Food Plots by Jeff Sturgis of Whitetails Habitat Solutions

As the summer months approach, Family Wild is neck-deep in renovating our new/old Back Acres hunting property.  With 68 acres of hardwoods, cedar, highlands, swamp Red Osier Dogwood as well as 9 buildings filled with waist-high trash and treasures (mostly trash) from the former owner, we have our work cut out for us.

First on the agenda is the repair and replacement of the plumbing.  As the former owner has been deceased for 4 years and the pump and plumbing longer than that, we (Kim and Courtney) determined that a working toilet comes before hinge-cutting and food plots.

However, I’m not sure anyone other than the members of the new hunting camp have much interest in the plumbing project.   Although let me digress and say I hope the inventor of Pex resides on a tropical island with all the amenities they desire.  I’m currently studying the food plot recommendations of Jeff Sturgis of Whitetails by Design.

A former resident of both peninsula’s of Michigan, Jeff’s casual writing and YouTube presentation style make him easy to read, watch, listen to and most important understand.  Even better, he works with hundreds of clients to help them create productive whitetail herds and properties.

A QDMA award-winning deer manager, Jeff has multiple books available including the one I’m reading “Food Plot Success by Design.”  In addition, he offers over 200 short videos on YouTube under his White Habitat Solutions.

What I enjoy most about Mr. Sturgis is many of his recommendations are financially friendly albeit requiring sweat equity.  Further, he’s not a proponent of the latest “pretty graphics magic beans in a bag” solution for your property.  He explains that many of his properties are actually less than 40-60 acres in size.

I highly recommend you check out his YouTube series and if you like his philosophy then invest in his books.  I believe you’ll enjoy the fruits of his recommendations while bring your relatives together to get Family Wild!

Check out Jeff’s website at:

Stewardship and Love

“The key to living well is remembering that nothing lasts. Holding that key, we simply respond honestly and cleanly to whatever comes our way. We do not fear suffering when it comes, because we know that it cannot last. We do not dampen our joy by worrying whether or not it will end; we know it will end and thus hold it all the more precious.  . . . Nothing lasts, . . . and that is the most liberating truth of all.”
— Rami Shapiro, The Way of Solomon

This quote came home as we continue work on our new hunting property, Back Acres, LLC. It’s a big clean-up, replete with hundreds of molded books, bags of clothing, mouse-a-fied furniture and the accumulation of years and years of living. As we watched the roaring fire yet again diminish to a 4’x6′ area of thin ash, it reminded us that what we accumulate in our lives is not as important as the relationships we nurture with the great trees and rocks on the property, the birds and animals of the camp, and our parents, siblings, children and grandchildren. This is where the previous owners continue to touch our lives. Material items pass through our hands and return to dust. Love and the way we honor life alone abides.

Snack Time Fun

Break out the healthy finger food–fruits and vegetables, cream cheese or peanut butter (careful for those with nut allergies please!) and get creating these cute edible insects.  The picture comes from Facebook, and I’ve been chuckling all day as I look at it!



Camp Back Acres Clean-Up

The fire cut a twelve foot hole in the 27 inches of snow,
15 sled loads,
a lifetime of rugs,
of clothes,
of broken picture frames.
Each item sends up sparks of prayer,
carrying an “I’m sorry”
into the embrace of bare maple branches.
I can only promise to honor the lives
who created the buildings on our new land,
to walk the trails they cut
in reverence,
and with a promise to care-take well.

Nature Arts: Reconnecting with the Forest

One way to reconnect with nature? Take your cell phone camera for a walk in the woods! I try to stop periodically and “listen” for where my attention wants to go–this rock, that mossy stump. I move around it, then, almost like asking permission, then snap the shot. When I first come into the forest, I’m aware everything is a blur, running together. But as I settle and start to observe, a million individual parts of the wood begin to capture my imagination, and the world comes back to life in all its individual colors and textures.

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Ice Fishing on Houghton Lake – Part 2

Now armed with a new (used) ice auger, I couldn’t wait to get out and test it, so manned with our ice auger, poles and supplies all packed on to our new sled (Oh that’s right. I had to buy an ice fishing sled), Kim and I headed out on the ice with me towing the supplies.

