New Year, New Adventures

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I’m not a new-year’s-resolution kind of person. Rare are the times I am moved to state such aspirations formally, and rarer yet are the years when they survive to see the next changing of the calendar. Still, I will frequently look back on the past 12 months as that milestone approaches each year. My reflections have been more rewarding than usual this time around. 

A Good Year

2019 will be remembered by me as one of inspiration and growth. The main force behind this time of change has been my joining the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. I first heard of AGLOW just over two years ago, and soon started working toward fulfilling membership criteria. By June of this year, I had earned my way toward joining as an active Media Member, specifically as a Digital Media Specialist (for work relating to this website). Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it turns out I didn’t know how much I needed it. 

AGLOW- Association of Great Lakes Outdoor WritersThis September’s AGLOW conference in La Crosse gave me a huge catapult forward in the world of outdoor communication. The rather modest investment to attend has already paid (and will continue to pay) dividends in my professional development. In addition, the chance to make personal connections with other communicators and outdoor professionals has been extremely valuable in simply understanding the industry. I cannot overstate my gratitude for all I gained there in four days. Considering my journey over the last three and a half months, I truly look forward to seeing where I am another year from now. 

Looking To The Horizon

As previously stated, I am not wont to adopt new year’s resolutions. All the same, it seems one or two could help me build on my successes and keep rolling with my professional momentum. So, in addition to generating content for my website and YouTube channel, including a video log (a new venture inspired by the AGLOW conference), I’m currently formulating rigorous writing goals for the upcoming year. Ideally, said goals will push me as a communicator and businessman, but will not prove to be unsustainable for 52 straight weeks. This level of productivity may be set as a quantity-based quota, or perhaps as a dollar-based target. I cannot decide as of yet; disparate considerations tend to steer the goal setting process in different directions. 

One thing, however, is already clear: the more I branch out and do, the more new challenges will crop up. I am determined not to be discouraged by any of these former roadblocks. Instead, I will overcome and/or learn as much as possible from each one. It’s easy to say, but I know now some of these challenges will require far more effort than any one writing project, and none is likely to offer monetary compensation. 

Making Dreams Come True

As regular visitors to this site already know, I love to get into the outdoors to do something new. In fact, that’s probably my favorite outdoor activity: something I haven’t yet done. I get to research, see new places, learn new things, and have a renewed sense of adventure every single time. What’s more, I love to show that you don’t have to be an expert in anything to engage with the outdoor world. 

Some things I’ve done- like smelt netting– are fairly easily accomplished and will likely be revisited in the future. Others- like catching and eating an eelpout- continue to elude me. But every adventure has been worthwhile, no matter the size or the outcome. And now, another year of new outdoor adventures and goals awaits. 

The following is a partial list of my outdoor goals for 2020. Do you have any experience with these, or perhaps you have some resources you’d like to share? Do you have any tips you’d like to offer, or new ideas for me? Leave a comment or send me an email. Then be sure to check back and see how they unfold. I hope to make 2020 the best year yet!

Catch and Eat an Eelpout– When a fish is known as “poor man’s lobster,” how could I resist?

Catch a Catfish Through the Ice– Cats are tasty, but sometimes finicky. Past disappointments will not keep me from trying. 

Catch My First Brook Trout– It seems simple, but I am not a fly fisherman and opportunities are relatively few across Minnesota. It will probably require a trip to the BWCA, either summer or winter. 

Multi-Night Winter BWCA Trip– The 2018-19 winter was a weather disaster that offered me no good chances. I will be watching again for my window.

Harvest a Spruce Grouse– It might not seem like a novelty to some, but this bird which has so far eluded me. This could involve a backpack hunt with my dog. 

Find and Eat Five New Mushrooms– This could require a good deal of time in the woods, probing new parts of the state, and some keen taxonomic work. 

Top Secret Foraging Goals– Some things are better left unsaid, mainly because I don’t want my best ideas stolen. But I will say that one will require some serious groundwork. It also may not be possible in any one year, depending on growing conditions. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Do Something New: Harvest Your Own Christmas Tree

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Normally, I wouldn’t be thinking about our Christmas tree in October. In fact, we’ve had a hand-me-down artificial tree for about the last 15 years, so it wouldn’t occur to me at all. But some relatives were telling us they’d be at the cabin this year for Christmas, and I suggested they get a permit to take their tree from the woods for the occasion. So in the interest of encouraging others into the outdoors, I snooped around for information from Minnesota DNR and the Forest Service, and emailed them some web links. 

