Friday, December 2, 2016


OUT OF THE DARK, the third book in the Tony Leach crime thriller series, is available now.

Like the first two books in the series – TWO SHOTS and THE RIVER – OUT OF THE DARK is set in Bemidji in northern Minnesota and features Tony Leach, a game warden with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Here's the summary of the book from Amazon:

Minnesota game warden Tony Leach confronts the most dangerous situation of his career in the new thriller from Joe Albert.

In the middle of an unforgiving winter in the northern Minnesota woods, eight ice fishermen and a recent college graduate turn up dead. Another man is beaten to within an inch of his life. The police are certain they’ve got their killer, a troubled young man from whom authorities have collected a confession. But Tony Leach, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources game warden, isn’t so sure. He’s visited each of the crime scenes and can’t shake the feeling the local authorities are missing something important in their rush to close the cases.

Leach comes to believe there’s a sinister ideology at play, but only as he gets closer to the truth does he begin to understand exactly what’s at stake. And it’s soon frighteningly clear that his life is the ultimate prize.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Deer hunting opportunities in every corner of Minnesota

(This post originally appeared on the Explore Minnesota Tourism website.)

Every fall, hundreds of thousands of hunters clad in blaze orange spread out from the agricultural fields of southern Minnesota to the deep forests of northern Minnesota—and everywhere in between—in search of white-tailed deer. For many people, hunting deer during the firearms season is just as much about renewing friendships and a connection with nature as it is about pulling the trigger. But whatever the reason people choose to hunt deer, opportunities to target whitetails abound in Minnesota.

Many hunters opt to search for deer on the millions of acres of county, federal and state lands that are spread throughout Minnesota and available for anyone to use. Whether they’re in places such as Montevideo or Worthington in the south, Brainerd or Alexandria in the central part of the state, or Bemidji or Grand Rapids in the north—or even in points farther north than that—hunters are never far from having a place they can start hunting. The Minnesota DNR alone offers nearly 1.3 million acres of wildlife management areas throughout the state, many of which offer high-quality deer hunting.

Statewide opportunities
Every year, hunters harvest about 150,000 to 200,000 deer, and hunters take them from all parts of the state. One of the best parts about hunting deer in Minnesota is the opportunity to hunt on widely varying terrain. The bluff country of southeast Minnesota offers some of the most stunning scenery around, with deep valleys and meandering streams being key natural features. Hunters can stay in big cities such as Rochester or small towns such as Lanesboro and have easy access to thousands of acres of huntable land.

Hunters who prefer the more open terrain of grasslands and prairies can headquarter from cities such as Marshall or Fairmont in the southwest, while those who prefer a mix of prairie and forest may choose Fergus Falls in central Minnesota or Hinckley in the northeast as home base. Hunters who enjoy heading into the thick woods have options in northeastern towns such as Hibbing and Grand Marais. And those who really want to get away from it all can go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There may be fewer deer there than in other parts of the state, but there are far fewer hunters, too.

Hunting on public land
The beauty of public land is everyone enjoys the same access to it. But that also can be its downfall, because hunters may find someone else set up in their spot, or just a few too many other hunters for their liking. Fortunately, there are ways to increase the odds of success. One of them is to simply walk as far away from the road as possible, since most hunters stay within several hundred yards of their vehicles. Another method is to find the heaviest cover available on a piece of land and sit near it. Deer may live in such areas, or they may be pushed into those areas as they attempt to escape hunting pressure.

Be sure to use a temporary deer stand and remove it at the end of the day went hunting on public land.

Hunt and fish
During years when the fall is relatively warm, it’s possible for sportsmen to hunt deer in the morning and evening and go fishing during the middle of the day. Muskie and walleye fishing is especially good late in the fall, and some of the best lakes for fall fishing—Lake Mille Lacs, Leech Lake near Walker, Lake Vermilion near Tower, Lake Miltona near Alexandria, and Big Detroit Lake in Detroit Lakes—also are near good hunting land.

2016 Deer Seasons
  • Archery: Sept. 17 – Dec. 31
  • Firearms: Nov. 5-20 (100 series of permit areas); Nov. 5-13 (200 series of permit areas and 300 series A-season); Nov. 19- 27 (300 series of permit areas B-season).
  • Muzzleloader: Nov. 26 – Dec. 11
  • Special hunts: See Minnesota DNR deer hunting web page  

While hunters in some areas of the state—and for some special hunts—must apply in advance to hunt or target antlerless deer, the state welcomes residents and nonresidents to take part in what is Minnesota’s most popular hunting season.

