Adventure & Relax on a Minnesota Camping Trip

Credit to Erica Wachker of ExploreMinnesota.com: https://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/reconnect-on-a-camping-trip/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Camping with dogs in Superior National ForestCamping in the Superior National Forest / Alyssa Hei

Relaxation, adventure, escape, and quality time with family and friends are among the many reasons why camping is a beloved Minnesota pastime. Whether you’re ready to take on the Boundary Waters or prefer the comforts of an RV, a Minnesota camping trip will surely be one to remember.

BOUNDARY WATERS & BACKPACKING

View from a boundary waters bluff

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness / Gary Hamer

 

Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a badge of honor. There are no roads, buildings, motorboats, and definitely no cell phone service. The only mode of transportation is via canoe, with more than 1,500 miles of waterways to explore. When it’s time to set up camp, simply paddle to an open campsite and pitch your tent. Every campsite is private, so you’ll have a little piece of the wilderness all to yourselves.

Adjacent to the Boundary Waters, the Superior National Forest has a wide range of camping options, from primitive “dispersed camping” sites up to drive-in sites complete with bathhouses and electric hookups. Also in this picturesque part of the state, the Superior Hiking Trail covers nearly 300 miles of rugged terrain above the North Shore of Lake Superior, with more than 90 campsites along the way.

Lake Maria State Park camping backpacking

Backpacking at Lake Maria State Park

Another backpacking hot spot is Crosby Manitou State Park on the North Shore near Silver Bay, where challenging trails are flanked with spectacular views of waterfalls and forests. The secluded campsites are for backpackers only (though you may have to share them with moose, deer and other wildlife).

Similar camping experiences can be found in the northwest part of the state, in the Chippewa National Forest and along the North Country National Scenic Trail, which travels 800 miles across the northern half of Minnesota with multiple segments that stretch from the North Dakota border all the way to the Superior Hiking Trail.

Backpacking opportunities even exist near the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at AftonLake Maria and St. Croix state parks. Several state parks also have “walk-in” (less than half a mile) sites, with carts available to haul your gear in some cases.

CAMPGROUNDS & RV PARKS

Airstream Mille Lacs Mali Mish

Airstream at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park / Mali Mish Family

If you’re looking for a more laid back and family-friendly camping experience, Minnesota has about 500 privately operated campgrounds, most of which are on a lake or river, with sites for RVs as well as tents. Many are at resorts that also rent cabins and other indoor lodging.

These campgrounds usually feature an array of amenities, such as pools, playgrounds, game rooms, entertainment, boat rentals, Wi-Fi, and on-site laundry, groceries and restaurants. Many offer family-friendly activities like bonfires and other fun that make them a great choice for groups of all ages.

Many of Minnesota’s most scenic spots have been preserved as state parks, and most of the 75 parks and recreation areas have campgrounds with tent and RV sites. The settings range from forest to prairie; scenic hiking trails and access to a lake or river are among the highlights at these popular parks.

Camper cabin at Afton State Park

Camper cabin at Afton State Park / Kirsten Alana

Several state parks and some private campgrounds also rent camper cabins, an appealing alternative for those who don’t want to sleep in a tent. The majority have electricity and heat and can sleep up to six people. But without their own restrooms or running water, you can still say that you’re roughing it.

City and county campgrounds are another good option; in-town campgrounds are usually near shops, restaurants and attractions. If you don’t have your own camping equipment, various outfitters offer rentals of everything from tents and pop-up campers to top-of-the-line motorhomes complete with kitchens and master suites.

How to Plan a Minnesota Family Reunion Vacation

There’s nothing like getting the family together again. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, and the whole rest of the extended family. Of course, getting everything organized can be a hassle, especially if you don’t know where the host the reunion at. So today let’s see how to set up a family reunion up here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, following these five steps:

Formulating the Family Reunion

Hosting a large gathering like a family reunion takes time, and you’ll want to be prepared. It’s good to make sure you’re not the only one planning this out, so be sure to communicate with the rest of your family in planning out a reunion. This means speaking to them in-person, over the phone, online, mail, etc, in order to notify them that you want to plan out a family reunion, and if they would be interested in attending. Even if some family members may not attend, it’s still important to send out an invite to them anyway so they don’t feel left out.

