By Shawn Perich
The New Year arrived a little early this year. A few days before Christmas, I strapped on snowshoes and took the dog for a walk, breaking trail through powdery snow that was over the yellow Lab’’s head. We didn’t go far, returning to the truck within an hour. It’s best to take it easy the first time out. My snowshoe hikes will lengthen as winter wears on.
Spending more time on snowshoes this winter is one of my outdoor resolutions for the New Year. Like most folks, I lead a busy life. Spending time outdoors takes extra effort. So every year I like to reflect upon time spent outside in the previous year and set some priorities for the coming year.
Topping my list is finding a new walleye lake. Last summer, my favorite fishing hole fizzled out. Where I once caught only walleyes I now catch dozens of smallmouth bass and an occasional walleye. With friends, I made two trips to a BWCAW lake once renowned for walleyes. There, too, we found only bass. Talking with other anglers, I discovered they are catching more bass in their favorite walleye waters, too. Discovering a walleye wonderland may take some effort.
Hopefully, the walleye quest won’t detract from my trout fishing. I once told a dying man once that I’d spend some time with a fly rod on North Shore brook trout water every summer just for him. So far, I’ve kept my word. Last summer, brookie numbers seemed depressed in my favorite creeks, perhaps due to drought conditions in 2012. Maybe the fishing will be better this year. There are some out-of-the-way lakes stocked with brook trout that I may try, too.
A couple of open invitations to go fishing for trophy brook trout in Ontario are intriguing, too. In Minnesota, a 3-pound speck is a whopper. Cross the border into Canada and a brookie that size is shore lunch. When it comes to fishing the best waters and catching out-sized brook trout, let’s just say I know the right people. I hope to take advantage of their acquaintance in May or June. If possible, I’ll fit in a similar invitation for Ontario walleyes, too.
Later, maybe toward the end of summer or, if time permits, perhaps in early July, I’d like to wander out to the Rockies, fly rod in hand. This is a perennial itch that I only have an occasional opportunity to scratch. A couple of years ago, I spent time in grizzly country without seeing one of the big bears. I’d like to do that again—hopefully encountering a grizzly—while fishing for native cutthroat and bull trout. If I head west, it may be on my own. A friend who roams the world told me he grew weary of waiting for his friends to join him on various adventures, so he goes without them. I may take his advice and do the same.
Before autumn arrives, I want to buy a new deer rifle. For several years I carried a lightweight Remington 700 mountain rifle in .243 caliber. Like many Minnesota hunters, I found my .243 didn’t anchor deer as consistently as bigger calibers, so I switched to a .270-caliber Winchester Model 70. But I really miss carrying and shooting the little mountain rifle. My goal is to find another light bolt action in .308 caliber. Then I’ll shoot, shoot and shoot some more just to get well-acquainted with the rifle before taking it to the deer woods.
When the small game hunting season starts in September, I’ll visit my favorite grouse coverts, especially a remote spot up along the Canadian border that I somehow missed in 2013. While wandering the woods I’ll be on the lookout for new places to hunt deer, too. Maybe I’ll be lucky and discover a beaver pond where migrating mallards like to hang out. Every year, I try to take a break from bird hunting for a day or two of fall fishing. Rarely do I succeed in doing so. We’ll see what happens in autumn, 2014.
Aside from a trip to South Dakota for pheasants, I have no plans to travel for hunting this year. Many hunters find time for big game adventures, but not me. Trying to squeeze in a western trip for elk or deer would conflict with either my time in the pheasant fields or in the northern deer woods—two activities I truly enjoy. Besides, I don’t like the flavor of elk meat and thus have no desire to fill my freezer with it.
Shooting a fine North Shore buck would cap off 2014. Given the likelihood of fewer deer in the woods next November, doing so may take a little luck and a lot of hard hunting. That’s ok by me. Hunting success is most satisfying when you earn it. Considering I didn’t kill a deer in 2013, perhaps I’ll have a leg up in the time-in-the-woods department. Even so, I intend to hunt hard this year.
In fact, the whole point of coming up with annual fishing and hunting plan is to make sure I don’t shortchange myself from precious time afield. Whether I accomplish everything on my list is less important than just being in the woods and on the water. Frankly, a long walk in the woods with the dog can be just as much fun as spending a few hours on a favorite trout stream. Either way, I’m out in the fresh air and outside my daily routine. Here’s hoping you find time to get out there, too.