By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press
I’ll precede my annual glance over the shoulder — one last look at the past year’s outdoor topics and issues — with a short holiday guide to the outdoors. What I offer are mid-winter outdoors opportunities for the hunter, angler or even a parent looking for a vacation diversion or snowy excuse to spend more time on the other side of the window.
First off, I’ll always advise readers to consciously examine time and expectations before making any plans. This is even more important if we’re bringing a youngster outdoors. Safe for all and warm for the kids aren’t debatable.
While a decent perch bite or spotting a fox off in the distance can warm a body with adrenaline for a short time, if the fish stop biting and the fingers and toes are wet and cold, the young angler may not answer “yes” with enthusiasm the next time an arctic outdoor adventure is offered.
So dress accordingly and plan for cold fingers. Pack an extra pair of socks at a minimum, though a better plan is two of everything, from mittens and hat to snacks. For the half-pint sized outdoors partner, a favorite toy makes the trip home a little less traumatic if a nap is missed or a case of homesickness sets in.
The bottom line is, think twice and allocate ample time to put everything together, even for the briefest foray. I’m serious, when it comes to youngsters, you’re almost better off choosing not to go if you haven’t put a little thought into the trip.
Looking out the window, there’s no doubt October and even November are mere memories, but pheasant and upland game, along with deer bow seasons continue through Jan. 3. While the fresh fields of fall are frozen and snow covered, the potential for memories are still plentiful. One added bonus is the reduced pressure, as many hunters have turned to ice fishing and others simply wrap up their hunting with the close of deer rifle season.
You may find skittish birds, but few hunts can provide a more pleasurable experience than the sights and sounds of bursting roosters and jumpy jackrabbits enhanced by the echo of the cold.
There’s a tug at the core of a hunter to brave the cold, wind and snow to push through cattails on a late season rooster hunt. As you can guess from my description, I’ve been there first hand, and like the draw of many other hunts, each is unique and provides an opportunity to personalize it your own way.
And it’s not just about grouse, pheasants and deer. Cottontail rabbits and squirrels aren’t quite the burly combination of roosters and bucks, but they make it up in abundance and availability. Young and old alike might find a nice winter option in the woods and brush, and the best part is that sampling these often overlooked game species only requires a small slice of time out of the holiday rat race.
Speaking of overlooked, check out the Game and Fish Department’s Web site, www.gf.nd.gov, and click on “Fishing,” and you’ll find a host of resources for winter fishing, from stocking reports and contour maps to directions to fishing waters not named Sakakawea or Devils Lake. We all know how cramped late December is, and if you haven’t looked lately, you might find a recently stocked water that is producing fishing opportunities close to home.
And if it’s a family outing, bring along a sled and even some ice skates. If the fish don’t cooperate, you’ll find other options, it’s just a matter of getting out and enjoying it.
— Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
read his blog daily at www.areavoices.com/dougleier.