It's a new year and I'm optimistic about what the next 350-plus days will bring to North Dakota's outdoors.
Mother Nature wasn't the kindest to us heading into 2014. Temperatures slid dramatically below zero too often for our liking, reminding us that we do indeed live on the Northern Plains and weather extremes are many times the norm.
Yet, here we are in mid-January and we've already experienced a handful of glorious days above freezing, providing much needed relief for humans and animals alike.
Thankfully, deer depredation calls around the state have been pretty light so far. Actually, we've taken more depredation calls from landowners about wild turkeys than deer.
These reports make sense, considering our deer numbers across the state are low. And while we've had some stretches of cold weather, what snow there is around the state hasn't hindered deer to great extremes from accessing food.
Of course, now is about the time of year when depredation calls start to pick up, so we'll see what happens.
From what I'm hearing from anglers around the state, ice fishing has been good as most lakes are fairly open, providing pretty good access to anglers.
While some waters have attracted a lot of attention this winter, as most ice anglers tend to target those fisheries hosting the hot walleye or yellow perch bite, fishing opportunities in North Dakota remain bountiful with a record number of waters on the landscape.
Good reports also continue to surface from darkhouse spearfishing participants targeting northern pike. Considering all waters open to hook and line fishing (there are about 10 closed waters, which can be found on our website) are open to darkhouse spearfishing, the opportunities to enjoy a day on the ice in search of the state fish are nearly endless.
While I haven't been able to get out as much as I would like to try to lure a coyote into rifle range, I have every intention after reading the furbearer piece in this issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS.
As Stephanie Tucker, Game and Fish Department furbearer biologist, points out, fur prices have made some nice strides in the last few years and prices look optimistic this year.
That kind of outlook will certainly entice more people outdoors to pursue furbearers, be it with a rifle or traps. There are others, and I include myself in this group, who need little incentive to dress in white and hide in the snow in hopes of outwitting a smart critter that wins more often than it loses.
Like with anything else, be it ice fishing for pike or trying to mouse-in a coyote, I just need to step away from life's challenges and make spending more time in North Dakota's outdoors a priority. I hope you do the same this winter and throughout 2014, because it won't be too long and our waters will thaw and more fishing opportunities will abound.
Have a great year and please spend some of it in North Dakota's great outdoors.