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Brad Dokken: For many outdoors enthusiasts, the fall of 2018 won't win any awards for nice weather

Well, so much for fall. It appears we're stuck with winter for the next several months.

Like it or not.

Complaining about the weather is neither effective nor productive, but I do it a fair bit anyway, as my friends will attest. And if I was to rate the fall of 2018 on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 3—and only because I'm feeling generous.

As fall disappears into the reality of snow and cold and ice, I'll admit the season had its bright points. A good time was had by all during our annual October grouse trip in northern Minnesota. There were ruffed grouse to be had, Mother Nature generally cooperated, and we enjoyed some of the nicest weather of the fall.

It was a pleasant turn of events after the foot of snow that fell a week earlier, turning the landscape into a winter wonderland.

Fortunately, the concerns I had about the weather and its impact on our hunting trip turned out to be unfounded. The sun came out (finally), and the temperature by the time the crew arrived climbed enough to melt the snow that lingered several days after the storm.

I never had a chance to find out for myself, but fishing on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River was nothing short of spectacular this fall, based reliable reports from anglers I know who were fortunate enough to get up there and wet a line.

Walleyes were abundant both in numbers and size. In my world, that's a good combination. Much as I wanted to get up there, it wasn't to be this year.

On the upside, there's no reason to believe the good fishing anglers enjoyed this fall won't continue after freeze-up. And at this rate, that won't be long. If all goes according to plan, I'll be on the ice of Lake of the Woods by the second week of December, if not before.

But that, of course, depends on the whims of Mother Nature.

Another fall highlight came in late October, when I had the opportunity to tag along with longtime friend Jason Laumb and his daughter, Hannah, 16, on her once-in-a-lifetime North Dakota moose hunt.

As I wrote in a story that appeared last Sunday, Hannah filled her cow moose tag on the last hour of the weekend hunt in Unit M10 of northwest North Dakota. Then came the hard work of field-dressing the moose and loading it onto a trailer. Fortunately, Hannah's grandpa had access to a tractor and loader or we would have been there most of the night.

Even so, it was nearly 2 a.m. before we got back to Grand Forks, tired but exhilarated from the experience we were fortunate enough to share.

Next up was deer season, and preliminary numbers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggest the state's firearms deer harvest will be down about 10 percent from last year. Through the first nine days of season, Minnesota hunters had registered 132,633 deer, preliminary DNR numbers show, down 9.5 percent from 146,537 deer registered during the same time frame last year.

North Dakota doesn't require hunters to register deer, and estimates from the deer gun season that continues through Sunday, Nov. 25, won't be available until next spring. But there'll be plenty of deer discussion, I'm sure, at the upcoming fall round of Game and Fish advisory board meetings that get underway next week.

The meeting for District 4, which covers Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina and Walsh counties, is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at the American Legion in Fordville, N.D.

In much of northwest Minnesota, at least, lack of deer wasn't the problem, but several hunters said the deer seemed to act differently this year. One experienced hunter who hunted along the Red River south of East Grand Forks said the rut appeared to be behind schedule and didn't seem to get going until this past week.

"There was little rutting activity that I saw during the first week (of deer season), which is usually when I see a lot of activity," he told me in an email. "Of course, this could just be my experience, but where I hunt on the Red River allows me to observe the behavior of several to lots of deer on each hunt."

So there you have it. Except for a handful of late-season hunting opportunities, another fall is in the books, and it's time to break out the ice fishing gear and other winter toys.

To everything, as the Bible verse goes, there is a season.

Brad Dokken

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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