Allocating Duties

It’s important to delegate certain tasks to others when planning out a family reunion, otherwise it’s very easy to get overwhelmed as one person running the whole show. This means making sure you get the whole family to pitch in, with some of them being responsible for managing entertainment, finances, food, reservations, etc. Speaking of reservations, when booking a location to host a family reunion at, such as a resort, it’s important to have reservations up to a year in advance. In the northern Minnesota area, there’s plenty of resorts to book a family reunion at, such as White Birch Resort. Sometimes you can even get solid off-season deals at resorts!

Managing Time

When booking your family reunion, you’ll want to decide how long you want the reunion to last, be it a couple days or a couple weeks. Regardless, knowing what time frame you want to work under will help a lot in planning out the rest of the events you want to have at the reunion. For example, it’s recommended to have a longer stay at a resort you’re hosting a reunion at if your family is out-of-state, or even out-of-country. That way they can enjoy more experiences offered and get more value out of the time and money spent at the reunion.

Inclusive Activities

As said before, it’s crucial to try and send invitations to everyone you want to have attend so they don’t feel left out. But besides that, it’s also important that all the events and activities at the reunion are ones that a vast majority of your family will enjoy. If you have family that enjoy outside activities like hiking, fishing, swimming, and more, then booking a resort with tons of nature around it is a fantastic idea. Of course, it’s always good to mix up activities too, such as having movie nights, going bowling, visiting historical landmarks, etc. Knowing the location you’re going to be at during your family reunion will help a lot in planning out events, such as finding catering services and local businesses you want to visit. So be sure to factor in your family’s demographics to make sure it matches with the culture of the geographics your reunion will be at.

Linking-Up

Now once you actually get your family reunion situated after several months of coordinating, you’re going to want to meet and greet with everyone as they arrive. If your budget is big enough, you can even do things like give out welcome bags or t-shirts. It’s also best to show everyone a schedule of events to keep things organized for all the activities planned at your family reunion. Having a great start to your family reunion will help provide a solid foundation for setting the right atmosphere. Then with a nice base to start the family reunion on, all it takes it maintaining momentum and you’ll be able to create wonderful memories with your family at your next reunion.

Minnesota Activities: 15 Sledding and Tubing Hills you don’t want to miss!

15 MINNESOTA HILLS FOR SLEDDING & SNOW TUBING

Sledding near Elbow Lake - Orr - photo by Laura Dekowski

Sledding near Orr / Laura Detowski

There’s something magical about riding down a hill on a sled or tube. Perhaps it’s the exhilarating feeling of sitting just above the ground and sailing down a snow-covered slope. Or maybe it’s the nostalgia adults experience as they give their kids a push or watch them trek up a hill, sled in tow. While Minnesota’s landscape is different from north to south and east to west, opportunities to ride sleds and tubes down snowy hills can be found in all regions of the state.

Some of the state’s best sledding and tubing options are well known to folks who live in the area—local gems, of sorts—while others can be found at state parks or on other public properties. Some of them are free to use but require sledders or tubers to provide their own equipment. At others, riders can rent equipment, hang onto tow ropes to get back to the top of the hill, and warm up in heated shelters. Keep in mind, too, that some hills offer both sledding and tubing, while others provide opportunities for one or the other.

Sledding and tubing are fun wintertime activities for adults and children alike that, in many cases, require little in the way of skills or equipment beyond what most people already have. Simply dress warmly, grab a sled or tube, and head out to the hills for a day of fun.

