Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First Shotgun Deer Season Recap

Friday was cold. Deer moved, but my brothers and I didnt shoot anything.
Saturday was warm. Deer didnt move much, and we didnt shoot anything.
Sunday was by far my favorite and most memorable deer hunt to date.

At 4:30 am I woke up my two boys Noah (7) and Drake (4) and got their hunting coveralls on and we were out the door by 4:45. En Route to the hunting farm, we stopped at the gas station and loaded up on donuts and chocolate milk.

When we got to the farm, we had about 3/4 mile walk thru the woods to get to our deer hunting blind. We needed to hunt in the enclosed blind because of the rain in the forecast. I not only carried the backpack with snacks and drinks along with the gun, but had two little hands clinched tighter than you can imagine on that little hike thru the woods in the complete darkness.

We got up to the blind about 5:55 am and it started to rain shortly thereafter. The dark, overcast morning meant that it was gonna be awhile yet before it would be light enough to shoot, so the boys curled up and fell asleep.

About 6:45 am we had 2 does walk into our food plot, but it was still a little dark and I wasnt gonna shoot one till the boys were awake and I wasnt gonna wake the boys till it got a little lighter out.

7 am the boys got up with the sun and we had a couple coyotes come down a trail about 60 yards away. We tried to get one, but they kept moving away too quickly for us to shoot.

Then 15 minutes later a small 8 pointer comes down the same trail.... We talked about letting the boy deer grow up to become a big daddy deer... big daddy is something they can relate to all too well as their father is a pretty large guy.

We saw some deer off in the distance a few different times, ate all our snacks, talked about life and told some hunting stories about coyotes, deer, and of course wolves and bears... That time spent in the blind, none of us would trade for anything in the world, but that warm fuzzy feeling wouldnt be able to last too much longer with such young boys filled with that much sugar, couped up in such a small space....

I knew time was running short and finally about 8:15 am a young doe comes trotting straight to us! Literally not 5 minutes after praying a short silent prayer of please Lord bless us with a deer to harvest... I dont usually pray those prayers when I am hunting by myself, but this day I wanted to harvest a deer more than any other day of hunting. We were able to spot her 200 yards out so that gave us just enough time to get situated, ears covered, and in good shooting/observing position.

She stopped 25 yards from us and she dropped right in her tracks. All three of us immediately looked at each other with a moment of silent amazement and then the excitement couldnt be contained when we all fully realized we had just actually harvested our first deer together... we have been watching a few hunting shows and playing pretend hunting in our living room since these boys were old enough to walk, but now this was the real deal.

Harvesting this first deer together is a moment in time that we will never forget. After 15 minutes of waiting and talking about harvesting an animal, it was time for the boys to go down and find her.

They spent a few minutes alone down by the deer looking at her up close and then I came down and taught them how to drag her and we got her cleaned up and snapped a few photos.

Then it was time to go get the truck and load her up and get her processed when Drake would not let us leave the deer. He didnt want any coyotes or anyone else to come and get her while we went to go get the truck. He had two solutions- either we drag the deer all the way to the truck or he would stay and guard the deer. He was worried, but Noah and I finally convinced him to come with us and that we would be right back.

So we made it back to the deer safe and sound, loaded her up and took her to my parents place just a few miles away to get her skinned and processed... We learned that she was eating alot of corn and alfalfa, we examined her heart and liver and packed up all the meat. We saved the loins and roast for some upcoming venison recipes and froze the rest of the meat for grinding later this winter.

By 1 pm we were on the road for home and some Sunday afternoon naps. The boys learned more today on this day of hunting than they could ever learn in a lifetime of schooling. It was a moment that will forever be etched in their minds and will help shape them into not only responsible hunters, but respectful humans. A special moment like this I dont think you can have by playing sports or video games together, a moment like this is something that goes far beyond quality time together.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

Right now, our deer population is indeed lower than it has been in the past few years. This doesnt mean we are gonna throw in the towel and stop hunting and stop teaching and stop managing. What this means is that we are going to work harder and harvest smarter so that we can continue to teach our future hunters and help our deer herds prosper. Being good stewards will be a combination of boots on the ground habitat management along with some necessary legislation changes to ensure hunting opportunities for future generations. My motto is that anything and everything can be improved upon, so lets get to work...

