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ST CLOUD Bemidji

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Grand Forks









TABLE OF CONTENTS Backwoods ‘Gills

Jason Mitchell

Deployed duckmen

Bret Amundson

feeling minnesota

Katy Turner

Winter on the fly

Doug Harthan

SEASONAL OUTDOORS PT 1 Birth of a Big Rig - Jiggy Anderson


PURSUIT FOR POPE AND YOUNG Dakota Report - Ben Brettingen


SNOW DAYS! Photo Essay

7 OUTDOORS PT 2 10 SEASONAL Predator Hunting - Tyler Scott 22 26 DEPARTMENTS 28 WORKING DOGS Casting Call - Bret Amundson 32

FTB: Evolution of the Ice Shack Matt Soberg


Bluff country buck Ben Brettingen



A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR This issue marks our 2-year anniversary. To help us celebrate, I’ve got a favor to ask. Help me thank the advertisers and sponsors who’ve helped us get to this point. You hear it a lot, “We’d like to thank our advertisers,...” Well it’s true, without


CHEFS CORNER Pheasant Egg Rolls - Melea Ellingson 46 ON THE COVER: A MINNESOTA WALLEYE IN WINTER Photo by Benjamin Duke Larson In-Depth Outdoors

PLUS: GO THERE!: Monster Muley Hunting! P6 SEE US AT: Wild Sheep Foundation Banquet p6 SEE US AT: MN Deer Classic p31 GO THERE!: Tropical Paradise Fishing! P50

Have you visited our website? Daily updates with blogs, pictures, DNR news and more.

the advertisers that you see within this magazine, on our radio show or on the webhopefully buy something from them! One partner in particular that has gone out of their way to help us along is Kruger Farms. The Starbuck, MN sporting goods store has exploded in the last two years, with their online presence commanding attention. Their brick and mortar location has expanded twice in recent years and their growth shows no signs of slowing. It’s a Minnesota success story, and we’re glad to be part of it. Visit them at As we look back on two years of MNSJ, I’m proud to see what we’ve become. Matt Soberg started this magazine with a vision to create a high quality print publication that showcased the outdoors in Minnesota. The speed at which it’s grown it off the ground and the readers who continue to re-subscribe and recommend us to their friends. It helps when you do a lot of the leg work for us! Thank you! I also have to thank those whose names you see on the right. They have gone out of their way to help grow the Minnesota Sporting Journal-mostly volunteering their time and expertise. I wish I could give them all huge lumps of money, but they’ve been happy to help anyway. Someday, I’ll pay them all back-I PROMISE! Every new issue becomes my favorite, and this issue is no different. I had the unbelievable opportunity to go to Arkansas with the Wounded Warriors Guide Service. This organization is doing great things, look for the story on page 10 and please support them. The renowned fishing guru, Jason Mitchell is back, along with his friend, Jeff “Jiggy” Anderson. Soberg brings us a history of ice shacks, and of course we’ve got some great photography to go with the rest of the stories. Again, publishing this magazine is a dream come true for us, so understand that when we say “Thank you”, we mean it more than you know.

bret “t-Bone” amundson 4


MNSJ is a quarterly publication. To resubscribe, contact us: 218-209-2738

site, we wouldn’t be able to do this. Please take a moment to check them out and

and become accepted is unprecedented. We owe it to Matt who had the guts to get

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MINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL is a publication of Boneyardprod, Inc DBA BYP, Inc. POSTMASTER: Send change of address to PO Box 823, Moorhead, MN 56561. Oneyear subscription rates: $18.00 in the U.S., $30.00 for Canada (U.S. funds only). Twoyear subscription rates: $30.00 in the U.S., $47.00 for Canada (U.S. funds only). All editorial submissions will be gladly accepted. Minnesota Sporting Journal does not guarantee against damage or loss of submitted materials. Any reproduction of all or part of Minnesota Sporting Journal without the express written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. Copyright 2013 BYP Inc



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Minnesota actually seems to have more than 10,000 lakes, and it actually seems like most of those lakes have fish.




Midwest Chapter

What I have often found remarkable is the number of under-the-radar lakes that receive little fanfare, but have incredible fishing opportunities, particularly for panfish. Often, many of these secret jewels are most easily accessible by ice as some lakes don’t have boat ramps; some lakes are only a number on a map; some lakes require a long and winding snowmobile ride down quiet logging trails, while other lakes require foot power to get to. Some of the lakes are a complete waste of a hard ten-hour day… slogging through snow and scratching your head. There are a few little lakes in Minnesota where I will never attempt to fish again; the memories are just too humbling. Some of these adventures are an absolute bust.



