our last two days of the adventure to tour Japan and visit all the highlights. The city of Hiroshima was our next to our last stop in Japan. We spent two days exploring this reconstructed “City of Peace.” Situated on the Ota River delta and close to Hiroshima Bay, Hiroshima has been an importing trading center and strategic military point since the late 16th century.  The Japanese military recognized the city’s prime location and set up a logistics base that would last until 1945 – when our military dropped the first atomic bomb ever to be used during military action.  
 
The attack leveled Hiroshima, crippled Japan, and led the Japanese to surrender just six days later. The Japanese parliament later rebuilt the city from the ashes of its total devastation.  
 
After arriving from Kyoto by express train, we embarked on a half-day city tour that included Peace Memorial Park, home to several memorials dedicated to those that perished during the bombing.  We visited Peace Memorial Museum, displaying photos and belongings left behind by victims of the attack.  
"A-bomb Dome" amidst ruins of Hiroshima (the dome is now a World Heritage Site).
This picture was taken from a Department of Energy (Manhattan Project) website showing the devastation the bomb produced. Pictured below is the building over which the bomb exploded.  The framework is still standing. Source
(https://www.osti.gov/opennet/manhattan-project-history/Events/1945/hiroshima.htm)

 

Ground Zero.  Please note that the building is still somewhat standing and this was due to the dome at the top.  The bomb was an air burst at 1900 feet.  According to our guide the burst was centered over the dome which deflected the blast outward from the building.  That is why the building while is still somewhat standing and was not flattened. All the people inside were instantly killed. 
The building before the bomb was dropped. 
 
 
This bridge was the aiming point for the bombardier of the Enola Gay.  Of course the original bridge was totally destroyed, it has been re-built on the exact location of the original point.
 
This memorial is the Cenotaph It contains the names of all those who died in the bombing with an inscription which reads
“Rest in Peace. We will Never Repeat the Error.”
“Children’s Peace Monument”
It is dedicated to a child victim of the bomb.  The monument is symbolized by a crane meaning longevity and happiness. On top of the monument is a girl with outstretched hands who died from radiation.
Memorial mound contains the ashes of tens of thousands of people cremated on this spot. 
That evening dinner was on our own and we enjoyed  a dinner of okonomiyaki.  This is a dish of cabbage, noodles, and egg, fried with meat, cheese, and seafood for which is Hiroshima is renowned. 
 
Next day we traveled by local train to Miyajimaguchi.  There we boarded a ferry to Miyajima Island, a sacred location in the Shinto Religion.  For many centuries, it was illegal for anyone to inhabit this sacred ground. 
 
Legend has it that the first Shinto shrine was built here during the 6th century in honor of the goddess of the ocean, the daughter of the goddess who created Japan itself.  We toured the island and visited We toured the island and visited Itsukushima Shrine, Built toward the end of the 12th century and renowned for its red gate.  This shrine stands on piers above the water in order for visitors to enter by boat without disturbing the land below.  
 
Itsukushima Shrine
We held up our camera and got to take a picture of this gentleman and his son.  The boy looked so precious. 
We just happened at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony with the bride and groom dressed in traditional Japanese dress. 
 
Prayer service 
 
Shrine and temple. 
 
 
 
We then took a gondola ride on the Mount Misen Ropeway.  At the summit you have a stunning 360-degree view of the island and Hiroshima.
My beautiful wife in the gondola car on the way to the summit.

 
 
That is me riding the gondola car to the summit.

 
This is one of the most phenomenal trip we have ever taken.  From the food to the scenery and deep history we cannot say enough nice things about Japan based on what we saw and experienced. 
 
When I get back it will time to go duck hunting and based on the reports I have had from my good friend in the blind John, things have really stunk. Who cares now after this experience.
 

 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Insider’ Japan Part 2

On day 5 we traveled by motor coach to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, home to one of the most photographed sights in Japan, if not the world: almost perfectly symmetrical Mt. Fuji , standing regally at 12,388 feet high in the park’s midst. 

Before we got on the bus, this is a good picture of downtown Tokyo

 

Tower in downtown Tokyo  taken from our hotel room.

