I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but there are a number of goals on the outdoors front I’d like to achieve in 2016.
They’re not stretches by any means — for the most part, at least — because I believe goals should be realistic. They do require effort, though, but it’s the kind of effort that includes having a good time in the process.
Here then, are 10 goals for the new year:
- Ice a walleye: A certain northern Minnesota river that shall remain nameless is a consistent producer of pike and walleyes throughout the summer and fall months. I’ve fished the river through the ice on several occasions, and while I’ve encountered pike fishing that borders on spectacular, I have yet to catch a wintertime walleye through the ice on the river. Maybe this will be the year.
- Use the snowshoes: My wooden Michigan-style snowshoes, which were showing signs of severe wear and tear, recently received several coats of varnish and look like new again. Now I just have to get out and use them. Snowshoeing is great exercise and provides the opportunity to encounter the outdoors in a way few other modes of getting around offer.
- Beat 40 miles: The Winter That Wasn’t in 2015 didn’t provide much in the way of snow, and I put a grand total of 40 miles on my snowmobile. Topping that by tenfold might be a stretch, but I’d like to at least put a couple of hundred miles on the sled this year.
- Go 12 for 12: I had the good fortune of catching at least one walleye every month of 2015 except July and December. Missing out on July was a fair trade because I had the opportunity to make my first trip to Alaska, but the late freeze-up prevented me from icing a walleye in December. Hopefully, that doesn’t become the norm. This year, catching at least one walleye in every month is the goal.
- Improve my shooting: I’ll be the first to admit my shotgun skills could use some work. This past summer, British shooting authority John Higgins presented a clinic at the Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels west of Grand Forks for local instructors on a method of shooting he guaranteed will benefit even target-challenged shooters like me. I got cold feet and didn’t attend Higgins’ clinic, but Grand Forks shooting instructor Don Dietrich has offered to run me through the basics of the technique this summer. If I can work up the nerve, I hope to take him up on the invitation.
- Relive history: In 2001, I watched a friend’s son, a blond-haired skinny kid at the time, struggle to reel in a lake trout that turned out to be the biggest fish of a weeklong excursion to Whitefish Bay on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods. Now married and immersed in the responsibilities that come with being an adult, he’s scheduled to be part of a crew in late July making a fly-in fishing trip to a remote lake some 200 miles north of Nestor Falls, Ont. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t fished lake trout since that long-ago August trip when I netted that big fish. If all goes according to plan, it would be fun to net his first lake trout in 15 years this summer.
- Fish the big lake more: It almost embarrasses me to admit this, but I didn’t fish Lake of the Woods more than three times in 2015 — once in January, briefly on the May walleye opener before the wind chased us back into the Rainy River and for a few hours on a beautiful June afternoon when four of us came in with our limits. This year, I’d like to move that number back to historic averages and fish the big lake 10 times or more.
- Muzzleloader hunt: With balmy temperatures and fair deer numbers, this past season would have been a good one to hunt deer with a muzzleloader in Minnesota. I’m a North Dakota resident, but I’ve given up on hunting deer west of the Red River for the foreseeable future because it’s become nearly impossible to draw a license. This year, I’d like to head back to my home turf and try muzzleloader deer hunting in northwest Minnesota — even though it means shelling out $165 (ouch) for a nonresident license.
- Learn to tie spinners: I’m a jig fisherman and always will be, but I’d probably fish spinners more if I knew how to tie decent snell knots and assemble the components that make up a good walleye spinner. Maybe this will be the year.
- Top 31½ inches: That’s the size of my personal-best walleye, a 12-plus-pound behemoth that came from the Red Lake River in the fall of 2007. I always say I’ll never top that fish but hey, one can always dream.