Monday, October 24, 2016

North to south, muskie fishing abounds in Minnesota

(This post appeared originally on the Explore Minnesota Tourism website.)

Fishermen know muskies as the “fish of 10,000 casts,” but it’s unclear whether the person who coined that moniker ever fished in Minnesota. Muskie-fishing opportunities abound all across the state, where 99 lakes have fishable populations of the species that can measure more than 50 inches long and weigh more than 50 pounds. The season runs through Dec. 1, and fall is one of the best times to catch a truly monster fish as the fish feed heavily in advance of winter.

Photo by Joe Albert
Muskies are the top predator species in the waters where they live. While the state record, caught in 1957 in Lake Winnibigoshish, weighed 54 pounds and was 56 inches long, most fishermen today release the muskies they catch. For that reason, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has set up an alternative record program for muskies that are caught and released. But in the years before that program was in place, it’s likely anglers caught muskies that would have exceeded the state record. Most of those were caught late in the fall.

Minnesota’s muskie waters
The 99 lakes the Minnesota DNR manages for muskies cover 480,153 acres. While the lakes are scattered throughout the state, there are some bodies of water worth highlighting in each region.

Fox Lake, just north of I-90 between Jackson and Fairmont, is the state’s southernmost muskie destination. Though it’s one of the state’s newest muskies lakes—the DNR started stocking the fish there in 1999—anglers already report catching fish up to 50 inches long. In the Twin Cities area, Lake Minnetonka and White Bear Lake have good muskie populations.
North of Alexandria, Lake Miltona has a reputation for churning out big fish, though Lake Mille Lacs may be the state’s muskie-fishing crown jewel. Big Detroit Lake is right in the heart of downtown Detroit Lakes and provides excellent muskie fishing, while the fishing at Leech Lake near Walker is the stuff of legend. Finally, Lake Vermilion in northeast Minnesota has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the state’s top muskie waters.

Catching fall muskies
Fishermen using light gear and targeting species such as walleyes hook muskies from time to time, but the anglers who target muskies use stout rods, heavy line and lures that often measure in excess of 12 inches and weigh as much as a pound. They also carry a camera, big nets and pliers, which allow them to quickly subdue and unhook fish before snapping a picture and releasing them.

Throughout the year, green vegetation attracts and holds muskies. In the fall, however, vegetation begins to die back, so anglers should find and target green weeds that continue to produce oxygen. Rocky islands and points attract muskies in the fall, too, and many anglers find success by trolling in open water. In this scenario, muskies are chasing schools of high-fat fish such as tullibees, so they may be 40 feet down over 60 feet of water, for example. Anglers can encounter these fish by tying on minnow-imitating baits and trolling across the lake.

Added bonus: Leaf peeping
In addition to the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime, muskie fishermen get to enjoy some of the most stunning scenery of the year as the leaves turn colors. Explore Minnesota offers free fall color updates and fishing reports by email. Anglers who want to fish among brilliant fall colors can see where the leaves are changing, and then find a body of water in that area to launch their boats.

Learn more about Minnesota's fish, and connect with outfitters and guides to plan your fishing trip.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Discover northwestern Minnesota's elk herds

(Note: The following story appeared originally on Explore Minnesota Tourism's website)

By Joe Albert

People who want to hear the spine-tingling bugle of an elk often think they have to travel west to do so. But the reality is they can have that experience in Minnesota.

These are elk at the Skull Lake Wildlife Management Area.
DNR photo
 Elk, which are members of the deer family and can weigh up to 900 pounds, once were found throughout the majority of Minnesota. (The only exception was the northeast part of the state, which was home to woodland caribou.) Overhunting reduced elk numbers almost to extinction despite a series of state government-led efforts in the early 1900s, and the last native elk was spotted in the Northwest Angle in 1932.

Reintroduction efforts were undertaken shortly thereafter, which led to the current Grygla herd. The Caribou-Vita herd appeared in the 1980s, though it’s unclear if the animals ventured south from Canada or north from the established Grygla herd.

Today, Kittson and Marshall counties in northwest Minnesota are home to three herds of elk that total as many as 200 animals. The largest group, the Caribou-Vita herd, includes 120 to 150 animals that migrate between Kittson County in Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada. The Kittson-Central herd, located near Lancaster in Kittson County, includes about 35 elk. There are about 20 elk in Marshall County’s Grygla herd.

