Observations by a Phenologist

Observations by a Phenologist

By Laurie Root

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

What is a phenologist you ask? You probably are one! Phenology is the study of changes in plants animals as they respond to weather, climate and the seasons.

I love being in the field in October to watch the big flocks of birds migrating. My favorite are the Canada geese, but it is mesmerizing to watch the huge flocks of blackbirds working a field in the fall too. We have learned about the birds migrating since we were little but when you think about it, it is still amazing how far they go, and how they find their way. Much of how they do it is still a mystery and I am good with that.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

When I am sitting alone watching geese fly, I think of “Lessons from the Geese” written in 1972 by Dr. Robert McNeish of Baltimore. Dr. McNeish, for many years a science teacher before he became involved in school administration, had been intrigued with observing geese for years and first wrote this piece for a sermon he delivered in his church. Words to ponder. Enjoy your fall!

Lessons from the Geese

Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #1 – As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if one bird flew alone. Lesson Learned – People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the strength of one another.

Fact #2 – Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. Lesson Learned – If we have as much sense as geese, we will stay in formation with those who are ahead of where we want to go and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to others.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #3 – When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position. Lesson Learned – It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership.

Fact #4 – The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Lesson Learned – We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging, and not something else.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #5 – When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again, or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or they catch up with their flock. Lesson Learned – If we have as much sense as geese do, we too, will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Laurie Root is a naturalist at Outdoor Campus – West in Rapid City.

5 Obvious Signs You Are a Fisherman

5 Obvious Signs You Are a Fisherman

By Brian Long

1. You always have a rod and tackle box.


No matter what vehicle you own, it is never without a tackle box and a rod. You keep these in there for the “just in case moment” of the possibility of making it to a fishing hole on your daily routine. This might sound strange to some people but to anglers it happens more than we can admit. It’s not that we accidentally come around a shore line, but that when the weather is right we don’t want to miss a minute of fishing.

2. You have Coon Eyes.


The permanent sunglass tan lines don’t disappear even during the winter months. The people who you are around most can’t tell if you are wearing sunglasses or not.

3. Vacation is never vacation.


When you plan vacation it isn’t based locations where you will be able to relax, it is based upon fishing reports and opportunities. Really, what is the point of going somewhere else if you don’t get a chance to fish? There will be no sleeping in, no fancy suppers, and no sitting on a beach chair. Your time planning the trip will be finding your spots, researching carters, and packing gear.

4. You Can Tell a Lie.


That fish that got away? Yes it was a state record, and it was the third state record you caught that day. The fish you caught 3 years ago grows an inch every time you talk about it. You can make up anything to avoid telling someone your secret spot. You don’t care what anyone says, you couldn’t keep them of your hook a week ago in this spot.

5. The Only “Good” Pictures You Take Are Ones with Fish in Your Hands.


Snapping a picture at a wedding? You can’t get out of there quick enough. Holding a proud angler? You can’t take enough pictures. You also know the best way to hold that fish so you can say it is whatever size you want, depending on who you’re talking to. These photos are the only ones you would consider framing as well, don’t worry about your family.

Brian is an outreach naturalist at The Outdoor Campus. He coordinates our Step Outside program as well as any other outreach for outdoor education. He is also, clearly, an avid fisherman.


5 Facts About Cardinals

The northern cardinal. Photo by Keith A. Anderson.

Cardinals are everyone’s favorite bird! Here are five fun facts about the birds that will make you like them even more!

  1. Males and females can both sing very well. Many people mistakenly think males are the only birds that sing. Not true with these singing beauties! They do something called countersinging in which one bird will sing a song several times and the others will match it.
  2. The males love to feed the females. At your feeder, you might see a male picking up a bit of food and giving it to the female. After the pair nests the male will continue to feed her this way.
  3. There are four layers in cardinal nests. They start with a platform of stiff weeds and vines, then they create a layer with leaves or paper. The third layer is finer weeds and grass and the final layer is fine roots and grass stems. Nests take four to six days to complete.
  4. Cardinals usually lay two to five eggs and incubation is only 12-13 days. Only the females sit on the nest.
  5. Listen closely when a cardinal lands on your feeder. They almost always flick their tails and put out a call that sounds like  “CHIP.”


5 Ways to Make Awesome S’mores

5 Ways to Make Awesome S’mores

By Haley Baker, Kent State University, Class of  ’16

Impress your friends and family at your next campfire with this creative s’more menu. Each recipe only has three ingredients, so you can feast the night away. Cooking gourmet has never been easier or sweeter.

1. The Cookie Smash

Chocolate Chip Cookies/Milk Chocolate/Marshmallow


2. The Grasshopper

Graham Crackers/Andes Mint Chocolate/Marshmallows

3. The Nutty Buddy

Nutter Butter Cookies/ Nutella/ Marshmallows

4. The Twister

Pretzel Thins/ Milk Chocolate/ Marshmallows

5. The S’mOreo

Graham Crackers/ Cookies and Cream Chocolate/ Marshmallows

Find more gourmet s’more recipes on our Pinterest board!

Haley is blogging for the Outdoor Campus as part of a summer internship in public relations.

5 Helpful Hints for Taking a Kid Hunting

5 Helpful Hints for Taking a Kid Hunting
Derek teaching shooting basics at this summer’s Women’s Try-It Day.

By Derek Klawitter

Here is a short list of helpful hints for taking a kid (or a rookie) out hunting. I find these hints also help for guiding aging hunters. For many years, my father did all he could to make sure my hunts were successful. Now the tides have turned, and I find myself going above and beyond to return years of favors as I never know when my dad will hang up his hunting hat.

