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Doug Leier, Published November 22 2011

Leier: There's plenty to be thankful for when it comes to the outdoors

Each year without even having to review, I can count on a few standard column topics finding their way onto my screen, like spring fishing, deer season questions and answers, and the pheasant outlook.

At the end of the year I take a look back at the previous seasons and often look ahead at what the coming year’s outdoors scene could look like.

And this time of year, I always make room for a “thankful” column. While this year’s floods across the Midwest created hardships and changed lives among friends, family and co-workers, there’s no reason not to take the glass and fill it up halfway.

Floods that included the Red , Missouri and almost every other river and creek in the state, plus a continually rising Devils Lake, destroyed homes and paths permanently washed out or roads, but we also saw first-hand the true sense of what it means to be neighbors, and not just in a physical address or the genetics of family. In short everyone pitched in and did what they could with the skills, ability and resources available.

We were long on help and short on excuses and no doubt if and when the time comes again, nary a soul will shrug their shoulders. And who can’t be thankful for that?

In terms of fishing, total license numbers aren’t available for some time, but with the Missouri River and lakes Sakakawea and Oahe under siege, there was more discussion on acre feet and cubic feet per second than on limits or whoppers. However, anglers still sought under-the-radar fishing holes, sloughs, rivers and streams for a sort of mental healing and outdoor refuge.

We all know that three difficult winters in a row, and a loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, are factors in lower pheasant and deer populations, but I’m thankful for a nice dry fall that has provided many comfortable days in the field.

And even with the mild fall, I’ve had a lot of waterfowl hunters tell me about their great year.

We may see lower pheasant and deer harvests this year, and many hunters have had to work a bit harder than in past years to find success, but that’s hunting, and peaks and valleys in wildlife populations are long-term expectations. I’m thankful things are on the high side for waterfowl and fish to balance things out.

After three difficult winters, I’m thankful that at least through November we haven’t had any widespread major snow events. While most forecasters are predicting a winter trending more toward harsh than mild, the longer the snow holds off, the better it is for our resident wildlife.

I’m also thankful that with ice fishing coming along shortly, upland game, deer bow and waterfowl seasons can also provide continuing opportunities through the end of the year.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com