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!"
One recent afternoon while heading home after depositing letters at our local post office, I noticed a van in a parking lot with a sign reading "Puppies $50.00." A couple were seated in the front seat of the van. As I watched while waiting for a green light, a car that had been parked next to the van drove away, and one of the van's occupants gestured a good-by wave.
For many who hunt, the start of the 2016 Minnesota duck season this past weekend was like an early Christmas. There are few specialties within hunting that offer more opportunities to eagerly prepare and hopefully anticipate than does duck hunting; from boats to blinds, decoys to dog training, duck calling to specialized armament, not to mention the varied natural histories of the many species a duck hunter encounters. A duck hunter can keep busy with some dimension of the sport virtually the entire year.
I'm sure it's no more than rumor that John Steinbeck's celebrated novel Of Mice and Men began as an essay on mouse-proofing the family cabin. You know how it is once rumors get started. Obviously, Steinbeck knew where the money was, and came out way ahead by writing an enduring, if controversial, piece of American literature.
This is the week that turns the page. At least that's how many of us see it. Autumn does not officially begin until Sept. 22, the date when the sun's arc across the sky has slipped southward to a path that will take it across the equator. But that technicality does not necessarily square with the observations and the senses of those who experience the seasonal realities at our latitude well north of that equatorial line.