At our farms we are harvesting very few deer (much fewer deer than in the past), controlling predators as much as possible, and we are making sure necessary food, cover, and water are available for our animals all year round. Then next year we will improve upon what weve done and so on so forth until we are old  men sitting back in reclining chairs hearing stories of our boys' boys harvesting their first deer!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deer and Everything Else Update

Illinois Shotgun Deer season is just around the corner. If all goes as planned, we will be taking off work on Friday and Saturday and hunting all day, both days... If everything doesnt go as planned, we will probably still be delivering over 10,000 walleye and 1000's of muskies and northern pike to lake owners all over central Illinois. (at least to the ones not deer hunting)

As for deer numbers, I have been asking friends and clients all over the state and the general consensus is that trail cam activity and deer sightings are up considerably from 2012 and 2013, but mature deer numbers are still much lower than usual... basically if everything goes normal, we should be looking at a very good crop of mature deer in 2015-2017! My brother Chad harvested an awesome mature, thick 8 pointer with his bow earlier this year:

As for my hunting report, I have bowhunted a handful of times so far this season, but havent even considered shooting a deer yet. Ive seen plenty of deer, I just have been enjoying sitting in a tree watching nature that has no clue I'm watching them. I've seen and experienced things while sitting in silence that most non-hunters will never see or experience.... for me, its been the only chance to shut off the world completely and just sit in Awe of God and His creation.

The year 2014 has been by far the busiest and most challenging year humanly possible, but here we are just days away from Thanksgiving and Christmas and 2015...  In 2014 we tackled the Goose Ranch Renovation, filmed a whole season of our new Tv Show Lake Life, and went full bore with Herman Brothers Lake and Land Mgmt. all while raising children and spending time with our spouses. Every second has been accounted for, but now hopefully for the next few months we will muster up a more normal life with at least a few hrs each week to sit in a reclining chair or a tree, write a blog post or two, or maybe even shoot a deer or catch a fish!

While 2014 has been challenging and pushed me to the brink of exhaustion and mental overload, it also has been the most amazing fairytale, stuff dreams are made of, kind of a year. The Goose Ranch Project has gone tremendously better than anticipated, our Tv show will premiere in the Spring, and HB Lake and Land will be hiring some more help spring 2015 as well to keep up with demand, not just locally but across the Midwest.

Here are some of the pics from the last few months, the rest of the story you will have to catch next spring and summer on the Great American Country Channel and the DIY Network. There will be a new episode out every week all summer long!

It was an unforgettable year, gonna hopefully get the kids out shotgun hunting this weekend, give thanks for everything next weekend, then head south for a few weeks with the whole family to film a couple more episodes, then come back to celebrate Christ's birth and then hopefully do alot of ice fishing! We are planning on several big ice fishing fridays and saturdays this winter with good food, great company, and maybe even a few fish!! Just email nate@hblakemanagement.com for more details as the lakes start to lock up!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Road That is Ever Winding

Its 6 am on Sunday morning. In a couple hours the kids will be awake and we will be frantically getting ready to make it to church on time. After church (hopefully not during church) I will sit in my chair and fall asleep instantly with kids crawling all over me. It seems as if my best rest of the week is Sunday afternoons when all systems are completely shut down and relaxed.

More stuff is happening each day this summer than what can begin to be written in this blog... Its an amazing, but yet somewhat difficult transition for me because I have spent the last 8 years with a camera in my pocket each day taking pictures and documenting the process of creating a lake and land management business from scratch. All of us Herman Brothers have been working nonstop like crazy focused on building this business, but now we find ourselves on a different path.

When we finalized the purchase of the Giant Goose Ranch in January, we had visions of being able to work there full time managing that property in 5-7 yrs... Well, here we are 7 months later and we have more work lined up to do on that property than what we can accomplish in the next 5 years!!! Our goal for the goose ranch for this year was to give it a face lift and fill up our 240 existing campsites, get 50 fishing memberships and 15 hunting memberships.

Those goals were met pretty much instantly so then we started working on years 2, 3, and even 4 of our 5 year plan! We are currently creating 70 more premium annual campsites and about half of them are already reserved before we are even finished! Also we are creating a cabins only section with 155 lake front cabin sites that also lease out by the year and we already have 58 of those sold! The cabin lots lease out for $2300-$3500 per year and we custom build the camping cabins 14' wide by 24-36' long. Camping cabins start at $25,000. These cabins you own, just like owning a camper or motorhome. At this pace we will be sold out by next year, but its gonna take a few years to get em all built.

We have alot of them under contruction now!!

We only have 2-3 fishing memberships left at $900 per year and then any new fishing memberships after that will be $2500 per year. 100% of the fishing membership funds goes directly to fish! The fishery at the goose ranch is well on its way to becoming not only the best in the midwest, but the most diverse in the nation!

The brook and rainbow trout in big lake have grown rapidly into the 12-18" range. The tiger muskies and walleye in spool lake are jumping up a bit better than expected as well. The hybrid striped bass and brown trout in ski lake will start stripping drags next summer. The northern pike for west lake and the smallmouth bass and yellow perch for highrise lake are coming this fall! We have started a walleye and crappie lake, and even have plans on creating the ultimate trash fish ponds with bowfin, gar, and carp!

