ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — My 7-year-old daughter and I pulled up to the entrance of a public piece of property in Minnesota on March 18.
It was cloudy with a little bit of moisture in the air, but mild. Temperatures were near 40 degrees and the wind was almost non-existent. I’ll take it.
The last week felt like a million miles away from the rolling timber ridges and open grasslands Aubree and I explored that evening. My days prior had been filled with staring at a computer or phone, monitoring social media and my emails and making calls to update stories on how the rapidly-evolving situation around COVID-19 was going to impact the Alexandria area.
In my world as a sports and outdoor editor, that meant keeping readers informed of what was happening with the upcoming spring sports season in the state.
The important decisions, for now, had seemingly been made by the Minnesota State High School League when I decided to take Aubree and our black lab, Gus, for a walk on some land I have hunted over the last couple seasons.
I set out with a specific agenda in mind. I had a good buck encounter in mid-September on this land in 2019, and I wanted to video a breakdown of that hunt for our website (that can be seen within this story). I’ve seen deer move very specifically through this property the last couple years, and I thought others might be interested in hearing about that.
Aubree really didn’t care about those details. She was just excited to have some one-on-one time with me outside. She got to wondering how many steps it would take her to reach our destination. “A thousand, you think, Dad?”
“Probably a lot more. Maybe 10,000.”
“10,000?! That’s a lot!”
We walked down deer trails and examined sign from the previous whitetail rut in the fall. The scrapes and rubs — everything jumps off the landscape right now with most of the snow having melted, but the spring greenup yet to occur. Aubree pointed out every rub she saw.
“That’s probably from a big buck.”
“That is a pretty good-sized tree, and it’s about waste high on me on the trunk. It probably was a pretty good deer.”
Over and over again, she would jump in front of me on the trail so she could lead the way. Only near the very end of our adventure did she complain a little bit about her boots being wet.
For two hours, there was no Facebook. No Twitter. No worrying about anything.
I have watched stories pop up about how people can pass the time without sports and all of the canceled events. Many center around what are the best shows to catch up on? How can we pass the time when confined to our houses?
My hope is that a small silver lining in all of this upheaval and the economic, physical and emotional stress it is going to cause might be that more people rediscover how therapeutic being in the outdoors can be. I have seen it already. More and more people on the road near my house are out for walks or a bike ride with their children.
If you hunt deer but have never had the interaction of chasing turkeys in the spring, maybe give that a try. Can’t often find time to spring scout for the upcoming whitetail season or shoot your bow? This is a good year to start.
State parks, recreation areas, campgrounds and public lands remain open for all of us to enjoy responsibly, while understanding the importance of not gathering in large groups at this time.
I have committed to shooting my bow for at least a half an hour every day. I plan on breaking down my best buck encounters from the 2019 season through videos I’ll release each week.
Maybe other whitetail junkies can learn from my experiences. Maybe it will encourage someone else to get outside. Either way, it’s a way I can ensure I practice what I’m preaching here.
Whatever your passions are outdoors, now is a good time to place an emphasis on pursuing them. Aubree and I were about a half a mile from the nearest person on our recent walk in the woods. I have to think that is as good a spot as any to be right now.