Before reaching Mt. Fuji, we took a leisurely boat ride on Ashi Lake.  An absolutely beautiful park where we took in the scenes of the whole park.  Unfortunately, the weather was quite overcast and we did not get any distant views of Mt. Fuji.

Boat for a tour of Lake Ashi      
Shinto Shrine on Lake Ashi

We then took a motor-coach ride to the “fifth station” of Mount Fuji, which is the embarkation point for those climbers brave enough to attempt the summit.  We had a panoramic view of the summit. The weather, however, was really cold and very windy.  Clouds kept obscuring the summit and in between the moving clouds we were able to get some  photos.

Mt Fuji.  We were lucky to get that picture as the clouds kept obscuring the mountain.
 

A dormant volcano Fuji-san as it is known to the Japanese, last erupted in 1707 and the resulting ash reached all the way to Tokyo where it actually covered buildings.  The mountain’s majesty is breath taking, as writers and artists have attested for centuries.Leaving the park we continued on to the town of Hakone and our traditional ryokan lodgings for the night – and a special night it was indeed. Upon arrival at our intimate inn, we were shown to our Japanese-style room, where we removed our shoes before entering.  Then there was the opportunity to dress in traditional Japanese clothing before dinner.  But first for those willing, we had the opportunity to bathe in a traditional Japanese bath, men and women in separate facilities.  Dinner was again outstanding and we savored a traditional tea followed by dinner featuring dishes using fresh local ingredients.  Going to bed for us was quite unusual.  We slept peacefully on a futon in a room of serene minimalist design.  It looked like a mattress on the floor, but it was firm and very comfortable and we both slept great.

Our room at the traditional Japanese hotel.  Very austere compared to our way of living. The Futon was wonderful to sleep on.
The next day was the start of an exciting experience.  We traveled via bullet train, and Wide View Hida express to the Hida Mountain of Takayama.  The town is considered one of Japan’s most attractive settings with its 16th century castle, a beautifully preserved Old Town and historic buildings dating to the Edo period of 1600 to 1868.  Before we could leave it was recommended by our guide to buy a bento box lunch, a food box packed with Japanese specialties which was very enticing to our eyes and taste buds.  Now this is very interesting, the train stations all had fast food and restaurants located through out the main part of the station.  It was not a problem to stock up on some Japanese goodies. 
 
The bullet train.  This is the way to travel at over 200 mph and really smooth.
 
Pam and I on the Bullet train.
Mt Fuji as seen from the bullet train.
 

The bullet train ride was thrilling and the train really moves and what is really interesting they are always on time.  People just move in mass to get on and no one crowds or pushes.  Next we transferred to the Hida express which is not a bullet train but a slower moving train that weaves around through the valleys and over streams where we could view small villages and towns along the railroad.  The mountains were very steep and had the look of being volcanic at one time.  We really enjoyed this ride through the mountain valleys on the way to Takayama.

Our explorations in Takayama center on three narrow streets in the San-machi-suji district, where in feudal times, wealthy merchants lived amidst the authentically preserved small inns, tea houses, peaceful temples, and sake breweries some of which have operated for centuries.  During our tour we enjoyed a sake tasting at a sake brewery.  It was outstanding and we learned the process of making sake.  I also found out sake could be drunk cold or hot.  I preferred hot sake, and the owners of the brewery were very generous.  The ladies on the tour visited some of the region’s unique lacquer ware and carvings of yew wood.  The men of the trip sat on a bench outside the sake brewery to allow their eyes to come into focus.

Narrow Streets of Takayama
Dinner as displayed outside a Japanese restaurant. 800 yen = roughly $8.00.
Sake brewery displaying their wares.
Our guide on the right and the brewery owner on the left giving instruction on how to make Sake.
Rice barrels of sake outside the brewery.

That evening we again had an outstanding Japanese style meal.  It was  excellent, and I was starting to go native.

Next morning we visited Takayama’s centuries old Miyagawa Morning Market, where stalls selling everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers to pickles, crafts, and fish, line the streets leading to the river.  We could have spent more time in Takayama as up to this point it was our favorite stop.  We both thought it was because it was untouched by the war and was a typical example of old Japan.

The market had every type of fresh vegetables they have in Japan.

