Well, it's getting near that time of year again when most of the hunting seasons are over and the mountains are filling up with snow.

But the adventures don't end there, they just evolve into a winter wonderland of outdoor challenges.

It's time to get out those winter clothes and put them to use - and besides, the exercise will help to keep off that infamous hibernation weight gain. Some of you may be guilty of this and know exactly what I'm talking about.

The non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts will be getting down their skis, snowshoes and prepping their snowmobiles.

Luckily, Eastern Oregon has several snowmobile parks on the Umatilla National Forest and the luxury of having Spout Springs and Ski Anthony Lakes resorts within a short driving distance from anywhere in the region.

If you are a serious hiker or you are just interested in trying something different that involves the outdoors, then don't let the winter slow you down.

Here's a challenge for all ages:

Michele Cooke is a personal trainer at the Roundup Athletic Club in Pendleton and she guides people on snowshoe excursions in the Blue Mountains near Pendleton. Michele is very active in the outdoors and spends her spare time in the summers doing triathlons and riding her mountain bike. Michele is a great resource for outdoor excursions. Don't hesitate to contact her at the Roundup Athletic Club if you are interested in joining her on one of her excursions.

The hunting enthusiasts will be gearing up for several types of winter excitement. One of which is my personal favorite, the predator hunt.

It's a very exhilarating sport and can be enjoyed by all levels of hunting expertise.

In Eastern Oregon we have the advantage of hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest that can be utilized for this winter challenge.

Not to mention there are still landowners that will allow you to walk out onto their property and call or stalk predators.

Just go to several of the local diners around midday - this is when most landowners are done feeding their livestock and they will drive into town to sit and have coffee with their neighbors and discuss everything from weather to world peace.

Whatever you do, don't discuss these issues with them, just listen, laugh and when the time is right someone will be curious about you.

They will ask you who you are and what you are up to.

This is your cue to break the ice and tell them your intentions of finding a place to hunt predators.

Land owners can grow tired of constant knocks at their door from hunters looking for land, and by catching them while they are already out you can increase your chances of getting a positive response.

Remember, you should always ask permission before hunting on any private land.

Now back to the predator hunt:

When I'm guiding I always end up explaining my theory on the comparison between animals and humans.

Animals are like humans in the sense they are naturally lazy.

I'm not saying they aren't intelligent, but animals resemble water in the sense they will always take the easiest route.

Figuring out which route that is can be a bit like a chess game.

You must factor in the availability and simplicity of the food source, the safety of cover, their natural instinctive routes of travel, terrain, wind and the pressure from humans.

If you can play all these factors out in your head, you will be able to locate an area that will be highly successful.

There are those people who will judge the predator hunter as a ruthless killer.

But there is a good reason for the hunt and most stewards of the land can attest to the following:

When predator numbers increase, the simple food chain (mice, squirrels, birds) will decrease.

When this happens, predators will take greater risks and this is when predators stalk and kill livestock, household pets and - in rare occasions - humans.

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Andrew Mentzer resides in Pilot Rock, where his family has raised cattle and horses for more than 130 years. He is an outfitter and guide and can be reached for comment at 310-7779.

Michele Cooke can be reached at 276-0880.

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