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DULUTH, Minn.—Beth Holst had hunted on the ground for the first two days of last fall's Minnesota firearms deer season, but she hadn't seen a deer. She decided she'd hunt from an elevated stand on the third day. On that November morning, the temperatures were in the single digits, she said. "We had had maybe a 2-inch snowfall," said Duluth's Holst, 64. "I was going up the rungs and just transitioning from the last rung to the stand."
An angler I know was talking about a lake where he used to fish. Crappies, as I recall. Somewhere near Bemidji. "But then the college kids found out about it, and they hit it pretty hard," he said. It was a small lake, and they fished it down until the angler quit going there. So did the college kids. They couldn't catch enough fish to make it worthwhile.
The email came from a friend up the shore. Subject line: "Mid-winter." He had purchased some maps of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, he wrote. He wanted to talk about some possible trips later in the year. But mostly, he was feeling what he called the "mid-winter doldrums" and just needed to look ahead. On the heels of that email came a text from another friend. We usually do a walleye and lake trout fishing trip to the canoe country in June with several others. "Is there a trip this year?" he wrote.
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — The sun hadn't yet crested the horizon on Tuesday, Jan. 9, when Greg Clusiau and Lorin LeMire began perforating the frozen surface of the lake with fishing holes. "We'll see what's down there before we set up," said Clusiau, who calls Keewatin, Minn., home.
NEAR SOLON SPRINGS, Wis. — Jarid Rankila walked gingerly onto the frozen beaver pond, thumping the ice ahead of him with his ice spud — a long-handled spear-like chisel. If the thunk was solid, he would take another couple steps. Rankila, a 19-year-old from Lake Nebagamon, really hoped to find a beaver in an under-the-ice trap he placed in this pond. But his first priority was to not plunge through any weak ice into the frigid water below.
This will sound crazy, I know. But maybe I am not alone. Sometimes, when I'm out with one of my friends — biking or hunting or paddling or running — I find myself thinking about what I would say about them at their funerals.
MADISON, Minn. — I have come west again, to kill a pheasant. Maybe several pheasants, should our fortune be so good. Gone now, the too-warm early-season days of October. Gone, too, the massive tracts of standing corn where the birds had too much room to hide. This is the early December hunt. The corn is harvested. Three of us have come, as we have for more than 30 years, to hole up in the red farmhouse. That's three dog lives for some of us, four for others.
A Duluth, Minn., man I know was returning from the Twin Cities recently when he came upon a car pulled off to the side of Interstate 35. The Duluth man figured he ought to pull over and see if he could offer any assistance. What he discovered was that the other driver had hit a deer — a big eight-point buck. The crash had occurred during the peak of the whitetail mating season — and the driver's car had been damaged beyond driveability. The driver didn't have a working cell phone, so the Duluth man called law enforcement for him.
Ice anglers eager to catch early-ice crappies are already hitting Pontoon Bay of Fish Lake, says Tim Wagner of Hi-Banks Resort near Duluth. "We've got 5 to 6 inches of ice," Wagner said Wednesday. "We get about 30 cars a day here, guys walking down." Understand that the cars aren't on the ice. Nor any permanent ice shelters. Just folks shuffling down the ice with their portable fishing shelters, setting up for a few hours of action.
The stories come pouring out of the three women seated around the table. Stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault from 20 or 30 years ago. And from recent months. The dam broke for these kinds of conversations after the exploits of movie producer Harvey Weinstein were made public. Then came the flood of "#metoo" responses from thousands — millions? — of women across social media, women who now felt empowered to speak out.