Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Peace in Perrault Falls. The 2017 season has come to an end. It is a beautiful late fall day. The air is warm, well above freezing. A few lucky golden leaves cling the birch trees in front of the house while most of their kin are scattered throughout the green grass below. Our chainsaw carved eagle stands tall and proud watching over the driveway. You have all come and gone and soon our majestic cedar creation will be covered for the winter. Wrapped in a tarp and topped with snow as the seasons progress. Nature is beautiful, inspirational and always changing. Take time to be in the moment and enjoy it folks! Something new and wondrous will surely follow but what is now may not repeat itself quite the same way. As the branches blow and rustle the remaining leaves inevitably fall. A welcome sense of calm embraces our quiet little corner of the world.

I hope we see another August like this year. It is our favorite part of the summer and this year it was incredible! In the first few days of July a good friend and guest of over 30 years, Jim Leeke, asked us what August was like? Well, there’s a reason they call it God’s country up here. It’s Heaven! June is like a teenager. Everything is new and vibrant, growing quickly, filling with life. The leaves on the trees appear in a patchy mist of light, bright green, engulfing the dull branches of the forest’s canopy. Thick green grass grows way too fast. Hot humid days produce fierce thunderstorms. A new season’s young nervously take their first step, hop, swim, and flight. Not to mention the bugs are in overdrive. There is literally a constant buzz in the air. Life is wild with excitement. As August rolls in our teen has matured. Experience calms the nerves, the cycle of life peaks. The pace slows as nature swells in color and abundance! One must stop to appreciation just how beautiful it is.

The summer air is relaxed, filled with warm confident sunshine. Not a cloud overhead and barely a breeze to speak of. Our vast bright blue sky is mirrored by Perrault’s picturesque clear water, smooth and silky, cool and content to just be. Perfect little circles pop up all around and ripple away as fish feed from the surface. Wildlife inhabits every inch of the lake’s 50 miles of shoreline. A beaver passes by with a branch in tow. A family of mallards, their ducklings in full color, glides along the rocks and olive green reeds. The woods are thriving with rich and diverse vegetation. Kelly grass, shamrock weeds, ferns, moss, emerald/basil/juniper/sage colored leaves, bushy cedar bows, pine and forest green needles all present their own intense shade of dynamic healthy gorgeous green. Squirrels race through the dense overhang of thick trees and hardy shrubs. An orchestra of songbirds tweet and chirp as they flutter branch to branch. (Their symphony is most divine at sunrise.) Perched high above it all on the tallest darkest of spruce trees, an eagle scans the pristine water in search of prey.

All of this natural wonder was abruptly interrupted by the delightful squeals and excited cries of our own young. Long slow summer afternoons offered up the perfect conditions for top water bass fishing. It was pure happiness. (With a hint of someone getting hollered at here and there.) The kids love the outdoors. We can’t imagine a better experience to share with them. Jack was thrilled to graduate to a “real” rod and reel this year. Carmen casted her tiny Tinkerbelle rod with ease! They cast out and reel in their top water baits leaving a lovely little wake trailing behind. Cast and reel, ZZZZZZZZ! The line zings out of the reel as the rod arcs sharply toward the water bouncing and tugging in protest. Little voices exclaim, “I got one! Fish on! Help!” Smallmouth are a lot of fun to catch! “Tip up, reel slowly, let it run, reel in, get the net!” It’s all so fantastic watching your children learn and grow. Guiding them, sharing in the enthusiastic smiles on their precious faces and enjoying the gorgeous late summer day in the background. Can it get better than this? I don’t think so. We even enjoyed musky fishing as a family. YES! On several occasions all four of us were simultaneously casting phantoms and bulldogs in hopes of boating a fish bigger than our kids! Or perhaps we would get the chance to watch a big brute explode out of the water and tail dance along the surface. I have to admit that I was a little worried Carmen would be yanked into the water if a musky decided grab on and run with her flashy little mepps spinner. We enjoyed much of August on the lake as a family. Catching fish, having shore lunch, exploring nature, and making memories. Beautiful memories! At the moment I am extremely thankful for these memories because our youngest creature is squirming beside me, knocking the laptop, bumping my arm and endlessly repeating, “Get up mom, get up mom, get up mom!”

The 2017 season was definitely a good one. True to its predecessors it raced by in an eventful cycle of happy ‘Hello’s and inevitable ‘See you again next year’s. Not to mention a rush of weekly chores, projects and life lessons. Most importantly, our guests! We are so very fortunate to have such wonderful people with us year after year and thankful for each week with its respective friendly familiar faces. As the season goes by, some days more challenging and hectic than others, we find comfort in the routine of your annual stay. We look forward to seeing you all on vacation, loving life in the Canadian wilderness! This season also brought many new guests. I can’t say it enough; wonderful people come to Perrault Lake Camp! We hope you thoroughly enjoyed yourselves and we look forward to seeing you again! To Mark and I there is no better place to be in the world than Perrault Lake. It is our pleasure to share it with you all and to create new and exciting memories to add to your collection of great times at PLC.

