Hunting Above Ground? How to Stay Safe…Treestand Safety Guidelines

Get Ready for your Fall and Winter Hunt during the summer months. Click for How To Stay Safe.

  • Get ready for hunting “Above Ground” during the Summer Months
  • Get a full body harness, then learn how to use it
  • Carry a cellphone or signaling device
Stay attached to the tree from the ground to the stand, during the hunt and back again with a properly installed Hunter Safety System Lifeline.

By Bob Holzhei

Each year, thousands of hunters are injured in tree stand accidents. In fact, according to the Treestand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), there are about 4,000 emergency room visits each year due to tree stand falls.

Don’t wait until hunting season arrives to practice tree stand safety. Now, the summer months, are the ideal time to begin practicing to get ready for the fall hunt. When fall arrives, safety measures will become part of your routine.

As I got older, I gave up hunting from a tree stand and purchased a 10 by 10-foot hunting shack and loaded it onto my hay wagon. The insulated shack is heated with a Big Buddy Heater and is comfortable. My wife added, “You can go out there and sleep overnight whenever you want!”

There are a number of tree stand safety guidelines which will help educate hunters and are excellent suggestions to review prior to a yearly hunt.

First – Use a full-body fall arrest harness system, the meets stringent, industry standards. Wear the harness system every time you leave the ground, including ascending or descending from the tree stand. Single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer allowed. Serious injuries including death have occurred each year.

Second – Attach a Full Body Harness System according to the manufacturer’s directions. The tether should have no slack when sitting. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover to your Treestand.

Third – Always “read, review, understand and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.” If questions arise, contact the manufacturer.

Fourth – Always use a haul line to raise your backpack, gear, and unloaded firearm or bow to the Treestand. Prior to descending, lower the equipment on the side of the tree opposite your descent route.

Fifth – Practice using your Full Body Fall Arrest Harness System in the presence of a responsible adult, prior to using it in an elevated hunting environment. Learn what it feels like to hang suspended in the harness at ground level.

Sixth – Have a plan for recovery, escape, and rescue, including the use of a cellphone or signal device for use while suspended. If you are suspended before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree. If you do not have the ability to recover or escape, hunt from the ground.

Approaching the age of 74 the hunting shack provides a comfortable place to hunt!

The HSS-HANGER is the only treestand harness designed for the off-season, hanging and removing tree stands, cutting trails and shooting lanes and running trail cameras.

Compact Outdoor Cookware: Ideal for Backpacking & Camping

  • Durable and innovative line of outdoor cookware
  • Ultimate outdoor eating solution integrated into one package   

By Bob Holzhei

Our four children, my wife and I, have camped throughout our lives. We started first with a 9 by 9 tent, then moved up to a pop-up camper, then a travel trailer, and finally we purchased a fifth wheel travel trailer with four slide outs. Thing is, maximizing space throughout the years was always a priority, after all, there’s no use packing things that may not get used. That is one reason why I wanted to share some of my experience with those of you just getting started. Where space and efficiency is important, products from GSI Outdoors have met the mission.

My compact 4-person outdoor cookware set includes a 3-liter pot, 2-liter pot, a 9-inch frypan and 2 straining lids. The Pinnacle Camper Set also includes four 14-ounce bowls, plates and mugs-complete with sip-it-lids to complete the package.

For my family, it’s our ultimate outdoor eating solution integrated into one package that easily fits into a backpack too. At under 4 pounds and a wonderful 9 by 9 by 6 compact size, the kids can go on side treks and weight and size are not a factor. I could not believe it either.

GSI Outdoors is in the business of making cookware and dining products that adapt the comforts of home to active outdoor lifestyles at the campsite, cabin and anywhere in between.

They continue to expand their designs, adding additional innovative lines of outdoor cookware, tableware and accessories. It works for us outdoor folks that share a passion to be outdoors and have the additional need “to be small and light.”

When well-built hardware brings people together in the outdoors, I thought you’d like to know about some of the best I have found.  You can find their products in many outdoor outlets or go directly online to: https://gsioutdoors.com.

