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OUTDOOR Adventures

If you ‘Axe’ Me

By Brian G. Schommer

If you “axe” me, the happenings at Huntington Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Saturday, November 27th were quite remarkable. The fact that this column appears in two different publications on the Minnesota side of the Mighty Mississippi and one in Wisconsin, my guess is most readers agree with me. What happenings? If you do not know, you probably are not followers of the rivalry dating back to1890 between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers on the gridiron. The prize that goes to the winner of the annual contest is “Paul Bunyan’s Axe” and this year, it belongs to the Gophers. What does this have to do with any outdoor adventures? It may be a bit of a stretch but, considering both teams have outdoor stadiums, and several known readers of this column attended the game, a connection exists that at least provides me the chance to pontificate a little bit. To some, my jottings will be considered a bit annoying, maybe even pompous, and dogmatic, but then again, that is what pontification is. I believe that Head Coach P.J. Fleck has the boat going in the right direction. If you are not all that familiar with his “Row the Boat” mantra, I strongly encourage you to do a bit of research on the internet to realize that it is about so much more than football. This “way of life” is not only what draws my attention to Coach Fleck, but many recruits as well. I guarantee many Badger fans have already circled November 26, 2022, on their calendars. Will the Gophers retain the axe, or will it stay at Camp Randall Stadium next November? One thing for certain if you are a Badger fan; if you want to see the trophy between now and then, your best bet is to come and check it out at the Minnesota State Fair in the Fall of 2022. We will even let you “jump around” a little for old time’s sake.

There are many rivalries between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The professional football field plays host to the border battle not once, but twice a season. Vikings fans have current bragging rights thanks to a field goal victory on our home (indoor) turf. On January 2, 2022, the Vikes travel to the “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” and my confidence level is not very high. Win or lose, most Vikings fans will embark onto social media, post their laments or jabs depending on the outcome and go to work on Monday. I’ll be ice fishing in Lake of the Woods and will be more concerned about landing a few nice walleyes. If the Vikings pull off the win at Lambeau, a complete shutdown of Wisconsin could occur.

Which state has the best outdoor spots, specifically, hunting and fishing opportunities is often a point of contention between Minnesotans and Wisconsinites. Wisconsin has a larger deer herd, and a larger annual deer harvest due to having more rural acreage available for habitat. The annual harvest numbers in both states are declining. In Minnesota, the 131,000 deer harvested in 2021 illustrates an 8% decrease from 2020. 179,000 deer were harvested in Wisconsin illustrating a similar decline by percentage. The decline in harvest is directly related to the drop in the number of hunters. This trickle down will affect environmental management, conservation and preservation of our fields and wetlands in both states. A huge portion of license fees and sales tax on hunting gear and ammunition goes directly to support the outdoors. Our elected officials in these parts will continue to be forced to make some tough decisions when it comes to the environment, especially if this income source continues to evaporate. If you enjoy hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking or other activities in any of the properties managed by the Minnesota or Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, thank a hunter. The Minnesota DNR manages 157 locations alone which provides us all a huge variety of opportunities to “Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.” We can all agree that this is a good thing, and it would not be the same around here without these spaces. That and, the axe will be in Minnesota until at least November 26 of 2022.

December 8, 2021