By Drew YoungeDyke
This Michigan Outside column was originally published in the January 2020 issue of Woods'N'Water News.
The cliché is that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you get to know a fisherman by his tackle box? The concept has been on my mind since I brought my great-grandpa’s tackle box home from my parents’ house a couple months ago on the way back from the Upper Peninsula cottage where it had rested since he died in 1981, the year after I was born. While I have a few pictures of him holding me as a baby, I never had the chance to fish with him. I hoped, though, that I could learn more about him as a fisherman by examining the contents of his tackle box.
Some background on my great-grandpa helped get me started. His name was William Lantta, “Grandpa Bill,” and he lived in Ironwood, Michigan, as an electrician in and later underground foreman of the Geneva iron mine. He bought the family cottage on Chaney Lake – the one I write about so often lately – in 1959, but he also used to fish Island Lake in Wisconsin, where his siblings had a cottage. Chaney Lake has been a northern pike lake for as long as my family has been fishing it: the first cottage log entry is post scripted as “Grandpa Bill caught a beautiful 24 ½” northern.” A quick Google search for Island Lake tells me it holds muskies, northern pike, panfish, smallmouth bass, and walleyes. And family photos of him from the 1910’s and 1960’s are adorned with stringers of northerns.
Grandpa Bill’s tackle box is green and metal with a leather-wrapped handle. It’s dinged and dented and well used, resembling the condition of the old aluminum rowboat at the cottage and the color of its oars. Even without knowing the specifics of the lures in his tackle box, a quick glance at the five and six-inch painted wood lures in the top tray tell you that it belonged to a mid-century pursuer of big toothy predator fish.
The most distinctive lure is a six-inch wooden Mud Puppy made by the C.C. Roberts Bait Company. It was invented in 1920 by Constance Roberts of Mosinee, Wisconisin, and was a widely-used muskie lure in the mid-twentieth century. Its short revolving tail provided enticing action to muskies and northerns, and its glass eyes indicate it was made before WWII, when the glass eyes imported from Germany became unavailable, according to a detailed history of the lure written by Dan Basore in Midwest Outdoors.
Another distinctive wooden lure in the box is a Heddon Basser, with “head-on Basser” scripted in a metal plate across the open smiling mouth that would provide a topwater splashing action for smallmouth or, more likely, hungry northerns. In place of the treble hook on its tail, though, a lead sinker was wired to the eyelet, maybe for use in jigging the last time it was fished.
A five-inch jointed wooden minnow reminded me of the articulated streamer I used to catch my first northern with a fly rod earlier this fall. At first I thought it was a Creek Chub Pikey Minnow, but the hardware looked different. The metal lip and cup rig for the hook looked more like photos I’ve seen of old Isle Royale lures, which were made in Jackson, Michigan. The purpose would be the same: enticing northern pike to strike.
Classic lures fill out the tackle box, including a wooden South Bend Bass Oreno, a Creek Chub mouse lure, and a Johnson’s Silver Minnow in its box which looks more like a 1930’s box than a mid-century one. There is also a weedless spinner, a fish-shaped painted metal Phleuger lure, and two spoons, one stamped as the “Spindare” from B & E Bait Co of St. Paul, Minnesota. Additional tackle includes a wire trolling leaders with flashers, cork and wood bobbers, sinkers, chicken bouillon cubes, treble hooks, swivels, a spool of 18-pound test “All Silk” casting line, and a spool of 15-lb. test “Best-O-Luck” braided nylon casting-trolling line from South Bend. He likely cast these from a South Bend No. 1000 Anti-Backlash Reel, as indicated by the empty box for just such a baitcasting reel. A1952 Michigan Legal Fish Rule from Merschel Hardware in East Tawas, Michigan, ensured the fish he kept were legal to keep.
What does all this tell me about the fisherman who fished these lures, though? I already knew he fished for northern pike and musky, and the lures confirmed it. The bass plugs are also effective topwater lures for northern pike, but he might have also used them for smallmouth. He used both casting and trolling line, and had a metal trolling leader rigged with flashers, as well as a Heddon Basser rigged for jigging, so he probably used all three methods. And the fish rule tells me he made sure to follow the size limits set by the Michigan Conservation Commission, later the Natural Resources Commission.
