OUTDOORSMAN: Lets Not Get Muddy!

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By: John Arkwright

While fall is a special time of the year for the motley crew at Long Lake Hunt Camp, I look forward to spring with just as much enthusiasm.

We usually snowmobile into the hunting camp a couple of weekends during the winter with the theory being that we’ll plan our spring to-do list. As I recall though, I can’t remember if we’ve actually ever talked about it.

Really, it’s just an excuse to go to the camp for a weekend, fire up the barbecue, cook some wild game with fried onions, toss the froth off a few cold ones and play some cards.

This past fall our area was hit with a number of heavy, wet snowstorms and high winds in December, obliterating not only our camp road but also our network of trails.

We had to cut our way out through the downed trees and underbrush in moose season and the final weekend of deer season. I did manage to get into the camp this winter with our Can-Am 500 Max equipped with a track kit.

With deep snow and numerous trees down, I was able to go places with a tracked ATV that a snowmobile would have had a hard time getting to.

I’ve gained a lot of respect for track kits. They not only allow me to extend the versatility of my ATV but their handling characteristics have come a long way in a few short years.

Would I give up my snowmobile? Definitely not, but I truly enjoyed every minute I spent on that tracked ATV this past winter.

Winter is over now for another season and that’s good as my favorite time spent on an ATV is in the spring and usually within a 5-mile radius of the camp. No leaves on the trees and no black flies and mosquitoes to fight off.

This is the best time for camp repairs, firewood to be cut and split for the fall, get material in for any new deer stands and to clear shooting lanes.

I also find this is the best time to fix up our hunting trails or maybe add a new trail to another big buck hot spot as it gives them time to firm up and seal over the summer. Not only do these trails allow us access to great hunting locations but it also lets the deer and moose get used to them as well.

I enjoy a good mud run but I really hate mud holes on our hunting trails. For years I hunted out of a camp where no matter where you went, it was through a mud hole and usually one with hidden surprises.

Today I’ll go to any length to fill in these monsters. If you get at it in its infancy, it doesn’t become one of those bike-sucking quagmires that just keep getting deeper and so wide there’s nowhere to go around them.

I was talking to a friend of mine and he was thinking of upgrading to a taller set of ATV tires because the ruts are getting so deep they’re always hung up and find themselves continually winching. Guess what! If you don’t do anything about those holes, in a couple of years you’ll be in the same boat again.

Forget the 27-inchers, just fix the trail. By staying on top of your trails you avoid those ugly, wide mud holes and torn up marshes that environmentalists love to complain about.

For the record, we now have an official nasty mud hole and it’s at the top of my list this spring for a fix-up. We didn’t find out about this monster until Jim Brogan found a perfect spot for another tree stand. We loaded up two ATV trailers with lumber and off we went.

Sure enough, within ten minutes of leaving the camp, we were mired. After another ten minutes of pushing, shoving, muttering and swearing, mostly by me, we were able to get Alfonz Reiss’s Traxter around Jim, hook on to his ATV and tow him through the mud hole and up the hill.

I usually have my camera with me; fortunately for Jim, not this time. The best part is I managed to get the ATV and loaded trailer through the mud hole that Jim tore up and up the hill without needing Alfonz to tow me.

Driver skill was quite obviously the ticket here. All that being said, the collateral damage was: one CV axle, one taillight lens and I now have a custom 3-piece (was two) Kolpin gun scabbard. The only good news? My gun wasn’t in the scabbard.

We finished the stand on Wednesday with Jim only sustaining one minor flesh wound (he’ll live) and my nephew shot a deer on Saturday, three days after we built the darn thing. So much for letting the deer get used to the stand.

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