Shawn Perich

Shawn is a veteran writer and editor well-known for his many books and outdoor stories. A native of Duluth and longtime North Shore resident, he’s spent a lifetime roaming the Northern Wilds and is eager to share what he knows with readers.

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Recent Articles by Shawn Perich

The Sax-Zim Bog is for the birds
posted on Friday, Feb 16, 2018
North of Duluth is a swamp; a really big swamp. In the early 20th Century, some folks got the idea they could drain the swamp and create a farming paradise. They dug long and straight ditches through the peat and, incredibly, cleared thousands of forested acres to create fields. So much open ground existed that prairie grouse, sharptails and even prairie chickens, flourished for a few decades. But the swamp wasn’t drained away. The wished-for farming paradise never came to be. The forest gradually returned, overtaking much of the open ground.…

Bison, pigeons & wolverines: A glimpse into the past
posted on Friday, Feb 09, 2018
We like to think of Minnesota past as a paradise of wildlife, but the paradise may have been lost longer ago than we think. I recently received a copy of "A Century of Minnesota Wild Life" by Walter J. Breckenridge published in Minnesota History, a publication of the Minnesota Historical Society, in June, September, 1949. Breckenridge was the director of the Minnesota Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota. It offers remarkable insight regarding the state's native game species. While the state was settled by Europeans during the…

The wolves in the neighborhood
posted on Friday, Feb 02, 2018
During this season of short days, my opportunities for dog walks in the woods are limited to weekends. On such walks, the dogs are off leash, so I like to be able to see them. A couple of years ago, I bought lights for their collars, thinking this would make evening walks possible. It did, for a couple of days. Walking down the county road near my home one evening, a neighbor passing in a pick-up stopped to see if everything was all right, which seemed an odd question until…

Without conservation, nature is no match for human nature
posted on Friday, Jan 26, 2018
Acting in what some would call the nick of time, the Ontario government recently used a helicopter to capture woodland caribou from Lake Superior’s Michipicoten Island, where they are being wiped out by wolves (as previously reported in this column) that arrived there about five years ago. Eight females and one male were moved to the Slate Islands, which have long supported caribou. Wolf predation had reduced the Slate Island population to about four bull caribou. Wolves are now absent from the archipelago. It is hoped the released caribou will…

The problems with feeding deer
posted on Friday, Jan 19, 2018
In the afternoon, when the long shadows of a short winter day grow even longer, the deer visit my bird feeder. Since the feeder is just outside of the kitchen window and next to where the dogs are when outside on their cables, it may seem the deer are making a bold move. But the does and their fawns know the dogs and me. They are accustomed to our daily routines. You might say my yard is their yard. I get along with my whitetail neighbors. Trees and shrubs are…

When it is cold, be a chickadee
posted on Friday, Jan 12, 2018
Has it been cold enough for you? Minnesota entered the New Year with a bitter bout of cold weather. On some days, the high temp remained below zero. Nighttime lows dipped beyond 20 below. This is not unusual weather for early January. Knowing that doesn’t make enduring a cold spell any easier. Cold spells have their high and low points. I like the way the snow squeaks beneath my feet when the temperature is below zero. I don’t like the way mechanical objects refuse to start or actually break on…

The petty tyrants of county government
posted on Friday, Jan 05, 2018
Ok. We won’t name names in this particular column, because they aren’t important. What happened in two counties, via the actions of their boards of commissioners, could happen just about anywhere in Minnesota. It speaks to a malaise that seems to infect many of our duly elected. Its symptoms include a willfulness that isn’t wisdom and a memory loss that makes them forget who they represent. The only treatment, and it isn’t always successful, is form of shock therapy that occurs when someone calls out their actions in a public…

A little more about Lake Superior’s woodland caribou
posted on Tuesday, Jan 02, 2018
Sometimes, reporting on a story is straight-forward. Often, though, an interview can lead you on unexpected twists and turns. Last week, I had a conference call with three men in Wawa, Ontario, about Lake Superior caribou. They contacted me after a recent column in Minnesota Outdoor News about the looming extirpation of Lake Superior’s native woodland caribou. They wanted to share some more information with me. That’s how I met, via telephone, Christian Schroeder, who has a camp on Michipicoten Island; Leo Lepiano, land and resources director for the Michipicoten…

When they hear you coming
posted on Friday, Dec 22, 2017
As most outdoor-loving Minnesotans know, there is cold and then there is cold. The first kind of cold you can tolerate and enjoy your outdoor activities. The second kind of cold is bitter, makes you miserable and is best avoided. We had one morning during the recent deer season that was the second kind of cold. At daybreak the temperature hovered near zero, which is warm enough for hunting if you are sufficiently bundled up or spending your morning in a heated blind. I prefer to stay on my feet,…

Could Isle Royale save Lake Superior’s native caribou?
posted on Friday, Dec 15, 2017
In the town of Rossport, on Lake Superior’s northernmost shore, there is a local history museum housed in a caboose. Tucked away in a corner of the caboose is an undated, black-and-white photograph showing the carcasses of three, trophy-sized woodland caribou lying on a dock. The photo is captioned, “Island Caribou.” Rossport is situated about midway between a string of islands running from St. Ignace in the west to the Slate Islands archipelago in the east. At the time the photo was taken, it is likely caribou inhabited all of…

