On a recent October three-day weekend at my Kittson County hunting camp, I was overwhelmed by my good fortune. The grouse hunting was very good, work was getting accomplished, and the weather was the nicest I've ever remembered — bluebird sky and warm and dry. I was in heaven. Or so I thought. After spending most of one afternoon doing various tasks such as trail clearing, brush cutting, and moving and repairing a few deer stands, it was time to return to camp, grab a quick bite to eat, and change my clothes for an evening grouse or deer hunt.
Following another long day at work this past week, staying late and leaving the office for home as the autumn sun began its rapid descent to the western horizon, I didn't think I'd have time to slip out to the woods for a last-hour ruffed grouse hunt on one of my favorite trails.
Though known at times to be horrific, I've always believed that part of the grizzly bear's Latin scientific name is unfair and inaccurate: "Ursus arctos horribilis." Indeed, the grizzly bear, which is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos), is reputed as malicious, but in reality is reclusive, generally passive, and, like most species of wildlife, especially bears, desires nothing more than space to roam and to be left alone.
Some childhood images persist in our minds long into adulthood. Those endless summers spent doing whatever are but a blur for most of us, yet bits and pieces of those carefree years can be remembered as if they happened just yesterday. I can still see the look on the man's face. He was raking his lawn while I was pedaling my bicycle down the street of my Coon Rapids, Minnesota neighborhood two years before we moved to our Otter Tail County dairy farm. I was just eight years old.
Common, yet rarely observed, few species of Minnesota's mammals are as revered as they are feared as the American black bear. Though keeping mostly to themselves, these "black ghosts of the forest" are the most abundant and widely distributed of the three species of bears that inhabit our continent.
While driving to work one recent morning as I listened to Minnesota Public Radio, sipping my coffee, and traveling along on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway (AKA Becida Road), a story about wild birds was aired that featured Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Carrol Henderson as the program's guest.
There are a handful of wild birds that make their year 'round home right here in marvelous Minnesota. Birds that show up in the springtime and stay until early fall are a joy to observe and have around — our hummers, orioles, and woodland warblers to name just a few —but what about those resident, familiar, and so-so birds that don't necessarily cause a great deal of excitement in birder circles?
The little shallow lake that borders my property, Assawa Lake, is quite low this summer. Rainfall has been sparse and the wetlands and waterways throughout this part of the state bears this out. As I stood in the tall grass adjacent to the lake on a spot that would normally be underwater, I noticed a bluebird perched high in a nearby tree at the tip of dead branch.
While picking blueberries recently at a favorite spot of mine, not far from Itasca State Park, I was thrilled to observe a family of one of my favorite birds to watch and listen to. A striking bird, few birds can match the beautiful red-brown color of the appropriately named brown thrasher. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as a species of thrush, brown thrashers are related to mockingbirds, catbirds, and seven other species of thrashers found throughout North America. However, only one thrasher exists in Minnesota — the brown thrasher.
Few birds are considered as intelligent as members of the crow family are, otherwise known as, collectively, corvids. Among the most intelligent of the lot are crows and ravens, although, I'll have to say, few, if any, can match the combination of both intelligence and friendliness as our own gray jay, also known as the Canada jay.