Here are some pics form the goose ranch so far... you have to work for the big ones, but are rewarded big time for your efforts:Goose Ranch Fishing Pics

Anyhow, the goose ranch is a culmination of everything we have learned and experienced working for other people on their recreational properties. For the next 3-5 years HB crews will be working nonstop out at the goose ranch building cabins, docks, beaches, pavilions, bathhouses, swimming pools, archery ranges, playgrounds, orchards, gardens, and the best fisheries on the planet!

One other super cool note is that I am not the one documenting the projects any longer. Backroads Entertainment and the Great American Country channel are the ones documenting the progress and projects everyday with a full film crew. The show we are making is called the Lake Life and the Giant Goose Ranch in Canton, IL is the home base for the show! We will be filming everyday for the next 4 months.

We had an awesome Independance day celebration at the goose ranch!! lots of food, fun, rain, and then fireworks!

Couple weeks ago I took a group of 12 fishing at the same time, we had a blast:

Also a couple weekends ago we had 200 boys out for boys camp at our place. We did a
little catfishing Saturday morning. We needed a bunch of fish to feed them boys...

So the story of our lives is the path is ever winding. I can't quite say one chapter is closed and another is opening, but probably more like every experience is leading towards the next. God has big plans and we are excited every chance we get to peak around the corner and see whats next. He has instilled in us a passion for fish, wildlife, and family recreation. Our job the last 8 years has been helping families around the midwest develop their own private recreational properties and now our occupation will be helping families around the midwest spend time together outdoors at the Giant Goose Ranch!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Archery, Horses, and 5th of July BASH

Summer is officially here! Spring was full of fish stockings, electrofishing surveys, aeration systems, camping construction, and all sorts of fun stuff. Couldnt have been better or busier. At the end of this blog post I am gonna invite you all to a big 5th of July bash at the goose ranch, but first a little recap.

This months InFisherman Catfish guide 2014 we have a fun catfish article with Steve Ryan. Make sure to get a copy!!!

Each summer we host all kinds of various boys and girls camps, church groups, family reunions, etc at our property near Norris, IL... Our passion has always been to get families introduced to the outdoors! Now with the Goose Ranch we will be able to really get lots of families outside spending time together!!

This weekend we had a HUGE group of girls for a weekend church camp. Normally they stay at the Old School Center in Farmington, and come out to our lake during the day.... But the Old School Center burned down a month ago, so we set up a bunch of tents in our field so the girls didnt have to cancel camp....

New to camp this year was our Archery range! Lancaster Archery Supply, Martin Archery, and Presley's Outdoors teamed up to help us put on a super fun archery shoot for the girls. My boys Drake and Noah helped get everything set up, break in the new bows, and show the girls how to shoot.

They all had a blast... while it may have been the first, I guarantee you that wont be the last time many of these girls shoot a bow. I overheard many conversations about girls excited to start target shooting with their dads this summer!!

So camp was also full of all the usual fun stuff: swimming, singing, eating, fishing, boating, scuba diving, and another big fan favorite- horse back riding....  Horses have a huge advantage over all the previous fun items, because they inhabit the childhood dreams of most girls most nights while growing up...

So girls camp 2014 was a huge success. This weekend is high school boys camp... I already know I will be callin in to work sick from exhaustion on Monday......

So anyhow this Saturday, July 5th we are hosting a special family day out at the Giant Goose Ranch in Canton, IL. Normally the ranch is a members only facility, but for this day we are putting together an EPIC family day from 2 pm- 11 pm and we are inviting you all to come join us!

We will be having a big hog roast for dinner, archery shooting, fishing, hiking, pony rides for kids, jump houses and all kinds of other fun activities and of course FIREWORKS! Here are some more details and how to sign up for the event.

It is a free event for members of the goose ranch. For non-members the cost is $5 per person and for reservations simply email nate@hblakemanagement.com in advance. Just let me know an apprx number in your group. Pay and sign in at the Goose Ranch gate. Bring your own chairs and blanket for the fireworks. There will be film crew at the event so you will need to sign a waiver stating its ok to use any video and images as well.

The $5 entry fee covers admission and the hog roast, but also at the ranch there will be vendors selling fun items like ice cream cones, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy, lemonade, etc with all the proceeds going to help out the Farmington Old School Center that recently burned down. One super cool activity is an extreme horse back trail ride that is available for $15 donation for riders age 12 and up. You will want to reserve your time slot in advance for this, just email nate@hblakemanagement.com for your preferred time slot.... Dads, you need to make this trail ride happen for your daughters and wives...