 

Legend of Jacques Cousteau Lives On from Port Sanibel Marina, Florida

  • Calypso’s Maiden Fishing Voyage – 106 miles from port in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Fishing Shark River, Outlet of the Florida Everglades
  • Four Roaring 350 Horsepower Mercury outboards
  • Shark On…the Adventure of a Lifetime!
Captain Ryan Kane with his new “Calypso,” a 42 foot long Renaissance Prowler with four 350 Hp Mercury Outboard engines. Ready for long-range fishing fun.  Shirley Holzhei Photo

By Bob Holzhei

“She was beautiful, gorgeous, erotic, and brand spanking new! Her curves and shape attracted the attention of fishermen everywhere and captured their hearts like falling in love for the first time. She was a virgin about to embark on her maiden voyage into the Gulf of Mexico ‘far beyond the sight of land,’ 106 miles from the dock at Sanibel Island Marina.

She was a mermaid in the water; I fell head over heels in love with her when I first saw her. As I boarded her, my heart rate increased in intensity. She took my breath away. A first touch, was followed by an embrace which led to anticipation in passion for the climax of the story! One never forgets falling in love for the first time.

“I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau as a kid, he’s a legend. His boat was named Calypso,” stated Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters.

“Cousteau was a French undersea explorer, researcher, photographer, and documentary host who invented diving and scuba devices, including the Aqua-Lung,” Kane added. “The television special – The World of Jacques – ran for nine seasons on ABC television network and had millions of followers. I had to name my new boat Calypso, it was only right.”

Calypso in Greek mythology was the daughter of the Titan god Atlas. Calypso symbolized forces that divert men from their goals, filled with intrigue and seduction. She was a nymph who fell in love with Odysseus after he was shipwrecked on her island of Ogygia. He refused to stay with her, so she detained him for seven years until Zeus ordered her to release him.

Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters is the best charter fishing captain in the state of Florida. We had fished with him before. My wife and I were invited to join Captain Ryan on the maiden voyage and it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Calypso is 42-feet long and has four 350 Mercury horsepower outboard engines mounted on her stern. Loaded and fueled, she weighs close to 14,000 pounds at the dock.

Matt Hatrick, first mate, played such an important role on board. A wealth of fishing knowledge too, he rigged the lines and baited our hooks with 12-15 inch long Spanish Mackerel and Mullet, and some lines with mullet, then became a momentary picture star holding up various fish for pictures. He was fun to be around.

12-15 inch long mullet and Spanish Mackerel were the primary shark bait that we fished off a bobber rig using current to deploy 200-300 feet from the boat. All the consumable baits on board come from Anderson’s Bait & Tackle in Fort Myers, FL. Dave Barus Photo

“I’m excited about this boat. It is in the forefront of boating technology. The forward angle and shape of her hull make the boat more gas efficient. I average 1 mile a gallon at a speed of 40 to 55 miles per hour, that’s pretty good for a boat this long and this heavy. It means comfort for all aboard and that why I bought a boat like this, for the clients,” added Kane.

The 42-foot tri-hull catamaran provided a smooth ride out to the fishing grounds, with one to three foot waves feeling almost non-existent.

Kane uses Dan James Custom rods and 60-pound line mounted on his Shimano reels. As we went fishing for sharks, he used size 8/0 Mustad hooks, strong and sharp.

Dave Barus (L) and Captain Ryan Kane with the Bull Shark that Barus caught. The shark was carefully released and swam away. One of several sharks we caught. Shirley Holzhei photo.

“Fish on!” Interrupted the conversation. The rod bent double! It was a big fish! It was fellow outdoor writer, Dave Barus with the next turn to reel a fish in. He was having trouble fighting the fish, the line ran out as the fish was so big, so strong and not about to give up in the first minute.

“Want to take a turn and fight the fish Bob?” Asked Barus.

“No, I’ve seen too many fish lost when transferring the rod to another person,” I replied.

Following the 26-minute fight, a large six-foot shark came to surface as it neared the boat, however it made a number of runs diving down deep into the Shark River in the direction of the Gulf waters and out of sight.

Finally, the brute was tiring. A rope was put on the tail to haul the Bull Shark aboard for pictures. The Bull Shark was 6 to 7 feet long, we estimated the weight at about 100 pounds.

The first “big fish” caught to date aboard Calypso was celebrated with a toast, with big-fish catcher Dave Barus popping the champagne cork and Captain Ryan Kane holding the glass, everyone shared – it was a special moment in time for all of us. Bob Holzhei Photo

Barus told me he was sore and tired after the Bull Shark was boated. I believed him.

It was a fantasy fishing trip out that was real, pinch me, in the Gulf of Mexico. I will relive this entire adventure long after we are back home to Michigan.