In the spirit of making memories, Mark and Jackson were able to get out and go fishing with some of our guests. Jackson is a fairly accomplished fisherman for his age and on one particular morning he caught the most fish. Upon returning to the dock one guest remarked, “Oh man, I was out fished by an 8 year old!” Well, insult to injury, Mark replied, “Actually, he’s 5!” Jackson was very pleased with himself. Our young man is also a workingman around here. As shy as he is sometimes, he lives for meeting and visiting with “the customers.” He is always willing to help and eager to earn a dollar. He is delivering ice upon request, helping with bags, tackle boxes, bait buckets and collecting trash. He is a big help with a big smile. Mark thought this would be a good time to introduce the unfortunate reality of taxes. Now and then he will tease the kids, “Give me half of what you have… That’s taxes!” On Halloween night the candy tax was abolished by a protest that was anything but peaceful. So, we resolved to do what every parent does. Wait until they fall asleep then eat some treats!

Carmen is learning the ropes very quickly. She is always hot on her big brother’s heels and will not tolerate being left out of any activity. (She doesn’t tolerate taxes much either.) We take Jackson to the school bus every morning. Carmen is the first one completely dressed and ready to go, “I too come to Jack bus!” At 2 and a half she is teaching us all kinds of things. For example, where is the best place to hide a cell phone after you have turned the ringer off? Did you know that an IPhone almost completely disappears into the most obscure sliver of a vent in our fireplace? And life lessons like how to successfully navigate a minefield. Our little lady abandons every single thing she touches randomly on the floor. I think her goal is to cover every inch of surface area. On any given day the living room is a scene from an ‘I Spy’ book. And DO NOT even dare to trip on let alone step on one of her babies. She will murder you with a glance! Maybe it’s time to introduce the Elf on the Shelf and explain to her, in my most stern mom voice, “If you don’t pick up your toys the elf will tell Santa that you don’t deserve any presents!” Who am I kidding? I would only be adding another piece of junk to the scene! The thought had potential. Hmm… In the past Mark and I joked about playing tricks on our guests with Carmen’s life size baby dolls. Prop one up so it appears to be digging in a tackle box or leave one abandoned on the shore. Maybe we’ll stage them outside in a boat or on her tricycle. Then we’ll explain to her that leaving them lying around tells the dolls she doesn’t care about them and they are running away!

Through the spring and summer we had our hands full with a whole family of tricksters. Otters inhabited the main dock. They nested, had pups, made a smelly mess and despite wiring the hatches shut; they raided the minnow buckets left to soak over night. If they weren’t such a pain in the butt for everyone we could appreciate them for the clever and adorable animals that they are. Floating on their backs with the bait buckets on their bellies, they skilfully maneuver their sharp little claws and crafty paws to pry open the lid and gobble down every last minnow. Every morning shortly after daybreak Mark would come down to the lake to find empty pails. Occasionally a soft wake could be seen travelling away from his approach. One morning after our guests had gone out Mark sat quietly on shore watching Mama and her two pups swim around the docks cruising for a snack. Mark grabbed a paddle and soundlessly snuck on to the main dock to head them off. They popped up on to the platform without even noticing him standing like a statue a few feet away. For several seconds he watched them wrestle and play at his feet. ‘I could end this issue right now,’ he thought. He couldn’t. A mother and her babies, lively little things they are. “I couldn’t do it,” he later told me. (I don’t blame him.) Suddenly mama was aware of his presence. She suddenly slapped her paws on the dock in a feral rage of fright and sounded the alarm, frantically chirping and squealing at her pups to follow as she dove in to the water. The pups panicked and scattered. One followed mama, the other lost his footing and flopped off the dock landing on shore. Terrified and confused, he ran in the wrong direction. The little one froze on the boat launch as his mother called hysterically from the water. Mark stayed put and videoed… Maternal instinct went into over drive. Mama swam to shore, rushed up the ramp, snatched her pup and bolted for shelter under the nearest dock. A very important life lesson was reinforced that day –What is a parent’s #1 job in life? Keep your babies safe! Many good conversations with our own kids stemmed from watching the video Mark took of a distraught mother rescuing her petrified pup. On a more positive note, if you were one of many guests robbed by the otters you will be happy to know that Mark’s mission was accomplished. From then on the buckets remained undisturbed through the rest of the summer. (Check out mama otter in action in our Christmas album on our Facebook page.)

