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. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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It was a beautiful late-summer evening, and we were grilling up some venison brats and sitting down to enjoy a cookout on the deck washed down with a couple of cold Samuel Adams Octoberfests. The arrival of Sam's Octoberfest is an anticipated event on the calendar because it's yet another sign that fall—the most anticipated time of year for many outdoors-lovers—is just around the corner.
MIDDLE RIVER, Minn.—Joel Huener says he's always been "kind of a rabid do-it-yourselfer," a trait that also rubbed off on his hunting and fishing. "I tie flies, I make rods and I load my own ammo," says Huener, 61, a wildlife biologist and manager of Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area. "I see something and think, 'Well, I could do that.' And sometimes I can and sometimes more successfully than others."
NARCISSE SNAKE DENS, Man.—The snakes—dozens, perhaps even hundreds—resembled a giant undulating blob of spaghetti as they twisted and rolled in their apparent attempt to scale the side of the rocky pit. Like Medusa—the snake-haired goddess of Greek mythology—brushing her reptilian locks, the mass of red-sided garter snakes would slither a foot or two up the side of the pit before sliding back to the bottom. Over and over they did this, producing a sound similar to white noise as they twisted and slithered at the bottom of the pit.
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.
There are lots of signs of spring. No one of them is definitive, but taken together they are completely convincing. Probably the most familiar of these signs is the arrival of the western meadowlark, the state bird of North Dakota and five other states. The meadowlark is instantly recognizable and its song is loud and distinctive. The sound brought relief and joy to winter weary settlers on the wide open prairie.
NOME, Alaska — There were times, Chuck Lindner admits, when he had to dig deep to continue the 350-mile bicycle trek in which he'd immersed himself during the depths of the brutal Alaskan winter. The fourth day was probably the roughest, he said. Walking and pushing his fat tire bike up a rugged mountain pass into a sustained headwind of 50 mph and a wind chill factor of 50 below zero, Lindner says he averaged about 1 mph. There was no pedaling that day, and Lindner covered 19 miles in about 17 hours.
Last week brought an influx of rough-legged hawks to our area that was both larger and earlier than expected. Matt Spoor alerted Grand Cities Bird Club members to the phenomenon. He reported seeing 35 rough-legged hawks in the grasslands areas northwest of Grand Forks last Sunday. I got in on the party, though I didn't see nearly as many hawks as Spoor, probably because I started late and didn't put in as much time or cover as many miles. During the week, I saw rough-legged hawks along my route to the state capitol in Bismarck.
BISMARCK — The new year is just getting started, but North Dakota wildlife officials already are concerned about the potential impact of heavy snow on deer and other critters. "We're close to being on pace with the winters of 1996-97 and 2008-09, and when you mention those two years, I just cringe because they were bad for wildlife," said Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.