1. Scouting – I personally have the attention span of a 3 year old, so when you are going to introduce someone new to hunting, it is good to have a “secret” spot where at least you will have a chance to see game. Spend some days ahead of time, checking the area to see if there is game present. Being in a game-rich environment will make the outing more enjoyable for everyone involved.

2. Preparing – Simple things like putting a snickers bar in your pocket or wearing an extra pair of socks on cold mornings make a difference. (Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than being cold!) Another way to be prepared is to bring a roll of toilet paper along. I know hunters are supposed to be rough and tough, but we all still have a tender side.

3. Time and Distance – It is always good to keep in mind how long you spend out in the field. Just because you can last 15 hours in a tree stand doesn’t mean others can or want to. At first, try to limit the time to no more than 2 to 3 hours. And little legs are not made for marathons, so keep the distance in perspective as well.

GFP's Chris Hull with a young hunter.
GFP’s Chris Hull with a young hunter.
4. Remember who the hunt is for – I find it easier for all involved to only have the child/rookie hunt. Stick to playing guide when you take out beginners. That way you can dedicate all of your knowledge to the new recruit and not worry about bagging an animal yourself. Also, after the hunt, let the hunter tell all of the stories to mom, dad, grandma or grandpa. Listening to how the child/rookie perceived the hunt is very educational.

5. Safety and Ethics – Safety while hunting is the number one concern. Risks with any dangerous activity are always higher with inexperience. Be a role model. New hunters are very moldable and if you take shortcuts and have questionable ethics, there is a great chance the child will pick up on these.

I hope all of these little hints help you introduce or reintroduce people to the great sport of hunting! If anyone has any other questions or concerns, visit me at The Outdoor Campus, and I would love to assist in any way I can.

Five Things a Hunt Teaches Children

Five Things a Hunt Teaches Children

By Matthew Stoffel

Few things let us escape into the natural world like hunting – whether for pheasants, ducks or deer. Hunters recount moments of full immersion into their environment on these excursions. The mix of tranquility and excitement a single outing can bring is hard to match, and here at The Outdoor Campus, it’s an experience we hope you’ll share with your kids.
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Here are five things hunting can teach children.

1. Just like fishing, a hunter needs to be patient – showing a mature resolve to wait and even be content on those days they return empty-handed. Add onto that the extreme care and responsibility needed for a child to safely handle a firearm, and you have a great opportunity to teach some daily virtues.

2. Hunting has wide-reaching social implications. Learning to network with other hunters about where animals are and asking landowners for permission to hunt can also foster valuable people skills. It also gives people something to talk about and bond over. At the same time, hunting can be a great way to spend some thoughtful time alone.

DSC_00383. Learning about hunting is learning about tradition: the tradition of a culture, a family or even the human race in general. Beyond teaching a child about the value of that tradition, they’re learning about the balance of life and death. This cultivates an understanding of respect – for their history, for the animals and, hopefully, even for their teacher.

4. Walking through the woods, lugging equipment, staying crouched in a field – any of it is better than sinking into your couch cushions. Hunting is a great way to get outside and move around. Even on lighter days, you might feel the incentive to stay in shape with other workouts to make hunting more enjoyable. Either way, hunting is an excellent fitness motivator.

5. Of course, a lesson on hunting wouldn’t be complete until your child understands why we claim a number of game animals. Beyond adding a bit of meat on the table or in the freezer, teaching kids about population control and how hunting tends the land is an important step in cultivating the conservationists who will be taking care of our fields and forests in the years to come.

One great way for kids to learn about hunting - and more - is through our Campus Grad program.
One great way for kids to learn about hunting – and more – is through our Campus Grad program.

Five Great Reasons to take a Kid Fishing

Five Great Reasons to take a Kid Fishing

By Matthew Stoffel

“Your bobber is down! Reel it in, reel it in!”

There’s not a lot as exciting as watching a kid reel in their first fish. Here are a handful of the many great reasons to cast out on the water with a kid.

1) Sitting on a quiet shore or a gently rocking boat is an excellent way to introduce children to the value of patience. Father and son with fish the outdoor campusThe lesson can be priceless since there’s no guarantee of reward – and for that reason, all the more exciting when they set the hook.

2) It can be hard to find the time to unplug from cell phones, TV, video games and social media, but planning a fishing trip requires exactly that. With your attention on the water, you give yourselves the time to focus on each other.

3) The sense of accomplishment that a kid can get from catching their first fish – or their second, third, or 18th – is wonderful to witness, and it encourages them to set goals for bigger or different fish, striving to accomplish those as well.

Girl with worm the outdoor campus4) You haven’t felt fear until you watch a youngster wildly swing a sharp hook overhead. Fishing is a great opportunity for kids to learn personal responsibility, and to be aware of what’s around them. In addition to teaching them fishing and water safety, you can give them their own task like grabbing minnows or keeping track of life jackets – and maybe do yourself a favor by pressing down the barb on their hook. Just in case.

5) Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you not only feed him for a lifetime, but you create one more person who cares about our South Dakota outdoors. The beginning anglers and hunters of today are going to be our conservationists down the road, so get them out there and share the joy of being out on the water. Our trees, our prairies, our lakes and our rivers will thank you.

Netting fish smiles the outdoor campus