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Opinion: My closer-to-home 'bucket list'

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outdoors Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
Opinion: My closer-to-home 'bucket list'
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

One of my favorite old T-shirts has a picture of a venerable Bass-o-reno on the back. Across the front it says, So Many Lures -- So Little Time.


These words seem profound. The "bucket list" concept, or things to do before it's too late, isn't new to this column. I've talked about it before, and I occasionally think about running out of time before I get to try these things. Some are within two days' drive, and I want to talk about them today along with a few that are practically on our doorstep!

International Falls and the Rainy River are an easy day's drive. In April, large sturgeon are spawning in the river, and they love night crawlers. We're talking fish that average 50 pounds and go over a 100. Filling the pickup with interested guys won't be a problem. Hitch up the boat and load up the heavy tackle. Why haven't we done this before?

Lake Erie is an easy two days' drive. We're talking April again, and the walleyes average seven pounds with some going over 10. As with the sturgeon, I'm more than willing to pull my boat. I see no problem getting a group together for this Great Lakes adventure. Drive straight through or stop in the Chicago area the first night.

While I'm talking fish, I still haven't caught my first striped bass, although we made a trip a few years ago to Beaver Lake in Arkansas. I can go south on I-35 to Lake Texoma, west to Arizona's Lake Powell or southeast to Kentucky. On Powell, the fish have over-populated and are causing forage problems.

Last summer, a day's drive brought us to musky fishing on Ontario's Indian Chain at Vermillion Bay. We caught muskies, but none were especially big. It's on my list for a repeat, although it doesn't look like it will be this summer. I did learn from the experience, and we won't make the same mistakes again.

This one is as close as the James or Missouri River. I'm talking about the pursuit of big catfish. Flatheads are partial to live bait, and they especially like small bullheads or bluegills. Heavy tackle is a must, and fortunately, I still have my paddlefish snagging equipment. I also have a good friend who will drop what he's doing at the mention of big cats.

I have one last simple destination on my fishing list. North Dakota's Devil's Lake is as fertile a body of fishing water as we have. It's easy to fish, and walleyes, northern pike and big yellow perch are abundant. I sometimes ask myself why I travel so far to fish waters that are no better than those closer to home. Betsy often asks the same question.

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Any one of us can have an archery deer tag. There's no limit on licenses, and we can hunt where we like. If I accomplish nothing else this coming fall, I will hunt mule deer on foot.

Spotting the deer from a high vantage point, watching them bed and then quietly stalking them is how it's done. This type of hunting is frequently featured on the Outdoor Channel, and it looks to be as thrilling as any hunting we have in the west. Our South Dakota lends itself to this hunting, and I've already wasted too much time.

Doug, one of my best friends, and I are always talking about doing some serious coyote hunting, but it seems one of us is always busy. It's about time we made time. Yes, December and January are busy months with deer, archery deer, muzzleloader deer, geese and turkeys, but some of these hunts could be combined with coyotes. We've got the gear, so we have no excuses.

Over the years, I've generally made the prairie grouse opener in September. Get up early and drive to Herrick or Wood. It's always a good time, but it's over so quickly. It is time to make a real outing out of it and stay overnight on the ranch, make some new friends, and even throw in the prairie dog rifle. In both places I've hunted, we've also found a few prairie chickens. Not very many hunters have even seen a prairie chicken. We South Dakotans are among the few.

What I said about grouse can also apply to ducks. We have a very huntable duck population in our area, but not what they have north of us around Webster, Redfield or Willow Lake. I need to make a scouting trip later this summer, and line up a place to hunt and a place to stay. I've got a duck boat (Betsy's favorite), waders and my old decoys. I also have former students around Willow Lake. All I have to do is do it!

In my last "things to do" column, I talked about heading south for Texas and helping them with their feral hog problem. We haven't made it yet, but I do have some places to hunt. Pig hunting is good any month of the year. It competes with nothing on my list. I'm thinking February or March would be a good time.

Talk is real cheap. Will I get these done? I'm going to hang this column on the wall, highlight the key words in every paragraph and make every effort to reduce the size of this list. With my time shared in Wisconsin, it won't be easy, but good things never are.

See you next week.