It’s not an official holiday…but many hunters and their children consider it as such. I’m talking about the third Thursday/Friday combination that occurs each fall during the month of October. Officially it’s the Minnesota Education Association’s state convention where teachers go for workshops, etc. But for children, it’s an opportunity to be out of school for an extra long weekend.
Indeed, MEA weekend holds special significance because it’s an opportunity for parents to take their children on an out-of-state hunt without worrying about school days being missed. I know of several hunters who annually plan their vacation to coincide with MEA. No doubt about it…mention “MEA” and the typical response for many sportsmen is “where you going?”
For many years I traveled out to Montevideo for my annual goose hunt over MEA weekend. Sometimes I traveled with children, most times I didn’t have any children to take. Still, it was a heartwarming sight to see all the hunters out this weekend with their children. I dare say some of these kids likely learned more important lessons in the goose blind during two days spent with their dads than they learned sitting in the classroom during the previous three days of the week.
Of course there are so many opportunities during this time of the year. I remember when I was in high school MEA to me meant one thing. It was an all-day project, but it was an annual labor of love in preparation for the trapping season. MEA meant time to get the traps ready by boiling them (dying them), waxing, and otherwise getting prepared for the upcoming trapping season.
On the other hand, my neighbor used to travel with several other hunters on an annual snow goose hunting trip up to the plains of North Dakota. Usually there was a high school football game on the Wednesday night of MEA week…so they would leave immediately after that game was played (sometimes even taking children who played in the game) directly from the football field to the shooting fields. It was a tradition that all evolved around MEA and the families of the hunters didn’t have to ask what was going on each year…they knew.
This year my buddy, Jeff, is taking his son out to South Dakota for some deer hunting (archery) and pheasant hunting. Just like Minnesota, South Dakota’s pheasant season opened last weekend, so again, there are many opportunities…including hunting this legendary pheasant factory during MEA week.
Then again let’s not overlook what we have going on closer to home. We are about the fourth week into the waterfowl season so depending on the weather this action should be getting good soon. Squirrel season opened over a month ago and with less leaves now hunting should be getting somewhat less challenging. Grouse season should be picking up now (particularly in northern Minnesota) as the leaves should be mostly dropped. In fact, a combination grouse hunt combined with some musky fishing would be a good change of pace. No matter how you look at it, now is an absolutely perfect time to take on any such adventure, preferably by introducing a child to the outdoors.
I’m hoping more sportsmen begin using the MEA extended weekend wisely…create a tradition out of some outdoor experience. If you have children at home or if you have children whom you could be a positive influence with, you owe it to them and to yourself to spend quality time sharing the wonderful outdoor experience.
Personally, I can’t think of anything more disgusting than a bunch of youngsters sitting around home playing video games during their MEA break…when they could be outdoors experiencing nature at its finest. With just a little coaxing, most youth would much prefer to spend time with an adult discovering both the camaraderie and the challenges provided in our outdoor world. If it’s too late for this year…make that pledge to do so for next year. Traditions all begin with that very first effort toward making something happen.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.