Tag Archives: sport

TOO MUCH FUN

by John Jonelis

How does a Type A find rest from the daily barrage of demands and decisions? Alternate activity, of course! Here’s my best pick for a quick weekend retreat. This is too much fun to keep to myself.

Every year like clockwork, the big King Salmon Run takes place in rivers feeding the Great Lakes. The best of these is Michigan’s Pere Marquette. Now admit it—hooking and battling powerful fish is completely different from the daily grind. This will be a vigorous weekend of personal rejuvenation. And you can put it on next year’s calendar right now and schedule time off. It always happens the last weekend of September!

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The Pere Marquette

This is not a wide river, but it haunts all those that set foot in it. There is nothing trivial about this place. Kings come here to spawn and die. Their offspring will mature in Lake Michigan and years later, return to this very spot. God stocks these waters; nobody else does that on the Pere Marquette, and the great Salmon swim in abundance.

Here a sportsman’s worth is measured in reverence for God’s creation. What do I hold sacred in this place of death and rebirth? Shall I trample through its wild waters, and in my vulgar pride debase its sanctity and my very soul? Or do I, like a pagan idolater, worship the creation—not the Creator? Let it not be so! May I worship You, dear God, who made this magnificent river and exult in Your glory! It is majestic in this place!

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My Secret Spot

This river runs through the Huron-Mansitee National Forest—an area of immeasurable natural beauty. It’s designated a Blue Ribbon Sanctuary. The section I fish lies between Gleason’s Landing and Highway M-37 near Baldwin Michigan.

This is a no-kill zone. Fly rods only. Single hooks no larger than #4. No live bait. No snagging. Small nets. All fish caught here are tenderly released to spawn. The fishing is extraordinarily good. Do you wonder why?

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Bueter’s Salmon Camp

Every year, on the last weekend of September, John and Rhonda Bueter run this venerated event with a tradition going back over a quarter century. Here I pitch my tent or I might rent a cabin at the adjacent Cloud9 Resort. I’m not looking for luxury. Roughing it is part of the experience.

The profane gather here and I am one of them. We are men and women from all walks of life—entrepreneurs and tradesmen, city dwellers and outdoorsmen. Every year we gather to immerse ourselves in this sacred place that is the Pere Marquette.

That and tie flies and teach each other the best ways to catch these magnificent fish.

That and consume great quantities of wonderful food.

That and spend our nights wading the river among teaming schools of monster Salmon—trying our skill with long rods.

That and sit around the roaring campfire sipping good bourbon and telling precious and highly appreciated lies.

That and sleep till noon and do it all over again. I call that the perfect weekend retreat!

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A Night on the River

I arrive early to get more time on the water and on this first night, I wade the river’s currents alone. Here in the dark forest night, I peer about in the eerie glow of my headlamp at pods of rising dorsal fins. In this river, my quarry averages 25 pounds but some run twice that size.

Mine is a 10-weight fly rod and my tippet is 20# fluorocarbon—not the flimsy stuff from typical fly fishermen’s lore. I carry a small box of crudely made flies that I hope will trigger a strike from an enormous King.

All around me, big Salmon leap clear of the water. They make spectacular splashing displays as they motor across shallow gravel flats, all but their bellies entirely visible above the waterline. As I watch, one leaps an embankment and beaches itself. Really! I wade over to coax it back in the river.

This night I’m rewarded with numerous strikes but few hookups. That’s normal. Twice I fight a fish for ten minutes or more, only to lose it for no apparent reason. That’s normal too. I choose my next position and remain still a while. A Salmon bumps my legs. Then again. I glance down and watch a huge King swim between my feet.

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Sweet Battle

Fish on! This one feels heavy and powerful. He fights like a tiger and it takes all my strength to keep pressure on him. I fight line-in-hand for several minutes, then he runs downstream, taking out my line. Now my big primitive fly reel sings as he peels off more and more. When he stops his run, I tighten the drag so it barely clicks as I lift the rod. I move toward the fish and methodically pump him toward me.

