Hunting the Honey Hole

March 30, 2009 by  

By Perry Thorvig

Kenny Z said that he first “discovered” the honey hole when he was 16 years old. Now it is 39 years later, and he is still hunting the same spot.

There aren’t the numbers of birds around that there used to be. But, hey, shooting the birds is only half the fun. The favorite honey hole is a spot where five hunters ranging in age from 35 to 58 can camp, have a few beers, sing Hank Williams songs, and re-tell the wildest stories about those great hunts of years gone by.

I have only had the privilege of hunting with Kenny and the Boys at the honey hole for about five years. I have hunted with Ken for 20 years, but didn’t get an invitation to the honey hole until just recently. Kenny’s other guests include his hunting partner since high school, Mike Ferber, Grant Wilson, a work colleague, and Grant’s brother-in-law Corey.

The honey hole is actually a complex of four to six individual sloughs depending on the amount of summer rainfall. The area does seem to hold water even in very dry years. Half the site is a public hunting area the other half is private land with a 40 acre pond.

Kenny and the Boys first started camping on the site about 15 years ago. It was then that Ken got a ticket for camping in the parking area of the WMA. Somebody complained and the game warden drove 40 miles just to give him a ticket. Kenny thinks it was because the warden had a few run-ins with other family members over the years and was delighted to write out another citation to one of the clan.

After receiving the ticket, Ken found out who owned the land across the road and asked him for permission to camp on the field entrance across from the WMA parking lot. There were two primary benefits of talking to the landowner. First, permission was granted to camp across the road. Second, Ken got to know the farmer well enough that the farmer gave the Boys permission to put their tent camper inside a Quonset hut overlooking the WMA.

The Quonset was like camping in heaven. It was big enough to pull the camper and other vehicles inside. It kept the howling northwest winds at bay and, of course, shed any rain that might fall. It allowed the Boys to sit around outside the camper on the concrete floor of the hut and talk about what hunters talk about. The only drawback to the Quonset was that it was a little too far from the water’s edge of the adjacent slough.

The Boys had use of this hut for two or three years. But unfortunately, a few years later, the farmer decided that he didn’t need this Quonset and tore it down.

Fortunately, he did have another Quonset on the west side of the WMA. This also was a nice refuge. However, there was one major problem. It was a good quarter mile from any road and was approachable only through plowed or harvested fields. The last time the hut was used, the Boys almost didn’t get out of the field on a nasty, rainy Sunday afternoon. They stayed a little longer than they should have for that last mallard on the Sunday following the season opener. By the time they got things organized and broke camp, the morning’s drizzle had turned into a steady downpour. Disaster loomed just beyond the edge of camp. If they could not get out of the field, it meant walking a mile to the farmer’s house and asking him to get one of his tractors to get them out of the mud. It also meant tearing the farmer away from the televised Vikings game and possibly risking any more access to his property.

It was a slow, treacherous pull through the greasy Red River valley black dirt to get the pickups and camper out of the plowed field. Every 75 yards, Grant, who was hauling the trailer, would have to stop and unpack the mud around the trailer tires so the wheels would turn.

The Boys finally got out of the field. They looked like potato pickers on a muddy day. But, at least they made it.

Even though they made it out and avoided inconveniencing the farmer, they would never get to use that Quonset again. It seems that the farmer’s nephew found that the Quonset made a great spot for doing what a teenage boy and girl like to do on a cold winter’s night in the valley. While the kids were doing their thing inside the car with the motor running, the motor on that big pickup got a little too hot and started some straw on fire under the truck. By the time the kids realized what was going on, it was too late. The pickup became engulfed in flames and it got so hot in there that the Quonset began to melt down. So ended the life of another Quonset hut and a great camping spot.

The Boys looked adversity in the eye and went in search of another spot within the section where the wetlands complex is located. They inquired of the farmer that owns the other half of the section adjacent to where they had been camping. He didn’t have any Quonsets and his old farm place was in the process of falling in on itself. But, he did have the sweetest little camping spot that five duck hunters could ever want. It lay between the WMA and the farmer’s private 40 acre pond.

The edge of the pond is only 75 feet from the camper that the Boys use. The wooded edge of the wetland provides a windbreak from the west and north winds but is open to the to the warming rays of the early fall sun. It is a short ATV trip from camp to the WMA where there is a relatively short haul down to the edge of the cattails. And, what’s best is that the grassy camping area has a firm foundation where it would have to rain like the days of Noah to keep the hunters from getting out of the site and out to the main country roads.

An added benefit to this site is that, when the wind is just right, a hunter with a good shooting eye can pass-shoot geese heading for the decoys across the pond from camp. Old dead-eye Kenny Z. did just that on a recent trip to camp. Those old geese think they are safe passing over the tent and the guys out on the grass cleaning the morning’s bounty. But, they are wrong!

The anchor of the base camp is Ferb’s dilapidated old 14-foot camper. He spent a $1,000 bucks on her. She may not be much to look at, but she is loved. Physically attached to the trailer, by way of duct tape, is the Happy Hut. The Hut is a portable 10-foot by 20-foot white plastic tent that is sold to cover vehicles. It is assembled on the camping site before the trailer is maneuvered into its position at the open end of the tent. The tent is then nudged closer to the camper. A little heavy plastic and duct tape seals up the space between the tent and the trailer. A doorway is added to the tent along with a 25,000 BTU propane heater. And, “voila,” it’s home sweet home.

One good flashlight will light the whole Happy Hut because of its white walls. But, a flashlight will use up batteries. So, cords are run to a little generator. It powers three lights and the portable CD player. Sometimes, the Vikings game can also be watched if the portable TV happens to work that day.

Kenny and the Boys are in heaven with their little honey hole – four duck sloughs a short walk away, a roof over their heads, good food to eat, their favorite beverages in hand, and Hank Williams on the CD. And, of course, no “honey-dos.”

Some of the Boys are getting a little old, now. They are getting bald, a bit crippled, and don’t stay up as late singing those Hank Williams Jr. songs as they used to. They won’t always be able to go to camp. But, they will have their memories of their favorite honey hole and their favorite songs.

Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
If I’m down in a Honky-Tonk
Some ol’ slicks tryin to give me corrections
I’ll say leave me alone
I’m singin all night long
it’s a family tradition

Family Tradition – Hank Williams, Jr.


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