Last Saturday morning just after dawn, I guided my vehicle into the parking area of a cross country ski trail network not far from my home. There was no competition for parking space, which was not unexpected at that early hour. Unfortunately, this parking area has been empty more often than normal this winter, thanks to a scarcity of snow. Several days earlier we had a snowfall of about five inches, something we hadn't seen since before our brown Christmas.
There are issues that a cautious columnist might steer clear of if he wants to avoid alienating readers. If he's a political columnist it might be the issues of immigration or abortion. If he's an outdoor columnist it could be the issue of wolves, and the degree of protection — if otherwise — that they should have. But while it's good to be sensitive to differing opinions, it's important that there be a forum for discussing difficult issues. That may not be at the office Christmas party, where being agreeable and avoiding controversy are widely-understood rules of the game.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. That's a time-worn introduction to a joke, but it's also apropos of a writer who has been known to forget whether he has shared the same thoughts with readers before.
On a recent gray and blustery afternoon, my young Labrador, Bella, and I took a short Sunday drive that terminated at a public landing on the Mississippi River.
For the last several weeks abundant space in local newspapers and outdoor publications has been devoted to a gallery of Minnesota deer hunting success stories. Hunters of all ages have beamed smiles at us as they posed with their whitetail trophies. Whether the creature pictured with the hunter sported a huge rack, a pair of youthful spikes, or was an antlerless doe, any whitetail can be considered a trophy. Dumb luck can play a part in the drama, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
Though the official end to the 2014 Minnesota duck season has not yet arrived, winter weather has, and has chased all but a handful of the hardiest ducks beyond our state's borders. A few are still to be found on stretches of our major rivers that have been kept open by moving water.
There are only a few events in the Minnesota sportsman's year that approach near-religious significance. One of these is the fishing opener. A close second is the deer hunting opener. There may be nearly twice as many fishing licenses sold as there are licensed deer hunters, but the two events are essentially on even ground when it comes to passion and fervor.
The essayist Charles Dudley Warner once quipped that "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Besides being a witticism that makes you think for a second before the "I get it" moment, it is certainly true that humans have little say in the matter of what the weather will be.
As we get closer to the holiday of witches, ghosts and goblins, we also draw nearer to the serious side of autumn. Many of us remember the 1991 Halloween blizzard that dropped more than a foot of snow on northern Minnesota, and two and even three feet elsewhere in the Gopher state. Some may not know that this very same storm system, while still off the Eastern Seaboard before coming ashore and on to the Midwest, became known as "The Perfect Storm," made famous in a book by that title, and then the movie starring George Clooney.
My wife and I recently returned from a short road trip through Southeast Minnesota and Southwest Wisconsin, areas that are regional neighbors across the Mississippi River from one another. It was planned as a combination leaf-peeping and "escape" adventure between fishing and hunting outings, which are interests of mine that my wife does not share with equal enthusiasm. But I've found that such trips almost always offer opportunities to scout for possible new angling or hunting destinations.