When I was very young, feeding birds in winter was the essence of simplicity. It consisted of tearing into small pieces the crusty heels of bread loaves and tossing them out on the snow. If we were "wusses" and cut off the crusts of our peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches, these too were served to the house sparrows, jays and other backyard visitors.
It came as a very much-unwanted present just after Christmas when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that chronic wasting disease (CWD) had been found in two deer in a captive herd on a game farm in North Central Minnesota's Crow Wing County. CWD is a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system that attacks members of the deer family, including whitetail and mule deer, elk and moose. In its effects CWD is similar — actually related — to "mad cow disease" in cattle.
You might have a difficult time convincing a true perfectionist that "Perfect is the enemy of good." The fact that I readily accept this wisdom suggests that I'm not much of a perfectionist, an accusation for which there is ample evidence. My willingness to embrace the imperfect must have an effect on those around me, if one of the events of our Christmas holiday weekend is any indication.
The post-mortem or "mop-up" after the end of an angling or hunting season can be accompanied by a certain amount of melancholia; at least for a while. There are so many different things that outdoors lovers can do year-round in Minnesota that it's hard to feel sorry for anyone who lets post-season blues keep him down for long. Still, the end of a favorite season is not so unlike what we feel at the bon voyage of a good friend with whom we may not share company for many months to come.
Minnesotans have become all too familiar with what are known as "invasive species." Some are plants, like Eurasian watermilfoil, which can take over shallow water environments, choke out native vegetation and make navigation and recreational use next to impossible. Others are animals, like the nonnative zebra mussel, which consumes so many minute organisms that it can drastically alter a lake's food chain; to say nothing of their razor-sharp shells attaching by the many thousands to underwater surfaces, including docks, boat lifts, outboard motors, water intakes and more.
I'm a sucker for inspiring words. In a life where we can find plenty of cause to be disappointed and cynical, I'm always on the lookout for reasons to be hopeful and content. Words, spoken or written, sometimes point us in the direction of hope and contentment. I encountered a few such words while taking one of my frequent "strolls" around some favorite web sites. One of these destinations is the web site of the Duluth News-Tribune. I go there in part because the News gives lots of space to outdoors topics.
I'm not the most organized guy, as some who know me will readily confirm. Occasionally this leads to risky habits, like failing to open mail in a timely manner. I was reminded of this recently when a piece of mail that had gone missing was found as I sorted through my "examine and throw" pile. This pile contains mostly publications, advertising, and so-called "junk mail."
Promises, promises! They're the very fiber of political campaigns, claims and commitments that win votes, and — sometimes — reveal politicians' attitudes and philosophy. But not always. We know from experience that to amass enough support to win an election, many candidates shift their positions on issues, thanks to a nominating process in which the more extreme political factions may have influence beyond their numbers. Put simply, candidates often say what they think the nominating and electing publics want to hear. Dishonest?
"Deer camp" is both a concept and a place. In concept, it's leaving behind day-to-day cares and surroundings for simplicity and singleness of purpose, typically in the company of friends or family. More than most other kinds of hunting, the deer camp experience is likely to build life-long traditions and inter-generational bonds, owing perhaps to the teamwork that often leads to deer hunting success.
It started as a spontaneous joke. My duck hunting partner and I had experienced a weekend of misadventure, including decoy-shy ducks, an outboard motor that had let us down, and poor shooting when we actually did have opportunities. Our tally of ducks harvested was small by any standard. As my partner and I were engaging in exploratory driving on duck country backroads, I made the suggestion that perhaps "We should reinvent ourselves. We should tell people that we're naturalists, but occasionally we like to harvest a duck or two!"