Below are some of Minnesota’s best options for sledding and tubing, broken down by region. But consider this list just a start–with a little legwork, you’ll likely be able to uncover even more close-to-home places to spend the day riding down a hill.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AREA

NORTHEAST

CENTRAL

SOUTHERN

NORTHWEST

  • J.A. Hughes Elementary School, Red Lake Falls
  • Bemis Hill, Warroad
  • Croviseir Park, Detroit Lakes
  • Buena Vista Ski Area   http://www.bvskiarea.com/tubingpark.html

A NOTE ABOUT SAFETY

Sledding and tubing for many children in Minnesota is almost a rite of passage, but there is some risk involved anytime someone takes a ride down a hill. That goes for people riding plastic sleds or saucers, rubber tubes or wooden toboggans. Following are some tips from Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to ensure sledding and tubing is done as safely as possible:

  • Adults should accompany children on sledding adventures–and ride down the hill with kids who are under 5 years old.
  • Wear a helmet to prevent against head injury and avoid items such as scarves that can get wrapped around objects. Wear waterproof clothing, and pack extra along if you plan to stay out for an extended period of time.
  • Pick hills that don’t have fences, streets, trees and water nearby. Ensure there’s a flat area at the bottom to stop.
  • Take turns going down a hill to avoid collisions.

Minnesota Holiday Spirit: Tis the Season!

Winter in Minnesota is the perfect time of year to get together with loved ones, embrace old traditions, or even start some new ones. Here are just five of the many ways to make the most of this special season.

GET IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

A hallmark of the holiday season in Germany and Austria, holiday markets—called Christkindlmarkts—have made their way to Minnesota. Holidazzle will take place in Loring Park again this year and will feature more than 40 vendors selling ornaments, candles and other handcrafted gifts, as well as mulled wine and brats. Other highlights include fireworks, Santa visits, holiday movie screenings and free ice skating. The destination is open Thursdays-Sundays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23 and is free to attend.

Holiday plays and performances are a tradition for many families this time of year. Festive favorites include “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Rochester Civic Theatre, a dozen iterations of “The Nutcracker,” from classic to hip-hop, and Christmas concerts by artists including Kat Perkins, Blind Boys of Alabama, Lorie Line and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

For light shows worth a drive, don’t miss Duluth’s Bentleyville Tour of Lights, the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato and the Trester Trolley Light Tours in Winona. New in 2016, “Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” is the first large-scale outdoor light display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

EXPLORE A NATURE CENTER

Great gray owl in Duluth; photo by Amanda Burcar-Annis

Photo by Amanda Burcar Annis

Many of Minnesota’s nature centers are open year-round, offering opportunities to interact with wildlife and the winter landscape. Owls are a big draw at the Agassiz Audubon Center near Thief River Falls, which documented dozens of snowy owl sightings last year in the surrounding Red River Valley.

At the International Owl Center in southeastern Minnesota, Alice the resident great horned owl is so popular that the International Festival of Owls in early March is held in conjunction with her hatch day.

Since nature centers are often surrounded by trails, they make a great starting point for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Options include the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault (skiing and snowmobiling), Maplewood Nature Center (snowshoeing) and Hartley Nature Center in Duluth (skiing).

CHECK OUT A MUSEUM

At the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul, “Mindbender Mansion” makes critical thinking and problem solving fun, and “A Beautiful Planet” is featured in the Omnitheater. Open until mid-January, the “Gridiron Glory” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center features the Vince Lombardi trophy and other artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While you’re downtown, be sure to stop by Rice Park to see the ice sculptures and live entertainment as part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Other museums worth a winter visit include the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, the recently reopened Spam Museum in Austin, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which recently debuted a new entrance and restaurant as part of its major renovation project.

WARM UP AT A WATER PARK

Family Cascade Bay Water Park 440x440.jpgWaterslides, lazy rivers and splash pads aren’t just for the summer months. Several Minnesota water parks can be found indoors, offering a tropical escape no matter the weather.

Paul Bunyan Water Park, inside Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter, features tube and body slides, a treehouse equipped with water cannons and an indoor/outdoor hot tub. At the Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark in Duluth, a vortex pool allows guests to swim with or against a fast-moving current.

There’s even a waterpark right by Mall of America, so you can take a dip after completing all your holiday shopping. Find more options, from Bloomington to Alexandria to Thief River Falls, on the water parks page.