That’s just the fisherman he was on the surface, though. Below the surface, his tackle box tells me even more. It wasn’t filled with multitudes of lures and baits for any given situation; it had just a handful of well-worn classics that could have probably been found in the tackle boxes of most freshwater predator anglers of the region and time. And most of the lures ranged from the Depression through the 1950s. And yet, Grandpa Bill lived until 1981. So it suggests that he was a fisherman who took care of his equipment. He fished a handful of lures he trusted for decades, and the chipped paint and tooth marks indicate that they were well-used as he enjoyed the woods and waters of the western Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin on days off and later retirement from subsurface toil in the iron mine to provide for his family.
There was one more object in the tackle box, though, from which no firm conclusions can be drawn. It’s a folded advertisement and order form for Flatfish lures from Helin Tackle Company of Detroit, Michigan. With no Flatfish in the tackle box, I’m left to wonder if he had a notion of ordering one but never did, or if it came with one that maybe broke off one day while reeling in a beautiful northern on Chaney Lake.
Maybe one day when I jump in Chaney Lake after taking a sauna at the cottage I’ll find a long-lost Flatfish lure on the lake bed. Or maybe I never will and the purpose of that ad will always remain a mystery. The nature of my great-grandpa as a fisherman is just a little bit less of a mystery to me, though.
Tackle boxes like his adorn shelves and back corners of garages and sheds throughout the upper Midwest, and lures like his fill pages of eBay auctions. My great-grandpa’s tackle box gave me just a little more insight into who he was as an angler and a man, though, and that’s much more valuable than what his lures could fetch in an online auction. Those lures are going to stay in that tackle box for future generations of my family to rediscover.
POSTSCRIPT: I received an message from my mom's cousin Gretchen, who used to fish with him as a child and teenager, after she read the article. She wrote, "I recognized some of the baits, especially the yellow one (Mud Puppy). I remember the ones we (he) used most often were a red and white metal bait called a daredevil... We fished a lot with him. He was very quiet and would go out in ALL sorts of weather... sit for ever and ever. There was no joking around. He was very good at cleaning fish and did so on a narrow slab of wood on stick like legs on the hillside in front of the cottage. There were so many fish when we were young that he had made a homemade smoker (made from an old refrigerator and wood burning stove)... we had crappies for breakfast! Ina (his second wife) was a very good fish cook. I think he mostly smoked the northerns."
That's sisu in so many ways.
By Drew YoungeDyke
This Michigan Outside column was originally published in the December 2019 issue of Woods'N'Water News.
A frigid dawn crusted the snow with a crunchy top layer that made still hunting all but impossible on last year’s opening day. As it warmed up, though, it became soft and quiet and fresh snow fell overnight. Early the next morning before dawn I crawled out of the sleeping bag on my cot in our deer camp’s outfitter tent in the Pigeon River Country State Forest and dressed for the day with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning: we had tracking snow.
Fresh snowfall during deer season awakens the inner Natty Bumpo of Northwoods hunters. At least it does for me as a dedicated still hunter unless conditions are absolutely prohibitive. It’s a method passed down to me from my dad and my grandpa, as was the Winchester Model 70 I loaded with Federal premium copper ammunition at legal shooting light. I hiked uphill into the woods behind camp and cut for sign, hoping to find a buck track that would fit one of my .30-’06 rounds but willing to follow a smaller buck or a doe that may attract one.
When still hunting, I usually follow deer trails. Deer take the path of least resistance, and often it is the path that will allow me to travel more quietly through thick cover. Unlike farmland, on northern Michigan public land forests deer trails go all over, not following any one definitive runway. This allows a still hunter to follow one doe trail to the next to piece together a route consistent with the terrain and wind, always alert for deer sign and presence, but it also makes it difficult to tell which trails are being predominately used. I’ve become adept at following fresh deer tracks without snow, but when fresh snow blankets the ground the picture becomes infinitely clearer. On these days, with soft footfalls and hopefully falling snow to mask my scent and movement somewhat, I’ll take a promising track and just follow it wherever it goes.
