Early Morning in the BWCA

Some peaceful scenery. Sit back, relax, and imagine yourself into the...

Early Morning Fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Early morning fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We were catching rock bass after rock bass in shallow water using...

The Joys of Scat Identification

The Joys of Scat Identification

It would not be unusual to find me outside, taking photos of poop. Maybe poking through it with a stick. Whether you think it’s a disgusting practice or not, one can glean a lot of information from crap. Firstly, and most interestingly, it can tell you what kind of animal has passed by. Hunters, for example, get super pumped when they happen across certain types of dung (generally when it belongs to the species of animal they are hunting). Secondly, it can give you some clues as to what the animal was eating. The shape, color, and size of the droppings can change with the animal’s diet.  Sometimes it may be obvious what the animal was eating; you may be able to find seeds that you can identify, hairs, or bones. You may be able to tell if the animal has been eating a good deal of fruit. This is helpful if you’re trying to find that species of animal because you can look for the types of food it has been eating in an attempt to find it. Scat may also be able to give you clues about which direction the animal was traveling in. Sometimes animals may walk and poo at the same time, leaving a trail of “breadcrumbs” for us to follow, if you will. Or, if all the turds are in one pile, just bend down and touch your tongue to it to determine the direction of travel. … You didn’t really fall for that one, did you? You may be able to tell if the droppings are fresh. If it’s cold out, they could be steaming and indicate that the animal had passed by frequently. Or, they could be starting to deteriorate, indicating that the poop is not fresh, or perhaps that it has rained since the scat was deposited. Scat Identification Were you able to identify what kind of animal left the pile of scat in the photo above? Let me give you a hint – it was found in the Minnesota woods, in a mix of young growth and older growth forest. Here’s another hint. Take a look at the whitish tint a lot of the turds have on them. This may remind you of other animals that make whitish poop…birds! If you can’t tell the size of the droppings, they are about an inch in length. This indicates a larger bird. Ok, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll let you off the hook. It’s Ruffed Grouse...

Bloodroot Uses and Interesting Facts

Bloodroot Uses and Interesting Facts

Bloodroot Facts Bloodroot is a member of the Poppy family (Papaveraceae) This is often one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, and are also one of the largest early flowers at 1.5 – 2 inches The flowers only bloom for a day or two Bloodroot flowers do not have nectar The seeds of the plant contain an elaiosome, which is a fleshy organ that attracts ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nest and eat the elaiosomes. The seeds remain in the nest debris, which usually makes an excellent growing medium. The process of the seeds of plants being spread by ants is called myrmecochory. Uses of Bloodroot Plants The reddish sap of the plant can be used as a natural dye. Native Americans used is as a dye for baskets, clothing, and war paint. Native Americans also used the sap from the rhizomes as insect repellant. Sanguinarine, a toxic extract from bloodroot, kills animal cells. Many published pre-clinical In Vitro and In Vivo studies recommend development of Sanguinarine as a potential treatment for cancer. Bloodroot was traditionally used by many Native Americans to treat fever and rheumatism. Is is, however, poisonous and is not recommended to be taken internally. An overdose of bloodroot extract can cause vomiting and loss of consciousness. Contact poison control if accidentally ingested (1-800-222-1222) It has been used commercially in toothpaste and mouthwash to fight plaque (please, do not try this on your own with bloodroot extract). Bloodroot extract is being studied as a dissolving agent for warts, and is currently used in the mole remover Dermatend. However, do not attempt to use bloodroot extract on your own for this purpose; it could disfigure your skin and the underlying tissue, as well as cause...