GO MAPLE SYRUPING

A sure sign that spring is coming, maple syrup demonstrations and festivals start cropping up in March. On Maple Syrup Day, the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone hosts a pancake brunch as part of its syrup celebration. Or see how the sap is gathered and turned into syrup, and get a taste of the end result, at the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.

Many Minnesota state parks, including Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Whitewater near St. Charles and Lake Maria near Monticello, offer maple syrup programs. Nature centers and other parks, like the Three Rivers Park District in the metro area, also get in on the fun.

Traditional Minnesota Food; Transformation!

When you think of Minnesota food, you might think of a few classic staples: nutty wild rice, flaky walleye, and stick-to-your-guts hot dish. http://whitebirchresort.net

Change, of course, has arrived with a vengeance as a food revolution has swept the state, and tradition is increasingly seen as a platform for invention. Chefs around the state revel in adapting and sometimes completely transforming hidebound dishes, creating menus that riff playfully on familiar flavors and foods.

MPLS Dog

MPLS DOG AT UNCLE FRANKY’S, TWIN CITIES

Diners know the Chicago Dog and the Coney Island Dog but how about the MPLS Dog? Stop into Uncle Franky’s to enjoy this new creation. The MPLS Dog is an all beef hot dog topped with hot dish, a drizzle of ketchup, Cheese-Whiz and crispy tater tots. You can find the MPLS Dog at Uncle Franky’s in Minneapolis, Fridley and Plymouth.

GRAND VIEW LODGE DINING ROOM, NISSWA

Plunge into a venison wild rice meatloaf at the Grand View Lodge Dining Room if you’d like to experience an elevated take on a Midwestern classic. The venison and wild rice take you to the arboreal wilds, and the presentation and technique bring you back into the comfort of civilization.

PIGGY BLUE’S BAR-B-QUE, AUSTIN

SPAM takes center stage in Austin, Minnesota, home of the famous canned ham that fueled American troops through multiple wars (and became an intrinsic part of Hawaiian and Korean cultures in the process.) Stop by Piggy Blue’s Bar-B-Que for a Spam Town Po’ Boy or Spam Burger.

FITGER’S BREWHOUSE, DULUTH

Fitger’s is a food, drink and music hub of Duluth’s social scene, so it’s no surprise that they’ve got some inventive takes on local flavor. The brewpub’s smoked fish salad uses smoked trout from local smokehouse Northern Waters, wild rice and smoked dressing, and it brings a hearty does of flavor to the table.

If you’re up for something a bit more edgy, try the Northern Waters Smokehaus Whitefish Burger, where the locally caught fish is seasoned with breadcrumbs, eggs, mustard and spice, served on a ciabatta roll and finished with wasabi mayonnaise.

Blue Door Pub burger
Photo courtesy of The Blue Door Pub

THE BLUE DOOR PUB, ST. PAUL & MINNEAPOLIS

The humble cheese-stuffed hamburger known as the Jucy Lucy got its start in South Minneapolis taverns like Matt’s, Adrian’s and the 5-8 Club. But it has been taken to inventive heights by the team behind The Blue Door Pub in St. Paul, with a new location in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood.

The Blue Door’s menu swims with creative versions of the stuffed favorite, but the one that caught our eye was the Bangkok Blucy, stuffed with coconut milk-soaked mozzarella and topped with pickled carrots, cucumbers, red onion, and ginger with a side of curry for dunking.

THE BOATHOUSE, ELY

Craft beer has come to Minnesota’s vacation country in force, as evidenced by frontier brewpubs like the newly founded Boathouse in Ely. The Boathouse’s beer-battered walleye uses house-made craft beer and thereby managed to capture a good percentage of a successful fishing trip in each bite taken.

Alternately, take your walleye to Mexico via India with the brewpub’s fish taco, which features breaded strips of fish on naan bread with shredded cheddar and a side of broccoli slaw.

Cold?…Here’s 5 Hot Drinks for Winter Weather!