On the second day of firearm season last year I found a very fresh medium size track that could be either a large doe or small buck. I decided to follow it, even though I didn’t have an antlerless tag, in case it was a small buck or a doe that would cross paths with a larger buck. The wind cut generally crossways from the direction of the tracks and I followed them all morning through upland cover, wetlands, hardwood hills, young red pine valleys, around in a circle where it checked it’s back trail, and up along a ridge where I shot an eight point a few years ago. It was as good of a workout as you’ll find in the deer woods other than the drag out.
Still hunting is the most all-consuming method of deer hunting for me. Every sense is engaged. Every twist and turn of the track, every new viewscape, tingles the senses with anticipation. Your eyes search below every red pine branch; maybe the deer bedded down. Looking for a horizontal shape in every stand of hardwoods. A flicker of an ear through the falling snow. Stopping and kneeling frequently to scan every quadrant with binoculars, wondering what could be on the other side: a six point you would gladly take for the freezer? A doe that will intersect the path of an older eight point farther on? Along the way, you learn more about the deer.
Tracking snow has always told stories of the deer woods for observant hunters. During one of the first deer seasons I hunted at our former deer camp on Beaver Island, it told a story that, as much as any other, helped me understand the workings of nature. I followed the fresh track of a small deer along a trail just after dawn. From one side, a coyote’s tracks dropped in behind it. Another’s joined from the other side. The deer’s walking gait disappeared and reappearing in a bounding leap and the coyotes’ spaced out, but it was too late. A spatter of blood on the trail and then all three veered sharply off into the thick swamp.
It can tell our tales, too. A few years ago, before we moved our deer camp to the Pigeon River Country, I was camped out alone away from the road behind a couple-year-old clear cut. My dad planned to meet me at the camp for lunch one day and hunt with me in the afternoon, so at dawn I followed the fresh track of a buck away from camp into the woods. I veered away from it to avoid putting the wind at my back at times and rejoined it, guessing from the cover and direction where it might be headed. Toward mid-morning, I saw the blaze orange of another hunter in the woods and was going to veer away in another direction, but the other hunter saw me as well and waved. The hunter’s outline looked familiar and I recognized my dad, but how did he find me a half mile from camp after I’d swung wide away? He couldn’t have followed my tracks and caught up to me, even as slow as I was going.
He told me he saw the direction I was headed, saw the track I was following, and saw where I veered away from it. And since he taught me how to track and still hunt, how to hunt the way I did, he thought about what he would do, given the sign and terrain, guessed where I would end up if I did the same thing, and meet me there. And that’s exactly what he did.
I wondered what tales I would trail on this hunt. What would the tracks tell me? I found fairly fresh pellets, which confirm that I’m not too far behind the deer. I see where it stopped to pee, though, and the yellow snow is behind it, indicating it’s likely a doe. I pass no fresh rubs. Finally, I see what I’ve been following. A horizontal brown body amidst vertical hardwoods. I see the doe just before she sees me and bounds away; I took that one step too many and too fast that every still hunter realizes a moment too late. Without an antlerless tag, it would be a pass anyway. I tracked another deer the next day and watched the doe from 40 yards away wishing I had an antlerless tag. They were the only deer I saw last season.
Tracking snow has yet to connect me with a deer for the freezer. I’ve killed a few deer still hunting with a bow and a rifle, though, following deer trails without snow. My best deer, the eight point I shot from the ridge a few years ago, was killed after still hunting and following a fresh deer trail in the afternoon until it crossed a saddle into a valley I’d scouted in the offseason. I sat against the base of a tree on the ridge overlooking the valley and passed up a fork and two does before shooting the buck cruising for does.
