It’s been in the planning stages for more than a year now, a fly-in fishing trip seven of us are taking in early July to a remote lake north of Red Lake, Ont.

Reservations have been made, deposits have been paid and flight arrangements for those arriving from more distant locales are falling into place. The two culinary experts in our crew already are planning the menus -- the food is going to be great -- and hotel reservations are set for the night before we take the 120-mile float plane ride into camp.

Not that anyone’s counting or anything, but the trip now is only six months away and getting closer every day.

The planning and anticipation are part of the fun, the way I see it.

Just as the last Sunday Outdoors section of the year is about looking back, the first Sunday Outdoors section of the year is about looking ahead.

I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions here -- which I break more often than not, anyway -- but instead, things I’d like to accomplish or see happen outdoors-wise in 2020.

It’s not a long list, but here’s what’s on my radar.

No deer, oh dear

I’ve written dozens of times over the years about our getaway in northern Minnesota, and while I spend more time there than anyone else in the family -- which still isn’t enough -- I have yet to shoot a deer on the property.

That needs to change.

I’m not sure what kind of odds I would have given a year ago at this time that I’d shoot a moose in North Dakota before I’d shoot a deer on our land, but that’s what happened. Having to shell out $185 for a nonresident license, I’ve chosen to buy a muzzleloader tag, only to have the deer go nocturnal right about the time I start hunting. They were everywhere during rifle season this year when I wasn’t hunting, but I didn’t see a deer during my days afield during muzzleloader season.

This year, my two hunting partners and I have decided we’re going to hunt the rifle season instead.

With a freezer full of moose -- courtesy of a once-in-a-lifetime tag that cost me a mere $30 -- I can’t be too upset about this year’s lack of deer hunting success on my home turf. But I’m ready for my luck to change.

I think I’ve paid my dues.

For the birds

I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’d like to become more proficient at identifying birds and their calls.

An increased awareness would make time outdoors even more fulfilling, I think. The natural world, after all, is about experiencing and learning.

That’s rewarding.

Case in point happened about three springs ago, when I decided to learn the identity of bird that was making what I could only describe as a circular, spinning sound somewhere back in the trees and out of sight.

I finally was able to make a recording of the bird, and Erika Kolbow of Turtle River State Park identified it as a veery thrush. The Cornell Lab’s “All About Birds” website describes the call as resonating “as if whirling around inside a metal pipe.”

“A breezy, downward-spiraling, flute-like song,” is how Wikipedia describes the call.

Both are correct.

Now that I know what makes the haunting call -- usually near twilight -- my enjoyment upon hearing the bird is enhanced. I haven’t actually seen a veery thrush -- as far as I know, at least -- but I know one when I hear one.

When it comes to birds, there’s so much more to learn and appreciate.

Fish fodder

I once wrote a New Year’s column setting out a series of outdoors-related goals I hoped to accomplish in the next 12 months, including catching a walleye every month of the year.

Simple as that might sound to people who fish all the time, it turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I’m fortunate enough to spend my fair share of time on the water, but time and circumstances prevented me from getting closer than catching walleyes in nine months out of 12.

That’s been about my average ever since. It would have been better in 2019, if not for a disastrously wet fall that sent some of my favorite fall fishing rivers past flood stage, where they stayed for the next two months.

I won’t call it a goal, but this year, I’d like to at least maintain the benchmark of catching walleyes in nine months of the year. Surpassing that, of course, would be even better, but I’m being realistic.

If I could get in on a few good crappie bites, break my sturgeon drought and get my boat in the water more than last year, that would be nice, too.

It’s all about looking ahead.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken