Saturday, December 10, 2016

3 Generations of Deer Hunters

Paul Smith wrote this touching article about Garry's friend Dennis, who hunts with his son and grandson.

The Grateful Heart of a Hunter at Sunset 
Published in the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel,
November 12, 2016.

The start of the season was more than a week away, but on Thursday  Dennis Kowalewski of Helenville began to gather his gear for the 2016 Wisconsin gun deer hunt.
After more than 50 deer seasons, the ritual was familiar, the equipment and clothing like old friends.
“Not a lot of reason to change,” said Kowalewski, 68. “It works.”
The plan and his hunting partners were the same, too. On Friday before the opener, he’d meet up with his two sons, Luke of Waukesha and Matt of Milwaukee, and grandson Owen of Waukesha.
They’d pack into one vehicle and the four Kowalewskis would drive west to Richland County, the place they’d hunted for 25 years.
They know the property well and, though nothing is ever certain in hunting, experience had taught them to expect to see deer on opening morning.
All the pieces Dennis Kowalewski carefully assembled over the years for his family to enjoy their favorite outdoors pastime seemed to be in place. Except for one almighty important one.
“I don’t know what’s coming,” Kowalewski said. “I mean, I know what’s coming. But not when.”
Kowalewski retired in 2000 after 34 years on the Milwaukee Police Department, much of it on the SWAT team.
He and his wife Mary were enjoying their retirement, which for Dennis included lots of hunting. He had a lease on a 125-acre property near their home in Helenville that held deer.
He also made trips to western states, and the annual sojourn to Richland County with his boys.
Then one morning about two years ago he woke up and couldn’t move his left arm.
A barrage of tests eventually revealed the cause: a type of brain tumor called astrocytoma. Worse, it was malignant.
“The doctor didn’t pull any punches,” Kowalewski said. “There was basically no chance of a cure, just treatment to buy time.”
The grizzled ex-cop talked about his condition without self-pity. Like anyone, he wished he had more years to enjoy life after retirement.
But he routed the conversation toward memories of good times and things for which he was thankful.
Kowalewski grew up in Milwaukee with three brothers and graduated from Messmer High School. He fondly recalled playing basketball in an alley behind his house with John Johnson, who would later star in the NBA.
Once on the police force, Kowalewski used much of his vacation time for hunting. He traveled to western states about 40 times, and made four trips to Africa.
“I got to do most of the things I wanted to do,” Kowalewski said.
Last year, chemo and radiation treatments had beaten his body so badly his doctor wouldn’t let him go hunting during the gun deer season.
A month ago, though, Kowalewski was able to make the trip to Richland County with Luke, 41, and Owen, 11, for the youth deer hunt.
“We need to get kids outdoors,” Kowalewski said. “They’re playing too many computer games.”
The three sat in a ground blind together on Saturday of the youth hunt. Toward the end of legal shooting time, Kowalewski and his grandson talked about the possibility of shooting a doe.
At that moment, an antlerless deer came into the field.
“I asked Owen if he could see it,” Kowalewski said. “He said yes. But then he said a buck was coming, too.”
Owen settled his rifle scope on the antlered deer and squeezed the trigger. The buck bounded into the woods about 125 yards away.
Three generations of Kowalewskis walked out to search for the deer. What they discovered just inside the treeline was a buck of a lifetime. The deer is being mounted by taxidermist Garry Senk in Muskego; it is likely to score more than 150 inches.
“I couldn’t have been happier for Owen,” Kowalewski said. “That was something we’ll all remember…”
Treatments for Kowalewski’s brain tumor had kept it about the same size over the last year. But recently it started growing. He’s now getting stronger chemo.
The cancer has taken away the use of his left arm. And his energy is running low. On a trip last week to northern Wisconsin, he had trouble walking 250 yards to a ground blind.
“You know who I really feel for, is these guys coming back wounded from Afghanistan,” Kowalewski said. “They are too young for that.”
On Thursday, Kowalewski had his sights set on the Nov. 19 opener. The chance to hunt one more time with his sons and grandson is pulling him forward.
Deer hunting is more than a chance to put antlers on the wall or win bragging rights. It's a link to our ancestral hunting and gathering roots. It's a tie that binds modern families together.
"I don't know how much time I've got," Kowalewski said. "But I missed last season. I'm determined to get out there this year with my boys."
All of us will have a last hunt. Not many will realize it before hand.
And precious few will face it with such grace as Kowalewski.
"We might get a deer, but that doesn't really matter," Kowalewski said. "I want to get out and share another sunrise with my boys. For me, that's living."
Wisdom knocks with such clarity, doesn't it?
Where ever you find yourself this deer season, here's hoping you follow Dennis Kowalewski's example.
Keep your family and friends close, savor every moment.
Godspeed, Dennis, Godspeed.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rex Visits the Shop

