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Outdoors Column | Les Winkeler: Updating my bucket list

Outdoors Column | Les Winkeler: Updating my bucket list

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I’m going to come clean. I’m a hypocrite.

While walking the dog one cold, miserable day last winter, I thought about how wonderful it would be to trace my steps with sweat dripping down my brow on a hot summer day. I disavowed the cold and damp and declared my love for summer.

OK, I’m having buyer’s remorse.

This heat and humidity is stifling. It’s driven me to the great indoors. After 1 p.m., you’ll find me soaking up the air conditioning. Frequently I’ll sit at my computer, working on thousands of unedited photos that have accumulated over the past decade.

It’s tedious, often mind-numbing work. As the result my mind often wanders, particularly when photos of Alaska, Glacier National Park or Nova Scotia pop up on the screen.

I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively throughout the northern hemisphere. But, looking at these photos has caused me to update my bucket list.

To do:

· I want to see a California condor. It is the rarest bird in the world. At one time, scientists captured every living condor and bred them in captivity.

There are now several dozen condors flying wild over the Southwest. I’ve already marked whooping cranes off my bucket list, the condor is next.

· Catching a big ol’ musky in northern Minnesota or Canada remains an unfulfilled dream.

I’ve caught pike, walleye, salmon, lake trout, rainbows, smallmouth and yellow perch, but the musky has eluded me.

Oh, I came close once a couple decades ago.

I was fishing Kinkaid Lake with former Southern Illinoisan photographer Chuck Novara one morning. I threw a spinner bait deep into a weed bed and set the hook on a nice strike.

The fish immediately bolted from the weeds into Kinkaid’s clear, open water. When the first 18 inches of fish appeared, I thought I had hooked an excellent bass. But, at least another 18 inches appeared.

Once I realized I was dealing with a musky, panic set in. I dropped my hands, putting slack in the line and the musky swam off.

Ask Chuck about it if you see him. He’ll delight in telling you how I tried to stomp a hole in the deck of his boat. Hopefully, I’m mature enough to handle the sight of a musky now.

· I want to make another trip out west to see the western tanagers, stellar jays and California quail. We saw all those birds while on a trip to Yosemite several years ago. I want to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park and gaze upon the mountain bluebirds and green towhees.

A person should probably be content seeing those gorgeous creatures once, but I’m not sure they were accorded the respect they deserve.

· I want to go back to the Everglades and Lake Apopka, a body of water in central Florida. Those two places hold more wildlife per linear foot than any place I’ve ever been.

· Other places on my bucket list include Badlands National Park and Big Bend National Park … just because they are there and I haven’t been. McGee Marsh Wildlife Area in Ohio for the warbler migration is another must see. Being in the midst of tens of thousands of sandhill cranes at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas also seems like a slice of heaven.

But, those dreams will be put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Ah, it could be worse, between the heat and pandemic I have plenty of time to travel vicariously through the computer screen.

Stay safe!

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern. Contact him at or on Twitter @LesWinkeler.



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