The we departed for Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Villages, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising thatched-roof homes relocated from villages that were razed for the construction of a dam.  In addition to its status as a World Heritage site, the village also is a vibrant community whose residents work together to preserve the Grassho-sytle architectural style unique to this region: wooden houses with steep thatched roofs made to withstand heavy snow.

Thatched covered home.  People still live in this village
Lunch.  Don’t ask because I had no idea, but it was excellent.  I have gained a taste for the cuisine.
The village.

We continued on to the Miboro Dam, Japan’s first and largest dam built with “rock-fill technology” using only stones and clay.  We traveled on to reach Kanazawa, alluring city that survived the ravages of World War II because of its out of the way location between the mountains and the Sea of Japan.  Though somewhat off the beaten tourist path, Kanazawa is prized among Japanese as the country’s best-preserved Edo-period city along with Takayama.

 

Dinner was on our own in this city known for Kaga, or traditional cuisine (particularly sushi, and sashimi).  I was going more native by the day.

Japan has many gardens and in Kanazawa on the next day we visited the renowned Kenrokuen Garden.  This is a national landmark whose origins date to 1676.  One of Japan’s three finest traditional gardens, Kenrokuen represents the six qualities required for the perfect garden: extensiveness, facetiousness (Man-made), antiquity, water, wide prospect, and quiet seclusion.  Its trees, ponds, waterfalls, and flowers stretch over grounds of 25 acres.

We also viewed Ishikawa Gare, the only remaining section of the town’s original castle; Higashi Chaya-gai teahouse district and Higashi-Chayamach geisha are of tall, narrow houses.

We toured the Hakukokan Gold Leaf Museum, which celebrates the art and craft of gold leaf technology and houses a collection dating to the late 16th century.  A center of gold leaf craft, Kanazawa produced the gold leaf covering Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion that we saw in Kyoto. Our last stop is the Nagamachi Samuari district, where the ruling family’s (samurai) warriors lived on narrow streets protected by tile-roofed earthen walls.

Gold leaf covered Samurai Warrior
Pam made a gold leaf design on a plate.
 
This is the result of Pam’s work.    
Pam’s reward was a gold speckled ice cream cone.

The next morning we boarded the train for the two hour journey to Kyoto, Japan’s Imperial Capital for a millennium and now the country’s cultural and artistic capital.  A true gem with more that 1,600 temples, hundreds of shrines, three imperial palaces, artful garden, and well-preserved wooden architecture, Kyoto embodies Japan’s rich culture and complex history.

Street of Samurai homes, gardens, warriors garb

First we see Kyoto National Museum, which comprises three exhibition halls displaying ancient Asian art, texts and scrolls.  Then we visit the Unrakugama Pottery, a family-owned pottery house producing fine handmade ceramics and earthenware.

Master Potter

We began our tour of Kyoto at the 16th century Ryoan-ji Temple where we saw the dry garden of sand and rocks (kare-sansui), a marvel of classic Japanese design.  The simplicity of its 15 rocks belies a complex symbolism which its designer never revealed – but whatever the meaning, we’re sure to feel the calm that the garden is meant to instill.  Our next stop was Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion constructed in the 14th century as a retirement villa and later converted to a temple.

Rock Temple
 

The Temple is covered in gold leaf from Kanazawa all the way up to the upper floors.  Its setting on pillars suspended over the water makes it one of Kyoto’s most inspired – and inspiring – sights.  Then we visited the 17th century Nijo-jo, the medieval castle of the first Tokugawa Shogun, containing “nightingale” floors that squeak to signal the presence of intruders.

Temple is covered in gold leaf.
We ended the day at the Kodaiji Temple to attend a tea ceremony.  Botha a state of mind (calm and content) and performance art prizing ritual and grace above all, the traditional tea ceremony to this day represents the principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility encouraged by Master Sen no Rikyu, who perfected the ritual Zen practice when tea first was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century.
Our guide Kondo-son explaining the ceremony to the group.   
 
Preparing the tea
Gigantic Buda
 

On our last day in Kyoto we visited the most famous of Kyoto’s several geisha districts with its traditional tall wooden merchant’s homes.  As in Knazawa, property owners historically were taxed on street frontage, so they built tall rather than wide.  Then we encounter the city’s traditional culture as we stroll through lively Nishiki Market where shop owners sell a colorful variety of local dishes, fish, fruits, vegetables, crafts, and other wares.