Wild Game Recipes – Venison Pot Pie

Wild Game Recipes – Venison Pot Pie

This is wild game comfort food at its best, and one of my most popular dinner recipes. Venison pot pie is a versatile dish; I hardly ever make it with exactly the same ingredients, but there are several constants. Experiment with the vegetables and seasonings as much as you like. The recipe below is my standard venison pot pie that always gets rave reviews. Enjoy! Ingredients for Venison Pot Pie About 2 lbs of cubed venison meat 1 large onion, diced About 1 cup of carrots, diced About 1 cup of peas, minced (just kidding, you can leave them whole) 3 medium-sized potatoes, chopped *if you want to add celery to your pot pie, that’s your prerogative, but I despise celery and it has no place in any of my recipes 1 cup beef broth 1 cup red wine flour as needed – at least 1/2 cup Venison or wild game seasoning, if you have it (a variety of brands are available, but I prefer Cabela’s Wild Game seasoning) Canola oil – at least a couple of tablespoons pre-made pie crust (I don’t recommend spending the time to make your own! It takes a long time and is not worth the frustration of rolling it out). 1 egg white parsley Directions 1) Heat up canola oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the venison and let it brown on all sides, stirring as needed – about 5 minutes. 2) Add the onions, potatoes, and carrots (if you are using raw carrots). Stir, and cook until they begin to soften. This should take 5 – 10 minutes. 3) Add the broth, wine, and peas. Bring the mixture to a boil. 4) Turn the heat down to a simmer and gently stir in flour until the mix reaches a consistency that you are pleased with. It should be viscous and thick, with bubbles slowly poofing through the mix. Add the seasoning at this point, seasoning to taste (you’ll need to taste it – use clean spoons and don’t over-season!) 5) When you are happy with the consistency (make sure it’s not liquidy), let the mixture simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should simmer long enough to let the potatoes become soft enough to be edible. 6) While the mixture is simmering, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 7) Lightly grease a pie tin and place the bottom pie crust in it. *Tip – let the pre-made pie crusts sit out on the counter for about 15 minutes before using them so they work with you better. 8) Let the pot pie mix cool down for at least 5 minutes before transferring it into the pie tin, otherwise it has a tendency to make the upper pie crust too soft. 9) Place the top pie crust on top, folding the edges together with the bottom pie crust to form a seal. Cut pretty slices in the top of the crust with a knife (as seen in my photo) to aid with baking. 10) Use a brush to apply egg white to the top of the pie; this will help it to attain that beautiful browned bakery look (you can do this with any other pie you make too). Sprinkle the top of the pie with dried parsley to make it look even more attractive. 11) Bake the pot pie for about 20 – 30 minutes, until the top looks nice and browned. Remember, the inside is already cooked, so you can judge “doneness” based on how the top looks. 12) After removing the pie from the oven, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it – this will help the inside fall apart less once you cut into it. Take photos, and bring people in to admire it during this time of...

REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent Review

REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent Review

Up until a couple of years ago, I had always slept in cheap tents. You know, the kind you can buy at Target for $30 (or $60 if you’re going for the really “nice” one). These had always done the trick for the basic weekend getaways, and even worked just fine for winter camping when we were able to drag it in on a sled. The last straw was when we hiked the Pow Wow Trail in 2010 with our cheap old tent. The weight had been fairly inconsequential when we threw it in the canoe in previous years, but hauling that massive thing on our backs while walking 30 miles made us see the light. That tent was just too heavy for the BWCA, and we couldn’t put off getting a more lightweight model any longer. For years we had been eyeing the Mutha Hubba tent from REI. We had looked at them in the store about a dozen times (yes, that’s excessive, but we were broke college kids and buying a nice tent on a whim was out of the question), and decided that a three-person backpacking tent would be ideal for the two of us. We, by the way, is my husband and I. This would give us enough space for the two of us to lie down, and also to keep some of our gear inside the tent with us. I’m also a bit claustrophobic, so super small tents with no room to move around just won’t work for me. A three-person tent also fits nicely on most tent pads in the Boundary Waters, as well as Minnesota state parks. Size of the Tent The photo above is our REI Quarter Dome T3 tent set up in the Boundary Waters. We ended up choosing this tent over the Mutha Hubba simply because it was on a great sale, and it was similar enough. This tent, much like standard backpacking three-person tents, could fit three people if everyone lays straight and side by side. There would not be a great deal of wiggle room, and extra gear certainly couldn’t fit in there with you. We keep most of our gear (other than our food and other smelly things, which we hang in a tree), in the vestibule. As long as you set the tent up in a high area where the water won’t be flowing down across the path of your tent, the stuff you keep out there should stay mostly dry from the rain. On stormy nights, or nights that are rainy and windy, things under there could get a little moist. This is the point where waterproof bags come in handy. Ease of Set-up This tent really is a breeze to set up. Especially compared to the cheap, heavy tents of the past. One of my favorite features is that the poles are interconnected and practically set themselves up. If you take the poles out of the bag and hold them up, they start clicking together in a very pleasing manner. Of course, a little bit of help is needed but this is negligible. One person can easily set the tent up alone. I have done so many times, and it takes me less than 10 minutes if I’m being leisurely about it. Waterproofness We have sat in the tent during many nights of rain and a few storms during the last couple of years, and it has not leaked on us yet. The fly can pull down tightly to the ground, which helps prevent splash-back from water hitting the ground and bouncing inside the tent. Durability The fabric of the tent is made of ripstop nylon. We have not tested it against excessive force, but it has not ripped on us yet. The design of the poles and tent make it stand up to wind very well. We have slept in it during some fairly strong storms, and the tent has not flattened on us or leaked (like we have experienced with the cheaper tents we had purchased from Target). I also appreciate that the poles are made of aluminum (actually, Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL); in the past I have had poles sliver apart on my and painfully embed shards into my skin – these poles have never broken, bent, or splintered. Weight Especially when compared to the size and weight of the tent we used to carry around, the weight of this tent is practically negligible at 4 lbs, 11 oz. If even that is too heavy, you can purchase the footprint (below) and use it along with the poles and stakes for a more lightweight option....