Imagine an orange Pillsbury Dough Boy dragging Santa’s sleigh full of ice fishing equipment the length of a par 5.  Much sweat and heavy breathing later, I fired up the ice auger and it started on the second pull!  Did I mention the ice auger takes a special gas/oil mixture you can buy at the local auto parts store for about $7 a quart?  I soon found that my workout wasn’t over because drilling multiple fishing holes takes a fair amount of effort.  I also learned this tidbit quickly: don’t let go of the auger while it’s still running! Thankfully it turned off and didn’t just spin into oblivion.  Or into the lake.

After drilling 6 holes, I set up Kim’s pole and tip-up.  Kim’s dad was kind enough to pass on his ice fishing gear to us.  As a result, I had to buy a large spool of new line and take off the 30 year-old line and replace it.  Nothing like the hand over hand method of taking off thousands of feet of brittle, aged, fishing line. I recommend power-watching Netflix while you do it.

If you’re new to ice fishing, like Kim and I, you may not know what a tip-up is.  I mean, we knew what it was, but didn’t really know how they worked.  Thankfully, we found a Canadian on You Tube that showed us, step-by-step how to set the tip-up – “up.”

I then started on my poles as I couldn’t wait to finally get to fish.  As I started to get my first pole set up, I noticed that about 8 spins of line had worked its way up below the spool.  If you’ve never had this happen, consider yourself lucky.  Otherwise you get to become the fishing reel doctor as you perform surgery to access the line culprit.

Once I got the spool off the reel, I peeled the line from around the spool stem.  Of course I could feel kinks in this part of the line, so after stitching the patient back up, I got to pull several feet of new line off the reel to rid myself of the kinks and finally get my pole rigged for some actual fishing.  One of my kin used to say it wasn’t a fishing trip with Mike unless I got snagged or my line all buggered up in some way.  I really wish I could argue his point.  SIGH.

I finally got my poles set up and we fished for a couple hours. Not one bite, so we packed up the Santa sled and returned to the Family Wild clubhouse.  I crawled to the shower, rinsed off more sweat than you want to hear about and then passed out for three hours.

No one told me that ice fishing was a work-out sport.

I lay in bed dreaming of a 4 wheeler to haul our gear and my big butt out on the lake.  I justified the idea for all I was worth:  we could use it at camp to haul deer, drag food plots and save all the old guys from potential heart attacks.  We could also use it to ride to our cottage and take our grand-kids for rides. When I woke up, I knew I had the solemn responsibility to buy a quad for the sake of our family’s health and well-being.

After searching Craig’s List, FB Marketplace, and other sites with no success, we ended up at Spicer’s in Houghton Lake.  Spicer’s is Mid-Michigan’s leading seller of boats, quads, and ATV’s.  We found an affordable 2010 Polaris for “only” $3000.   Of course we had to buy two helmets because in Michigan an ATV driver must wear a helmet.   Normally I wouldn’t be opposed to wearing a helmet, except in Michigan, motorcyclists don’t HAVE to wear a helmet.

From time to time I may use the phrase OIA – which can mean Only in Alpena or Only in America.  I may also use the acronym OIM – Only in Michigan.  Requiring the driver of a 4-wheeler to wear a helmet but not require the same of a motorcyclist – OIM.  As if this wasn’t insane enough, OIM can you not allow a second person to ride behind the ATM driver, but you can pull a second person on a sled IF they’re wearing a helmet.  Gotta love government.

For more on Ice Fishing on Houghton Lake – Part 3 Com’on Back tomorrow.

Feel free to visit our website at www, 

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Ice Fishing on Houghton Lake

Mike here.

After helping my brother with a photo project,  I picked up Kim and our dog Maverick and raced home to Houghton Lake.  Tired from the trip, Kim opted to nap, so I ran down to Lyman’s and picked up a dozen blues, a couple new lures and a pack of Number 10 treble hooks all intended to help me limit out on pike, walleye and anything else with fins.

Now, let me digress.  Prior to this year, I’ve ice fished a couple of times with friends and once as a kid.  To call me an ice-fisherman would be like calling me a pilot because I’ve traveled in a plane a few times.  When we moved to Houghton “Tip Up Town” Lake a year ago, it only seemed natural that we’d migrate to the winter side of fishing.