Now he’s near, but he moves into a deep hole. This is a problem. With all my strength, I’m merely supporting him in the main current. He’s resting. I apply lateral pressure and the fish cooperatively moves to my side of the river. But when I try to coax him toward my net, he moves back to that deep hole. It takes another fifteen minutes to work him out of that place—then I’m treated to a spectacular display of splashing and thrashing before he heads for a downed tree near the opposite shore.

I know I’ll lose him if he gets into that tangle of wood, so I wade downstream across a shallow gravel flat and tug him away from the hazard. He responds with another show of watery gymnastics, then moves back to that same deep hole. It’s his special hiding place, but this time I’m fighting him from the downstream side and I have the advantage. My pressure adds to that of the current. I’m tiring the fish.

Now he moves onto the shallow gravel and thrashes at the surface not twenty feet away. I see him in the beam of my headlamp. He’s huge—maybe 30 pounds!

Then he’s off! What did I do wrong? I never gave slack. My tackle didn’t snap. I check my fly and find the hook bent open. Tomorrow I’ll invest in better ones.

After a few minutes, my adrenaline slows and I thank God that I get to do this. I cannot comprehend how anybody can possibly land a bigger King than that on a fly rod. Larger ones swim here. I tie on another fly and cast cross-stream.

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Reaction from Friends

“You wade in the water hunting 40 pound fish? Alone? At night? With a fly rod?” The questions get more and more shrill. “And you let them go? Are you crazy?”

I understand that to the uninitiated, my passion may appear extreme. SO IS MY REGULAR WORK! ALWAYS WAS. WHY SHOULDN’T MY WEEKEND RETREAT FOLLOW SUIT? THIS IS ALTERNATE ACTIVITY, AND THAT’S BETTER THAN BED REST!

But I don’t say any of that. No, I respond with a wan smile. “I do this every year at this time.” Then after I sigh from the flood of fond memories, I quietly state the obvious. “Who can stay away?”

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The Main Event

On Friday, official festivities begin. Campers arrive throughout the day, mostly late. They come by car, truck, and plane. John Bueter makes sure everybody is equipped with adequate gear, and if something crucial is missing…well, Baldwin boasts three fly shops.

Bueter takes the group out on the water about 10 pm. I can see my breath. Fog rises from the water’s surface. It’s unusually cold and tonight the air temperature drops to 35˚F, but my waders along with a hoodie and rain jacket keep me snug and cozy.

Bueter points out a female King Salmon and explains where the males will position themselves. “Don’t cast where there aren’t fish,” he says. He demonstrates the most effective way to present the fly and then positions fishermen up and down the stream. I asked him why I get so many strikes but so few hookups, so he watches me and soon sets me straight.

A gal fishing upstream is fighting a huge King. I try to net it, and in my enthusiasm, I take a dunk in the icy water. Her Salmon is so big, it sticks way out of my net. What a thrill!

But now I’m soaked—carrying water INSIDE my waders, and it’s really cold. You don’t fool around with hypothermia. As I fish the remainder of the evening, I keep wading the river to maintain body heat. Four hours later, we’re back at camp and I indulge in a long hot shower. Bueter throws extra logs on the campfire while everybody tells stories and passes the bourbon. Tonight they nickname me “Bobber.”

At noon the next day, I climb out of my tent in amazingly good health and spirits and meet a new neighbor. Jen is a diminutive and vivacious gal of twenty-something. She and her husband just took up fly-fishing and this is their first try at Big Salmon.

Today I make a number of friends. I learn a new fly-cast, how to tie new fly patterns and the theory behind them, and I tuck away plenty of good food.

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Saturday Night

At 10:00 pm, Bueter again leads the group out on the river. It’s another cool night and fog from the river reflects my headlamp and obscures my vision. We explore a mile upstream and find several pods of large aggressive Kings.

I hook and fight two big ones. One snaps my 20 lb. leader. The other I land and release.

I hear Jen call out somewhere downriver: “I love fishing!” Everybody catches fish this night—remarkably fat and strong fish—all King Salmon fresh from the big lake.

It feels like time to turn in when Bueter’s shouts my name. I wade upstream to find Jen bending over a huge Salmon, nursing it back to swimming strength. Fishermen surround her, flashing photos.

