I met Ted late last March at the rapidly melting mud-covered boat launch on a small lake in LaMoure County. He was a fellow of about fifty or so, with a slight accent leading me to believe he wasn't from North Dakota; though he did possess a lot of knowledge regarding the little lake stuck back in the hills where we were setting tip-ups and drilling holes for late-ice pike. A quick glance around him at the mud-stained F-150 with the four-wheeler in the box revealed a banged-up green Colorado license plate.
Ted told us that he lived in the sandhill area of Colorado, between the prairies of Nebraska and the Rocky Mountains. He explained that he had come to LaMoure several years in a row to take part in some great late season fishing on this small lake, and to participate in the great ice fishing through the ice on Dry Lake and its surrounding sloughs. He asked me and my buddies if we knew how lucky we were.
His voice was of the same tone as the one in the back of my head that would remind me of how fortunate I was when I would watch a smallmouth bass swim back into the river after a successful catch and release. It was similar to the one that would shout with excitement when a rooster would flush just yards ahead while hunting only a few miles away from home.
"Yes, yes we do," I replied to Ted.
I think that is something that needs to be addressed, as to how lucky each and every one of us who enjoys time in the outdoors really are. Where else but here, in the middle of everything, could we have it this good?
If you want to hunt pheasants, there's more than enough to go around within an hour, or even a few minutes of Valley City; and if you live in the prime two-thirds of the state wherever you call home there are many of the same chances to hunt upland game, be it grouse, dove, partridge or those wily roosters.
As a matter of fact, in our adventures down to lake LaMoure that weekend, my two friends and I counted 40 pheasants along Highway One and Highway 13, with a dozen north of Highway 46. The 26 roosters we saw were some of the largest and most colorful specimens I had ever seen. Their wattles were gleaming bright red in the early morning sun, and their feathers reflected a golden sheen.
But if pheasant hunting isn't your scene, there are numerous places to focus on waterfowl. The spring goose migration has begun, and it won't be long until we witness flocks of snow and Canada geese moving north during a warm weekend like the one we shared with Ted. These waterfowl provide not only aesthetic beauty to the pothole sloughs, but also another chance to hunt when fall and spring arrive.
Perry Kapaun, an avid hunter and Barnes County Wildlife President at a recent meeting addressed this very scenario, as to how good things really are. With a hint of sarcasm he commented, "You know you've got it rough when there are too many deer in your area." Certainly, it is important to realize that hunting for these big game animals is at an all time high, not only in numbers, but popularity as well. I took his statement to heart, and remembered that at one time, seeing a whitetail deer around these parts was a rarity.
I don't know if I have to go too in-depth into the fishing opportunities in North Dakota because that is the basis for most of my columns each year. Nevertheless, a quick synopsis is in order.
Where I live in Valley City, I can walk out the back door, rod in hand, for an hour before dinner in the summertime and catch numbers of smallmouth bass, walleye, and pike - all in time to come home and sit down at the table. The Sheyenne River boasts good fishing - even incredible outings if you time it right - throughout the openwater season. What is more, the river flows through the middle of town, and has fish up and down its shores.
Beyond that opportunity, lakes throughout counties like Barnes, Stutsman, LaMoure, and Cass provide opportunities to catch fish like bluegill, largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, trout and more. I am certain the lakes around wherever you call home do as well. They are only a matter of minutes away, and many receive minimal pressure throughout the year. A veritable cornucopia of species, each waiting to be angled for, abound in lakes throughout the state.
Yes, we have it good here in North Dakota, and though I have fished around the world, and around the country, there's no place else I'd rather wet a line than in that river flowing through my backyard.
As I helped him haul some of his ice fishing gear up the boat launch, Ted advised me not to take anything for granted, and enjoy each and every trip.
In turn, I pass Ted's wisdom on to you. Enjoy every cast on the water, be it a bullhead or a bass, or nothing at all. Get excited about seeing a pheasant on the side of a gravel road, or a goose whistling through the air overhead. Appreciate times when you are alone in the hills, trees or sloughs, stalking a whitetail deer, or when you are hiking with friends through the CRP. Remember just how lucky you are to be able to experience all of these things…in our outdoors.