Hot Cocoa - Photo by Angelica King
Photo by Angelica King

After hitting the slopes, riding the trails or attending an outdoor festival in Minnesota this winter, sipping something warm will taste twice as delicious. Minnesotans are no strangers to creative hot beverages, and there are generally some tempting options to wrap your hands around no matter what part of the state you’re in. Here are five hot drinks to keep you warm this winter:

BOMBAY COCOA FROM GOLDEN FIG FINE FOODS, ST. PAUL

There’s nothing quite like a mug of hot cocoa when the mercury dips below freezing. And while the old-fashioned standard is a comforting favorite, there are shops around Minnesota playing with the beverage, updating it and tricking it out with some new features. Take, for example, St. Paul’s Golden Fig local foods store, where one of the house blends includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,and a host of other spices; it’s known as “Bombay Cocoa,” and it evokes chai tea with a chocolatey kick. A percentage of every bag sold goes to organizations that support women coffee growers in their country of origin, and the company sources its beans from female growers whenever possible.

CITY GIRL COFFEE FROM ALAKEF, DULUTH

Coffee is not merely coffee. Good coffees are often the product of great stories, like the one behind City Girl Coffee from Alakef. After taking over her family’s 25-year-old Duluth-based roasting company, Alakef owner Alyza Bohbot created City Girl as a sustainable coffee company dedicated to empowering women in the coffee industry. A percentage of every bag sold goes to organizations that support women coffee growers in their country of origin, and the company sources its beans from female growers whenever possible.

TOM AND JERRY, STATEWIDE

If you grew up drinking the hot cocktail known as a Tom and Jerry, you have some sense of why it’s a such a good friend to those of us living in northern states. And if you didn’t, it’s time to get acquainted with this slice of Upper Midwestern beverage culture. According to the Dictionary of International Food and Cooking Terms (Myra Waldo, 1967), a Tom and Jerry is “a hot frothy alcoholic drink made with beaten egg yolks, stiffly beaten egg whites, rum, sugar, boiling water, bourbon and spices, served in mugs with a sprinkling of nutmeg.” As per an authoritative story about the cocktail, “most modern aficionados replace the water with milk and the bourbon with brandy.”

You can buy Tom and Jerry mix at stores, but if you can’t find it, there’s a great recipe for the cocktail online.

CARDAMOM LATTE FROM ANELACE COFFEE, MINNEAPOLIS

Anelace Latte_Becca Dilley
Photo by Becca Dilley

There’s nothing like a finely crafted coffee drink, particularly when the weather goes polar on you. Anelace Coffee, on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, makes some of the most beautifully balanced and smooth coffee drinks in the state. The use of a bit of cardamom syrup gives this latte a Nordic-inspired wintry flavor that is incomparable when the snow starts to fly.

HOT CIDER, STATEWIDE

Minnesota is a great state for apples: The climate and soil are friendly to the fruit, and the University of Minnesota has done a great deal to ensure new and delicious varietals keep popping up in markets around the country. Most cafes will offer hot cider of some sort, particularly in the autumn through early winter months. And if you’re interested in something a bit stronger that still packs an apple punch, you can find ambitious artisan hard ciders from makers all over the state, including Milk and Honey Ciders (Cold Spring), Keepsake Cidery (Dundas) and Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery (Spring Valley).

Find Minnesota coffee shops and other places to sip in our Drink & Eat directory.

5-WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF A MINNESOTA WINTER

Winter in Minnesota is the perfect time of year to get together with loved ones, embrace old traditions, or even start some new ones. Here are just five of the many ways to make the most of this special season.

GET IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

A hallmark of the holiday season in Germany and Austria, holiday markets—called Christkindlmarkts—have made their way to Minnesota. Holidazzle will take place in Loring Park again this year and will feature more than 40 vendors selling ornaments, candles and other handcrafted gifts, as well as mulled wine and brats. Other highlights include fireworks, Santa visits, holiday movie screenings and free ice skating. The destination is open Thursdays-Sundays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23 and is free to attend.

