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.
It is no longer breaking news that the Executive Director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has been chosen as the next leader of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Mark Johnson is keeping his title, Executive Director, but with a different group of cats to herd, as the saying goes.
One of the children’s books I remember best from my daughter and son’s early years is the classic Make Way for Ducklings, a story about a mama mallard who raised her brood in the heart of downtown Boston. It’s amazing how adaptable wild birds are, how willing to accept the presence of man and his contrivances when the urge to reproduce is at its height in spring. Over some four decades as a homeowner I have seen “up close and personal” some of the daring choices birds will make to get their reproductive job done.
Spring officially arrived in Minnesota at three minutes before noon on Thursday, March 20. After a winter more brutal than most in recent memory, spring was awaited with more than usual enthusiasm and winter-weariness. But, just as the comic strip character Charlie Brown forgets from one year to the next that Lucy will break her promise and jerk the football away when he tries to kick it, we tend to forget that spring can break its promises, too. Spring is as much an evolution as it is an event.
Sometimes on our life’s journey we acquire beliefs we consider “gospel,” which we come to believe almost absolutely and are unlikely to question. One example is the belief that the march of time and progress has resulted in a diminishing, rather than an increase, of wildlife abundance. This is not so unreasonable, considering how many species have been driven to extinction, and others whose abundance has been greatly reduced.
There is an old, time-worn proverb that illustrates how one event can lead to another. It is set in the days when men traveled, and battles were fought, on horseback. You may even remember hearing it. It begins with the loss of a horseshoe nail: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse; the rider was lost; for want of a rider the message was lost; for want of a message, the battle was lost; for want a battle, the kingdom was lost; all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” Chain reactions happen in nature, too.