The open water season came to a close this past week. As many Minnesotans sat on the deer stand, last-minute, die-hard anglers experienced success fishing for walleyes and crappies.
By mid-week, small lakes and ponds froze completely; larger bodies of water followed. Ice fishing is already starting on lower Red Lake, with four inches of ice in some areas close to shore.
During hours in the deer stand last Saturday and throughout the week, I had time to think about seasons of the past. Growing up hunting, it was an activity that was highly anticipated by myself and others the family. Those days are now a fond memory. Today, the fire is diminished a bit, with thoughts of hanging up the rifle for good. Older now, it's time for another chapter in this sportsman's life. Watching wildlife, like deer, in their natural setting, unmolested, has become more appealing. Clicking the shutter on the camera replaces pulling the trigger. Recalling the past, my father and uncles mentioned calling it quits, but what drove them to continue was experiencing the sport with younger siblings. So it is with so many that I have spoken to this season. One hunter told me of his realization, while sitting in his deer stand, now in his sixties, that it might be a time to quit. It's a natural succession of sorts, stepping away to allow the younger among us to enjoy and take over.
Fortunately, the Park Rapids area has some of the best deer hunting in the state. It's hard not to get caught up in the excitement found in the community, if only for a short time.
Harvesting deer, or any game for that matter, is an important management tool sportsman provide. The resource should not be taken lightly. Older hunters can remember a time when seeing one deer a season was normal. The late Winston Manlove of Hubbard, Minn. told me of those days on the prairie. Winston always paused to watch deer, even though he had seen hundreds of them, recalling the past when deer weren't so abundant. Respecting the resource is more ingrained in those that are older and have experienced times without. Today, deer are seemingly everywhere - regularly hit by cars, as evidence.
Do we tend to take the resource for granted? Deer abundance could change with one bad winter. It happened in North Dakota. In the past couple years, residents have had a hard time getting harvest tags and deer numbers are scarce. Hard winters, coupled with loss of habitat, had taken its toil on the herd.
Minnesotans value deer and deer hunting. Private landowners have taken it upon themselves to develop and preserve habitat on their lands. Minnesota's public land and forests are prime habitat and homes for an abundant deer population, and are overlooked by some as a good place to hunt.
As yet another deer season closes on Sunday, recalling seasons past, let's hope we never take our natural resources for granted.