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Brad Dokken column: Hey readers, I'm on the hunt for story ideas

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I began covering the outdoors more than 20 years ago, it’s that the best stories inevitably come from people who reach out to share their ideas.

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Brad Dokken

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I began covering the outdoors more than 20 years ago, it’s that the best feature stories inevitably come from people who reach out to share their ideas.

Case in point occurred in November, when Kevin Boushee of East Grand Forks emailed a series of trail camera photos his brother, Jeff, had found upon downloading the card from a trail camera he’d been unable to retrieve while the Red River was flooding.

When the water finally dropped enough to reach his trail cameras, a couple of which were destroyed by floodwaters, Jeff Boushee came across photos that would have been nearly impossible to get by any means but a trail camera.

The images -- two photos of deer walking in water up to their necks and another of two male wood ducks resplendent in their plumage reflected on the water -- quite simply, were stunning.

All of the photos looked like something out of a wildlife print.


I wrote a short story about the photos that ran both in print -- front page, no less -- and on our website, and the response was every bit as impressive as I expected it would be. The story ranked among the most-read content on our website for the next couple of days.

I’m guessing people who came across the photos and story in print took the time for a closer look, as well.

Stories like that don’t just fall out of the sky, though. They often happen because readers take the time to share ideas. In this case, it was Kevin Boushee sharing his brother’s photos and sending me down the trail of what turned out to be a fun, well-read story.

I love when that happens, but it could happen more.

That’s where I need your help.

Looking back over the past two decades, I’ve slogged through swamps in water up to my knees in Beltrami Island State Forest with a graduate student studying butterflies and moths . I’ve marveled at the craftsmanship of a young man who built a birch bark canoe on Lake of the Woods using traditional tools and materials. I watched a man catch the biggest walleye of his life minutes after sprinkling some of his father's ashes in a favorite fishing spot.

There also have been tales of triumph over adversity.

A young woman who took up archery after a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and hit bulls-eye after bulls-eye by drawing back the compound bow with her teeth. A young man who didn’t let the disability from a near-fatal woodcutting accident detract from his passion for hunting and fishing, a passion that included a 31½-inch walleye on Lake of the Woods and a bull elk in his home state of Nevada.


None of those stories would have happened without readers calling, emailing or writing with story ideas.

And believe me, I love sharing those stories; I just need to know about them.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and John Myers, a colleague at our sister paper, the Duluth News Tribune, might have said it best way back in April, when he wrote a column asking for reader help in providing story ideas.

“I need you to call me and invite me to go fishing with you or camping or blueberry picking or paddling or hiking,” Myers wrote. “Or tell me about your neighbor who makes fly rods or wooden canoes or custom decoys or who has shot more deer than anyone in the county. Don't be shy. I promise it won't hurt. There's no bad idea here.”

The same holds true in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

So let me hear from you, readers out there. Send me your ideas -- and keep them coming.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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