People have the opportunity to see elk from all three herds, and limited hunting opportunities exist, too. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers elk-hunting licenses via lottery, and it’s considered an once-in-a-lifetime hunt. There are seven licenses available for the 2016 hunt, which runs Sept. 10-18.

Where to see elk
If the goal is to see wild elk—or even hear them bugle (a low whistling sound) during the fall rut—it’s important to keep in mind the type of habitat in which they live. Elk prefer to forage in open brushlands and grasslands and then retreat to forested areas for protection from predators and for cover during the winter.

Dawn and dusk are two of the best times to see elk.
Photo by Joe Albert
 There are a variety of places where people can see and, in the fall, hear wild elk. The best opportunity to view the Kittson-Central herd is by driving along roads about 10 miles north and east of Lancaster. The 7,000-acre Skull Lake Wildlife Management Area also is a good spot.

To see animals from the Grygla herd, focus on roads north of the town of Grygla, the 55,000-acre Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge.

The best place to see elk from the Caribou-Vita herd is on the eastern part of the Caribou Wildlife Management Area in northern Kittson County. Focus your time here during September and October, looking for elk foraging in clearings as the sun rises and sets.

Things to do nearby
Throughout the year, elk tend to hunker down out of sight for long stretches of the day. That gives people the opportunity to experience what else this unique part of Minnesota has to offer. The Kittson County History Center and Museum in Lake Bronson provides insight into the history of the county, while Far North Spirits in Hallock is the northernmost distillery in the contiguous United States.

Many of the towns in Kittson and Marshall counties feature golf courses, and cities such as Hallock, Karlstad, Thief River Falls and Warren offer hotels and motels. Nature-lovers and campers also will appreciate the opportunities available at Old Mill State Park and Lake Bronson State Park.

Those who are feeling particularly adventurous can make the easy trip to the massive Lake of the Woods, which features excellent fishing and a wide variety of resorts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Common, sacred ground

Somehow, nearly 15 years have passed since September 11, that deadly terror attack that forever changed the United States of America. As that morning unfolded, you knew you’d never forget where you were or what you were doing when you heard the news a plane had struck the World Trade Center. And when it was clear that terrorists were to blame, and that they’d killed thousands of people, you knew the world would never be the same.

I think about that day a lot. I was in college, and recall watching a fighter jet race across the blue sky. Maybe it was in the air as a result of the attacks. Maybe not. But at the time I couldn’t help but wonder if jets and terrorism and the feeling of vulnerability were the new normal. For a lot of people around my age, it marked the first time we felt like the innocence was lost. They were dark days, for sure, but over days and weeks and months the dark cloud lightened and there was patriotism and American pride like I’d never seen to that point in my 22 years.

Maybe time has colored my memory. Perhaps the divisions that seem so sadly evident today were just as evident in the days following the attack. But I don’t think so. We were all just humans, living on common soil, aghast by what had taken place but inspired by so many stories of brave people who ran toward the tragedy, into hell on Earth, to help people they didn’t even know. Some of them made it back out. A lot of them didn’t, their life cut short by a sense of duty to help their fellow human.

The names of all the people who died during the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center are etched in bronze panels that that ring two massive reflection pools. These pools, each an acre in size, are within the footprints of where the Twin Towers stood, high and proud until that September day. I visited those pools last week and looked at the names inscribed in bronze. Sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. All of their pictures hung inside the museum. Faces to go with the names. Perhaps other people inside the museum with me knew some of those who died. Perhaps not. Either way, we all were bound by the tragedy of lives taken unfairly and before their time. Despite the pervasive sadness of that museum room, it was somehow reassuring to watch people from all walks of life react on a human level to pictures of those whose lives were lost.

In another part of the museum was a mangled fire truck. A plaque explained that all 11 firefighters who used the truck died that day. Most of them had just finished a long shift and were headed home when the first plane struck. They turned around, pulled on their boots and jackets, and ran into a building from which others were trying desperately to escape. We so often talk about the thousands of lives lost that day, an older gentleman standing near the fire truck was saying, but we rarely think about the fact that five times more people survived because firefighters and other rescue personnel cared more about their fellow man than themselves.

Emotions run deep in a place like this, yet in a world that seems so divided, it’s a stark and refreshing reminder that the things we have in common are far greater than the things that drive us apart.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

New look for Two Shots and The River

There’s an old saying about not judging a book by its cover. And while I tend to agree, there’s no denying that, for better or worse, the cover is a vital aspect of any book.

The covers of Two Shots and The River recently were redesigned, and I’m really excited about how they turned out. The cover theme will be the same in the forthcoming Tony Leach book, and I’ll share that as the book release draws closer. Thanks to Whitley Mike for the awesome covers.