Then together, Bueter and Jen lift the fish and we all gasp in awe. Never have I seen a Salmon that size. It weighs out at 40 pounds on the scale! Jen is beaming, and blurts out, “This is Christmas…and Birthday…and…that’s amazing—so amazing.”

How can anybody that diminutive and petite find the skill and strength to land a fish that size on a fly rod? This is the catch of the weekend. Because a first-time angler caught it, it makes the trip particularly special—a winner for everybody.

One happy fisherman shoots a video, which is posted below.

[WATCH VIDEO OF JEN’S CATCH]

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Farewell

Sunday, after a big breakfast, we honor two fishermen taken from us this year, and Bueter hangs their waders in memorial.

Oh God, they meant so much to these dear children of Yours. With deep sorrow and loss we spread their ashes across this unspoiled river given by You, dear Lord—this river they loved. Please take them into your arms for eternity and bless all their loved ones.

[Also see: ALIEN ABDUCTS FISH, THROWS FISHERMAN BACK]

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Contact

Call John or Rhonda Bueter and see if you can wrangle an invitation to Bueter’s Salmon Camp next year.

Phone – 231-745-3070,

Email – Cloud9Baldwin@sbcglobal.net

Website – www.Cloud9Baldwin.com

Snail Mail – Cloud9 Resort, 3360 South M-37, Baldwin MI 49304

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Photo credits

Daylight river and forest images as well as candid shots at camp by John Jonelis.

Night fishing photos by the entire crew.

Video by Dr. Michael Wang, edited JAJ

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Download – INSTRUCTIONS FOR BUETER’S THREE GO-TO SALMON FLIES ( PDF)

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel investor, Chicago Startup, Entrepreneur, Fishing, fly fishing, Information, Innovation and Culture, Man's Favorite Sport, salmon fishing, the great outdoors, vc

HAT TRICK

20161220-20150207-_jaj5090tby John Jonelis

He can feel it, hear it—his heart—beating hard, beating fast. Pounding above the din of those big nubbly tires and the blast of snow hitting the wheel wells. Is it anticipation? Fear? Primeval blood lust?

How will it feel to gun down a living animal? Can he really pull the trigger?

Today, Loop Lonagan joins seven seasoned hunters and four highly trained dogs to indulge in what his editor calls one of the great joys in life—slaughtering a few of God’s creatures. He’s a last-minute stand-in and rounds out the party to eight. Two hunters per dog. Perfect! How did he let himself get roped into this?

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Seasoned hunters?

Loop is a man that loves a brawl—loves it more than anything in the world. He still uses his fists when he gets a chance, but he’s never taken the life of a fellow creature—at least nothing bigger than a cockroach. Today, for the first time, he will attempt to kill pheasant with a shotgun—and for some reason it makes him itch.

Pretty soon, the storm gets mean and he wonders if it could be the weather that’s crawling under his skin. Both highway and horizon fade to white. Only a stray stop sign proves they’re even on a road. And the driver tools along as if nothing’s the matter. Loop shakes his head and mutters under his breath, “Dis is ridiculous. Gotta get myself under control.”

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White out

“Hmm?” Jonelis flips on the wipers and smears half-frozen slop off the windshield. “You say something, Loop?”

“No—no, nothin’ John” Loop goes silent. No way he’s gonna slobber all over the boss with his stupid fears. Just look at the guy! He’s barely touchin’ the wheel. He’s wearin’ that big satisfied grin like he’s in some kinda bliss. What’s he thinkin’?

Wind buffets the truck. Loop looks mournfully out the window.

Finally he can hold it all in no longer. Pointing to the GPS, he shouts, “Dis don’t look much like Route 47 to me, John boy. We shoulda oughta turn back.”

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What road?

The driver squints out the corner of his eye. “Turn back? TURN BACK?” He raises his voice to a roar. “WHAT ON EARTH FOR?”

Loop goes silent. He’s stuck here. He’s gotta tough it out.

“C’mon Loop—don’t pout like that. It snows in Chicago—every year it snows—you noticed that, right? And this whole bottom end always gets hit worst.