What I found actually surprised me. As far as I could tell, the permit for harvesting a tree from Minnesota’s state forest lands would cost $25. That was a higher price than I expected. However, the permit for a tree from Chippewa National Forest costs only $5. 

Yes, FIVE DOLLARS.  Continue reading “Do Something New: Harvest Your Own Christmas Tree”

Product Review: Irish Setter VaprTrek Boot

It all started in 2014. A great pair of leather boots had given up the ghost and I needed something new. Another pair of leather boots seemed a good idea, but with all the walking I do in the bird hunting season, I didn’t want anything too heavy. One boot caught my attention, marketed as light in weight and tough as nails. I’d never owned anything in kangaroo leather before, so who was I to doubt their claims? 

Well, I should have. Astonishingly, I wore those boots out in just one October. The leather in the toes completely disintegrated, and the waterproof layer underneath could clearly be seen. I regret to this day I didn’t take pictures, but I was livid as I packed up the box. I just wanted them out of my sight. Ever since then, I’ve been in search of a boot that could stand up to the way I hunt.  Continue reading “Product Review: Irish Setter VaprTrek Boot”

Do Something New: Quarter and Pack Out a Deer

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I’ve long dreamed of hunting in the mountains, spending days climbing, glassing, and stalking. This kind of trip has always seemed quite accessible to me, except for one aspect: getting the meat out of the woods. It would be impractical to expect to drag a deer back to the truck. Foolish, really, and out of the question with an elk. So that would mean quartering and packing the animal out. This is nothing to the hunter on horseback, or even one who is accustomed to doing it. Continue reading “Do Something New: Quarter and Pack Out a Deer”

NAGC’s Best Adventurer Food, 2019

Read More Nordhem Karlstad MN

Even when you’re on the road, everybody’s gotta eat. There are the hidden gems, and there are the inevitable sore disappointments. On my adventures, I’ve found my share of each. In the interest of rewarding the proprietors of first-rate eateries, I would like to share some of my favorites with you. Hopefully this will also serve to help you avoid some of the duds lurking out there. The map below is interactive, so click on the icons to obtain addresses, phone numbers, and websites. Have at it, and let me know what you think!

Continue reading “NAGC’s Best Adventurer Food, 2019”

NAGC News, 2019 Highlights

Tribute to a Vizsla

Grouse hunting VizslaRoy’s article entitled “For The Good Times” was included in the March/April issue of the magazine Pointing Dog Journal. It was the narrative of the final hunt with his longtime hunting buddy, Johann. 13-year-old Johann is still with us, but his hunting days are, sadly, in the past. That hunt last November seemed like a perfect time to pay tribute to this hard-working, bird-crazy, lovable family dog, and the folks at PDJ were gracious to let the bird dog community read it. Thanks go out to Jake Smith and Pointing Dog Journal.  

Video Venture

Never A Goose Chase is now also available in video form! YouTube has been hosting an NAGC channel since March. Currently, there are 2 videos up: one from Roy’s maple syrup making venture, and one from Roy’s solo trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in May. Nut foraging videos are currently in production, and a video log is in the works. Subscribe to NAGC’s YouTube home so you don’t miss videos as they come out. 

Awards for Never A Goose Chase

Roy recently became a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), and attended the annual conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in September. It was a week rich in networking and story ideas, and he received Awards-In-Craft prizes for Never A Goose Chase content from the last year. The featured photo from “BWCA Entry Point 44: Ice-Out Lake Trout” won third place in the Photography division in the fishing category. That very blog post won second place in the Electronic Media/Blog division, fishing category. As if that wasn’t enough, Roy’s post “Do Something New: Spot & Stalk Duck Hunting” also won second place in the Electronic Media/Blog division, hunting category. He was pleased with his first showing, and that first AGLOW conference will not be his last. 

 

 

 

Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Black Cherry

Read More Minnesota black cherry

I’m sure you’ve heard of “black cherry,” either as a flavoring or as a type of wood. For me, the name evokes a certain flavor of candy. But did you know it’s a harvestable fruit here in Minnesota? Yes, it is. And this year’s harvest was outstanding. 