Geisha district.
 
Young ladies dressed in native attire.     
Fish Market    
We were moving all day long and I have left out a number of temples we visited.  At one particular temple there a ceremony that had just ended and we saw this couple with their little girl walking toward us.  We smiled, bowed, and held up our camera.  They stopped and motioned for us to take a picture. 
 
What a beautiful couple with their little girl.  She was so precious and we were very pleased that they let us take a picture of their family. Of all the pictures, this is our favorite.
 

We covered so much ground and saw so many historical and authentic sites that it will be very difficult to sort it out.  Hiroshima is next on the agenda. 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 

  

 

 

 

Success is only a Shot Away

The next day was another beautiful and sunny mid western day with not a cloud in the sky.  Most of my friends that hunt turkeys are up before dawn cracks and are on site at first light to nail a big bird as they come off the roost.  I have done that before, but an old turkey hunter recently passed told me most of the big birds are harvested between 8 and 11 AM.  
 
That works well for me as I pack the truck in the evening and after breakfast and five gallons of coffee, I head up to where I am going to hunt.  On that day. I would hunt on the opposite hill of the big valley where mister big shot came out of the woods.  The general spot was well remembered, and my goal was to nail that big sucker when he stepped into the open to scratch and peck.  
 
Hiding places were not good as the bank rose sharply into the timber and there was not a lot of cover.  I should have brought my tent blind along but it is just one more thing to have to carry or unload at the hunting location.  Plus, I sometimes wonder if a bird does not finish because that tent is sticking up at a location where there was nothing before.  I would hope readers would drop me a line and tell me their experiences.  
 
Close to the bottom of the hill there was a pile of timber that had fallen and was dead as a door nail.  I could push myself up against the fallen timber, but I would be open in the front again.  I have done that before with success, but also with failure.  Checking everything out, getting behind the fallen timber was not a good idea due to all the branches and the steep rise in the terrain. 
 

I was all set up by 8 AM and waiting for my guest to appear.  With the gun across my legs, the call in my hand, and the camera at my side, I was hoping for success on all fronts.

 
It did not take long.  Mr big shot stepped out of the timber. with the jake.  He was off to my right about 35 yards and he was very positioned for a shot.  The jake then stepped out of the woods and was right directly between me and the big tom.  I should have shot the jake just for spoiling my shot at the big tom, but I didn’t.  The two of them walked straight away from where they popped out of the woods.  
 
I gave a couple of clucks and he answered, but did not move off his line of walking away.  Pretty soon, he was out of range and then he turned and was straight away from me.  The jake just kept on walking away, and I said to myself, “I will get you next year.”
 

I had the funky chicken decoy right in front of me about ten yards out.  He then puffed up and started for the decoy.  I slowly laid the call down and ever so slowly pulled my legs up.  Then again, I very slowly moved the gun up and laid it across my knees with the butt of the gun in my shoulder.  This was perfect and I said to myself, “just keep coming toward me because I have a nice surprise for you.”


flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
Click on the decoy or the link above and buy from Bass Pro.  This is the decoy to have that sucks those big toms in and makes them really mad.  They just want to kick sand in his face.

 

Slowly he turned to his right and slowly walked away.  I had a shot, that I did not take.  It was a little long, but I am shooting #5 shot with 3.5 inch shells and a full choke.  I have done this before, and it is because I wanted him closer and it appeared that was what was happening.  My readers, write to me and tell me your experience.  

 
There is Mr. Big Shot out of gun range, but still showing off.  

Quickly he was gone and strolling away at about a 30 degree angle.  What was interesting was the jake did not join him, but kept walking away.  I am going to get that sucker come fall or next spring.  He has spoiled two shots for me and he deserves to be in the oven.  When I cook him, I will have friends over and we will toast his demise with some fine champagne.

Anyway, now I am sitting with nothing in site except the squirrels in the trees behind me and facing the sun.  It was getting warm, but patience is a virtue and this time I had some for a change.