No response.

“Thirteen years, and my F-150 still gets me where I wanna go. It’s made for this weather.”

Still no response.

John suddenly cranks the wheel hard.

The truck swerves.

The faint white horizon flashes past the windshield at sickening speed and Loop grabs hold of something, anything.

When the truck straightens out, they’re again pointed the way they started. A 360 degree donut maneuver. Jonelis drives down the snowy path grinning and placid as if nothing happened. The guy’s gone psycho!

“Man, I love winter. Here, I’ll show you again.”

“NO!” Loop breathes fast and hard. “ARE YOU CRAZY?

“Sorry Loop. I guess I just enjoy being immune to the elements. This front is supposed to be headed east in a narrow band. We’ll probably break out of it soon.”

Loop shakes his head, grunts, and takes his hand off the sissy bar. Certifiable—the guy’s certifiable. On pure reflex, he balls his powerful hands into fists and utters a silent prayer for a different ride home. But what’s he gonna do now—walk? He drops his chin to his chest and quietly moans.

John reaches across and pats his shoulder. “Loop, you’re a bundle of nerves. Get control of yourself or you’ll be useless during the hunt.”

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Soggy bottom

Further south, they break out of the winter storm, just as forecast. The sun bursts through the clouds. Now it’s leftover snow banks and soggy ice-water puddles.

So they’re gonna live after all.

And Loop’s brand new Gore-Tex boots will prove a good investment today. He likes good investments and for the first time feels a twinge of optimism about this excursion.

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At the Club

Everybody’s in the clubhouse. But Loop still sits in the parking lot, staring out at a field, trying to ease his racing heart.

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Hunting field

All his life, he’s feared nothing, but that truck ride riled him up bad. Now he tastes bile. He swallows hard. Slows his breathing. Gotta focus on what happens next.

He goes over his fears one by one. What if he can’t hit what he aims at? What if he accidentally shoots another hunter? Or worse, a dog? These guys might forgive the first, but never the second. They spend way too much time training those little mutts.

Funny—none of that seems like such a big deal any more—not since the boss pulled that donut stunt. For the first time, Loop cracks a smile.

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Zeke on point

When he steps out of the truck, his new boots sink into mud and gravel. This sure ain’t the streets of the big city. He opens the tailgate and rummages through his gear, slips on a borrowed blaze orange hat, a borrowed blaze orange hunting vest, and dumps a borrowed box of twenty five high-brass #5 shells in the big pockets.

Slowly unzipping a soft camo gun case, he hefts a borrowed 12-gauge side-by-side, replete with elegant scrollwork and Turkish walnut stock. This is a heavy and absolutely gorgeous field piece. It’s gotta take guts to lend $3,500 worth of the gunsmith’s art to a sloppy amateur.

He works the safety and practices loading shells. Loop has never actually fired a shotgun and his doubts run wild. Sure, he aims a rifle or maybe his favorite Smith & Wesson Shield at stationary targets. But from what he’s heard, this sport sounds more like baseball or maybe even golf than the gun range.

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Practice

He practices mounting the shotgun one last time, swinging the muzzle past a nearby stand of trees, following through after each imaginary shot—just like they told him. It feels smooth and surprisingly natural. The stock fits him well.

“Okay, dat’s DAT! Time t’ face da music.”

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Clubhouse

Inside, Loop joins the party lounging around a big table. Introductions fly by him like dry leaves on a high wind, and in this cloud of new ideas he forgets every single hunter’s name. Strange—he remembers what they call all four of the dogs. Loop loves dogs.

Then one of them lays out the ground rules and mechanics of the hunt. It sounds a whole lot more organized than he imagined and he wonders if his 85 lb bull terrier Clamps can be trained to do this.

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Clamps

A sweet gal sits at the table and slides across a mug of beer. “Initiation time!” she says. “We don’t drink before a hunt but you’re new. You get one beer—just one. Afterwards I’ll allow you the pleasure of buying the first round for the rest of us.”

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Some gals hunt

Loop slurps off the foam and downs the lager with relish. He wipes a sleeve across his mouth, and sighs.

