Banner blueberry crop

I’d heard it was another great year for blueberries in Minnesota’s North Woods, and since I’ve never done a story on blueberry picking, I decided to find out for myself.

Late July and early August are prime time for wild blueberries, which, although smaller, are far superior in taste to the blueberries you’ll find in the grocery store.

Brad Dokken shows off some of the blueberries he picked during a recent excursion in Beltrami Island State Forest. Now is prime blueberry picking time.

So, Sunday morning, I ventured to Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Roosevelt, Minn. Manager Gretchen Mehmel and her husband, Jeff Birchem, are avid pickers along with their son, Joshua, 15, and daughter, Johanna, 9, and they agreed to show me around the woods for a few hours of picking.

The rumors I’d heard were true: There’s an impressive blueberry crop this year.

A snowy winter, wet June weather and the absence of a late-spring frost are the three main reasons for this year’s impressive berry crop, the second strong crop in as many years.

Some years, Mehmel says, you’ll be lucky to find enough blueberries to fill a cup.

That’s not a problem this year.

Blueberry pickers can be a secretive bunch — for good reason — but areas with jack pine trees or cut-over jack pines are among the best locations for finding blueberries. Beltrami Island State Forest and Red Lake WMA have an abundance of jack pines, and as a result, an abundance of blueberries.

We easily gathered more than 3 gallons of blueberries during our time in the woods. In one spot, we literally were able to pick berries in the middle of the trail we drove to get into the woods, and the ground was awash in blue in the best places.

The abundance of berries likely will mean tough bear hunting when Minnesota’s bear season gets underway in about a month.

We also found an abundance of blueberries that hadn’t yet ripened, which means the prime berry picking should continue for the next two to three weeks. Juneberries, which grow on bushes, also were abundant in some areas and are just coming into their prime. If they’re not as sweet as blueberries, they’re very close.

Just be ready for mosquitoes, and lots of ‘em. I figure I picked about a gallon of berries and gave up about that much blood.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. But not by much.

Dragonfly event set at Norris Camp

Anyone interested in learning more about dragonflies is invited to attend an event set for July 25-26 at Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Roosevelt, Minn.

The event is part of the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project, a Minnesota Dragonfly Society initiative with a focus on dragonfly and damselfly conservation through research and education.

The weekend survey is being held in conjunction with the seventh annual Minnesota Dragonfly Gathering, which this year is at Norris Camp.

The activities kick off at 7 p.m. July 25 at Norris Camp with a potluck supper and program, which will include an introduction to the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project and instructions for the next day’s surveys.

The survey is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 26, and there’ll be a hot dog and potluck supper at 6 p.m. at Norris Camp, followed by an evening program at 7 p.m.

The public — and especially families — is welcome to attend and come for all or just part of the day.

For more information, contact Gretchen Mehmel, manager of Red Lake WMA, at (218) 783-6861 or check out the Minnesota Dragonfly Society’s website at mndragonfly.org.

High water forces rescheduling of Drayton catfish tourney

High water has forced organizers of the Rod and Reel Rally catfish tournament on the Red River in Drayton, N.D., to reschedule the event.

The tournament, originally scheduled for Sunday, now is set for Saturday, Aug. 9.

Entry fee for the tournament is $50, with a minimum of two paid entries per boat. Prize for biggest catfish is $1,600 with whopper payouts down to sixth place.

For more information, contact Rob Boll at (701) 454-3317 or check out the website at draytonND.com.