Holiday plays and performances are a tradition for many families this time of year. Festive favorites include “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Rochester Civic Theatre, a dozen iterations of “The Nutcracker,” from classic to hip-hop, and Christmas concerts by artists including Kat Perkins, Blind Boys of Alabama, Lorie Line and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

For light shows worth a drive, don’t miss Duluth’s Bentleyville Tour of Lights, the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato and the Trester Trolley Light Tours in Winona. New in 2016, “Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” is the first large-scale outdoor light display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

EXPLORE A NATURE CENTER

Great gray owl in Duluth; photo by Amanda Burcar-Annis

Photo by Amanda Burcar Annis

Many of Minnesota’s nature centers are open year-round, offering opportunities to interact with wildlife and the winter landscape. Owls are a big draw at the Agassiz Audubon Center near Thief River Falls, which documented dozens of snowy owl sightings last year in the surrounding Red River Valley.

At the International Owl Center in southeastern Minnesota, Alice the resident great horned owl is so popular that the International Festival of Owls in early March is held in conjunction with her hatch day.

Since nature centers are often surrounded by trails, they make a great starting point for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Options include the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault (skiing and snowmobiling), Maplewood Nature Center (snowshoeing) and Hartley Nature Center in Duluth (skiing).

CHECK OUT A MUSEUM

At the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul, “Mindbender Mansion” makes critical thinking and problem solving fun, and “A Beautiful Planet” is featured in the Omnitheater. Open until mid-January, the “Gridiron Glory” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center features the Vince Lombardi trophy and other artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While you’re downtown, be sure to stop by Rice Park to see the ice sculptures and live entertainment as part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Other museums worth a winter visit include the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, the recently reopened Spam Museum in Austin, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which recently debuted a new entrance and restaurant as part of its major renovation project.

WARM UP AT A WATER PARK

Family Cascade Bay Water Park 440x440.jpgWaterslides, lazy rivers and splash pads aren’t just for the summer months. Several Minnesota water parks can be found indoors, offering a tropical escape no matter the weather.

Paul Bunyan Water Park, inside Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter, features tube and body slides, a treehouse equipped with water cannons and an indoor/outdoor hot tub. At the Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark in Duluth, a vortex pool allows guests to swim with or against a fast-moving current.

There’s even a waterpark right by Mall of America, so you can take a dip after completing all your holiday shopping. Find more options, from Bloomington to Alexandria to Thief River Falls, on the water parks page.

GO MAPLE SYRUPING

A sure sign that spring is coming, maple syrup demonstrations and festivals start cropping up in March. On Maple Syrup Day, the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone hosts a pancake brunch as part of its syrup celebration. Or see how the sap is gathered and turned into syrup, and get a taste of the end result, at the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.

Many Minnesota state parks, including Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Whitewater near St. Charles and Lake Maria near Monticello, offer maple syrup programs. Nature centers and other parks, like the Three Rivers Park District in the metro area, also get in on the fun.

All signs point to a great deer season in Minnesota 2017

Ready for Deer Opener? Here’s the Deer Season outlook for 2017 whitebirchresort.net
BEMIDJI, Minn. — John Williams likes to use a pendulum analogy when talking about deer populations in northwest Minnesota, and right now, the pendulum is swinging from “not enough deer” to “too many deer” in several areas, the longtime wildlife manager says.

That should translate into good hunting opportunities when Minnesota’s firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4—a full six days before North Dakota’s deer gun season, which opens at noon Friday, Nov. 10.
“In some places, we do have some issues with too many deer already,” said Williams, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji. “We’re going to have to keep our finger on that. That pendulum swings pretty fast when it’s in the middle of a swing like that, and I think we’re there in a couple of spots.”

One of those spots is Permit Area 241, Williams said, a large block of prime deer habitat that runs along U.S. Highway 10 from Detroit Lakes southeast to Staples and north to the Park Rapids area. The permit area is one of only a handful across the state to fall under the “Intensive” management designation, where hunters can purchase tags to take as many as three deer.
“It’s absolute classic deer habitat in that transition zone” from prairie to forest, Williams said.

