Sam Cook / Forum News Service
Our friendship was forged over bulging Duluth packs and bins of trail food in the summer of 1976. Mike had come to the Ely outfitting business as a fishing guide and all-around handyman. Phyllis and I were green as sphagnum moss, a couple of Kansas transplants who had landed jobs with the same Moose Lake outfitter. We were all young then, in our 20s, but Mike had already spent a summer guiding anglers on nearby Snowbank Lake. He was bright and funny and competent in a lot of disciplines. And he knew how to catch fish.
I see the couple up ahead on the trail. It's early morning in one of Duluth's trail-rich parks. I know who they are. It's Jan and Larry. Birders. They're moving slowly, looking up, binoculars slung around their necks. I stop on my morning trail run to visit with them. We may talk birds. But we're just as likely to talk dogs, or weather or deer hunting or any other aspect of life that comes up. I always look forward to seeing them on the trail. I know I'm going to come away with some nugget of knowledge or awareness that I didn't have before.
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Meadow Kouffeld remembers when she discovered she wanted to be a wildlife biologist. "I found out there was such a thing when I was a senior in high school," Kouffeld said. After a rich and varied background in wildlife-related jobs, Kouffeld became regional wildlife biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society in 2015. Based in Grand Rapids, she covers Minnesota and the western half of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota. Down. South Dakota. Down. North Dakota. Down. Iowa. Down. The numbers don't lie. By the numbers, hunters are looking at a challenging pheasant season this fall, no matter where they hunt. Preseason counts were down in Minnesota and virtually every nearby state. Minnesota's pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 14, and despite the gloomy forecast, thousands of pheasant hunters are expected to be tromping through grasslands hoping a mature ringneck vaults into the sky in front of them.
ON WISCONSIN'S BRULE RIVER — It was almost as if the ancient white pines knew. As sure as their spent needles were piling up beneath outreached boughs, anglers would be coming. It was a glorious September morning, finally almost crisp after several days of rain and thick air. Yes, the river was running a little high from that spate of precipitation. And, yeah, it might be carrying a little more color than a trout or salmon angler really would have liked.
DULUTH, Minn. — Despite reducing the number of permits available to bear hunters this fall, wildlife officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say the bear harvest will be higher than expected. That makes two years in a row, at a time when the DNR is trying to hold harvests down in order to increase the state's bear population. Currently, the state has an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 bears, said Dave Garshelis, leader of the DNR's bear project.
DULUTH, Minn. — Crossbow use by deer hunters continues to grow in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, outdoor retailers say. Both states have relaxed regulations on crossbow use in recent years. The devices, which shoot arrows — called bolts — accurately at high speeds, appeal especially to hunters who have difficulty drawing back compound bows. With a crossbow, the hunter cocks the weapon, and it holds the arrow in place until the hunter pulls a trigger to release it.
DULUTH, Minn. — Jerry Kern used to hunt deer at a camp north of Island Lake. But after what happened on this date 40 years ago, Kern no longer hunts deer. Or any other kind of game. Now 82, Kern still makes the drive up to the camp from his St. Paul home each fall, in the weeks before deer season. Often, he brings along some of his grandchildren. He cuts and splits some wood, sits by the campfire and stays overnight in the shack his dad and friends built in 1940.
ON WISCONSIN'S BRULE RIVER — We gathered on the banks of this hallowed river the other night to say a kind of goodbye to some friends. A dozen or so of us showed up, from around the corner and around the world, from 5 to 60-something in terms of time on the planet.
DULUTH, Minn. — A green frog burped. Somewhere down the lake, a loon wailed. Duluth's Travis Kaai winged another cast into a flotilla of lilypads. Kaai, 31, and his bass-fishin' buddy Joe Ranua, 19, both of Duluth, were flinging soft plastic toads and salamandery creatures into and atop the dense mat of pads on this small lake south of Duluth. It was Tuesday afternoon, and they had the place almost to themselves.