Just as every bend of the trail excites this hunter with anticipation while tracking deer in the snow, so does the dawn of each new season. My rifle is sighted in with premium copper bullets, I’ve scouted our public land hunting grounds, and my freezer is stocked with pasties ready to fill the cooler at deer camp. And this year, I drew a public land antlerless tag for Otsego County. Now if only I can get some tracking snow to go with it…
(UPDATE: I still-hunted upon a pair of does, drew my rifle on one offhand, and as I hesitated - and probably moved the rifle too much - trying to ensure it wasn't a button buck, it blew and ran before I took the shot.)
By Drew YoungeDyke
This Michigan Outside column was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Woods'N'Water News.
Water wolf, hammer handle, gator, snot rocket: northern pike go by many names in Michigan, often by bass anglers upset at their ruined baits. Esox lucius has a distinction no other fish can match, though: the only circumpolar freshwater fish in the world. These ambush hunters are the top predators in most of their waters, ranging across the lakes and rivers of the north with a rich history in both biology and mythology. And catching one on a fly has been an obsession of mine for the last year.
The obsession started last summer while trolling for walleye with Mike Avery and Tom Lounsbury on Saginaw Bay. I caught a 28-inch northern pike, and it awakened a long-dormant connection to the fish after over a decade of focusing mostly on trout when I fished. My grandpa and I used to troll for northern pike on Lake Skegamog, Elk Lake, and Torch Lake out when I was in college. We never caught many fish but those days with him during his last few years were priceless.
Northern pike go back much further in my family history, too. The extended Finnish side of my family has a cottage on Chaney Lake in the far western Upper Peninsula. The first entry in the cottage log ends with the postscript, “Grandpa Bill caught a beautiful 24 ½” northern.” Chaney Lake is a small lake home to many northerns, if not big ones. Photos in the family albums show a succession of proud anglers holding northerns throughout the years.
I thought of that one I caught with Mike as beautiful, too. The dark green body, the light spots giving it camouflage, and especially the intricate black swoops and patterns on its golden fins. They were as beautiful to me as the red spots on brown trout. The next day I went bowfishing with John Cleveland, a representative for Dardevle lures – the classic pike spoon - and he told me about fly fishing for northern pike up in Canada. I envisioned fly fishing for northerns out of the old aluminum rowboat on Chaney Lake and it made perfect sense.
Like any new obsession, I started with the literature. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released a Management Plan for Northern Pike in Michigan in 2016. “Habitat is a key factor in determining Northern Pike population dynamics in inland waters,” it notes. Northern pike spawn in shallow aquatic vegetation and flooded wetlands adjacent to water bodies, and their loss through shoreline development has reduced northern pike habitat, especially in southern Michigan. One of the DNR’s top goals for northern pike is to “protect, restore, and enhance habitat on Michigan waters,” noting that the loss of spawning habitat, especially through aquatic plant management, is “a major threat to the state’s Northern Pike fisheries.”
A 1988 report for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations gave a synopsis of all the biological data known about northern pike at the time. What I found most interesting was how they hunted. Using camouflage to blend into cover, often vegetation, northern pike first see the prey with one eye, then slowly turn their body to face it, then stealthily approach it until it’s just a couple inches away. Then it bends its body into an “S,” coiling like a spring, straightening into a strike, its mouth closed until the final instant, when it opens quickly. This creates a suction drawing the prey in, where the pike’s inwardly-inverted teeth make escape almost impossible. For 60 million years, this design has allowed northern pike to thrive throughout the northern freshwaters of the world.
In Finland, northern pike are called hauki (which has become my favorite hashtag to follow on Instagram). Northern pike play a prominent role in ancient Finnish mythology, as preserved in the national epic poem The Kalevala. The hero of The Kalevala, Vainamoinen, slays “the mighty pike of Northland,” feeds everyone with it, and creates a magic harp from its jawbone. A prayer to the water-god Ahto asks him to “stir up all the reeds and sea-weeds, hither drive a school of gray-pike, drive them to our magic fish-net.”