On the grow

Another mild winter on top of the previous two mild winters largely has enabled deer populations to be at or near goal levels in most permit areas, DNR officials say—in turn moving the pendulum toward abundance.

Fawn production also was good this year, another indication of does coming through the winter in good health.

Almost without exception, deer limits in permit areas across northwest Minnesota are one level more liberal than last year, Williams said. Some permit areas moved from a designation of Lottery, which requires hunters to apply in advance to shoot an antlerless deer, to a Hunter Choice designation that allows a hunter to use one license to shoot either a buck or antlerless deer.

Other permit areas changed designations from Hunter Choice to Managed. In permit areas designated as Managed, hunters can take two deer through use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Permit areas that stayed in the Lottery designation this year may have more permits available than in previous years.

“People are expecting a good deer season, and I believe they’ll get one, too,” Williams said. “There are places (where) we might be in that area where we’re going to have to start pushing back and looking to drop deer toward goal as opposed to raising deer toward goal.”
In that context, managers will keep an eye on this year’s deer season, he said.
“If we have good weather, I’m anticipating a pretty doggone good statewide harvest,” Williams said. “I’m not going to stick my neck out and say how much, but I’m expecting to see a significant increase over what last year’s figure was. “And then we’ll have to see how the winter goes for what we might be suggesting for the coming year after this.” bemidjipioneer.com

DNR expects increase

In a news release, Paul Telander, DNR wildlife chief, said the department expects hunters will shoot about 200,000 whitetails by the time the state’s final deer season closes Sunday, Dec. 31.

Hunters last year shot 173,213 deer between the firearm, archery and muzzleloader seasons—well below the record harvest of 290,525 in 2003, but similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959, Telander said.

The firearms season is by far the most popular option for Minnesota deer hunters, and hunters last year purchased 372,645 firearms deer licenses and shot 144,470 deer for a success rate of 32 percent, the DNR said. About 61 percent of those deer were antlered bucks.

Before 2000, hunters shot more than 200,000 deer only four times between the three seasons, he said.

“The high harvests in the early 2000s occurred at a time when the over-riding harvest strategy was to reduce the deer population so it wouldn’t grow out of control, as had happened in certain eastern states, and to address certain environmental, economic and social concerns,” Telander said in the news release. “Deer harvests in excess of 225,000 occurred only once in the 1990s.

“Going further back, the harvests in the 1970s never topped 100,000. The harvests in the 1980s were under 150,000. Today, there’s growing discussion in the hunting community as to what’s a reasonable harvest target, and that’s a good conversation to have.”

One thing’s for sure: If the extended weather forecast holds, hunters in northwest Minnesota won’t encounter the balmy temperatures they experienced for last year’s firearms deer opener. According to Intellicast, the extended forecast in Bemidji calls for a high of 35 degrees and a 60 percent chance of light snow for Saturday’s opener.

Season dates

Here’s a look at dates for Minnesota’s firearms deer season. More Info: dnr.state.mn.us

• Nov. 4-19: 100 series permit areas.

• Nov. 4-12: 200 series permit areas.

• Nov. 4-12: 300 series Season A.

• Nov. 18-26: 300 series Season B.

THE THRILL OF THE HUNT:GEOCACHING

GEOCACHING: Fun for Everyone!
The equivalent of a modern-day treasure hunt, geocaching takes people to places they otherwise may never have gone. Joshua Johnson, for example, has followed his passion for geocaching–a location-based game in which participants navigate to hidden caches–by cliffs near Duluth and to parks all across Minnesota. He’s discovered waterfalls he never knew existed, happened upon interesting sculptures, and discovered some of the most beautiful scenery he’s ever laid eyes on.
http://www.exploreminnesota.com

“One of the biggest things that I love about geocaching is all the places that it brings you,” said Johnson, 40, who maintains a popular YouTube channel devoted to the hobby. “There are so many awesome and hidden treasures in our state. I get exposed to all these new and different places that I would never necessarily know about because somebody hid a geocache there.”