What makes the exploration worthwhile however is the pull of curiosity and of course the pull of big panfish. Let’s face it, panfish are common throughout Minnesota. You would be hard pressed to find many lakes that don’t boast some bluegill or crappie populations. Big panfish however are special; treasure that is much harder to find. I daresay that they have become harder to come by in recent years. On many lakes where hoards of permanent houses sit over winter crappie holes and a good share of fish get a ride in a five-gallon bucket, a big crappie is twelve inches and most sunfish stretch less than eight inches. So many good anglers today and not as many good panfish! The little lakes, however, that escape pressure, escape scrutiny and somehow manage to exist under the radar of Facebook and internet forums often hold the key to the promised land-lakes where nine- to ten-inch sunfish roam in packs and backwoods ponds where every high red line that shines on the Vexilar is a crappie over thirteen inches. These places exist but it takes an incredible amount of work to find them. I love looking for these places. There is no easy way to find great fishing for big panfish. One of the best resources I know of is the Lake Finder Feature on the Minnesota DNR website. You can get fish population data where each species present in the lake is broken down by percentage. You can find out the average length of fish sampled. You can also find stocking data, depth and water clarity--useful informa-



tion before you ever step foot on a lake. Of course some lakes are stumbled upon almost by accident. Some of the best bluegill fishing I have ever fallen into was almost by accident when bass fishing during the open water season. If you are exploring one of these gems during the summer and ten-inch gills are nipping at your top water or following a spinnerbait, you better make a mental note. If somebody else shares such a gem of a lake with you, they are probably a very close personal friend and pulling a stocking cap over your face so you can’t see is completely acceptable practice. Every once in a while, a rumor can lead you to the promised land… but sometimes not. If you ever want to waste a day of your time and bust up your equipment, just ask the loudest guy in the bar for fishing advice and make sure you write down his directions on a napkin. Over the years, we have filmed a lot of ice fishing shows on such special lakes. One complaint I often

get when we air a show on such a lake is that we didn’t say where we were fishing exactly. I have World’s Best Ice Fishing Spring Bobber no problem saying I am on Leech Lake or Lake of Handmade with high quality products the Woods, Mille Lacs or one of the other big Resists ice-up in coldest conditions lakes in Minnesota as we want people to go out Reads bite from 360 degrees and catch fish. Helping other people experiFits all ultra-light ice rods ence the joy of fishing and having success with fishing is truly what makes us tick. I also know in my heart however that small lakes (especially lakes less than a thousand acres) just can’t handle Order Securely at: the pressure or attention that a television show 1-260-490-2123 Dealer Inquiries Welcome generates. Our practice is to merely say which county we are in or say we are fishing near a world’s best ice fishing spring bobber certain community. If somebody recognizes the lake, so be it… they already know but there is a out alive with nothing broken, well that was the only solace reason we stay mum on certain locations. Too many people for the day. There is nothing quite like being the only person catching too many fish out of a small lake is never the intento drill a hole on a lake all winter, slogging around up to tion of our program. your knees in three feet of slush. Depending on the fishery, a ten-inch bluegill is an Yes, there are a few lakes which I will never return elder statesman amongst his peers… an old bull. to. Promising intel turned to blank empty water columns That particular fish is often more than eight years old and is where we couldn’t mark a fish. Frustrating, as you know the as special as a twenty-eight-inch walleye fish didn’t miraculously crawl out of the lake before winter or a musky stretching the tape at four feet. There are many set in, yet they were nowhere to be found. There have also lakes where you can catch thousands of been absolute treasures as well and the treasures make all of bluegills and never see a gill over ten inches. Crappies that the recon worthwhile. You are either a hero or zero in this stretch the tape at fourteen inches or more are also just as line of duty. When you do finally find what you are looking rare and just as special. There was a time when fish that size for and very few people, if any, know, all of the failures and were destined for a trip to Hot Grease Lake but the ice fishdisappointments are worthwhile. That, my friends, is why ing culture is slowly starting to change. Just as it is taboo to the windshield on my snowmobile is cracked and why the cut up a big walleye, many anglers are beginning to realize tow hitch for my Fish Trap is bent. that they can’t fill buckets full of top-end panfish if they expect their favorite fishery to maintain a quality panfish population. I am willing to guess that panfish management will become more focused and complex, albeit more restrictive in the future as average panfish sizes continue to plummet on many small lakes that are on the beaten path. The only way I know of to consistently find big panfish in today’s world where there seems to be a Vexilar under every Christmas tree is to find either lakes off the beaten path that don’t get pressure or large lakes with low panfish population densities that avoid pressure because of sheer mass. Rainy Lake is an excellent destination for huge crappies, for example, because there is enough water for fish to hide. On the little lakes, there are not as many places to hide so if little bull gill is going to grow up to be great big bull gill, he has to live long enough. This is what leads me to standing in snow up to my crotch, gasping the cold winter air as I attempt to shovel out a snowmobile that has been buried in snow and slush on a lake with no cell phone reception and seemingly no Find Jason online at fish. Yes, I have been on some real doozies where I was just thankful to get back to the vehicle. If you can make it back