As always, I appreciate everyone who has read my books and taken time to leave a review or share a note. As an author, there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing from readers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Running down five of my favorite authors

If you ever need a conversation starter, one of the best questions to ask is this: Who are some of your favorite authors? Though I’ve been an avid reader for a long time (which is one of the reasons I decided to start writing books of my own), it’s amazing how often someone has a suggestion for an author who’s unfamiliar to me.

When someone asks me what I’m reading, or for the names of some of my favorite authors, I typically tell them about these five authors and their books.
Photo credit:

I’ll start with Doiron because his new novel, Widowmaker, comes out tomorrow. It’s the latest in the Mike Bowditch series of novels. Bowditch is a game warden in Maine, and Doiron does a remarkable job of painting a picture of the landscape in which Bowditch works, and the people with whom he deals. There’s plenty of tension – and twists and turns – to keep your attention to the very end.

Thor’s latest novel, Foreign Agent, also is available tomorrow. Thor’s protagonist is a counterterrorism agent named Scot Harvath. These books, set in various parts of the world, are the definition of thriller. Thor may write fiction, but you really get the feeling when reading his books that you have an inside look at the war on terrorism.

Box is best known for his Joe Pickett series of novels, though he’s authored several others with different protagonists (which are just as good). Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming, and one of the strongest aspects of Box’s books is the vivid descriptions of the West. The books also tend to be woven around an environment or natural resources-related theme.   

Sandford’s books, in general, are based in Minnesota or just beyond. He’s written several series, but my favorites are those that feature Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers. Many of the Davenport books are set in Minneapolis, while the Flowers books are set in the southern part of Minnesota. Sandford is fantastic at bringing quirky characters to life. All of his books have been tremendously enjoyable.

I’d say I’ve been hooked on Flynn since reading the first paragraph of his first book. (Flynn passed away in 2013 at the age of 47; Kyle Mills has continued writing the Mitch Rapp series.) The main character in this series is Mitch Rapp, who’s a counterterrorism operative with the CIA. The books are an awesome blend of politics and the fight against terrorism. There are few books I reread, but I’ve read all of Flynn’s more than once.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The anti-muskie agenda goes deeper than muskies

Note: The following appeared first on my blog over at Outdoor News. It's an important issue that I'll continue to highlight.

When Minnesota lawmakers failed to pass a Game and Fish Bill before the close of this year’s legislative session, the plans of anti-muskie Minnesotans and their political pawns were temporarily derailed.

Muskies have become a convenient tool for those folks who don't want 'outsiders' on 'their' lakes.
 Some in the Senate wanted a four-year moratorium on muskie stocking. Some House members wanted to preclude the DNR from stocking any of the six lakes it had identified as possibilities for this year. The fact that efforts to pass a Game and Fish Bill continued even as a drama Shakespeare couldn’t have dreamed up unfolded in the session’s final minutes tells you all you need to know.

Some people hate muskies. But that hatred alone didn’t make muskies the centerpiece of what pretty much was a failed session when it comes to fish and wildlife. No, muskies were simply a useful tool for what amounts to an anti-public-waters agenda. That such interests nearly won the day – and, no doubt, will be back next year – is scary indeed.

Muskies are the alpha predator wherever they live, and that mystique is among the reasons people fish for them. But science tells us they don’t run roughshod over the bodies of water in which they live, decimating sunfish and walleye populations. But if you allow your imagination to go to fairytale land, perhaps you can see muskies attacking swimmers or killing walleyes just for the hell of it.

It’s not the truth, but something about muskies makes you stop and think: What if? Individual lakeshore owners and some lakeshore associations in Minnesota have preyed upon people’s imaginations in a cynical attempt to keep muskies out of “their” lakes. After all, it wouldn’t work too well to just come out and say what they’re thinking – “If you don’t own property on ‘our’ lake, you’re really not welcome” – would it? That’s not a Minnesota value. It’s so much easier to keep pushing the same tired and wholly unproven refrain about how muskies lay waste to anything in their paths.

It’s sad, but probably not surprising, how easy it’s been for the anti-public-waters folks to find lawmakers who are all too willing to help advance their wholly un-Minnesotan agenda.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Will audit lead to Minnesota deer-management changes?

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
There are about a half-million deer hunters in Minnesota. When it comes to a specific user groups for which the state Department of Natural Resources manages, the only one I can think of that’s bigger – in the fish and wildlife realm, anyway – is fishermen.

