Grouse hunting, for me the last few years, has been more like taking hikes through the woods with a shotgun than actually bringing home anything to show for my efforts. There are a thousand reasons that I can give why things did not go better, but the bottom line is that if I did see grouse, it was long gone before I had my gun or body in position.
Months ago I made reservations to take a group to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) through Ely and enjoy a nice weekend of exploring the wilderness via hiking and canoe. Our group ranged from a pair of parents and five youth ranging from ages 9 to 14. Four people in our group had never been to the BWCA before, and my intentions were for us to have experiences of a couple short manageable portages and include a scenic paddle through the wilderness.
I am fortunate to have a life where I get to spend a lot of time outdoors and take on new adventures. I would say this lifestyle is by choice and not something that just 'happens.' Winter is one of my favorite seasons. I love the snow, the way the forest looks when covered under a white blanket, the cold sunrises with exaggerated sun dogs streaming up through the sky, and especially hoarfrost when the sun hits it in the morning.
The people of Minnesota are very nice. We heard some observations about our state, around the "Big Game," as being a wonderful, welcoming, friendly statewide community. Minnesotans are very helpful. They will give you directions anywhere you want to go, except for where they fish, hunt or live. If you observe someone sharing a fishing photo on their smartphone or camera, you may be inclined to ask them, "Where did you catch that fish?"
I thought it would be fun to set a new a challenge of fishing each of the four trout lakes in Hubbard County. Newman is about as far north as you can travel in Hubbard County, and proved to be a nice experience without anything over the top to state. Blacksmith is a personal favorite for local camping and typically has a high success rate of catching a rainbow trout. Blue Lake is simply a beautiful lake with a variety of species and relatively quiet.
We have arrived at the favorite, holiday season of the year for rifle hunters. The cool, crisp morning air gently lightens by the touch of the sun preparing to rise. With a glance or two of your watch, you see the seconds click off in anticipation of taking aim on a deer — then the popping of gunshots echo through the hills and the hunt begins!
The room was gathered with assorted characters dressed in camouflage and drab, earthen clothing. Kind eyes greeted me as I was introduced to the group, followed by hearty handshakes. We shared introductions, which lead into some good laughs and identifying stories, building rapport and placing us in familiar situations and places of our shared history. I sat, listened, joked, and shared in the friendly ribbing as genuine bonds formed.