The Wounded Warriors Guide Service Travels to Arkansas for the waterfowl trip of a lifetime. Story and Photos by Bret Amundson

from Tennessee and Rob Stucker, our guide. Stucker spent time in Rochester guiding for many years and also does snow goose hunts in South Dakota. But if you want to get in on some Arkansas duck action, he’s there for two months every year. Friday morning felt like Christmas morning. After a short night, we quickly put on our camo and headed south. We’d be starting in layout blinds and hoped to run into some specklebellies (or white-fronted geese), since we don’t see too many in Minnesota. There was a huge population of snow geese in the area and you wouldn’t hear many complain about taking aim at those either. A light rain and steady wind would remind us of a late November hunt back home. Soon green-wing teal were literally in our face the way teal always do: with a juke and a jive. Not all escaped harm as shots rang out and our veterans were on the board! The Wounded Warriors Guide Service (WWGS) that brought these vets down is based in Bemijdi and run by Brian Ophus. According to www.woundedwarriorsguide.

com, they are a “cost free guide service founded by veterans for veterans.” What I found was an organization that cares about those who’ve served our country and looks for ways to pay them back. Hunting and fishing trips offer a chance for veterans to hang out with other veterans and experience something that they’ve earned with their service. “I was pretty excited about it because it’s essentially the hunt of a lifetime,” said Grewe. “And to top it off, we got to take 3 disabled veterans, two from Minnesota and one from Tennessee with us and give them the hunt of a lifetime also.” I asked Grewe what the WWGS means to him. “Comraderie. That’s the most rewarding part to me, taking other disabled vets out to the field and letting them enjoy it.” The weather was very familiar when we arrived. Snow was on the ground and ice covered most ponds and flooded fields. We had hoped to hunt the famed flooded timber, but most of it was frozen, and what wasn’t would require opening up a rich man’s checkbook. Instead we’d be

“CaMaRADERIE” The teal came sweeping across the flooded rice field like sheets of rain. An elevated trail served as a dike between the field we were in and the cornfield to the north. This provided ample cover for our 7 blinds, hiding us from the peering eyes of the wary birds. Around 10 dozen socktype snow goose decoys wiggled behind us, while 10 dozen white-fronted goose socks did the same in front. 3 batterypowered duck spinners stood at arms length doing their best to attract attention. The low-light conditions combined with the short obstacle in front of us meant one thing: when the ducks arrived, they’d almost smack us in the face. Welcome to Arkansas duck hunting! Back in October, I was in Madelia for the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener. I ran into some friends with the Wounded Warriors Guide Service from Bemidji and was offered the chance to tag along on a trip to Arkansas with some wounded veterans to put the bead on snows, specks and an assortment of ducks. Only a member of PETA would say no. Even they’d have to think about it first.



The trip would consist of 5 guys squeezing into Jake Flaa’s SUV and making the trek down across the country. Flaa would begin in Bemidji, pick up veteran Todd Grewe in Morris, myself in Montevideo, then vets Brandon Lightfoot and Tom Maher in Granite Falls. Sleep would not come easy along this journey as the excitement of what was to come buzzed through the air. We hit the southeastern corner of Iowa and the skies blackened with ducks and geese. Wandering turkeys welcomed us in Missouri, then fog, rain and slick roads slowed us down as we hit the Arkansas border. The roller-coaster road through northeastern Arkansas provided some tense moments as we were almost run off the road by a semi in a needless hurry and either a drunk driver or someone who just didn’t know how to drive on icy roads. Being that we were in the south, it could have been the latter. But enough about the drive. Let’s get to the good stuff. We’d be meeting two more guys, Kurtiss Lamb, a vet

L-R Stucker, Lamb, Lightfoot, Gruwe, Flaa, with Diesel and Mika. Opposite page: Stucker sets up decoys



MEET THE VETS Center: Jake Flaa with the Wounded Warriors Guide Service breaking ice! (I thought that only happened in minnesota) Right: Tom Maher, St Paul, MN 2006-2012 US NAVY. Deployments to Greece, Africa, Afganistan. Combat construction.