Off to my left came four birds doing their thing of scratching and pecking at the ground.  As they came closer it was three jakes and a descent size tom.  Ok, he is not the biggest boy in the woods, but meat is meat.  I gave some clucks and the tom stuck out his neck and gave a good gobble.  Not bad we will take him if he comes closer.

I wanted pictures of the group, but again there was to be NO movement.  My bottom was getting a little sore and my back ached, but I still did not move.  No pain, no gain was the saying of the day right now.  A couple of clucks and they adjusted their line of travel straight toward the funky chicken.

The boy would spread his fan and start to strut, but then would fold it up and continue his advance.  He definetely had the funky chicken in his line of sight.  He would spread the fan take a few steps, let it fold back up and repeat the process.  Off to my left was a tree about 5 feet away.

The boy pulled to the front of the pack with the three jakes lagging behind.  I pulled the gun into my shoulder and waited till the tree was between me and the bird.  At that point, I adjusted the gun and my legs for him to step into my line of sight and the gun’s barrel.  When he stepped into my line of sight, kaboom.  He folded up like a sack of potatoes.  We will have potatoes with him when he is cooked.

Nice young tom and he will make a couple of great meals with friends.  He was really big in the breast. 
 

He was flopping around like I have seen them do so many times and with a 22 cal. Ruger I gave him the finishing touch in the head to let him bleed out.  The reason for this is to avoid having blood run down my back as I picked him up by the legs and thrown him over my shoulder.

What was really interesting was the fact that when I came out of the hiding place the jakes did not take off.  They seemed really confused and did not flee until I gave him the final plunk in the head to bleed him out.  I have seen jakes hang around before one time, and this is really unusual.

Picking him up, he was really heavy and I had judged the size by the smaller fan he displayed.  When I got him home he yielded two nice slabs of breast meat that headed to the freezer.  The thighs and legs I give to a friend that I hunt with.  He is from the mountains of West Virginia,  and has an appetite for all kinds of game and parts.

This was a great hunt. 



Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck,  Hank

 
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Here Comes the Big Boy

I arrived just as it was getting light and parked down in a valley.  The landowner had told me of a big tom hanging around the house and being a big loud mouth just after day light.  He acted like he was the only one in the woods and valleys.  I knew right away what he needed was a good shooting.
 
At the recommendation of a close friend I had picked up the Funky Chicken Decoy from Bass Pro and put it out.  My friend had personal experience with this decoy and told me to get one as when the toms spot it, they become enraged.  This I felt I had to see. 

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
Click on the link or the picture and buy from Bass Pro. 

 
I climbed up a hill and put out the Funky chicken and a couple of breeding hens decoys.  The instructions that came with the decoy had mentioned to get a couple of feeding hens as they believed it would calm the toms a little and let them focus on the Funky Chicken.  This made sense to me, but at this time I did not have the time to pick up a couple of feeders.  Breeders was what they were going to see.
 

A good place was found to hide and the sun would be slightly behind me and off to my left.  Pushing back into the timber, the concealment was good on the left and right, but I was wide open to the front. This was not good, but I was at least in the shadows and with the leaf suit on.  Turkey success was accomplished with this manner before, but it had also fowled up some good shots. Because of their excellent vision, they had found something wrong and had split.

I am sitting on the top of the hill pushed back into the opening just to the right of the center of the picture. 
 
It did not take long and off to my right two specks were spotted coming out of the timber on a direct line to my hiding place.  As they they came for me they did what turkeys always do.  They scratched and picked up seeds.  Closer and closer they came and then they started up the hill.  At this time I could see one was a really big tom while his partner was a really big jake.  All of a sudden the big tom stopped dead in his tracks.  The jake kept moving slowly up the hill scratching and pecking at the ground picking up seeds.  
 
Thinking to myself I said, “Whatever you do and regardless of how uncomfortable this might become, do not make one move.”  As he stood there my gluteus maximus was getting sore and to pull up my legs would have given me a lot of relief.  I did not make one single move other than breathing.  
 