Minnesota’s Wolf Hunt – Pros and Cons

Minnesota’s Wolf Hunt – Pros and Cons

The upcoming wolf hunt in Minnesota is a topic that incites strong emotions in both its supporters and opponents. It has been noticeably divisive between hunters and non-hunters. A less obvious but contentious divide that also exists is between those who live in wolf country, and those who do not. A general outline of the wolf range line can be seen in this DNR map that depicts the wolf hunting zones for the 2012 season, and this is a roughly the range of wolves in Minnesota. The rhetoric between the supporters and opponents of the hunt has become increasingly vicious as the opener approaches, as evidenced by the comment sections on articles pertaining to the wolf hunting season. Billboards, litigation, and countless news articles and reports add to the frenzy. A Brief History In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the wolf population in Minnesota was purposely reduced by humans. In fact, a bounty was awarded for killing wolves from 1849 – 1965.  When wolves were all but extirpated from the lower 48 by the time of their listing as an endangered species in 1974, the only remaining population was in the far northern portion of Minnesota and Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park. In the 1950’s, Minnesota’s wolf population was estimated at less than 750. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the wolf population began to rebound. Wolves were protected in Minnesota under the Endangered Species Act until January 27, 2012. Minnesota’s current estimated wolf population of 3,000 is the largest in the lower 48 states. When wolves were delisted, their management transferred from federal protection to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to monitor the wolf population in Minnesota for five years following their delisting to monitor their recovery. Originally there was not going to be a hunting season for wolves during this five year period, but in 2012 the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill, which was signed by the governor, that the framework for the hunting season to take place in 2012. The reasoning behind this was basically that the wolf had already been delisted and re-listed twice over the prior 10 years, which accounted for the waiting period. This page from the Minnesota DNR gives information about the details of this year’s hunting season. About 23,500 people applied for the licenses, and 3600 were selected to be able to purchase a license. The target harvest for this season is 400.  Hunting and trapping will begin on November 3, the same day as firearm opener for deer. Pros of the Wolf Hunt and Some of its Supporters Many who support the wolf hunt argue that the population is well above the minimum threshold, which is 1600 as a statewide winter population. Supporters state that the hunting season shows the success of the Endangered Species Act. It’s also hard to deny that hunters contribute a large amounts of necessary funding for wildlife management, not only through game licenses, but also through non-profit organizations that raise money and fund projects for wildlife habitat preservation and improvement. This year alone, license and application fees should raise about $300,000 in revenue for the state. Hunters also benefit the economy, through the purchase of hunting clothes and equipment, overnight stays at hotels, employing hunting guides, and visiting restaurants and shops during hunting trips. The management plan, which includes an annual hunting season, will ensure the long-term survival of Minnesota’s wolf population. The plan balances survival of the species with concerns of residents whose domestic animals are preyed upon by wolves. It continues to protect the species, and includes plans for continual monitoring of the population. During this year’s hunt, hunters are allowed to keep the pelt of the wolf they harvest, but must turn over the carcass to the DNR. This could result in valuable information gained about wolf behavior. Biologists will record the age and sex of the animal, and where it was killed. The uteruses will be removed from females, and inspected for litter size and  placental scars. Several wolves are wearing GPS collars, and monitoring their movement during the hunting season could give useful information about how hunters impact wolf movement. The 400 wolf harvest limit is more conservative than that of other states. Wildlife biologists generally do not believe that the wolf hunt will dramatically impact overall wolf numbers. Hunters argue that wolves kill a significant harvestable game and reduce the amount available to hunters. Wolves also do not always utilize all of the meat of their prey. Some supporters contend that they kill “for sport.” A number of people that reside in wolf country have experienced losing their family’s dog to wolves. It has also been...