Below: Sgt Kurtiss Lamb. US Army. 6 years active duty. 11C - Infantry Mortarman. 3 combat tours in Iraq, Invasion Jan 2003-Aug 2003, Feb 2004-Feb 2005, Aug 2006-wounded Nov 13 2006.

Middle Right: Specialist Brandon lightfoot 6 years National Guard. Alpha 151 Field Artillery Marshall, MN. Deployed to Baghdad Iraq 04 and 05 as Military police.

Right: Todd Grewe: 15.5 Years Army National Guard Charlie Company 151st Morris Oct 2004 -dec 2005 iraq baghdad medical discharge april 2013



hunting flooded rice and corn from layout blinds and pits. With the huge piles of birds in the area, that’d be just fine. That first morning would offer a few ducks, but more importantly, our first specks. We’d knock down three of the targeted white-fronts, and one lone snow goose. That may have been the most impressive of all as it was the unconventional way that Stucker brought him in close. Snow geese have a distinctive call that runs higher-pitched than most other geese. A mouth call can be used, but most hunters chase them in the spring with the more effective electronic callers. Stucker just yells at ‘em. “WHOO! WHOO!” Came from the blind in the middle as the single goose came our way. “WHOO! WHOO!” Soon that goose was cupped and circling towards us. I surprised he didn’t hear us stifling our laughter in the blinds. 8 or so gunshots rang out and soon he was spiraling down. We may not have put on shooting clinic, but we got him! We decided to move across the field for the afternoon to what would be our home for the next couple of days: a large pit situated along a flooded field edge. I mentioned everything was frozen earlier, right? For the next half hour, it felt like we were back in Minnesota as we had to break open a hole in the ice. Hard work pays off though as mallards, pintails, gadwall, teal and everyone’s favorite duck, the shoveler, would make appearances. The pintails and mallards proved to be tough to decoy. Nice drakes with longer tails than we ever see up north would circle high, whistling at us like we just made a tackle on the 20 yard line. Finally a group of 4 spun low enough to elicit the “take ‘em” call. Apparently one drake stood out more than the others as we all targeted the same one. He came home in the cooler while the rest quickly sought refuge elsewhere. Three dogs would be working the weekend: my lab Mika, along with two of Stucker’s labs, Chase and Diesel. Chase was an experienced veteran of the field, with 8 years under his belt. All that time around gun fire however had taken its toll on the old boy’s ears and his hearing suffered. His work ethic did not and he retrieved ducks like a champ. 2-year-old Diesel would be as energetic as a 17-year-old girl hopped up espresso. It was harnessed energy focused into finding each bird and bringing it back before you could say “like, whatever”. Mika, on the other hand, showed a little rustiness at first. Whether it was from being pent up in the truck for 15 hours the day before or just having a couple weeks go by since the last hunt, she needed a little whipping into shape. She was so excited for

her first retrieve that she ran right past the bird and kept going about 50 yards before returning to my whistle and finding it. Then for the rest of the weekend, she’d barrel out into the field at Mach 10, before sauntering back slowly, almost as if she was allowing me to get a good picture. She’s a diva. The final morning set up included the speck decoys and we were able to trick 7 of them into range before dropping them flat on their backs in the mud. Some geese fell hard and others would flap and sail aways before dropping. Once in a while you’d get one that would start to drop and regain his senses and keep flying to the next county. That usually meant extra pellets the next time it happened. Once goose made that mistake and got peppered as gun after gun unloaded at it before I offered the plea “It’s dead! It’s deaaaad!” I had a pretty good look at it as it landed a foot and a half away from the pit. The easiest retrieve Mika had all day. “Birds!” was the answer I got when I asked Maher about the highlight of the trip. “Had some great laughs, met some really good people and made some memories that I’ll keep with me for a lifetime.” We finished with nearly 50 ducks and 11 geese. I got to see country I’d never seen before, hunt ducks in January and shoot my first speck. But more importantly, I had the chance to hang out with some guys who’ve spent time in other parts of the world in a United States uniform and had to sacrifice something because of it. These guys are the true heroes, even if they won’t admit it. Heck, they’d probably buy you a beer before you’d have the

“...memories that I’ll keep with me for a lifetime.”




chance to buy them one. Don’t let them. Buy it, shake their hand and thank them. Then donate to Wounded Warriors Guide Service and give them the chance to take another disabled vet on the hunt of a lifetime. Visit www. for more information on how you can get involved.

ABOVE: Diesel and Mika with a double retrieve.

