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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If Spiderman was a fisherman, his walleye senses would be absolutely tingling with anticipation at the prospect of wetting a line Saturday. It's the Minnesota walleye opener, and as events on the outdoors calendar go, the annual piscatorial happening is big stuff—and big business.
RED LAKE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, Minn.—Traffic noise isn't a problem, but a forest full of sounds competes for Gretchen Mehmel's ears on this crisp Monday morning. Pileated woodpeckers hammer away with a percussive cadence as they bore into trees for a morning snack. Hermit thrushes, white-throated sparrows and swamp sparrows offer melodic contrasts with their trills and calls. Not to be outdone, spring peepers and chorus frogs are in full voice, as well.
ROOSEVELT, Minn. — I'd come to Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area, to spend a few hours in a ruffed grouse blind and tag along on an early morning drumming count survey. Little did I know I'd experience another spectacle of nature in the process.
The ice went out early, walleyes have spawned, and the stage is set for a great Minnesota fishing opener. Come 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 13, walleyes take center stage. Henry Drewes, northwest regional fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, said the early spring means anglers might not find as many walleyes in traditional current areas, where the fish stage to spawn, as they would in a normal opener.
GRAND FORKS—Dave Lambeth, often called the "dean of Grand Forks birdwatchers," can be excused for feeling like he just won the birding equivalent of the lottery. Tuesday afternoon, Lambeth was looking out the kitchen window of his house when he noticed something in his backyard wood duck box. That something turned out to be a baby Northern saw-whet owl, one of four juveniles nestled inside the box. It's the first documented record of the tiny, secretive owls nesting in Grand Forks County and only the second in eastern North Dakota, Lambeth says.
Every October, I host a small group of friends for a few days of ruffed grouse hunting, hockey watching and socializing by the fire. Occasionally, we'll shift gears and wet a line for pike and walleyes. None of this would be possible without public land. I consider myself a pretty good host, but without public land, there'd be little reason for the participants in this annual October event to drive up to 6½ hours to the borderlands of northwest Minnesota.
CROOKSTON, Minn.—Nick Genereux's taxidermy studio is filled with head and full body mounts of all sizes and varieties. It's also filling up with awards. Owner of Outdoor Addictions Taxidermy in Crookston, Genereux recently won Taxidermist of the Year and Judge's Choice Breakthrough Best of Show awards in the Masters Division of the Minnesota Taxidermy Guild's annual convention and competition March 30 through April 2 in Rochester, Minn. As Minnesota taxidermy awards go, that's as good as it gets.
I'll never forget the first time I fished the Rainy River. The fishing was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. And while I've had the privilege of wetting a line in remote, far north waters of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, I'm not sure any of them surpassed the walleye action we encountered those two days in April 1987. The fish were big, they bit readily and they were abundant. For a couple of guys in a 12-foot boat with a 4-horse Evinrude who had absolutely no idea how to fish the river, the action was nothing short of amazing.
A story is beginning to emerge on the peregrine falcons that have taken up residence in a nest box atop an elevator on the south side of Crookston. Regional raptor expert Tim Driscoll of Grand Forks said he was able to get the number of the male peregrine's leg band Friday afternoon, and the bird is Jack, a Fargo-hatched peregrine Driscoll banded in 2014. Jack is named after Fargo radio host Jack Sunday, Driscoll said. The female peregrine in the Crookston nest box isn't banded, and her origin is uncertain, but she's at least 2 years old, Driscoll said.
National Park Week begins Saturday and continues through April 23, and the annual event offers an opportunity to learn more about these recreational jewels and what they have to offer. Summer is peak season for national parks, but the outdoor opportunities are available year-round.