Anglers from all over the world come to Port Sanibel Marina, FL to fish with Captain Kane. I can verify, the fishing adventure of a lifetime awaits you. He can run 200 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico to where no fish has ever seen a hook, and back to the dock, all in less than a day fishing. Same day trophy fishing! This represents capability that no other charter fishing boats currently can offer from southwest Florida: time and distance, and unparalleled fishing fun.

For More information: Contact: www.southerninstinct.com or phone 239-896-2341. Accommodations: Lee County CVB/The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Island, www.fort-myers-sanibel.com, 1-800-237-6444.

Custom Fishing Rod Builder: Tom Marks

  • Rod length, sensitivity, power, flex…all these factors matter
  • Setting the hook, it’s the best feeling with a rod you helped design
  • Rattlesnake skin and other custom handles personalize rods to the individual

By Bob Holzhei

Custom rod handle options that include rattlesnake skin personalize the custom rod.

“The sensitivity in any fishing rod can be determined by placing the tip of the rod against your throat while another person holds the other end of the rod.  At that point, the person who has the tip of the rod against their throat begins to talk and at the other end, the vibration can be felt,” says expert angler and custom fishing rod-maker, Tom Marks, who vacations and fishes in Florida during the winter months.

Marks has been building custom rods for the past six years. “It usually takes me about 48 hours or three days to build a rod,” says Marks.

“I ask the perspective customer which type of rod they want me to build for them, whether it’s a spin casting rod, an all-purpose rod, and also ask if they are throwing crankbaits, need a worm rod, like to drop shot, if they are skipping docks, tossing jerk baits, Carolina rigs, need a bottom-bouncer for walleye, jig-flipping and pitching, or if they use a frog topwater bait or other top water bait. They’re all slightly different,” stated Marks.

Sanding the guide feet insures a smooth thread wrap and long life for the rod.

“The purpose for which the rod will be used helps me decide on the power and speed of the rod. The power, which is how stiff the rod needs to be and the speed, which refers to how much flex is in the tip, both affect the style efficiency.  Flex is the amount of bend in the upper 1/3 of the rod. The faster the rod, the more sensitive it will feel. For crankbaits, or moving baits which are trolled, a slower rod is sufficient because the strike or bite is much harder. The slower rod helps absorb some of the initial shock of the bite and also keeps the fish from throwing the hook,” added Marks.

Marks custom decorates his precision fishing rods according to customer wishes.  Nylon and metallic threads can be used on the guide wraps, and many other variations.  Marks also uses real rattlesnake skin on the handle and other decorative skins and wraps in the split grip and fore grip.

“I place a decorative thread band 12 inches from the front edge of the handle.  Decorative work might include thread work cross-weaved with multiple colored threads or chevron patterns.  Occasionally I marbleize the colors,” added Marks.

Marks began purchasing his rod building materials after he saw a Mudhole display at an outdoor show, located in Oviedo, Florida.  Mudhole is a Rod Building and Tackle Crafting Company that can provide helpful process instructions and all the supplies for rod building. Visit www.mudhole.com or call 866-790-RODS.

Charter Captain Tom Marks is right at home with all the gear for making his custom fishing rods in the garage.

Marks explained the steps in building a rod. “After the materials are ordered and arrive, I first take the order out of the package,” Marks replied while laughing.     “First the spline in the rod is found, this is the backbone of the rod.  I take the rod and put tension on it, while rolling the rod. The area of the spine will snap or hop.  The spline is the heaviest part of the rod. The theory is the spline is found in one spot, it provides a keyway for guide location and better angler control later,” stated Marks.

Second, Marks determines what kind of rod he will make.  The handle or grip is put on the rod.  He reams out the handle to fit the blank.  Then Pro-epoxy paste is put on to secure the handle.

Third, the guides are put on after measuring and marking the rod blank for the spacing between the guides.  Mudhole provides suggestions on where to place the guides.  Marks runs a line up and down the tip to insure the guides are lined up.  He also uses a laser beam to insure the guides are correctly aligned.  After the guide are mounted, protective clear epoxy is added.

Fourth, two additional coats of clear epoxy are put on and then 400 grit sandpaper removes any imperfections. Marks then field tests the rod to assure quality.

“If I catch a big fish while testing, I know that particular rod is a real good one,” kidded Marks with a grin.

“Building fishing rods is a great hobby and I never stop learning.  I began fishing with my dad when I was 4 years old, and when I was 10, I really got into fishing and loved it.  I learned from my father how to fish for walleye, since we lived within walking distance of Lake Erie near Derby, New York,” stated Marks.

