NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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Now is a good time to start planning a weekend drive to check out the fall colors that are in the not too distant future. I can’t think of a more scenic drive than heading east to the Mississippi River by Wabasha. If you can’t wait that long there’s Gooseberry Falls by Duluth that will surely be colorful in just a couple of weeks. Actually you won’t need to drive too far if you have a little patience and can wait until the colors change locally. To me there is more to fall than just hunting and fishing, and at times it seems as if the good Lord has painted this colorful landscape just for our enjoyment.

As a kid I always enjoyed traipsing through the slough with my trusty Red Ryder BB gun hunting imaginary Indian Warriors or evil bad guys who were trying to ambush me on the way to the infamous “skunk hill.” Whenever I and some of the neighborhood kids would be looking for an adventuresome place to go we would usually always turn to the slough. With the onset of fall came school so our adventures would usually have to be on Saturday and mostly in the morning.

When we grew older our horizons expanded, thanks in part to our bicycles. Now at times our adventures would occasionally lead us to explore a “crick” or slough that was part of some farmer’s pasture. Anyone that has spent any time in the country knows what a “cow hump” is and how much fun it is to navigate through them.

As a kid I loved going to the stock car races which were held at the fairgrounds on Friday nights. My mother was a big race fan so she would take me and any of my friends that wanted to go. We all had our local heroes and every one of us had our favorite driver. I have to believe that when we were younger it didn’t have as much to do with the driver as it did the car and how cool it looked.

Most of us kids had our own “stock car” that we built ourselves. I was no exception and the car(t) that I built was nothing more than a 2x12 with some old wagon wheels to make it go. There was one kid (Lanny Waller) who an official Soap Box Derby car that his dad had built for him, which was the Cadillac of the group. We had been planning this big end-of-the-summer race for the last Saturday of August and finally decided on this big hill north of the airport that bottomed out close to the “crick” that flowed into Bancroft Bay. I rigged my cart on the back of my bike kind of tow truck style and headed north.

I believe that there were about six of us with cars and some spectators. Once we had the spot picked out we lined up for the first heat and waited for someone to give us the go sign. My cart was really fast and as I zoomed down the hill I was feeling pretty good until I hit the bottom. I controlled the steering with my feet and when I hit the first cow hump at the bottom, the 2x4 holding my wheels pushed back, pinching my ankle against the body. That hurt pretty bad, but the car was hurt worse in that the steering board broke and one of the wheels came off, axle and all. I don’t recall if anyone made it back unscathed, but I know that Lanny’s Cadillac broke its more elaborate steering setup and he was also finished.

Yes, the old cow humps did a number on our cars that day and really cut our race day short. I’d have to say that we didn’t put a lot of thought into what would happen when we reached the bottom. I’d guess you could compare it to jumping from an airplane without a chute with no plan for the landing part of it. Needless to say, it was a long ride back home with that broken cart in tow.

In a recent news release the DNR is encouraging folks to enjoy fall and hunt grouse this year. The grouse season opened on Sept. 13.

Picture yourself walking on a trail through stands of young aspen trees with blazing yellow leaves overhead. The fall air is crisp. Shotgun in hand, you’re enjoying a hike while hunting grouse – Minnesota’s most popular game bird. 

Something akin to this scene will soon be reality for the nearly 100,000 grouse hunters in Minnesota. The season for ruffed and spruce grouse runs from Saturday, Sept. 13, until Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015; and for sharp-tailed grouse from Sept. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 30.

“Grouse hunting in Minnesota is some of the best in the nation,” said Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Minnesota has 17 million acres of forest land, much of it public, and an extensive system of nonmotorized hunter walking trails open to grouse hunters. This fall is a great time to get out there and hunt grouse.”

Spring drumming counts were up 34 percent compared to 2013, possibly signaling the start of an upswing in the 10-year grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase. However, brood rearing success may have been affected by a cold, wet spring.

“When grouse hunting season starts we will get a better idea how successful grouse were at rearing broods,” Dick said. “So far, we’re hearing optimistic reports.”

Unlike some types of hunting, grouse hunting requires little investment. Hunters need only a blaze-orange hat or vest, a shotgun, a sturdy pair of boots, a valid small-game license and a willingness to walk.

Until next time; fall is a great time to do a little small game hunting, some fishing or just spending some time at one of our many area parks.

Please take a little time to remember those who served and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

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