I wondered if my great-great-grandpa felt a connection to the Finland he emigrated from at age 17 catching pike in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula where he lived to age 95. Pike fishing is still popular in Finland and other northern European countries. I found some YouTube videos from Finland-based Vision Flyfishing helpful in learning the basics of fly fishing for northern pike, along with the Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing Series episode on pike and muskie. The Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast with Tom Rosenbauer had some good pike-focused episodes, and talking with outdoor writer Tim Mead helped, too, who has fly fished for northern pike in the Upper Peninsula with a float tube.
Over the spring and summer I geared up. I ordered an 8-wt Orvis Encounter fly rod and reel package and an assortment of large streamers and popping bugs. I ordered from Orvis to ensure that the weighted eyes and bead-heads in my flies were nontoxic: Chaney Lake supports a pair of loons, which can be poisoned when they ingest lead fishing weights lost or broken off. It also hosts bald eagles which fish its waters and can get lead poisoning from eating fish which have broken off line with lead weights attached.
I also bought a used fishing float tube which I tried out on a few likely pike waters over the summer, without catching any. This would be harder than I thought. My friend Chris Engle took me to a favorite pike lake with his daughter and my dad. I didn’t catch any but his daughter, Paige, caught a dandy with a spinning outfit. I also fished sections of the Huron River near my home in Ann Arbor that I thought likely for northern pike, and had a couple strikes, but no catches.
Finally, I got up to Chaney Lake in September, along with some friends from different conservation organizations for a weekend of hunting grouse and fishing for pike with non-lead ammo and tackle. Michigan United Conservation Clubs president George Lindquist brought his 17-foot fishing boat and we also had the cottage’s aluminum rowboat. George caught the first northern of the weekend off the dock in the early evening, and since they were biting we figured we should get out on the lake and catch them!
George took a crew in his boat and I set out in the rowboat with my National Wildlife Federation colleagues Aaron Kindle and Marcia Brownlee, who manages Artemis Sportswomen. As Aaron rowed, I cast an articulated streamer with (non-lead) weighted eyes and stripped the line back. The northern stalked it, and I waited until it struck to strip-set the line, and it was on. Aaron netted it and I finally had my first northern pike on a fly! It wasn’t large – maybe 20 to 24 inches – and I released it without measuring. I caught another the next day after losing the articulated streamer and molding tungsten putty around the head of another streamer to give it the same effect as weighted eyes.
By the end of the weekend, everyone caught at least one northern. Sarah Topp, AmeriCorps coordinator at Huron Pines in Gaylord, caught a keeper that we grilled for a delicious lunch snack the next day. And after a summer of not catching any, and on Chaney Lake, out of the aluminum rowboat - just as I had envisioned - I finally had the water wolf of the north at the end of my fly line.
By Drew YoungeDyke
This Michigan Outside column was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Woods'n'Water News.
The springer spaniel darted in front of us, flushing a ruffed grouse from the hunter walking trail but too far in front of us for a shot. It was our only flush of the day, but the heartbeat thump that echoed through the woods was exciting for two new ruffed grouse hunters in our party from out West. We had covered over five miles of tough hiking both on the trail and most often off of it in the dense young forest cover grouse prefer. Ruffed grouse hunting offers a perfect opportunity to log some cardiovascular exercise while enjoying Michigan’s outdoors.
I have only hunted ruffed grouse a handful of times, shooting none and missing one. Every hunt – tagging along with more experienced upland hunters – has covered between about three and five miles of hiking. Unlike still-hunting for white-tailed deer, upland hunting goes at a much faster pace, often trying to keep up with my friends’ bird dogs in a skirmish line, through whatever cover may arise.
Ruffed grouse prefer young forests which have a much thicker undergrowth than older canopied forests which block the sunlight, especially young aspen forests. The Mosinee Grouse Enhanced Management System (GEMS) in Gogebic County, about five miles south of Wakefield, holds multiple blocks of mixed age-class aspen stands and maple and oak forests interspersed by upland openings and hunter walking trails. Nine friends joined me there in late September as part of a cast and blast weekend of ruffed grouse hunting and northern pike fishing with non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle, based out of my family’s cottage on nearby Chaney Lake.