As with far too many things in my life, I jumped right into the deep end. A sled to pull the poles and gear.  A used 4-wheeler and a trailer to pull it.  A used gas powered auger because I almost suffered a massive heart attack with a hand auger I picked up at the Restore when I couldn’t afford a new one or an electric auger.  A new fishing box full of hooks, sinkers, split shots, little yellow floating balls, then little red floating balls, number 14 hooks, then #12 hooks (and now #10), a minnow bucket (don’t forget you need a minnow net), and new swivels later,  Oh, I forgot, a used fish shanty and a Buddy Heater.  I now declare myself an ice fisherman.

Mind you, this transformation to winter fishing has taken several weeks of trial and error.  The first time we went out armed with Grandpa Del’s bucket-o-ice fishing poles, a dozen minnows and our blue hand auger resulted in twenty minutes of cardio, about an inch deep hole, a full frothing sweat, dumping the minnows on the ice and pricing new ice augers at Lyman’s on the Lake (those guys are great by the way), we decided we needed to invest in a used ice auger.

Craig’s list here we come…

Before I continue the story, I should mention that Family Wild strives to invite you and all your relatives (and friends) to Com’on Outside and enjoy the thrills, excitement, and occasional trials and tribulations of hunting, fishing and outdoor art activities.  We hope to encourage you to take to the lakes, woods, and streams and make memories with your children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.  Along the way, you’ll enjoy (endure) events that become the history, story and lore of your family for years to come.  On our blog, we want to share our experiences of joy, challenge, and sometimes frustration (so you know you’re not alone!) with our nature-based hobbies. 

Back to my regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.  After searching Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace, I finally settled on a used, gas powered auger.  Having read the Art of the Deal, I transformed an asking price of $150 into a trade for my Christmas $50 Amazon Gift Card (the seller said he was giving to his wife) and $75.  Of course, we had to meet in a gas station parking lot off I-75 to finalized our deal.  Having bought multiple items on Craig’s List that didn’t work when I got home, I’ve grown much smarter over the years and asked him to start the auger to prove it worked.

Well, 25 pulls, an exhausted seller, and the strong odor of gasoline later,  he promised me it had always worked and begged me to stay and he would run to his friend’s house to drain the Mississippi flood of gas out of the carburetor and clean the plugs.  I was just thrilled to see others on the planet have similar luck with inanimate objects.

Having bought two small used boat motors this spring, neither or which I’ve since been able to start, you could say I was a bit suspicious. Not to mention I didn’t want to see Kim shake her head in utter disbelief at another Craig’s List investment.  I decided to take the leap of faith anyway, and headed back to the car to explain to her that I was sure he just flooded it. I can still see her shake her head in utter disbelief as we waited for my heroic seller to return.

Long story shorter, he returned and told me his friend called him an idiot for priming the gas bubble four times after he had run it before he left his home.  I then learned, if the motor is cold, you choke it, pump it twice and pull.  If it doesn’t start, pump it once and pull.  If it doesn’t start,  notice your wife shake her head in disbelief out of the corner of your eye, pump it once and pull and it will start.  If you’ve run it recently, pull once, then choke it and pull, then pump the gas bubble once and so on.  The good news, as opposed to the two boat motors?  The auger has worked as agreed and I negotiated the price down like the dad on A Christmas Story buying his tree.

For more on our ice fishing experiences and future outdoor adventures, I invite you to Com’ On Outside with Family Wild for more of our Tip Up Town fun.

Com’on Outside at

Ice Fishing Houghton Lake w Courtney

Courtney & Dad headed out on Houghton Lake.

Instagram Goes Wild

You can keep up with our Wild life on Instagram:  Family_wild

Watch for our new books about marketing for bait shops, hunting store and nature arts venues, coming in April, 2019.

Monster Pike on Houghton Lake

It’s a lovely time of year for ice fishing!  Here is a recent catch on Houghton Lake that our neighbor landed through a 10 inch hole, as well as a lovely perch and crappie.  Check out You Tube for how to create five fish steaks from Northern Pike that are de-boned and ready to prepare with a great batter or garlic and butter sauce!