Now this was really interesting.  This giant, as he stared toward the top of the hill, knew something wasn’t quite right.  Also, he had a good view of the Funky Chicken decoy, and it was obvious he was fascinated.  I do not believe the breeding hen decoys made a bit of difference. This guy had not gotten big by being careless.  Slowly he took a couple of steps forward and spread out his beautiful big fan.  As the sun hit him with the fan spread out, I could see the beauty of the big guy with all the colors.  To re-position myself would have been a great relief.  I did not move and began to hurt. 
 
At this point, he was probably 50 yards down the hill.  I still did not think I was seen as I was surrounded by the shadow of the trees around me.  He began to walk back and forth with his fan all spread out and his head tucked back showing off his prowess.  If you can visualize what was going on, he was initially 30 degrees to my right and walked all fanned out, of course, till he was straight to my front.  He was close, but I wanted a closer shot.  It was decided that when the shot was made, he would be a whole lot closer so as not to cripple this big beautiful bird.  I wanted him in the freezer. 
 
He kept this movement up for at least 15 minutes slowly getting closer.  The jake stayed right with him and at times the jake was between the tom and me.  That was when I re-positioned myself, got the gun upon my knee, and made sure I could get a good shot.  This was most important.  On the first shot I wanted to see the bird tumble and flop around like they always do.  If he turned right his backside was facing me for just a couple of seconds and I could get re-positioned.  When he turned left he was staring straight at me.  What I wanted to do was take a picture, but that would have been too much movement, and that would spook him for sure. 
 

The Funky Chicken decoy was out about 15 yards, and a marker had been placed at the 20 yard spot.  I shoot 3.5 inch shells with a full choke and Winchester shells shown below.  At the 20 yard spot he would be history.  Closer and closer he came and my patience was wearing really thin, but it was maintained.  He strutted and strutted but would not come any closer, and slowly he unfolded his fan and began walking down the hill with the jake.

 
An expletive (deleted) was uttered as he sauntered off.  Should I have shot?  This will be an unknown that will keep me awake at night.  How many chances does a person get in a life time at a really giant bird.  
 
Then I heard a hen right behind me and as I turned to look at her, she split off in a hurry making a lot of noise.  The sun had moved to a point where I was illuminated from behind me and this may have spooked off my quarry.  What has really left me feeling low about this loss was the fact that the landowner’s brother came out one afternoon and shot the biggest tom he had ever seen.  It happens. 
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 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. 

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Insider’s Japan Part One

 

How do I get to hunt and fish whenever I want and spend money on hunting trips all over North America?  It is really quite simple.  My wife likes to travel to faraway and exotic places in the world and this year I planned a trip to Japan through our favorite tour company, Odesseys Unlimited.  What an exciting experience as we traveled by tour bus, trains and rode the bullet train several times.  We liked that.

The trip lasted 14 days and we visited a total of nine cities and towns, some located in the mountains.  The seacoast surrounding the island is where the majority of the population lives and it was in some of these cities that the bombing during WWII took place. In these cities the buildings all look new and have earth quake protection on the outside of the sky scrapers  When we traveled into the towns in the mountains, they were untouched by the war and we saw and felt the Japan of decades ago.

I have never seen so many beautiful and well maintained buildings. Notice the support structure up the side of the building.

The first thing we noticed was how clean the cities were.  This was absolutely amazing and we never saw a scrap of paper anywhere or a cigarette butt(s) all over the sidewalks and streets.  Greenery was along the streets and sidewalks all trimmed and maintained as if we were in a garden.  Civility was very prevalent by the population and this is something we are not used to in our country.   The cleanliness and civility of the population is the result, I was told, of the Shinto religion observed by 80% of the Japanese population.  Besides being very civil, the population was well dressed and groomed unlike much of our population we have in our cities.  The police seemed to be non existent as we did not see any and took note of this fact. 

 Tokyo is a vast metropolis compromising 23 wards and 26 cities with a population of over 13 million residents, and 844 square miles.  It is also the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, which has a population of more than 35 million, the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

We started out our excursion in Ancient Tokyo at the famed Meiji Shrine, a peaceful enclave of temples and gardens dedicated to the late 19th century Emperor Meiji and his wife.  Built in traditional Shinto style with low wooden buildings surrounded by square courtyards, the shrine is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.

