NORTH DAKOTA OUTDOORS/ DOUG LEIER: Keep a 'safe outing' checklist for those winter outdoor excursions
If your winter ice fishing or spearing success and satisfaction lean more toward a limit of walleyes or a trophy pike, I'm not the guy to talk to. Same goes for furbearer hunting or trapping.
While I enjoy and appreciate these pursuits, I'm no expert. But I do know that a winter outdoor outing that results in a call to 911 or a trip to the emergency room is not a successful outing, and there are precautions people can take to greatly reduce the odds of something going awry.
So, if some or all of these winter safety tips are at the top of your list before you leave the driveway, that's a good first step.
In addition to ice safety precautions, here are some other factors to consider before venturing into the winter outdoors.
Let someone know where you are going, and even if you enjoy a solo experience outdoors, there's something to be said about safety in numbers. A friend who can share the experience also may be of assistance should something go wrong.
Leave an itinerary. Letting someone know where you are going and when you'll return can help reduce needless worry if someone needs to contact you; or if you don't return on time, they'll know where to start looking. And if plans change, be sure to let them know you've decided to head north instead of south, or you'll be home later than expected.
While some lament the intrusion of mobile phones and other electronic devices into their outdoor space, here's one vote for at a minimum bringing a fully charged cellular device. I'm not suggesting you let your partner spend more time with their face in the screen than in the sun or wind, but having the ability to communicate two ways from just about anywhere adds an element of safety that is too important to leave at home.
If a loved one back home needs to contact you, a short vibrating notification in your pocket may be a lifesaver. If an emergency happens in the field, a quick call to 911 and a geo-location literally could save a life.
I understand the desire to get away from electronics, but you can accomplish that to a large degree by turning off the ringer and setting the device to vibrate. But don't leave it at home. The life-saving value of location and phone communication is similar to that of investing in a float coat or life jacket. You hope you'll never need it, but if you do, it's priceless.
And one more thing. As with any winter outing, know the weather forecast for the time you'll be gone so you don't wind up stuck in a snowstorm or have an access road get drifted in while you're waiting for one more fish.
Winter does have its challenges, but there are great opportunities out there if that "safe outing" checklist is always in the back of your mind.