We are also thrilled to report that Perrault Lake served up some of the best fishing we have ever seen! The Leader Board is proudly displayed outside our office and posted on our website. It is an impressive list of the trophy fish caught and released throughout the season. 2017 produced the longest list in The Board’s history. In fact, we had to add an extension! From opening day on the 3rd Saturday in May through the summer and into the fall, fishing was fabulous! In addition to superb Trophy fishing, the abundance of quality fish in each class of Perrault Lake’s populations was outstanding! The bite was on in predictable patterns, sharp hooks made for sure sets and delicious fresh fish was savoured after an exciting day on the water. Be sure to check out all the photos in our Christmas Album on our Facebook page. What a tremendous season it was! One group in particular of great guys from MN returned for their 4th annual trip to PLC. Five guys fished Perrault Lake for four days boating dozens of 27 – 32 inch walleye let alone plenty of eaters and hearty pike. Premiere Canadian Fishing! This year The Leader Board’s big three titles ended in impressive ties. Very well done to the following anglers for boating and releasing these massive hogs and sharks!

Walleye – 32″ – Zach Quale Burnsville MN & Dave Erickson Cloquet MN
Northern Pike – 42″ – Beth Maeder Eden WI & Heidi Laszewski WI
Muskie – 48″ – Nick Zwolinski Chicago IL & Mark Tycholis PLC
Smallmouth Bass – 19″ – Bart Williams Somerset KY
Perch – 13″ – Brodie Williams Somerset KY

This year the odds were in our favour. Mark drew an archery Bull Moose tag. For generations, both our families have harvested moose. They are magnificent animals that yield an impressive quantity of lean organic red meat. Here is this year’s hunt told by Mark:

It was the fifth spot I went to that day. The third day of the hunt and the first day that the wind and rain laid down enough for the animals to move. It was sunny. Blue sky. I followed my usual routine. Listening to the woods I quietly walked along the quad trail into a spot. When I came to the spot I tried to call in a bull with my best whiny cow call. Then wait for a reply. I called and waited 15 minutes, called and waited 15 minutes. Two longs-two shorts, a valuable tip from a family friend, respected hunter and guest. Again, I called and waited. I just wasn’t feeling it. The afternoon was coming up on 5:30 and this spot showed no sign of a bull moose. So I packed up my backpack. That’s it for today. The quad was parked almost a mile away. I started back down the trail. After a dozen steps I heard a grunt from behind me. Without a second thought I delicately set my pack down and re-nocked an arrow. Yes! Here we go! The unmistakeable deep grunt of a Bull Moose shot through the air repeating itself over and over again. Quiet at first but louder with each closing step. I couldn’t see him but he was coming straight at me from straight up wind. At about 70 yards he stopped and thrashed at the willows. I couldn’t tell how big he was but it’s always exciting to have a wild animal coming your way. Especially when it can weigh in at a thousand plus pounds.

I waited to see if he would start coming toward me on his own. He didn’t. I called directly at him. Nothing. A few minutes passed. Turning my back to the bull I got down on all fours and cow called into the ground. Sounds weird but that was another good tip from our friend Kip. (That piece of advice also sealed the deal on my hunt two years ago.) Silence. A few tense moments passed. A short deep blast rang through the air in the opposite direction. What? Not the same moose! This time the grunt came from almost downwind. Now my heart’s pumping! A second bull moose was tracking my cow calls. The first moose fell silent. The second was after me, grunting every few steps, dragging his paddles through the brush. The echo of thin sticks slapping on rock solid antlers filled the cut. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Downwind, the second moose began to circle me heading directly towards upwind moose huffing, grunting and thrashing at every shrub and tree trunk in his way. They’re pretty amazing animals. They can sneak through the thickest woods without making a sound. They can also bulldoze right through the gnarliest forests smashing pretty much anything in their way. And here I am, right in the middle of two bulls.

At this point the second moose was circling upwind and sounded like he was coming out of the bush right in front of me. I remember thinking; I’m kind of ready, as ready as I can be. Knees shaking, heart thumping, arrow nocked. Visibility was poor. I ranged a couple trees where I expected him to come out. I was straining to hear anything and everything around me to get an edge. The first moose stayed quiet and the second was ready to step out of the trees. Then 175 yards away I saw paddles and a big brown wall of an animal cross the trail heading towards where I last heard the first moose. Unreal! It sounded like he was right beside me! I couldn’t believe he was that far away. I stayed put and stayed quiet for a few minutes trying to gauge the scene. Silence. I called softly, two longs-two shorts and waited. Nothing. I started down the narrow trail one careful step at a time making sure not to snap a stick, rub a branch or make a single sound. I thought my heart was pounding before, now I am stalking a full-grown bull moose with a bow and arrow. Closing in on where he crossed I hoped he would still be there. A few more slow careful steps, the trees opened up and there he was! Standing on a ridge 30 yards off the trail. I was literally right beside him.