 Entrance into the Shrine and courtyards
 
Rice wine barrels 
 
Gardens were everywhere with beautiful flowers, Chrysanthemums
 
Shinto wedding.  Notice the bride in the background.

 

This was a cleansing station.

Shinto Priest

 

The next stop was the Asakusa Kannon Temple, which contains a golden image of the Buddhist Kannon, goddess of mercy.  According to legend, two fishermen dragged the statue from the sea in 628… but visitors cannot see it since it is hidden from the public.  However, you can make your way to the front of the temple to bathe yourself in smoke from the incense cauldron.  It is said that the smoke brings good health.  Since my wife and I are both in our 70’s, we breathed all the smoke we dared without passing out.  We need all the help for good health we can get at this stage of our life.

Notice the smoke in the background in from of the temple. The shopping arcade is located along and  parallel to the buildings. 
 
 
Buddhist temple
 
It was hard to get up to the smoke to make ourselves more healthy.
 

Outside the temple there was time on our own to explore the Nakamise Shopping arcade. It was filled with stalls selling local dishes, Buddhist trinkets, and popular souvenirs.  A close friend of ours is Buddhist so this was a good opportunity to buy him something special from the country.  Food stalls were everywhere and since lunch was on our own, we checked them all out.  They did not take American dollars but our guide told us to plan on one dollar to equal 100 yen.  When we bought anything we just held out a handful of Japanese yen and let them take what they wanted.

 Young ladies dressed in traditional Japanese attire.  Notice the phones. 
The ladies were everywhere.

After almost a full day of touring we headed back to the hotel.  We were still feeling the affects of the plane trip over and needed a nap before dinner.  There was more exploration to do.  Our entire group commented on the people and how courteous they were.  Everyone has respect for the other person and no one was rude, crude, ill mannered or ill tempered like it is in our country.  This was a refreshing experience.

We visited a park in downtown Tokyo and observed  the beginning of a wedding ceremony.
 
This building was where our hotel was located starting on the 26th floor.  Wherever we went we always kept track of that shape so we could find our way back.
 

At breakfast the next day, the hotel served a European style breakfast along with traditional Japanese food.  We ate the western style in the morning.  In the afternoon and at dinner it was Japanese food.  Lunches were easy, but the evening was really different.  Fortunately I ordered hot sake with the evening meal, so my inhibitors were not working and I was ready to try anything.  We found some food had a bland taste, but after watching the locals in restaurants, we saw that they would stir  wasabi into the soy sauce and then dip the food into the mixture.  It added a lot of flavor and by day three we were eating raw fish right along with the natives. I have no idea what it was, but it all began to develop a unique flavor with each course. Comments were made in our group that as long as it did not move, eat it.  When we added some hot sake or plum wine to the meal, we were ready to conquer anything.

We visited the Imperial Palace District. Surrounded by moats and ramparts the palace is home of the Imperial Family.  Called Kokyo, the huge complex dates to the 15th century, when territorial disputes required massive fortifications and complex societal norms demanded elaborate palaces to reflect the high positions of the feudal lords.  When completed, the Imperial Palace was the largest district in the world.  From the lovely East and Outer gardens we saw the ruins of massive moat and walls that remain.

Moat surrounding the palace grounds.  The constant rains on that day spoiled picture opportunities.
 
Gardens on the palace grounds.  
 
Neatly trimmed trees and gardens were everywhere.  The Japanese are master gardeners.
 

Next we traveled to the gallery of one of Japan’s preeminent calligraphers, Koshun Masunaga.  Here we learned about this ancient art and browsed the collection. A demonstration of the art form was given and we were rewarded with drawings that depicted each of our personalities. This whole presentation was truly magnificent as this lady is recognized throughout the world for her talent.

This lady is recognized all over the world for her talent.

 

 
The artist’s assistant in front of some of the artist’s works
 

Lunch again was on our own and it is interesting that the menus are outside the establishment on large billboards with pictures and the price.  We studied the pictures, priced the meal in yen, but we could not read the description.  Going inside, we looked around at what the locals were eating then made our selection.  I saw the waitress deliver a noodle shrimp dish to a gentleman at the next table.  When she came to our table, I just pointed to the gentleman next to me and she brought the same thing after laughing.

