Our Outdoors: Ways of the Wind

By Nick Simonson Every autumn has a week where the winds of change blow through the upper Midwest, and this one is it for the current season.  With gusts in some places touching 50 miles per hour at the start of the week, the shift toward cooler weather was obvious, as hat-removing gales were a…

Our Outdoors: Getting Trained

By Nick Simonson It happened suddenly, coming up out of a yellow-leafed draw, my lab puppy, Ole – which until that point had lazily wandered in and out of the grass, kept pace behind my boots, and attempted to bite the other dogs in our opening weekend pheasant hunting group – took off.  He switchbacked…

Our Outdoors: Inflection

By Nick Simonson “To put it in perspective, we’ve harvested ten birds in the first two days of the season,” I said in response to the truck-cab recap of the first weekend of pheasant hunting, “last year, in our only walk on day four, we bagged eleven.” Our group’s total was indicative of what the…

Our Outdoors: Early Season Pheasant Tips

By Nick Simonson Since the cold end of last year’s pheasant season, hunters have eagerly awaited opening day, and now, mere hours away from it, we’re so close we can almost hear the crackling of the dry autumn grasses underfoot and the cackling of a flushing rooster in front of a hard-charging dog.  The start…

Our Outdoors: Fall Fever

By Nick Simonson She came into the north end of the field with that certain nervousness, her grey coat shivering off the dew around her hips and white-knobbed knees while she warily glanced back into the creek bottom stand of orange and yellow boxelders and ash trees on the trail behind her.  The doe’s demeanor…

Our Outdoors: A New Routine

By Nick Simonson Fall is a busy time.  Even more so if you’re a hunter ready to hit the field after several months off, or an angler looking to squeeze in a few last trips on the water before the season’s chill locks things away until next spring. On top of that, there is a…

Our Outdoors: How We Help Habitat Now

By Nick Simonson Numbers are down across the board for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in the upper Midwest.  In states like North Dakota and Montana, it was the persistent drought this summer which hurt hatching chicks straight out of the egg.  In Minnesota, a rainy spring in the state’s pheasant belt prevented a…

Our Outdoors: Sense of the Hunt

By Nick Simonson Amid on-again-off-again training for an upcoming half marathon (which will be run at a leisurely pace this year, I can assure you) I found myself headed to the stand in the white glow of my LED headlamp for the opening of North Dakota’s deer archery season.  Stiffness in my legs and left…

Our Outdoors: Safe & Successful

By Nick Simonson A safe hunt is a successful hunt.  Every time you ascend the stand, set foot into the grass, or toss out a spread of decoys should end with a safe descent, a return to the truck and a retrieval of those ducks – both fake and real.  The quarry means less than…

Our Outdoors: A Summer Disappearing Act

By Nick Simonson “Hey Nick, what are we going to catch,” asked Rylyn, the oldest son of my wife’s cousin, as we made our way out to the dock. “Ninety-nine percent bluegills,” I replied as his brother Radlee and father Chase made their way behind us, trailed closely by my son AJ. Unsealing the red…

Our Outdoors: Summer Holiday

By Nick Simonson My favorite holiday comes in mid-August. No, not National S’mores Day or International Beer Day (close runners up though), but that day, after the hustle-and-bustle of summer activity gives way to a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon when I can unwrap my favorite late-summer present – the memory card in my trail camera….

Our Outdoors: Seven Preseason Preparations

By Nick Simonson In about a week, hunting seasons will begin to open across the upper Midwest, starting with North Dakota’s early goose management season on August 15, with similar options available just a couple weeks later in South Dakota and Minnesota.  Following that, mourning dove season starts the upland game portion of autumn on…

Our Outdoors: The Things I’ve Forgotten

By Nick Simonson The dark wood of our living room floor is the color of coffee, making it easy to disguise my spills when the replacement pot I bought this spring leaks a few drops down there on my first pour of the day.  But since getting Ole, my new yellow lab puppy to replace…

Our Outdoors: It’s Not What You Think

By Nick Simonson Recently I wrote a column on that moment when you set the hook into something big.  You just get that feeling; that sense of knowing that the fish on the end of the line from the moment it’s connected is a big one.   During a recent return for walleyes on Lake Sakakawea…

Our Outdoors: Seven Summer Tips

By Nick Simonson The heat of July means fast fishing, and with that comes added stress to all the things that help us catch fish.  Line gets nicked by sharp teeth and structure, knots shift and slip, reels require maintenance and all sorts of other little things can get overlooked as fish after fish comes…