I’d been waiting several years for a good crop of these cherries- perhaps 4 or 5. They were not something I went out of my way for, but I usually checked on a couple different trees at least once toward the end of each summer. Well, this year, it was clear conditions were somehow just right. Branches were full of green clusters by July all over in my area.  Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Black Cherry”

How My Alma Mater Prepared Me To Sleep On The Ground

Read More Gustavus Adolphus College

Waking up somewhere cold and hard is not an occasional occurrence for me. Just a few weeks ago, I took my first solo trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area as the snow and ice receded from the landscape. Earlier this year, I slept a night on the ice of Lake Mille Lacs while I explored a lake that is still big and new to me. A couple months before that, I endured one late-October night (in a slightly leaky tent) while I tried my hand at netting whitefish in far northern Minnesota. I was fortunate enough to catch a modest number of fish each time, for which I was grateful, but everyone knows there are easier ways to bring food home for the table. So what makes me embrace physical exertion and discomfort doing these or any such things? 

Continue reading “How My Alma Mater Prepared Me To Sleep On The Ground”

BWCA Entry Point 44: Ice-Out Lake Trout

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Way up north, in the far reaches of Cook County, hundreds of deep cold lakes lie hidden in the hills and shaggy conifer forests. This is the stronghold of Minnesota’s lake trout population, with dozens of lakes hosting populations of one degree or another. There is a special place in my heart for lake trout, and an honored place on my table for any of the salmonid family. Since our trip to Crystal Lake last spring in the BWCA, I had been looking for my next opportunity to go after more of these delectable fatty fish. Also since last year, I had developed a deep burning desire to take a solo trip, which I had never done before. A permit for one person for Entry Point 44- with lake trout in Ram Lake and Little Trout Lake- seemed the perfect way to scratch both itches.  Continue reading “BWCA Entry Point 44: Ice-Out Lake Trout”

Do Something New: Smelt Netting

When I was growing up in the ’80s, the smelt boom on Lake Superior was already over and fading into collective memory, becoming legend. “Smelting” in its heyday was something everybody knew about and a great many rushed to the rivers to partake in. Nowadays, it’s almost exclusively a “used to” activity; you might have heard it too: “we used to go up there and fill up a barrel with smelt in half an hour.” In recent years, however, I’ve learned that the smelt still run and a select few still pursue them. 

Last Wednesday, I bought a smelt net from a guy on Craig’s List for 10 bucks. The next day I headed for Lake Superior with that net, hip waders, a 5 gallon bucket, what little information could be gleaned from the internet regarding current conditions, and a whole lot of hope. The plan was to start up the shore after sunset, and work my way down if I found nothing. The first stop was the booming metropolis of Knife River.  Continue reading “Do Something New: Smelt Netting”

The End of Their Era: When Our Outdoor Mentors Pass On

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My dad’s friend Larry was a staple of my formative years, a regular presence in our hunting endeavors in the late 80s and early 90s. His light, contagious demeanor was always welcome, and I won’t soon forget how his jokes and wise cracks punctuated the many car rides, duck blinds, and nights in the camper, not to mention his deft incitement of near-inappropriate moments at home and in the narthex of the church. I can still hear his crazy, half-wheezed, unfettered laugh, and I know I always will. 

He passed away last week, after a years-long tussle with cancer; this news was not unexpected, certainly, but its inevitability did not serve to mitigate its impact. His loss comes as yet another blow to constancy, a cold chipping away at my sense of youth and connection to the past. So it goes whenever a part of us seems gone forever and can only be kept alive in memory and stories. For me, it would be hard in this moment not to pause and remember the others that have gone on ahead.  Continue reading “The End of Their Era: When Our Outdoor Mentors Pass On”

Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making Syrup

Read More Minnesota maple basswood forest

When you try something new, sometimes it doesn’t go so well. A week ago, it was looking like I wouldn’t see so much as a drop of maple sap coming out of my taps. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground, and although the temperatures seemed perfect, nothing was happening. I didn’t know the first thing about how to make maple syrup, not to mention all the nuances regarding the tree tapping and sap collection along the way.  Continue reading “Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making Syrup”