That afternoon was free time and the ladies wanted to go shopping.  This was an experience out of the 1950’s.  There were very well dressed clerks there to help us with anything we wanted at each department of the store. This was a first class department store.   Plus all of these young ladies were very pretty and well dressed.  The ladies on our tour had a great time in the store and the guys just wandered around in amazement.  This was shopping like I used to see in the big department stores in our home cities when I was a little boy. The employees were there to help you whether you could speak the language or not.

Back near the hotel was a tram that circled Tokyo bay.  All information and signs were totally in Japanese and the train or tram was totally automatic.  You bought a ticket to where you wanted to go and then slid it into a machine that collected the ticket.  That let you on, then when you got off at the stop you had purchased, you slid the ticket back into another machine, and it ate it. In other words you were done.

My wife and I were standing there trying to figure things out.  I wanted to go, but my wife said we would get ourselves lost.  Actually, this was not a problem because we carried a card with the name and address of the hotel on us, so if that happened, we could show a cab driver and he would take us to the hotel. We did not worry about getting robbed or rolled.  This is Japan, and you could go out on the streets after dark.

The assistant guide for the group happened along and helped us purchase the ticket and told us at which station to get off.  We went out along the harbor of Tokyo bay and circled back to our starting point.
Tokyo Bay from the Tram. 
More of Tokyo Bay.

 

Looking forward out the front window of the Tram.  There are no operators and it is all completely automatic.  You have to know what you are doing to ride it.  Fortunately for us, our assistant guide came along who could speak fluent English and helped us along the way.
 

After dinner, we crashed.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.   Hank 
 
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Hunting the Wild Turkey

 
The eastern wild turkey offers one of the most challenging hunting experiences available and appeals only to the most dedicated outdoors-men. Wild turkeys have extremely keen senses of sight and hearing and are normally able to avoid human contact so successfully that hunters often do not detect their presence. The instincts for survival are most highly developed among adult gobblers, making them among the most sought after trophies in North America today.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
This decoy came to me highly recommended by a long time friend.  Last year he hunted with it and it was all that he used.  It made the Toms really mad and they came to beat up on it in droves. He plunked the one he wanted and then sat and watched the Toms get really hacked off at the decoy.  This is all I am using this year and will post about what is happening. Click on the link or the decoy to buy from Bass Pro.

Turkeys are hunted during two seasons – spring and fall – which are differentiated by styles of hunting and the primary quarry. Spring gobbler hunting is most widespread because shooting males has no impact on the future growth or dispersal of turkey populations, even at the new release sites. Turkeys are promiscuous, with only the largest, most dominant males obtaining harems of a dozen or more hens. Non-breeding males are thus available to hunters at no cost to the population. Even heavily hunted areas seldom sustain hunting losses of as many as 50% of the adult males.

RedHead Reality Series Aluminum Friction Turkey Call
Click on the link or the picture and buy from Bass Pro.  One of their best sellers.

 The principal spring hunting method is to locate toms gobbling from the roost at daylight and attempt to call them to the hunter by imitating the yelps, clucks, cackles and whines of a hen ready to mate. Hunters wear camouflage clothing and sit completely motionless for as long as several hours to escape detection by keen-eyes gobblers. Success rates for resident spring hunters is 20% (non-resident hunters 40%) due to the good turkey densities found in Iowa. Because 10% of the hens also have beards (the hair-like appendage hanging from a tom’s breast), any bearded turkey is legal game in the spring.

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Fall turkey hunts usually are allowed only in states with well established turkey populations. In Iowa, turkey populations and a decrease in fall hunting demand, has allowed a 2 bird bag limit, until the quota is filled. More young poults are produced than survive the rigors of winter and escape from predators to reach the breeding season, thus allowing limited fall hunting before much of this natural mortality takes place. The most common fall hunting technique is to locate a flock of turkeys, scatter them as widely as possible, and call back broods by imitating the assembly yelps and clucks of the adult hen or kee-kee of lost poults. Gobblers are not particularly interested in finding hens in the fall, making them extremely difficult to call and shoot. Inexperienced young turkeys return readily to the hen and commonly make up 60% or more of fall harvests. Fall hunters also use complete camouflage.

 
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 

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