Our Outdoors: Christmas in July

By Nick Simonson I grabbed the pink-and-purple deep running crankbait off the floor, almost as an afterthought.  It had sat, stashed away for years in the miscellanea that most anglers have – lures, baits and other items of tackle that don’t quite make the cut, aren’t of any sort of confidence color, or just don’t…

Our Outdoors: Intersections

By Nick Simonson A few years back during the Great Recession, my buddy Marty and I met the same fate as I was laid off from my job in the steel industry, and he from his work on a Kentucky horse farm.  We reconnected that summer after a few years of not seeing one another,…

Our Outdoors: On New Waters

By Nick Simonson The near silent whir of the trolling motor pulled me away from the metal dock under the gray skies which spit tiny raindrops that made half-dollar-sized circles which rippled into one another and disappeared into the mirror-like surface of the lake.  It was a water I had never been to before, and…

Our Outdoors: Creek Connections

By Nick Simonson The place where running water meets still, or where a smaller trickle joins with a larger one to continue the unending hydrological cycle, is a place where you will find an abundance of fish, along with other wildlife and truly unique species.  Whether it has been in the dark of the midnight…

Our Outdoors: When You Know, You Know

By Nick Simonson It was my first trip around the fifty-acre impoundment southeast of town, a traditional decades-ago dam that shunted the water up rills and creek bottoms and turned an old meandering valley into a stockable small reservoir which absorbed some of the local fishing pressure.  Under the rippled gray skies of Sunday morning,…

Our Outdoors: Go Fishing

By Nick Simonson It’s fitting that this week is “National Fishing and Boating Week” because we need it now more than ever. I don’t know what last week’s title was, but it was awful. With the world still reeling from a bombing of a concert for tweens and teens across the pond which left 22…

Our Outdoors: Krystal Crappie King

By Nick Simonson   The art of lure making and fly tying results in a good deal of B flies and seconds that, after a few tries on the water are relegated to the bottom of the box, and are filed away for future reference, simply because they failed to connect with the trout, walleye…

Our Outdoors: Give ‘Em the Slip

  By Nick Simonson   There’s a sort of silent excitement in watching the chartreuse top and orange spindle point of a slip float slide under the surface of the water, knowing (or maybe not knowing) exactly what comes next.  The sweep of the rod tip to set the hook, the protesting pull on the…

Our Outdoors: Spring Shallows

It was fitting that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band blared through the back doors of the pavilion, where the 10:30 crowd at the wedding reception sang along with each verse of “Fishin’ in the Dark” with growing rowdiness, especially on the well-known choruses of the song.  Just down the sandy shore of the lake, my…

Our Outdoors: Advanced Angling

By Nick Simonson Not every aspect of angling is as easy as sitting on the bank, casting out a bobber over a hook full of worms and hoping for a bite, the way many of us started out fishing.  With each varying twist on the sport, there is more to learn and practice than there…

Our Outdoors: Welcome Notes

By Nick Simonson Coffee for the outdoorsman is more than just a morning drink.  It’s the dawn-delivered lifeblood of adventure, that sip that puts some pep in each step and kicks the adrenaline up a notch when that initial fish taps the line on a gorgeous spring day or the slightest crackling of leaves echoes…

Our Outdoors: Likely Locations for Trout

By Nick Simonson   The conditions and even the dates have varied greatly from year-to-year for the trout opener on the small stream in the state park south of my home.  In some seasons, the water has been so low that the stocked browns still remained stacked by the dozens in the deepest pockets under…

Our Outdoors: What a Bargain

By Nick Simonson Having spent a good deal of the weekend scoring for the local high school trap team and doing yard work in the unseasonable 80-degree highs, I hoped the rain scheduled for Sunday afternoon would hold off long enough to let me loosen my arm for the approaching stream trout opener with some…

Our Outdoors: Lead On

By Nick Simonson Another cast, another strike, another hookset met with the sensation of nothing on the other end.  The line wound haphazardly on the spool of my reel without the weight of the lure to keep some tension on the retrieve.  It wasn’t the first time I had been bitten off in the swirling…

Our Outdoors: Unnatural

By Nick Simonson The first few spotted seatrout I picked off of the grassy break were respectable for the Don Pedro Island area along the Intracoastal Waterway of Southwest Florida.  At an inch or two under the minimum limit for keeper-sized speckles, these fish provided fast action as the tide rose onto the large flat…