The youngest visitor to the shop & home display area!   
Smile! Show us your teeth! Skull is from a 10 foot alligator,
usually kept on a shelf, not on the sofa. 
 Earlier this month our youngest grandchild, Rex, came to visit with his parents from California. He's not even 2, so we thought he might be afraid of some of the animal mounts, especially the huge caribou head in the living room, but he wasn't. He knows many animals by sight, learned some new ones, and had fun in Grandpa Garry's Museum of Natural History. 

Growling like a bear for Dad & Grandma,
Meeting the Silver Fox - just my size! 
Lion Mount in Progress
We'll post more photos when it is done, and on a base. 

Petting the Mountain Goat
We'll have a full post on the goat mounting process later. 

Happy Grandma, having all 4 kids in the same state for a few days!
Lily, Rex, Sierra and Justin

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Grilling Salmon on the Salt Plate

Grilling Salmon on the Himalayan Salt Plate

We received a salt plate as a gift and were anxious to try it. For once, I actually READ INSTRUCTIONS before using something new. I found that it is only to be used on a grill or gas range (we have electric), not in the oven. So, following directions, we slowly heated the salt plate on our gas grill on the deck. 

Garry had been fishing with his friend Scott Kelly on Lake Michigan out of Port Washington in July. They caught their limit of 10 fish by 6:45 a.m.  They caught Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. 

We tried fresh Coho salmon on the salt plate that night. Here's the fish seasoned with lemon pepper, on the heated salt plate. We didn't oil the plate and the fish came off easily. 

Our tasty meal! 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Camping in Cassville, WI

Camping - Nelson Dewey State Park 
Garry and I took a long weekend at the end of July and camped for a few days in Nelson Dewey State Park, near Cassville, WI, on the Mississippi River. The park is small and the campground wasn't crowded. There were a few short hiking trails. The scenery was beautiful and we learned more about Wisconsin history by taking a tour at the Stonefield Historic Site, including the Dewey Mansion. We thought it was rather funny that Governor Dewey wanted to make Cassville the capital, since it is basically at the end of the state. 

We only saw one deer - I think this is Bambi!

River view from the park

View of Stonefield Site from Nelson Dewey State Park

The river was high and there was some flooding.

I had to ask my botanist coworker what this thorny tree was -Honey Locust 

We tried to get to the river from this road 

OK, we turned around. 
Cool web in the woods! 

Quiet, shady campsite on the hill above the railroad tracks and river.
Grilled Portobello mushrooms with crabmeat

I love cooking while camping, but it was very HOT on this trip, so we didn't cook a lot. This isn't a great photo - but they tasted good! I took 2 portobello mushroom caps, scraped out the gills, and stuffed them with a combination of crabmeat, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. Then I wrapped them in foil and grilled for about 15 minutes. Yummy! The original recipe called for shrimp, not crab and we'll try that next time. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Warthogs - Cute or Ugly?

Mounting a Warthog

Garry mounted a warthog for a customer who collected the animal in Botswana. Warthogs are found in most areas of the southern two-thirds of Africa. The customer wanted the skull cleaned and finished in an antique copper patina. Garry casted the tusks and put the cast tusks into the shoulder mount and the real tusks are in the finished skull. The tusks should be removed every two years and lightly oiled with mineral oil or they will crack. 