Another group of hunters come in from the barbeque grill and offer a plate of pheasant tamales. Loop bites into his. Delicious! Like nothing he ever tasted before.

Now he’s leaning back in his chair. No more pounding heartbeat. Yeah—everything’s gonna be fine. Time for da hunt.

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Killing Fields

The group’s got two large fields today—one next to the other—all to themselves. They form a line and slowly march side-by-side, spaced well apart, dogs running all over the place, sniffing for birds ahead.

It’s almost impossible to see a pheasant running through this grass. But when one hunkers down in the brush, the dog finds it and holds its point until a hunter flushes the bird. A good dog will hold its position till the shot is fired.

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Hunting formation

Today each hunter will log 5 miles over broken ground, rocks, holes, tall grass and brambles, and slog through wet snow and water, but these little dogs each put in at least 15 miles and get wet doing it. They never seem to tire out.

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Exuberant dogs

Loop’s realizes that his bull terrier would plop down for a nap after half a mile. If he ever retrieved a bird, he’d crush and shake it until it was no longer fit for the table. But hey—Clamps is at home in the city, where he belongs. Every dog has his job.

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Clamps in his element

The guy next to him (Rick, Gregg, Bob?—Loop can’t recall) moves ahead of Shiloh’s point, flushes a bird, and fires. The pheasant drops a leg and flutters down about fifty yards away. When the dog retrieves it, the bird is wounded but still alive. The hunter immediately breaks its neck to stop any suffering. All done so precisely. Very neat and clean.

Loop gapes at that rooster in awe. This is what they’re hunting? The color of its plumage takes his breath away. And look at the size of that thing—there’s gotta be alotta good meat on that bird.

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The beautiful pheasant

When the hunter slips it in the game sack at the back of his vest, they continue their march. Loop looks at his elegant field piece and something changes inside of him.

Maybe it’s the sight of blood.

Maybe the finality of the kill.

As boots crunch through the brush, instinct takes a firm hold and his fear and doubt fade to the background. He zones in on his surroundings with a focus more intense than he’s ever experienced. The bite of fresh air. The array of indescribable wild smells. Four dogs running, leaping. Subtle pheasant prints in the snow. A sparrow flock bursts skyward to his left. A hawk circles high overhead. But most of all the dogs. He tries to keep them all in sight. Impossible.

Mud sucks at his boots, and looking ahead, he sees the field entirely drown in snow melt. No way around it. He utters a silent prayer of thanks for Gore-Tex boots, checks the line of his fellow hunters, and adjusts his position.

They slog on to the next snow bank.

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Dry feet

“Duke’s on point! Hey Loop—your turn!” He sees Duke in thick cover just ahead—nose down, teeth clenched, saliva dripping from his mouth. The animal can barely restrain himself. Wow, do these dogs love to hunt! Loop knows a bird hides somewhere within 20 feet.

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Duke on point

He makes his approach and a huge gaudy rooster flushes, cackling as it flies.

He mounts his gun. Swings the muzzle to shoot. Suddenly two dogs run into his sight picture, chasing under the bird. Nope—can’t risk a shot over them. The pheasant glides safely beyond the tree line. Yeah, those dogs broke training, but after all, they’re excited, just like he is. So what? He might still get another chance today. And maybe somebody will take that bird later.

Just like investing, hunting is lots of hope.

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Upland game field

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Hat Trick

One guy is shouting at the white dog named Jack. That one ranges too far and finally breaks with the group to sniff out an area hundreds of yards to the side.  Loop likes Jack best of all the dogs and breaking from the line of hunters, follows him.  He feels one with him and shares the joy of the hunt as if he were an extension of the animal.

When he gets close, the dog is already holding point. Without warning, a rooster takes wing!

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Jack on point

Without stopping to think, Loop swings his shotgun and fires. Bird #1 tumbles into high grass.

Beginner’s luck.

He’s about to search for it when Jack goes on point again. Loop moves ahead of the dog and kicks at a tangle of brush, then he tries another clump. It seems impossible that a big colorful bird can hide here, but Jack’s still holding that point.

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Flushing a pheasant

The pheasant flushes behind his back.