I tagged along with Marks as he fished with the rod and learned as I watched his fishing strategy from a distance.

“The presentation is the key. The bite is what keeps me interested.  When I set the hook – it’s a great feeling. There’s a rush of adrenaline!  I could fish all day for the bite,” concluded Marks.

For more information: e-mail address – capt.tommarks@gmail.com; 716-997-6919.

Here we are testing my new rod, I’m sitting, Tom is demonstrating the secrets to catching bass where we are fishing in Florida. Sure was fun!

Sacred Water at Devils Lake: Legend of the Lake Monster

"Legends of Black Lake monsters supercede pictures and tales of monster walleye that exist here. Secrets are many," says Bob Holzhei, story writer.

  • Devils Lake, Part 2: Legend of the Lake Monster       
  • Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie, lots of fish here
  • Lures and Baits of all sorts Catch Fish on Devils Lake
We caught lots of walleye every day we fished, usually between 50 and 100 each time, but there was always some mystery about that “Lake Monster Legend.” Forrest Fisher photo

By Bob Holzhei

Early European-Americans termed the lake “Bad Spirit Lake” because of high salinity water, making it unfit to drink.  With summer, mirages were often seen across the water and the lake was referred to as “Spirit Lake,” as reflected in the Spirit Lake Indian Tribe.

Published reports of a “Lake Monster” date as far back as 1894, while Native American legends go back much further about a Loch Ness serpent in Devil’s Lake.

It is said locally that the monster is not often seen, but here is what we saw on one day when we fished the lake.  Forrest Fisher photo

Whether fact or fiction, stories of the Devil’s Lake Monster have been reportedly sighted and recounted in many newspapers, including the New York Sun in 1984, the Bismarck Tribune in 1895 and the Wichita Beacon in 1904.

All descriptions of the serpent indicate it has alligator jaws and glaring red eyes, a tail stretching to 80 feet long and it usually appears at sunset during August.  The serpent moves slowly, often seen about a half mile from shore and reported to circle the lake twice a day.  A slimy green color, the serpent’s motion sends gentle surface waves along from head to tail with the wake visible as it pushes along.

Early accounts of the Devil’s Lake Monster may be sensationalized accounts reported in newspapers in order to draw tourists to the area. Whether fact or fiction, my camera did accompany me on a guided fishing trip to Devil’s Lake in August. Today I can attest that our guide did fish more than a half mile from the mainland shore. Hmmmm.

While we chuckled about the fabled monster chronicles, Devils Lake in North Dakota is an angler’s dream and is open to fishing all year long. Ice fishing is especially fun here with heated huts and the aroma of smoked sausage on the grill.

No matter the time of year, multiple species here keep every angler in action for most of the fishing day. Foot-long perch are common, walleye in all-sizes – from eaters to wall hangers are the usual resident and non-resident angler focus, northern pike ranging from 5 to 10 pounds are the largest predator fish, while white bass, panfish (crappie and bluegill) and trout, provide a variety of fishing opportunities at Devil’s Lake. It’s fun to fish here.

Baitcasting rigs are the norm here, as you never know how big that next walleye monster might be, that’s not a legend. Forrest Fisher photo

A variety of popular fishing strategies include slip bobber fishing, rigging, jigging, casting, trolling with crankbaits and enticing hungry fish with bottom-bouncers when the usual hot bite is off, which is not very often. We caught over 50 walleye each day of our fishing.

My friend and our guide on Devils Lake was Al Freidig, he shared secrets and how to catch fish in this vast waterway. Forrest Fisher photo

The Devil’s Lake Basin is the second largest body of water in North Dakota after Lake Sakakawea.  Once the lake reaches a high level of 1,458 feet, it flows into the Sheyenne and Red Rivers, though overflow occurred only twice in the last 4,000 years. Historically the area is the site of the Dakota people who relocated there as a result of The 1867 Treaty with the United States.

One of our favorite 3-way rig bottom-bouncing baits on Devils Lake, these worked very well.

The lake stretches over 380 square miles with an average maximum depth of about 47 feet. Lots of room for fish and fishermen, and the Devils Lake monster.

Hold onto your rod.  You never know, you could become a legendary friend.

For more info on where to stay or who to call for guide services, contact:  https://www.ndtourism.com/cities/devils-lake.