Deer harvest goal leaves DNR some wiggle room
posted on Monday, Dec 11, 2017
The Old Man used to have a saying: “Minnesota has 300,000 hunters and harvests 100,000 deer a year. That’s good hunting. We don’t need to have a million deer like Texas.” For many years, his statement about total hunters and average harvest held true. This was back 30-40 years ago, when nearly all of the state’s deer were found in forested areas, primarily in the north. Times have changed. Now whitetails are found throughout the state, including in urban areas. And the people who pursue them every autumn are now…

Reflections on 30 years in Cook County
posted on Monday, Dec 04, 2017
In 1987, I didn’t buy a deer license. We were living in Georgia, outside Atlanta, in a situation that was a poor fit job-wise and geographically. Instead of coming back to Minnesota to hunt, my energy was devoted to moving back here, hopefully to the North Shore. I took a cut in pay and a risk by accepting a job as the editor of the weekly Cook County News-Herald in Grand Marais. We got to town right around Thanksgiving; myself, Vikki and a six-month-old, Georgia-born yellow Lab named Rebel. Moving…

Solstice traditions carry forward from ancient times
posted on Monday, Nov 27, 2017
We are in the time of year when many folks leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. During December, the sun is above the horizon for less than nine hours each day. Daylight continues to decrease until Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and known as the Winter Solstice. The phenomenon occurs because Earth is tilted on an axis in relationship to the sun, around which it rotates in an annual cycle. The point in that rotation when the Northern…

Time with the knife, and memories
posted on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017
On a recent afternoon, I begged off from heading back into the deer woods after lunch. A buck was hanging from the gambrel in my garage. I wanted to get to it with a knife. Afternoon daylight and temps above freezing would make the task at hand much easier. Some folks like to hang their deer for a few days to age the meat. During November in my neck of the woods, we rarely have temps that are “just right” for aging meat. Either it is too warm or too…

Blaming deer hunters won’t restore Minnesota moose
posted on Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017
Somehow, I just knew it had to be my fault. Are you wondering what happened to the missing Minnesota moose? Wonder no more. Just blame me. After all, I’m a northeastern Minnesota deer hunter. In a story titled, “Solved: Deer have a direct role in the death of Minnesota moose” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on Nov. 7 (coincidentally, just four days after the opener of the annual northeastern Minnesota firearm deer season) that a brain worm parasite carried by deer and fatal to moose is the leading cause of death…

Hunting ends when baiting begins
posted on Friday, Nov 10, 2017
Somewhere in northern Minnesota, there is a pile of apples with a deer stand over yonder. Somewhere else, there is a pile of corn hidden beneath the bows of a balsam tree so the game wardens can’t see it from the air. Stealthier still, beneath a third deer stand, someone scattered black oiler sunflower seeds, which are even more difficult to detect. Spreading bait to attract deer to a hunting location may be against the law in Minnesota, but out in the woods and on the back forty, it persists.…

Walking on Snow
posted on Friday, Oct 27, 2017
In winter, the snow gets pretty deep around here. Sometimes it comes early. Other years it arrives late. Most winters, the snow just keeps getting deeper and deeper until spring arrives. I don’t think much about the snow depth until it reaches my knees, because I can trudge through lesser amounts. But once it gets to my knees, it’s time to wear snowshoes. Native people originated snowshoes to walk atop the snow. They are still used for that practical purpose today. The original style of snowshoe, with a wooden frame…

Out there, we're all the same
posted on Friday, Oct 27, 2017
When the autumn leaves drop and the forest is bare of foliage, deer appear in the backyard. They clean up fallen apples and whatever is left in the gardens as hors d'oeuvres, but what keeps them around are the lush green grass and clover in the yard. They show up just before dusk; does followed by fawns and yearling does. Not often does a buck appear. As anyone with whitetails in their neighborhood knows, backyard deer are not shy. They know your routines and will watch you go about your…

Nostalgia in the Grouse Woods
posted on Friday, Oct 20, 2017
Longtime grouse hunters have a list of places where they used to go hunting. Trees grow old. They fall down or are cut down. Over a span of a decade or more, a familiar forest can change so much that it becomes hard to recognize. Old logging roads and trails disappear and new ones are made. My list of former hunting spots is lengthy. Some of them have sprouted new homes. Often I can no longer find the trails I use to walk. In others, the forest has aged and…

An Upper Peninsula Adventure
posted on Friday, Oct 13, 2017
If Michigan's Upper Peninsula was a misshapen mitten, the Keweenaw Peninsula would be the thumb. This rocky appendage juts defiantly into Lake Superior, its hardwood, pine and hemlock clad ridges rising hundreds of feet above the crystalline blue. We had already been atop Brockway Mountain, where you can look beyond the ridges across the limitless lake that disappears into the horizon. We'd been to the lakeside monastery where the monks make and sell wild berry jam.  Now we were passing through Copper Harbor, the tiny community at the tip of…