Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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GRAND FORKS — Make no mistake about the weather on this Thursday evening in early February. It's cold, as in 10 below zero cold. Way too cold if you're into fly fishing, as opposed to the kind of fishing that requires staring down at a hole in the ice. Just ask Steve Ficocello, founder of the Forks Fly Tyers. The group, which gets together the first Thursday of every month to tie flies and talk fishing, was marking its six-month anniversary on this chilly February evening at Half Brothers Brewing Company in downtown Grand Forks.
At first glance, Jake Cosley says he wasn't quite sure what he was seeing Wednesday afternoon while snowmobiling on the Red River south of Pembina, N.D. It looked like a dead deer, but something else seemed to be going on, too, he said.
WALHALLA, N.D. — Jim Brown had seen the two bucks on his trail camera near Walhalla, N.D., earlier in the fall, but then they stopped showing up. That all changed one day in December when Brown, a Walhalla contractor, checked the card on his Cuddyback trail camera. What he saw only can be described as a spectacle of nature: One buck entangled with the rack of another buck whose body is severed from its head. The antlers and severed head hang from the rack of the living buck.
GRAND FORKS—Land Tawney is president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a Montana-based group focusing on public lands and waters with chapters in 35 states, including Minnesota, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. A fifth-generation Montanan, Tawney, 42, worked for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and was a regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation before taking the reins of BHA in 2013. He and his wife, Glenna, have two kids, age 9 and 6, and two black Labs, Teller "Triple T" and Tule.
DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—Ask Gary Thompson why people break through the ice, and he'll say they usually don't do a good enough job of testing it before they venture out. There's more to "reading" ice than measuring how thick it is. The Eskimos have more than 100 different words for snow, Thompson says. And while his vocabulary for describing ice is less extensive, it's no less accurate.
GRAND FORKS—The reprieve from cold weather came none too soon for my tastes, and a few days of above-zero temperatures have offered all the motivation I needed to get out of the house. As I write this late in the week, the mercury has climbed into the mid-20s where I'm headed for the weekend and is set to hit the high 30s. There's nothing specific on the itinerary other than putting a few miles on the sleds, strapping on the snowshoes and tromping through the woods to see what I can see and perhaps even doing a bit of ice fishing.
A year or so back, I challenged myself to come up with a list of the outdoors from A to Z. That might sound easy enough, but as I got down to developing the list, I found it to be quite a challenge. For some letters, at least. The challenge proved to be even more formidable when I decided to tackle it again this week because I couldn't use any of the words I used the last time around. No surprise, perhaps, but X proved to be the greatest challenge.
DICKINSON, N.D. — North Dakota has its first bighorn sheep entries in the Boone and Crockett awards book after two hunters in November shot rams with horns big enough to qualify. Dustin Seamands of Bismarck made the most of his once-in-a-lifetime North Dakota sheep tag to shoot a ram that measured 177⅛ inches after the mandatory 60-day drying period, making it the new North Dakota record bighorn. Brian Ham of Alice, N.D., wasn't far behind, shooting a ram that officially measured 176⅝ inches after the drying period.
One thing's for sure: People have a fascination with mountain lions. Sightings, whether confirmed or hearsay, always get people talking. "It definitely stirs up some local discussion," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. That has been readily apparent since mid-November, when a mountain lion showed up on two different trail cameras a landowner had set on his property near Devils Lake.
GRAND FORKS, N.D.—It doesn't happen very often—fortunately—but there are times when an outdoor excursion requires digging deep into the creative well to pull out a story. Sometimes, the fish don't bite, the hunting is poor or the weather is bad. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Such was the case last Sunday, when two friends and I hit Lake Winnipeg for what easily was the shortest fishing excursion we've ever had on the big lake. We know futility when we see it. The abbreviated version of the story would be something like this: It was windy.