Now is a great time to enjoy the outdoorsPublished 9:05am Thursday, September 22, 2011
Column: Woods & Water
Have I mentioned that this is my favorite time of year? I don’t think that anytime of year makes me feel more alive than fall.
This is the time of year when there is a little bit of everything out there for the outdoorsman. Whether you fish or hunt waterfowl, game birds, bear or deer, there is basically something for every sportsman out there.
When my oldest son, Brian, was in his late teens, his uncle Lynn got him hooked on bow hunting. Lynn would take him with whenever he could and Brian learned a lot about hunting from him. Eventually Lynn moved away but Brian never lost his desire to hunt. One fall day when he was still living at home he asked me if I’d like to ride along with him to see first hand some of the spots he was hunting. It was a cool, clear, crisp autumn day, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy spending time in the outdoors with my son.
We headed west to the Bricelyn/Frost area and he took me to a couple of places that he had access to. Just being outdoors in the woods waiting for that deer to appear would be enough for me. I didn’t even have to be a hunter to enjoy this time because the peaceful tranquility of the forest in the fall gave me a peaceful relaxed feeling that is hard to describe.
If a person has a stressful job or thinks that things sometimes seem to be moving too fast then perhaps taking a little walk in the woods could be a great stress reliever. I know that it works for me and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors right here in our area. Myre-Big Island State Park is a great place to go for nature walks and if you want to venture a little farther north to the Waterville area Sakatah State Park is another beautiful park with hiking trails. Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail runs through Sakatah Lake State Park and stretches 39 miles from Mankato to Faribault. The paved trail offers hikers, bikers, skiers and snowmobilers beautiful scenery through Minnesota’s hardwoods.
You can also combine a nature walk with some grouse hunting if you care to venture even a little further north. Jay Johnson, who is the hunting recruitment and retention coordinator for the DNR, has this to say about hunter walking trails in Minnesota:
Whether you’re a first-time ruffed grouse hunter, a seasoned veteran or a family planning an active outing, finding places that offer easy access to Minnesota’s most-popular game bird will be your first priority. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hunter walking trails are excellent places to start.
Hunter walking trails offer hundreds of miles of easily accessible hunting trails that wind their way through wildlife management areas, state forests and other public hunting lands. There are more than 450 miles of maintained trails meandering throughout the northern half of the state, and new trails are continually being created.
Many of these trails are gated, allowing foot traffic only, and offer parking lots or easy access to parking. Hunters can expect mowed routes that may follow old logging roads, are planted with clover or pass through forest openings that attract a variety of wildlife.
“There is a lot of great ruffed grouse habitat along these trails,” said Jeff Lightfoot, DNR northeast regional wildlife manager. “The trails are easy to navigate and offer excellent opportunities for the novice hunter or for families with kids just learning to hunt to see birds and enjoy the outdoors.”
Finding the hunter walking trails is simple online at the DNR website. The DNR website offers a hunter walking trail tool that provides information on the locations of these trails by name and the county in which they are located. Simply select a county from the tool and browse the list of the various hunting trails.
“There are more than 165 maps presently available on this website,” said Tom Engel, DNR wildlife geographic information system specialist. “New trail maps are being added continually, so folks should remember to check this website regularly for any new additions.”
Hunter trail maps are also available at most DNR area wildlife offices, along with a variety of information on the area wildlife hunting or viewing opportunities and tips.
“There is no time better than this fall to pack up the hunting gear and the family and explore the forests of northern Minnesota by doing a little ruffed grouse hunting,” said Ted Dick, DNR grouse coordinator.
“Ruffed grouse populations are at their peak right now. The excellent habitat and easy access you’ll find on the hunter walking trails provide the perfect ingredients for a successful hunt.”
I don’t know if you have driven past Pickerel Lake in recent days but I have to say that it’s not a pretty sight! I know that the dry spell and hot weather we have been experiencing has not helped the beauty of our area lakes but the sight of this lake really bothers me. With the killing of the carp came cleaner water which means more sunlight and more vegetation which creates a sort of “Catch 22” for those of us who enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. The pencil reeds that appeared after the initial kill made a statement that just looked like a great place to catch northern pike. This is just this writer’s opinion and I know that there are fish in the lake and in a couple of years the pike should be big enough.
I guess I enjoy equally the fishing as well as the beauty of a lake. Just being able to sit back and look across a lake and enjoy a sunset or a sunrise is a great way to relax and forget the stress of a day. Try it sometime, just drive or walk to a local park and take the time to sit back and take in the beauty of it all.
There is still plenty of fishing to be done so if you head north to hunt or venture to a nearby lake don’t forget to take the fishing pole.
Until next time try and take a little time to relax and get out and explore our great Minnesota outdoors.
Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the coming year.
Dick Herfindahl’s column usually appears each Sunday in the Tribune.