Our party split into two groups. Jordan Browne of Michigan Out-of-Doors TV was filming so we sent him with the more experienced ruffed grouse hunters consisting of Michigan United Conservation Clubs president George Lindquist, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation president Craig Challenor, Michigan Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers co-chair Ryan Cavanagh, and Huron Pines AmeriCorps coordinator Sarah Topp. I joined the other group of my National Wildlife Federation co-workers Aaron Kindle of Colorado and Marcia Brownlee of Montana, and Wisconsin Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers members Bill Koepke and Marissa English of Wisconsin and their springer spaniel, Jango.
While my western colleagues have hunted dusky grouse and sage grouse, they were surprised by how much ground we covered looking for Northwoods ruffed grouse. A 154-pound person burns an average of 370 calories per hour, according to the Center for Disease Control. Hiking on uneven ground, though, burns 28% more energy than walking on even terrain. Most grouse hunting occurs on uneven ground, even if the elevation is relatively flat as you step over fallen logs, duck under branches, and walk through a mix of ground cover types. While calories burned are a function of the hunter’s weight and will be different for every hunter on every hunt, it’s safe to say that it will be significantly more than the calories burned while sitting on the couch watching football game on television.
Neither of our parties got a shot on grouse that day; the other party had three flushes but no shots through the thick and colorful late September foliage. Ryan had picked up a roadkill grouse on the drive over, though, so we cooked that up as a lunch appetizer to go with pasties from Randall’s bakery. A 4-oz. serving of ruffed grouse contains 29g of protein and 1g of fat, according to the USDA, making it a healthy source of lean protein. And if you use steel shot or another non-lead alternative, you keep it clean of lead toxicity both for anyone eating it and any raptor scavenging it if you wound or fail to recover it.
The Mosinee GEMS site we hunted is part of the Michigan DNR’s network of 19 sites across northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula which are managed specifically for high quality ruffed grouse habitat that is publicly accessible and easily recognizable. It is actually Gogebic County forest, known as the Mosinee Grade Tract. I learned from my mom’s cousin that my great-grandpa used to hunt that tract.
Ruffed grouse habitat requires active forest management to keep young forests in rotation: this means trees have to be cut. In the Pigeon River Country State Forest, where I’ve hunted grouse and where I do most of my deer hunting, the DNR is planning an ambitious conversion of 88-year-old red pine stand choked with invasive species understory into an upland habitat mecca. The 230-acre stand will be clear cut and the ground roller-chopped to allow early successional aspen to regenerate, interspersed with oak and hawthorn plantings to provide wildlife food sources.
This project will occur in a highly visible section of the forest, where many people may misunderstand the wildlife value of clear cuts like this. For a few years after treatment in 2021, it will look like a clear cut where pine trees now stand. But conservation is about the long term, and in a decade or so when my infant son is ready to start hunting with me – if he decides to – the area will be regenerating into aspen cover for ruffed grouse and I might finally be successful at hunting them!
Ruffed grouse hunting has been growing on me as upland hunting friends have invited me along over the last few years. I enjoy the camaraderie, the terrain, the habitat, the dogs, the heartbeat thump of the grouse beating their wings, and the taste of the grouse my friends have shot. And I hardly even noticed that the whole time I was also burning calories and getting a great cardiovascular workout. Ruffed grouse hunting in Michigan is a perfect way to find fitness in the outdoors.
By Drew YoungeDyke
This Michigan Outside column was originally published in the October 2019 issue of Woods'N'Water News.
As hunters and anglers, we have it good. We have direct access to some of the best food in the world for the price of a hunting or fishing license. Wild game provides more protein and less fat than most store-bought meat. When it’s combined with some organic vegetables and little else there’s hardly a more healthy meal out there. With such direct access to organic, hormone-free, high-protein wild game meat, why is it so hard for so many of us to stay fit, then?
Food is the foundation of fitness. The hardest workout you can muster can be sabotaged if you follow it up with an unhealthy meal. When I first started trail-running a few years ago, I found it easier to eat clean by keeping that in mind, until I made it as much a habit as trail-running. I tried to follow the paleo diet as closely as I could. This helped me lose 60 pounds in two years, but after a few years that became more “paleo-ish” – especially when chocolate donuts appeared at staff meetings - and I added back some of the pounds I lost.
