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ON WISCONSIN'S BRULE RIVER — We gathered on the banks of this hallowed river the other night to say a kind of goodbye to some friends. A dozen or so of us showed up, from around the corner and around the world, from 5 to 60-something in terms of time on the planet.
A green frog burped. Somewhere down the lake, a loon wailed. Duluth's Travis Kaai winged another cast into a flotilla of lilypads. Kaai, 31, and his bass-fishin' buddy Joe Ranua, 19, both of Duluth, were flinging soft plastic toads and salamandery creatures into and atop the dense mat of pads on this small lake south of Duluth. It was Tuesday afternoon, and they had the place almost to themselves. Kaai brought his passion for bass fishing north with him when he moved here from Oklahoma four years ago. Ranua picked up the habit when he started fishing with Kaai.
The Abbott Road public water access on Island Lake north of Duluth will be closed from Sept. 5 to about Oct. 26 while upgrades are made to the site, said Kevin Johnson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources acting area parks and trails supervisor at Two Harbors. The project will include improvements to the boat ramp and parking area, space for aquatic invasive species treatment, and stormwater management.
Only a single word is necessary to describe how Daniel O'Kane's recent tour of the Apostle Islands went. Swimmingly. O'Kane, a 36-year-old bartender from St. Paul, swam to 19 of the 22 Apostle Islands and paddled a stand-up paddleboard to three others in 18 days. He finished Wednesday afternoon. He was accompanied by Duluth's Paul Voge, 57, who kayaked alongside O'Kane for safety purposes, towing the paddleboard in case O'Kane needed to climb on.
Dusk is coming on. The camp dishes are long since done. I've taken one last swim off the point to cool down. We know what comes next: The mosquito hordes. Yes, it's late July and the mosquitoes should be history by now. But this year's crop seems to be excellent, so they're still with us. We're a few miles north of the Ontario border, camped at the tip of an island with our best pal, the yellow dog.
Bowfest, a celebration of bowhunting, the outdoors and music, is coming to Mont du Lac Resort next weekend, Aug. 4-6. The event, which will include a 60-target 3D shoot, concerts, television bowhunting celebrities and plenty of kids' events, is a first for the Twin Ports. Bowfest was conceived by Larry Pulkrabek, who owns Mont du Lac and whose bowhunting businesses have marketed popular archery products such as the Ravin crossbow and Field Logic targets.
The United Northern Sportsmen's Club and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will hold their 10th annual Youth Field Day at 9 a.m. Aug. 12 at the UNS Retreat on Island Lake, north of Duluth. The event is free and is open to youths ages 8 through 17. Youths will rotate through several stations that allow them to try archery and shoot rifles, blackpowder rifles and shotguns, as well as learning tree-stand safety and trapping techniques. Lunch will be served. Pre-register by Aug. 9 by calling Cody Privette at (218) 260-2932. Youth deer hunts offered
• Sept. 1 — Minnesota bear hunting opener. • Sept. 1-7 — Wisconsin early teal season. • Sept. 1-15 — Wisconsin early goose season. • Sept. 2 — Minnesota early Canada goose hunting season. • Sept. 6 — Wisconsin bear season opens in some zones, consult regulations. • Sept. 7 — Minnesota antlerless deer lottery deadline. • Sept. 9 — Minnesota youth waterfowl day (tentative).
The place where Eric Tofte is fishing is improbably beautiful. He's a half-mile or so up a North Shore stream, well up the shore from Duluth. It's a tiny stream, just a couple of feet wide in places, but with occasional deep pools. Behind Tofte, a rock cliff rises perhaps 40 feet, and above that white pines reach for the clouds. Across the stream from him, the wall is not so high and gives way soon to overhanging maples and cedars. Spongy moss clings to the rock walls. Ferns grow out of bare stone.
On Tuesday evening, I was lucky enough to spend a few hours with some high-achieving Boy Scouts at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base near Ely. I had made some remarks after dinner to a group that had just returned from two weeks in the canoe country — one week improving portage trails and a second on a wilderness trip in that fabulous land.