On pure instinct, he wheels and shoots. An explosion of feathers—the bird drops straight to the ground. Loop fired way too soon—way too close. A real waste—not much meat left on that carcass. He chalks it up to inexperience and tells himself to slow down. But that’s bird #2.

Both barrels empty, he pauses to re-load. But Jack is on point again!

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Jack on point again

He moves ahead of the dog, eyes wide open, searching, wanting the kill. The pheasant erupts from the brush and into the sky. This time, he waits for some shooting distance, then the muzzle roars. Bird #3 down!

Three shells, three birds—all in the space of a couple minutes!

A hat trick!

Jack retrieves one bird, then another, his tail wagging. Loop stuffs both in his vest and picks up the one he pulverized by shooting too soon. He glances at his hands, smeared with blood from the ruined bird, and amazingly, it doesn’t bother him. A couple hours ago he wondered if he could pull the trigger and now he doesn’t even want to wipe his hands clean. He reflects that the blood of these birds is a gift. His game pouch bulges out behind and he enjoys the weight of it. He can hardly believe that he gets this privilege—to experience this primal sport and come away with real food. Again, he utters a silent prayer of thanks.

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One for the Road

Giddy from the hunt, Loop heads back toward the group, all his misgivings gone, every emotion urging him to break into dance. For the most part, he restrains himself. Zeke joins up with Jack, and Loop closely watches those two dogs.

He hears hunters call to each other in the woods.

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Jack and Zeke

Two shots! He pivots toward the sound. Two more shots in rapid succession! A pheasant flies out of the trees, fast as it can go, well out of range of the barrage of pellets aimed at its tail.

Before it can fly past him, Loop swings his gun, leads the bird, and fires.

A head shot! It instantly falls out of the sky.

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Zeke retrieves

Zeke retrieves the bird and Loop stows it, feeling a deep satisfaction he’s never known. That’s bird #4—and he’s spent only four shells! Plenty for the day! He won’t fire his shotgun again this trip.

The hunters form ranks and march across another field. And Loop gets treated to an amazing site. Shiloh points a bird. Zeke and Jack honor that point like the well-bred canines they are. How do they train dogs to do that?

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Zeke and Jack honor Shiloh’s point

Loop draws in a lungful of cold air. What a great day! Everybody gets at least three birds. Even John shot birds, but he claims it happened by accident.

On the way in, he pulls out his phone and snaps off a photo of the group.

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Hunting party

Then they head back to the clubhouse to clean up, drink beer, smoke the compulsory cigar, and tell lies.

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Meat on the Table

Back at the lodge, Loop makes a proposal that they all immediately accept. Dinner at his downtown penthouse.

He phones home. “Yeah Meadows—tell Anatole t’ dig out dat recipe fer Pheasant Zummer. I’m brinin’ da birds. And pick out da best wine. Yeah, all da trimmins, too. I’m showin’ up in an hour with seven happy guests in muddy boots!

He hears a professional, Very good sir,” and can hardly wait to experience the joy of a feast with his friends. These aren’t just any birds—these are HIS birds—birds he hunted down alive and killed himself! He’s sure every one of those hunters feel the same way about their kill. And he remembers something John said—words that got him here: “That feeling of satisfaction lasts for days, maybe weeks.”

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By accident?

Loop’s fallen in love with this place. A hunter’s paradise! It’s gotta be one of Chicago’s best startups and he wonders if they need another investor. The place looks prosperous enough. There’s no membership fee—no monthly dues—no volunteer work—you pay for your birds—that’s it. Nice clubhouse and bar. Good fields. Extended season and no bag limit. You can hire a guide and dog here. They even clean your kill. Wanna go?

And he decides to ride home with the same crazy driver that got him here.

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Erienna Hunt Club is located one hour south of downtown Chicago. The season runs from September 1st to April 15th. If you’ve got any primeval instincts left in your modern mind, check it out!

http://www.eriennahuntclub.com/

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Favorite club

 

All photography by John Jonelis and Loop Lonagan, with thanks to all his hunting mentors, especially Gregg Patz, Rick Bohning, and Frank Spellman.

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
.
.

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