And for the past few years, deer hunters as a whole haven’t been an especially happy group. The harvest has been way down – the past two years, it’s been as low as it was following extraordinarily harsh winters in the mid- to late 1990s – and many hunters are complaining about seeing a lack of deer from their stands.

Now, we’ve had a couple of severe winters in the recent past, and that no doubt has put the hurt on deer. But hunters also are concerned that the DNR has lowered deer numbers to what they have as unacceptable levels.

I don’t think there’s a single reason for the current situation in which we find ourselves. In all likelihood, deer numbers through the 2000s were reduced too far in some areas, and ill-timed severe winters exacerbated the problem, or at least put the lid on herd-growth potential at an inopportune time.

All of this is a long way of illustrating the importance of next Thursday, May 26. That’s when the Minnesota Legislative Auditor will release a report on Minnesota’s deer-management program. The audit has been under way since the middle of last year, and some of the folks who pushed for it were irritated about the timing of the release. Typically, these audits are released during the legislative session, so lawmakers can digest them and potentially act on them. This year’s session ends May 23.

Here’s what the audit will cover:

• How much does the DNR spend on deer population management? How are these activities funded?
• How does the DNR estimate and monitor Minnesota’s deer population? How do these methods compare with recommended practices?
• How does the DNR establish the state’s deer population goals and hunting permit strategies? To what extent do the DNR’s deer population goals reflect various stakeholders’ interests?

I haven’t seen the audit and have no idea what the auditors found. My guess is that there will be some suggestions for improvement that the DNR can do on its own. Perhaps others will need legislative involvement in 2017.

At the end of the day, I’m hopeful the report will be something of a starting point whereby the DNR and deer stakeholders can move forward toward common goals. It does nobody any good for a user group as large as deer hunters to be distrustful – rightly or wrongly – of DNR deer managers.

These audits have the potential to be catalysts for positive change. One of the last big ones having to do with the DNR concerned a conservation officer conference. The audit found that state money had been spent improperly on the conference. The fallout from the audit led to the retirement of Mike Hamm, then head of the DNR’s Enforcement Division. Since that audit in 2008, the agency’s Enforcement Division has been stabilized and become, in my mind, absolutely top-notch.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fishing opener 2016: Cold, wind, and lots of fish

Some traditions die hard. And other traditions – even those you have every intent to kill – simply refuse to be killed. Such was the case when Minnesota’s fishing season opened this past Saturday.

To the vast majority of folks, fishing opener means one thing: walleye opener. But it’s also the day the stream trout in inland lakes season opens. Which brings us back to dead traditions.

Several years ago, a few of us at our fish camp began going to Bad Medicine Lake to chase rainbow trout on opening day. It’s easy fishing – just dragging around shallow-running crankbaits in a relatively haphazard fashion – and I don’t recall a year we haven’t boated a few fish. I’m a terrible walleye fisherman, so it’s always nice to get the season started on the right foot.

John Albert with one of the day's first rainbow trout.

This year, though, I had every intention of breaking tradition. For one thing, few people in our camp planned to go to Bad Medicine. And for another, the weather forecast looked awful – temps in the low 30s and a stiff northwest wind. Sticking on our home lake – Round Lake – so we could easily go inside to warm up seemed very appealing. Alas, neither my brother nor I bought a trout stamp when we purchased our licenses Friday morning.

But my resolve began to crumble as Friday wore on. I didn’t have any illusions about catching walleyes in Round Lake, but I didn’t think we’d catch many trout, either. As we sat around Friday night and did the things you do at fish camp, I didn’t think much about fishing. (I did, though, field large numbers of plot-line suggestions for upcoming novels.)

As we sat at breakfast on Saturday morning, there was no doubt in my mind we were walleye fishing. Then someone asked Mike Hagen, who fishes in our boat each opening day, where we were going. “Ask Joe,” he said.

Suddenly, all eyes were on me.

“Bad Medicine,” I blurted out.

Damn tradition.

Ninety minutes later, trout stamp in hand, John, Mike and I were at Bad Medicine. It’s easily one of the prettiest lakes in the state, surrounded by pine trees and lacking, for the most part, a reliable cell signal. We’d made a good decision to continue the tradition.

Minutes after we started trolling, I hooked a fish. John had one on his line before I’d even landed mine. Yes, we’d made a very good decision.

The trout we catch are generally between about 10 and 17 inches. But they're willing to hit crankbaits hard, and they put up an admirable fight.