The basic concept behind geocaching is relatively simple: Participants use handheld global positioning system (GPS) devices or their smartphones to navigate to the latitude and longitude coordinates where other participants have hidden caches. Caches are listed on at geocaching.com/play, a popular geocaching website. Every cache includes one rating for how difficult it is to find, and another that describes the difficulty of the terrain on which the cache is hidden. The caches themselves are often waterproof containers that blend in with the surrounding landscape.

The easiest caches to locate might be in a small park and easy to see because they’re hanging from a tree. In other cases, the general location of caches is easy to find, but they might be disguised as rocks or sticks. And then there are the really tough ones: “I’ve found one that required me to rappel off the side of a cliff near Duluth,” said Johnson, who advises beginners to start with caches that have low difficulty ratings. “I had to have special equipment and go along with someone who knew what they were doing.”

Once geocachers locate a cache, they can take one of the trinkets that’s been left inside. The rule is they must leave something of equal or greater value for the next person. Generally speaking, however, it’s not about the object itself. “It’s all about the thrill of the hunt,” Johnson said. And some caches simply provide clues that players use to find another cache in the area.

While some caches are hidden on private land, the majority are on public land throughout the state. Every state park, for example, has at least one cache hidden within its boundaries. There also are 35 state parks where players can check out GPS units and receive more geocaching instruction. The DNR also offers a number of geocaching programs and events at state parks. Nearer the Twin Cities, the Three Rivers Park District also offers a robust geocaching program, as well as specific events related to the activity. There are caches hidden in Minnesota’s Chippewa and Superior national forests, and in city and county parks throughout the state.

YEAR-ROUND ACTIVITY
Geocaching can be done all year long and be easily combined with other activities. In the fall, it takes you into the woods among the leaves while they change color. In the winter, it can be combined with skiing or snowshoeing, or spend part of your time fishing or downhill skiing. In the spring and summer, it fits in well with fishing, hunting, or any family resort or camping vacation. whitebirchresort.net

Learning to Fatbike for fitness and fun as winter soon returns!

As the winter winds begin to shift and blow into our office, here in Minnesota, thoughts turn toward the snow covered trails. We are lucky here to enjoy a massive amount of trails that are designed for winter riding. But if you are like me and new to the whole Fatbiking thing, how do you get into it and what should you expect? whitebirchresort.net

The Fatbike
Fatbikes are more like normal mountain bikes than you may think. As an example, the only parts unique to most fat tired bikes are the crank, tires and wheels. Other than those things, all the other parts are interchangeable with you normal mountain bike. That being said, the parts that make a fat tired bike different are responsible for their namesake. The large wheels and tires give these fatbikes their flotation on soft surfaces like snow and sand. There are now several brands available at most price points so getting into the sport has never been easier. Plus many bike shops offer rental programs.

The Fatbike Ride
The best part about a fatbike is that it extends your season with an all new cycling experience. For the most part, when snow was falling, people were kept from riding. Now, with so many fat tired bike options, a thick layer of the white stuff simply means more riding for all! With 4”-5” wide tires and pressures as low as 4psi, a fatbike can easily navigate deep snow. The only issue you will run into is ice. An icy surface doesn’t really care how wide the tire is, it’s still slippery. Once a trail gets slick it’s best to either change your tires to studded versions, or install studs in your existing tires. With studs below you, the game is back on.

The Gear
I find the hardest part of fatbiking is dressing properly. I am no stranger to winter riding, but most of that has been commuting. Once I got off road, I found that I was chronically overdressed. Off road riding is slower than commuting, so there is less wind chill to contend with. Additionally, I find it is a higher effort (more calories spent) to fatbike than to commute. When winter riding make sure your feet and hands are warm with good gloves and winter shoes. I also find you should wear warm cycling clothes that will wick the moisture away and resist the urge to wear too much clothing.

Having Fun
The most fun part of riding a fatbike is experiencing an existing trail you may have used before, in a new way. With a fresh coat of snow on the ground, features that may normally be difficult get smoothed out and sections that are typically easy, can become difficult. That change in perspective gives all new life to trails that may have become old and commonplace to you. So get out there and try fatbiking this winter.