I recently attended the annual meeting of The Wildlife Society that was held this year at Maplelag Resort and my route to the event took me through parts of eastern Becker County and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge on the beautifully meandering highways west of Becker County Highway 37. Traveling on ice-free roads, it was easy to enjoy the scenery of all that Lake Country Minnesota has to offer.
I often wonder what my children will remember about deer hunting as they grow older with families of their own. Will they recall with fondness and nostalgia those early years when they were true "greenhorns," still wearing their Minnesota Firearms Safety patches sewn on blaze orange stocking caps and still afraid of the dark woods? Will they pass on the tradition, their hunting heritage, to the youngsters they raise or mentor? My own memories of deer hunting are a rich mixture of anticipation, preparation, excitement, characters, and lore.
Drive a stretch of highway along a solidly frozen Minnesota lake and you'll notice there are often clusters of small fish houses, like villages, scattered all over the lake's ice-covered surface. And paralleling the lakeshore in an orderly and equidistant manner will often be other houses and various shelters conspicuously set apart from those other villages of fishing shelters.
As a young boy I once entered a pet of mine into a pet show held at a town park. My memory is a little foggy about the event, but I do recall about a gazillion different animals being there. Dogs, cats, turtles, birds, frogs, snakes, and so on. I remember sitting patiently beside my pet for what seemed like a long time waiting for a judge to visit me and ask questions about my pet. The first question she asked was what my pet's name was. I replied, "Chee-Chee." She seemed amused about the name. A little while later I took home a ribbon that read:
First off, my apologies for writing an incorrect "factoid" in my recent column about fish species. I had included a misstatement of the miles of shoreline found in Minnesota. Thanks to the sharp eyes of a MNDNR Fisheries friend of mine, the curious mistake was revealed. Inexplicably I had written, "Minnesota can boast of having more than 6,700 square miles of shoreline".
To be seen or not to be seen; that is the solution, not the question. With creatures the world over, the colors and patterns of their coverings are much more than protection from the elements. For certain, few animals could survive for long without protective covering. But all those different color patterns seen in fur coats, feathers, skin, exoskeletons, and more, help critters blend in with their respective environments too.
We're definitely experiencing January weather. The snow has piled up and the temperatures have plummeted to double digits below zero. Wild birds are flocking to our feeders, white-tailed deer aren't nearly as active as they were just a couple of months ago, and many a bird and mammal that haven't either migrated southward or escaped to a hibernaculum are desperately searching for food and shelter. Up until mid-December birds were having no difficulty in finding preferred, natural foods throughout the landscape, wherever they may be.
Inspiration comes in strange places at unusual times. While scrolling through Facebook's news feed the other day, I came across a friend's post with a photograph of himself and his boys inside a fish house. My friend, smiling broadly, had in his hands one of my favorite fishes — the rock bass. "What!?" you say.
Old Sam Peabody is one of my favorite birds, and for many reasons. With the male of the species sporting distinctive facial markings that include snow-white throat patches and crowns, yellow lores, and black eye stripes, along with other unique markings, few wild birds look like him, act like him, or sing like him. White-throated sparrows belong to a large family, Emberizidae, also known as sparrows and their allies. Other emberizines include towhees, juncos, longspurs, and buntings, not to mention a host of sparrows such as chipping, song, and savannah sparrows.
Wildlife abound along the extraordinary byways of Highway 2 and Highway 59. And, unfortunately, sometimes ends there. Crows and other scavenging birds, including magpies, ravens, eagles, and vultures, find plentiful carrion alongside the roadways to satiate their hunger.