So long as we stayed out of the wind and in the sun, it was actually a very comfortable day on the water. And it didn’t hurt that we caught trout – lots of them.

We brought home 10 between the three of us, and probably released another 20. The plan is to grill them this week, and they certainly will taste better than the store-bought walleye fillets I’d otherwise be making.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fishing opener … or deer opener?

Fishing opener 2016: rods, reels, deer-hunting clothing.
It was easy to pack for this year’s fishing opener. I just grabbed the bin that contains my deer-hunting gear. The forecast for opening day – Saturday, May 14 – is remarkably similar to the conditions during last year’s Nov. 7 deer opener – a high of about 48 degrees and a low of 30 degrees. Not bad, until you throw in forecasted 21-mile-per-hour winds with gusts to 53 mph. Sounds uncomfortable to me, though it could result in a good “walleye chop,” I suppose.

It’s become our tradition to haul the boat to Bad Medicine Lake to fish for rainbow trout, but given the stiff northwest winds in the forecast, I don’t see that happening. So we’ll probably join the other half-million or so fishermen dragging Lindy rigs and pitching jigs for walleyes. Pretty much all the opening day prognostications I’ve seen call for walleyes to be in the shallows and actively feeding – read: easy to catch – though I know from experience that doesn’t mean I’ll find ‘em and catch ‘em.  

Best of luck to everyone heading out this weekend.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Up the creek

We took the kids out for a little adventure tonight, checking out Nine Mile Creek where it passes under 106th Street in Bloomington. I used to fish for carp down there as a kid, but it doesn't look anything like I remember it. In fact, it's hard to imagine carp in there at all. It looks nice and clean – almost like a trout stream that runs clear and cold.

As we were walking along the trail and beside an area of the creek with "rapids," we saw a hen mallard and her seven ducklings. Now, you don't often think of ducks as denizens of fast-moving water, but I'll be darned if that mother duckling wasn't leading her ducklings straight up the creek. And you'd be amazed by how well those little fur balls navigated their way against the current.

Admittedly, the image isn't great, but you get the gist of what I'm talking about.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The next chapter

A few weeks back, I took a call from an Outdoor News reader. Within the first 30 seconds, he’d gone from calling me naive to calling me a liar. The guy was really worked up, so I let him vent. Then he turned his attention to those, uh, “folks” at the DNR, and ran down a long list of complaints. At about the 8-minute mark, he stopped and remarked how his plan had been to call and yell at me (which he seemed to have forgotten doing just minutes before), and expressed his surprise at our “nice conversation.” Before I could respond, he launched a broadside at DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, and then told me how he’d once intended to rip Landwehr a new one, only to wind up having a pleasant conversation with him.

“I don’t understand what it is with you people,” the reader, referring to what he figured would be combative conversations, said before we ended our chat a few minutes later.

Since I’m certain Landwehr interacts with far more ticked off people than I do, I’ll speak for myself: I’d much rather interact with people who care, even if it comes across as anger. And during the past 12 years – but especially the past two, when I’ve served as editor of Outdoor News – I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do just that. Which brings me to the point of this post.

As of this week, I’m no longer the paper’s editor. Tim Spielman has taken over, and I’m settling into my new career as a freelance outdoor journalist and author. But truth be told, save for people who write or call the office and want to talk to the editor, people who read Outdoor News likely will notice little difference. Spielman will do a fantastic job as editor, and I’ll be writing stories for the paper – probably at a steadier pace than the past couple of years. So I guess this isn’t really goodbye.

As some of you know, a few years ago I published Two Shots, a crime novel set in northern Minnesota and featuring a conservation officer as the main character. The second in the series – The River – came out about 16 months ago, and I’m hard at work on the third. This transition will give me more time to focus on books, and I’ll release the next one in the fall.

The books generally have some sort of political aspect, something that’s been a focus of mine these past 12 years. It’s been a joy to cover the Legislature and write about the myriad ways politicians and the political process affect the outdoors. And it’s gratifying to receive a call from someone complaining about your “obvious Republican bias” in a story, and then receive another call about the same piece from someone who accuses you have promoting “a liberal agenda.” The truth, though, is natural resources issues tend to be fairly nonpartisan in nature, which is a good thing.

Going forward, I’ll continue to write about politics and its influence on the outdoors, and it will remain a theme in future novels. While I’ll miss the day-to-day interaction with folks at Outdoor News – co-workers and readers alike – I’m really looking forward to the next chapter.

I’ll write regularly on this site, so come back and visit soon. You can also follow me on Twitter @writerjoealbert or send me a note at