Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—Ask Gary Thompson why people break through the ice, and he'll say they usually don't do a good enough job of testing it before they venture out. There's more to "reading" ice than measuring how thick it is. The Eskimos have more than 100 different words for snow, Thompson says. And while his vocabulary for describing ice is less extensive, it's no less accurate.
GRAND FORKS—The reprieve from cold weather came none too soon for my tastes, and a few days of above-zero temperatures have offered all the motivation I needed to get out of the house. As I write this late in the week, the mercury has climbed into the mid-20s where I'm headed for the weekend and is set to hit the high 30s. There's nothing specific on the itinerary other than putting a few miles on the sleds, strapping on the snowshoes and tromping through the woods to see what I can see and perhaps even doing a bit of ice fishing.
A year or so back, I challenged myself to come up with a list of the outdoors from A to Z. That might sound easy enough, but as I got down to developing the list, I found it to be quite a challenge. For some letters, at least. The challenge proved to be even more formidable when I decided to tackle it again this week because I couldn't use any of the words I used the last time around. No surprise, perhaps, but X proved to be the greatest challenge.
DICKINSON, N.D. — North Dakota has its first bighorn sheep entries in the Boone and Crockett awards book after two hunters in November shot rams with horns big enough to qualify. Dustin Seamands of Bismarck made the most of his once-in-a-lifetime North Dakota sheep tag to shoot a ram that measured 177⅛ inches after the mandatory 60-day drying period, making it the new North Dakota record bighorn. Brian Ham of Alice, N.D., wasn't far behind, shooting a ram that officially measured 176⅝ inches after the drying period.
LAKE OF THE WOODS, Minn. — David Stone of Roseau, Minn., had quite a surprise Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6, while ice fishing near Brush Island of Lake of the Woods on Minnesota's Northwest Angle. Fishing in a permanent fish house, Stone was set up over 15 feet of water when he marked a big cloud of baitfish suspended several feet off the bottom on his electronics. Stone lifted up the line on the rattle reel mounted above the hole and gave it a couple of jigs. "He showed up high so I started to move my jig up, and he smoked it," Stone said, recalling the strike.
One thing's for sure: People have a fascination with mountain lions. Sightings, whether confirmed or hearsay, always get people talking. "It definitely stirs up some local discussion," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. That has been readily apparent since mid-November, when a mountain lion showed up on two different trail cameras a landowner had set on his property near Devils Lake.
GRAND FORKS, N.D.—It doesn't happen very often—fortunately—but there are times when an outdoor excursion requires digging deep into the creative well to pull out a story. Sometimes, the fish don't bite, the hunting is poor or the weather is bad. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Such was the case last Sunday, when two friends and I hit Lake Winnipeg for what easily was the shortest fishing excursion we've ever had on the big lake. We know futility when we see it. The abbreviated version of the story would be something like this: It was windy.
NEAR LENGBY, Minn.—This is a story about coming full circle. It all started in 1970, when Don Klinke heard about a landowner who wanted pine trees planted on a piece of ground in Clearwater County northwest of Bagley, Minn. Locals know the area as "B.S. Valley." Actually, it has a longer name—and that's no bull—but the abbreviated version will suffice for the purposes of this story. Klinke, who grew up in the wooded country southeast of Lengby and has lived there all of his 81 years, was working for Clearwater County at the time.
GRAND FORKS — We hadn't had our lines in the water more than 10 minutes when I felt a fish hanging on to my jig; the bite wasn't as much a "thunk" as a presence. It was May 13, the opening day of Minnesota's 2017 walleye season, and I hadn't felt the bite of a walleye since New Year's Day on Lake Winnipeg. Shoulder surgery in early January had put me out of commission for fishing and pretty much anything else outdoors-related most of the winter.
EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Light reading it's not, but a draft report examining the potential impacts of upping Minnesota's annual timber harvest on Department of Natural Resources lands by 25 percent — to 1 million cords — could have implications for forest management and forest wildlife going forward. Ultimately, I suppose, the question boils down to how DNR land is managed and what gets managed on that land.