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. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University.
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I'm in catch-up mode after a few days out of the office that served up near-perfect weather. Perfect weather by late February and early March standards, at least. It all started last Saturday, Feb. 24, when four of us set out by snowmobile on a trip across Lake of the Woods from Warroad, Minn., to Oak Island on the Northwest Angle. Ice fishing and snowmobiling were on the agenda, and the conditions for both were ideal.
I was talking to a fisheries manager the other day when I told him I thought this winter had become a bit of a grind. And in many ways, it has. There's been relentless periods of cold, too much wind and, for skiers, snowmobilers and other snow sports enthusiasts, marginal snowfall, at least in the Red River Valley. Except for a couple of trails in northeast North Dakota, there hasn't even been enough snow to groom snowmobile trails until you get farther east into Minnesota, where snowfall has been more abundant and ample wooded areas have kept it from blowing away.
The winter of 2017-18 hasn't been too severe for deer and most other wildlife to this point, but prolonged cold spells could cause problems in some areas if they persist too late into the season, managers say. "Some of these cold days are starting to take their toll a little bit, but it looks like we're working out of that now here for a short period of time," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
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.