This is the place. This is my chance. He was an impressive bull, one that I couldn’t let walk. He just stood there surveying the cut, looking for movement, listening and smelling for the cow and the first moose. Between us was a rough rocky incline of bushes, small trees and dead falls. I had one small gap, probably 6 feet wide. He wasn’t in it. Again, I waited. I stood there on the trail watching him watch me. I ranged him, confirmed 30 yards. I’m ready. He started raking the trees and brush around him. I grunted. Fast and aggressive, he jerked his body forwards into the gap. He was staring at me head on, face to face.

Minutes passed. I stool there perfectly still. Moose have phenomenal hearing and smell but poor eyesight. I watched him through the gap. No shot. He lost interest in me, turned and raked a bush. I moved slowly to see if I could get a different angle. Nope. Where I was offered the best shooting lane. He raked again, I moved back. I watched and waited for him to offer a shot. I was going to have to make him move. I grunted again. He whipped his head around in my direction. I have all of his attention. My heart is pounding out of my chest. Feeling the pressure rising I give it another try. I manage to sound off a grunt without my voice cracking like a 13-year-old boy. The bull turned again and stepped into the shooting lane still staring at me. I am sure he’s on to me. It’s now or never. I’m ready. My release is hooked. I stand up from behind a skinny tree. As he turned broadside I drew back, settled my 30-yard pin and released.

Time almost stood still as I watched the glow of the nock fly through the sticks and twigs. THWACK! His hind legs buckled. He took off away from the ridge. I smoked him!

I was sure of my shot. Again, I waited. I took a few minutes to catch my breath. I sent a couple texts, collect my things and quietly walked up to the gap in the trees to look around. This area was logged years before, beyond the ridge was fairly wide open. The ground was speckled with bright red spots. My eyes caught movement upwind. A huge bull moose carrying an impressive set of antlers wandered through the tall grass farther down the cut. I nocked another arrow and scanned the cut. It can’t be the same moose. I know I hit him good. I looked around again. From where I was standing I saw horns sticking up out of the dirt. He made it less than 40 yards. I looked back at the upwind moose, the first one that came to my call. He disappeared into the forest. Wow two big bulls within bow range at the same time! This was a hunt that I will remember for the rest of my life. The moose yielded 770lbs of bone in meat.

Mark was relieved to wrap up his hunt so quickly; we had much work to do. The fall harvest didn’t end with a moose and the camp had to be shut down before freezing temperatures settled in. Fall is a busy time for us. First and foremost, we burn firewood to heat the house. The long cold dark nights and short frigid days easily eat up 3 cords of wood. We cut, haul, split and pile it all. While hunting for wood we also do our best to fill our limits of ruffed grouse. A tasty treat throughout the winter! Secondly, closing the camp. Cleaning, storing linens, draining the water lines and tanks, prepping the septic system, putting a thousand things away and all around cleaning up! We accomplished it all quite smoothly but I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Will we be able to do all of this when were old?’ When it was all said and done Mark and I shared a good conversation. He said it wasn’t long ago that he felt invincible. Like June, rockin’ and ready for anything! And much like our metaphorical cycle through the summer, things change. The babies and toddlers Mark remembers from his days as a teen are now teens and young adults themselves with similar memories of our small children. As we ease into our own figurative August, we realize that our peak approaches. When will the wear and tear of an extremely rewarding lifestyle begin to take its toll? When will the lush greenery begin to fade as a thriving ecosystem slows to conserve energy. Only time will tell.

Two preteen cousins visited us this summer with their Grandparents. Garrett has been here a few times over the years. Henry was enjoying his first trip to PLC and Canada. They had A BLAST fishing, swimming and spending time with their grandparents. Before they left for home in Missouri their grandma recapped a conversation she overheard while making breakfast. “Henry, I just love it up here. When I grow up, I’m taking my family up here! How about you?” Without hesitation his head bobbed up and down in wide-eyed agreement, “Oh Yeah!” We sure hope so guys! And be sure to bring grandma and grandpa with you too!

Our most sincere and heartfelt thanks goes out to all our guests, family and friends for a great season and year gone by. It is a privilege to have you all with us. Your kindnesses and generosities are treasured. Thank you for bringing treats, thoughtful gifts and exciting presents. Thank you for your kind greetings, for short chats, good conversations, playing games and spending time with the kids and us. They too look forward to your visits very much. We also appreciate that many of you gave them the opportunity to earn a little keep. We are grateful for many blessings.

With the holiday season upon us and as we move forward into a new year, be mindful. Find fun, beauty, pleasure and meaning in your life. Spread kindness and peace. Enjoy each day and give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon you and yours. We wish you all the Merriest of Christmases & a very Happy and healthy New Year. We look forward to hearing from you and patiently wait with mounting excitement for the start of the 2018 season!

Your friends,
Mark, Amy, Jackson & Carmen Tycholis