New goals for new year

As we embark on the new year, we all make resolutions or set new goals that will make the upcoming year better than the last.
If you’re reading my column, you likely enjoy the outdoors in some form or another, so this week I’m going to give you some ideas on goals you might be interested in accomplishing on the water or in the field in 2016.
When we talk about big northern pike, 40 inches is the bar across Sunset Country. A 40-inch pike will weigh around 20 pounds on most of our waters and is a truly big fish.
Although I’ve seen a few 40-inch plus pike in open water, your odds of catching one are much greater through the ice than in the boat. Up your odds even more by fishing with large dead baits like a cisco or sucker minnow, rigged on a quick-strike rig like the Northland Predator Rig, fished beneath a tip-up.
I’ve seen this set-up put dozens on giant pike on this ice every year late in the ice season when pike predictably stage in six-12 feet of water in front of the shallow weed bays where they will spawn shortly after ice-out.
When the deer population across Northwestern Ontario was so high several years ago, I was fortunate that I had a friend from Minnesota who took me hunting in the spring for shed deer antlers.
He taught me where to look and after a few days in the woods, I think I got an eye for finding them.
Years later, I have hundreds of shed deer antlers around my home. Shed hunting is a fun activity during that time frame when we can’t fish in the spring and offers some great exercise.
Spend your time scouring the highest south-facing ridges that you can find. These ridges are where deer spend much of their winter—bedded down on the sides of these hills—and that is where most drop their antlers.
Spring is the best time to go because all of the vegetation has yet to grow and there are no bugs in the bush. Just be sure to bring a GPS with you to prevent getting lost in the big woods we have in this part of the world.
If you’ve ever had any interest in trying your luck in a fishing tournament, I highly recommend giving it a shot next summer. We have some of the best open team tournaments in North America right here in Sunset Country as far as angler participation and community support.
There are events of all sizes—from smaller one-day derbies to larger three-day tournaments on a variety of lakes.
Of course, the competition in all of these events is tough. The reality is you probably are not going to show up for your first tournament and win, but you learn much faster by actually competing in an event because you are forced to fish in all kinds of conditions.
Some days the weather is better than others, but one thing that is always there is the fun camaraderie with all of the other anglers. Many of my friends come from fishing in our area tournaments, as do many of my best memories.
A couple of the best events for anglers starting out are the Bronzeback Classic in Kenora and the “Castin’ For Cash” tournament hosted by Lake Despair Lodge.
Right at the top of the resolutions list for many in the new year is to eat better. And across Northwestern Ontario, we have several fall hunting seasons for a variety of birds, small game, and big-game animals.
I understand that hunting is not for everybody, for any number of reasons. But the fact remains that hunting is part of the culture for many of us in small-town Northern Ontario so it is not very tough to find someone in your circles who is a hunter.
My challenge is for everybody who has never tasted wild game to give it a shot. Most hunters that I know would be happy to share a part of their bounty with you.
Ruffed grouse are plentiful across the region and probably are my favourite thing on this entire planet to eat. And I would take a moose steak over beef any day.
The advantages of wild game are that you are eating pure, healthy food that is free of any of the additives that are so prevalent in store-bought meat today. I just think it tastes better.
Whatever you like to do in the outdoors, I encourage you to be open-minded in 2016. Try catching a species of fish that you have never caught before or take the hunter’s safety course so you can get your hunting licence.
We have so many great outdoor opportunities for all to experience!