In July I rededicated myself to working out. I exercised in all but four days of the month but I still felt sluggish. With the workout habit restored, I got back to following CrossFit in earnest in August, doing workouts of the day in my garage gym. But it wasn’t just the constantly varied high intensity workouts that brought me back to CrossFit: it was the total fitness model, which lists nutrition as the foundation of the development of an athlete in the CrossFit training manual (available to download for free on its website). In that training manual, CrossFit recommends a fairly simple – but not easy – way to eat: “Eat a diet of meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.”
Even without working out, nutrition alone can help you lose weight if that is your goal. Dave Rose is a fishing guide, outdoor writer, hunter, angler, and a friend of mine. In the last year, he’s lost almost 140 pounds almost exclusively by changing how he ate, dropping from almost 350 pounds to 208 at last count.
“I eat six times a day,” he told me. “If you normally eat three meals a day, cut each in half and spread it out over six meals. I also try to eat my first meal within a half hour of waking. For me, that’s what worked. What you don’t want to do is starve yourself and make your body want to store calories.”
It’s not solely about how often he eats, though. He also pays more attention to how much and what he eats.
“It’s just about eating correctly, eating fewer calories than I burn just sitting still throughout the day, if that’s what I’m doing. If you eat 2,000 calories in one fast food meal, you probably can’t burn that off in a day.”
He doesn’t eliminate carbs, either, but just lowers them to about 100 grams each day. And while he doesn’t attribute his weight loss directly to catching more fish or shooting more deer, he says it does impact how much fun he has hunting and fishing.
“I started last September, and even by deer season last year I’d lost about 40 pounds. I couldn’t believe how much easier hunting was, more enjoyable. I look so forward to this hunting season because I’ll be down almost 140 pounds!”
Fishing is more fun for him, too, which is critical as a fishing guide.
“Getting into and out of the boat is easier. I feel better than when I was 25, and I’m 52. What was once a long day on the water is now a short day. I don’t ache, and my joint inflammation has been reduced.
Now that Dave has lost the weight, he’s adding exercise back into the mix, too, working out a couple days a week at Planet Fitness.
“I felt so good that I wanted to tone and strengthen muscle, to be able to walk up that next hill to hunt.”
“The most important thing,” he said,” is just realizing that life can be easier. Just by making small tweaks, hunting and fishing can be easier. I literally want to spend more time outdoors now, just having a good time.”
There are a lot of nutrition plans and diets out there: keto, paleo, gluten-free, the Zone, Atkins, high-carb, low-carb, even vegetarian and vegan, if you have the hunting success I’ve had the last couple years since switching to a traditional bow. Before starting any radical changes in your diet, it’s probably not a bad idea to talk to your doctor. But for many of us, anything more discerning than “it tastes good” will probably be an improvement; I know it was for me.
As we get into the heart of hunting season here in Michigan, we have an opportunity to reset how we eat. Maybe it means not deep-frying what we shoot before eating it, or washing it down with water instead of a pop or a beer. Maybe it means shooting steel shot or copper bullets so that high-quality wild game meat doesn’t come with a side of lead poisoning.
Food is the end we seek through our outdoor experiences, whether it’s pheasant, grouse, duck, deer, or black bear. If we put half as much thought into what we put into our bodies as we put into the hunt, we’ll have more enjoyable hunts and more of them in our lives.
If you want to learn more about how Dave lost his weight, you can contact him at www.wildfishing.com.
Drew YoungeDyke is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer and manager of sporting communications for the National Wildlife Federation. He is also the host of the National Wildlife Federation Outdoors podcast, a national board member for 2% for Conservation, a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, and the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association, and a state-appointed member of the Pigeon River Country State Forest Advisory Council.
All posts at Michigan Outside are independent and do not necessarily reflect the views of NWF, OWAA, AGLOW, MOWA, the PRCAC, or any other entity.