Finished Warthog Mount

Cleaned skull with antique copper finish & real tusks inserted.

Warthog form with tusks fitted to manikin.

Warthog tanned cape ready to be added to the form.

Glass eyes are set in clay and form is covered with glue.
Turing the mount over allows Garry to sew the seams. 
Tusks are added back into the manikin.

Glued and pinned.

 Pins hold everything in place while it dries.

After drying, the skin color is restored with paint.

Finished mount

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blues, BBQ, Bison, Birds, Bass Pro (and Elvis)

Memphis, TN & Land Between the Lakes 

In May, 2016 Garry and I drove from our home in Muskego, WI to Memphis, TN. Neither of us had been there before, and we wanted to check out Beale St. blues, BBQ and the (Grace)land of Elvis. We stayed two nights in a hotel in Memphis and then camped a few nights at the  Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area  in southwestern Kentucky. 
Beale St. (Sorry about the garbage can photos)
We tried BBQ at The Pig On Beale one night and the next night went to  Silky O'Sullivan's, sat outside on the patio, listened to some great live blues and watched the diving goats. An Irish bar with BBQ and diving goats, yes, that's true. I didn't ask the goats if they were really Irish.

Everyone told us we needed to see Graceland while we were in Memphis. We were amazed at the size of the entire operation. Our basic ticket gave us access to the home and grounds tour and the car museum, as well as the memorabilia spread over several small museums in connected buildings. (I'm the car fan, Garry could care less). We saw a huge variety of costumes, gold records, movie memorabilia, as well as the cars. Of course there are several gift shops featuring every Elvis themed item you could think of. The actual home is across the street from the museum portion and the home was very modest by today's "celebrity" standards. 
A display outside of the museums and shops at Graceland

Graceland, the home itself. 

Outside of Museum of Elvis' cars. Big fins!

The Peacock Room at Graceland . We tried to imagine how many interesting people had been in the house during the time that Elvis lived there!

Memphis Riverfront

We took a tram over to the riverfront history museum, which has an outdoor scale replica of the entire Mississippi River.

The end of the scale model of the Mississippi River

 We also visited the Bass Pro store at the Pyramid. Garry wanted to see the the  Ducks Unlimited museum there. It also has a lodge and restaurant. 

Bass Pro at the Pyramid, Memphis, TN
After leaving Memphis, we drove to a camping area we reserved at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Garry asked me to find the shortest route on the printed map. I didn't recognize the map symbol for "ferry", so I mistakenly took us to the end of the road, where we had to ride this tiny ferry across the Cumberland Lake. It cost $1.00 and we had to phone the driver from our car and ask him to come across. It looked scary at first but was actually a calm & fun ride. 

We had no trouble finding our campsite and were pleased with the view. It was unseasonably cold, and I had to borrow some of Garry's clothes to add layers. Predicted nighttime temp of 60 was more like 40. But the showers and toilets were warm! 

We went to a nature center in the park. We also drove through a gated area where bison and elk are being kept. We stopped for quite a while to watch the bison. A big male came very close to the car and licked the wheels. 

Fallow Deer

Eastern Bluebird (Male)

Great Blue Heron

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mounting a Standing Duck

Mounting a Standing Duck

Common Goldeneye 

Garry's favorite taxidermy project is bird mounting. Here are the basic steps to mounting a duck. The bird is skinned with a belly incision, fleshed, washed and dried. 

This photo shows the dried skin, artificial body made from a tracing of the bird carcass.  Garry hand makes his artificial bodies from excelsior. Most taxidermists buy pre-made foam bodies. The head is a cast of the real skull and bill, made from urethane plastic. Glass eyes are added to the artificial head. The bill is painted. The duck in the photo is a Common Goldeneye and it's bill is black. 

Leg wires are added and the belly seam is sewn. Pins hold the feathers in position until dry (about 2 weeks). The leg wires hold the bird to the branch in this mount. After drying, the colors are restored to the feet with paint. 

Common Goldeneye (Drake)