Autumn offers a smorgasbord of outdoors activities

Published 8:53 am Friday, October 8, 2010

Dick Herfindahl, Woods & Water

The last few days we have been experiencing some excellent fall weather. It really makes me appreciate the changing of the seasons and reminds me of why I enjoy living in this great state of ours. As we Minnesotans all know the weather in the fall is subject to change without much notice. I have always considered fall fishing a special experience. Something as simple as taking a drive in the country with the bright sunshine and the mild fall weather can be an exhilarating experience.

Dick Herfindahl

For some reason this time of year and this type of weather makes the kid in me hold out for that one more trip north or that one more trip to an area lake. I know that all too soon it will be a different story, but for now I am planning a trip north for a little hunting and fishing.

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As I look back I remember fondly those fall fishing trips to Spider or Big Sand lakes with friends or family. When my wife and I were first married, we went with her mom and dad to Anchor Inn on Big Sand Lake northwest of Deer River. Orville, Jean’s dad, loved to fish and Big Sand was probably his favorite lake and Shirley, her mom, loved to cook, so I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I didn’t think it could get any better because I could enjoy two of my favorite things at the same time — fishing and food. Although the weather was pretty cool the cabin had a kerosene stove that kept it nice and toasty, and it just gave you a feeling that this was what fall was all about.

This was my first introduction to fall fishing, and after that I just couldn’t wait for the seasons to pass so that I could once again experience that feeling. In the years to follow I took some fall fishing trips to Big Sand with Charlie Thompson, a friend from work. He and I also fished Spider Lake together for the first time on a late-September fishing trip that “sealed the deal” for me when it came to Spider Lake. I was now hooked not only on fall fishing but also on the lake that over the years would become my favorite. In the years to follow I had made fall fishing trips to Spider an annual ritual. After we bought the pickup camper fall fishing not only became more economical, but it also became sort of my own little tradition.

For a few years my neighbor Gene and I would make a fall fishing trip to Spider, and at times we fished in some pretty nasty weather, but there was also some very good weather. On one particular trip that started in September and ended in October the weather was typically fall-like, and the colors actually peaked in the middle of that week. The week started out nasty with a cold rain and temperatures in the 40 to 50 degree range. There was more than one occasion when we were caught out on a lake when a rain squall had come up out of nowhere. It is pretty intimidating to look up and see this wall of rain and wind coming across the lake. On those occasions we headed for shore to seek shelter because the winds were particularly strong and the squalls would usually be spitting out “corn snow,” which felt like someone was shooting a semi-automatic BB gun at you. Two of those times we managed to find shelter under the roof of a woodshed of an unoccupied cabin. If there was a good side to the squalls it was that they would usually be gone about as fast as they appeared.

Yes, there are some downsides to fall fishing, but I have always felt that the good outweighs the bad. In the one aforementioned week the first part was cold and wet, but the second part was sunny and the temperatures actually hovered around 80 degrees.

One of my most memorable fall trips was one that I took a few Octobers back. It was with my oldest son, Brian. We made it a combination bow hunting and fishing trip. I don’t think the temperatures ever got out of the high 30s, but the small cabin that we rented on Spider was toasty, and we definitely looked forward to that after spending a couple of hours on the lake. Brian would get up early and sit in his deer stand, which was just a couple of miles from the resort. After breakfast we would hit the lake for about two hours of fishing because that’s about all the cold we could stand. I think it snowed twice during that trip, and we really learned to appreciate the warmth of the cabin. After coming off the lake, we’d eat, take a little nap and then hit the lake to try our luck once again. I don’t think that we caught a lot of fish on that trip, but Brian and I still talk about what a good time it was. That just goes to show that it’s not always about how good the fishing or hunting is — it’s really about enjoying the experience. Fall fishing — go figure!

Hunting season under way

We are now heading into the heart of the outdoors buffet that we outdoorsmen and women enjoy at this time of year. Early goose season is behind us, archery deer season is open, and the waterfowl season opened on Oct. 2. The small game season is also under way and this includes grouse, woodcock, mourning dove, rabbit and squirrel. Pheasant season will open on Oct. 16. You will need a migratory waterfowl stamp for the waterfowl season and a pheasant stamp for the pheasant season. The purchase of either of these stamps will also help ensure the continued effort to acquire more public hunting habitat.

With the numerous hunting seasons that are upon us the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued the following news release pertaining to camping in state forests:

Long-term camping limited in state forests

With small game hunting in progress and firearms deer season approaching, the DNR reminds forest users of regulations on long-term camping in state forests. State rules limit the time a party can camp in one spot and require that camps be occupied.

During much of year (second Sunday in September through the first Saturday in May) long-term or dispersed camping is limited to 21 days in any one section, township, and range; 14 days in the summer months. If the camp location is moved during the calendar year, it must move at least 15 miles from the previous camp.

In addition, dispersed camps set up on forest lands must be occupied by a responsible person of the camping party during the time the equipment is left on state land. If a tent or other camping structure like a camper is unoccupied for more than 14 days, a forest officer is required to remove it.

To prevent the spread of forest pests, only firewood purchased from a DNR-approved vendor may be brought onto any DNR-administered lands. The receipt supplied by the approved vendor must be retained as proof of purchase. Those camping on state forest land outside of a designated campground may gather dead wood on the ground for campfire use on site. Visitors are prohibited from scavenging dead wood if camping in designated campgrounds.

The DNR urges hunters to follow dispersed camping rules, follow firewood restrictions, use state forests wisely and allow others the same opportunity.

Get outside

It’s time to get out and enjoy the colors while hunting or sitting on your favorite lake duck hunting or doing a little fishin’. Always remember to wear your life jacket because even the best of swimmers is no match for the icy cold water.

Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today.