LEFT: Diesel poses with a pintail



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Big Bluegills Too!

BIRTH OF A BIG RIG Story and photos by Jeff Jiggy Anderson and Dan Johnson

“It was many--I mean many--years

back that I remember losing what I thought was a pike of a lifetime through the ice,” recalls Pro Angler Jeff “Jiggy” Andersen. Jeff had lost a monster pike to a broken Quick-Strike Rig. It was that moment that sparked a passion, an idea, and a revolution in chasing giant pike through the ice. “I wasn’t happy with the lack of quality so we started making our own.”

An Idea

It all started with friend and fellow angler Josh Kragthorpe. “Josh and I were both hockey fans and I remember sitting there watching agame, tinkering with ideas. All of the Quick-Strike Rigs were in-line, which held the bait vertically. That didn’t make much senseto me. So we put our heads together and came up with a Y-style rig that held the bait horizontally.” Their story grew from there. By testing the best components and hooks, they found the perfect combination.

A Name was Found “Josh and I had just had an amazing trip to Lake of the Woods with several 40-inch-plus fish and we were driving back to my rental home in Bemidji. I remember looking down onthe floor of my old beater truck and picking up a big tooth. ‘Holy ___ that’s a big tooth!’ Josh said, and what is now Bigtooth Tackle Company was founded,” described Jeff. After that day of fishing, the guys decided every angler should be using a Bigtooth Rig. During this time frame, many anglers had been using single treble hooks and allowing the fish to swallow the bait which ultimately hurt many big pike. The guys built the rigs to be the toughest possible and hand crimped each one.

The First Sale “I remember sitting in that old beater truck outside of Taber’s Bait in Bemidji, Minnesota, with a lapful of Bigtooth Quick-trike Rigs. If anyone has been in that iconic bait store, you have met Ron. I walked in there, shaking with nerves, and asked Ron if he would sell our creation. He did sell the Bigtooth Rig and in a big way! Josh and I had many nights of staying up all night making Bigtooth Rigs.” The Monster Pike Revolution “It was all about getting together and chasing flags as a group. We just didn’t want to have to worry about our tackle failing.” Jeff, along with friends whom he credits-- like Mike Crawford, have been on the leading edge of chasing giant pike. “It’s what we do! We promote chasing these giant pike and you can’t blame other anglers for wanting to catch the same fish,” Jeff said after I asked about guys who follow him. “There are always new spots and we still have a few secrets!” The Original Bigtooth Rig Replaced? “After many years of fishing with the Bigtooth Y-style Yoke Rig, we found a problem. The rig would get hung up on the bottom of the ice. I knew we had to have a better design!” Jeff would eventually meet fellow angler Jeff Simpson whom you can see on In-Fisherman TV. Together they designed a rig in a loop fashion that would ultimately bring the one loose hook into the corner of the mouth. “There will always be a place in my heart for the Original Bigtooth Rig, but what is now called the Bigtooth Zero Rig is without a doubt the best designed rig out there.”


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Ben Brettingen looks over the Badlands scouting for deer. Photo by Bret Amundson



by Ben Brettingen

“The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.” -Teddy Roosevelt 18




I’ve learned that nearly 600 miles on I-94 is a long time to be on one road, and I was hoping to make the trip worth every mile. With a little help from Mountain time, I arrived in western North Dakota an hour earlier than anticipated. Still, the clock read 3:00 a.m. The allure of Western North Dakota doesn’t simply lie in the hunting; it carries a west Texas desperado atmosphere, but within earshot of Canada. The hum of the cattle guards, the glow of oil rigs far across the horizon, and the desolate nature of the area, make it surreal experience. This was my second, and last, trip out to the badlands to try and seal the deal for 2013. The first trip was muddled by teenagers using our hunting land along the river as a party spot which severely stifled deer movement. We were able to get eyes on a few little bucks, but my fears were confirmed when the trail camera only had one shooter buck in the last two weeks at 3:50 a.m. Our plans changed as we left the river valley and headed up to some of the higher ground. I didn’t know how I felt about this move, as I only had a whitetail tag and we were going to be deep in Muley country. I knew there were some good whitetail bucks hanging around but in far less densities than down in the bottom lands--not only further from the bottomlands, but into the true wilderness of North Dakota. The first morning only brought pouring rain and driving wind, which revealed does and a few small muley bucks. The rain quit for the afternoon and the winds settled over the windswept draws of western North Dakota. It was setting up to be one of those nights where there was a hint of magic lingering in the air. The wind was dwindling down to nearly calm, which is not necessarily a common occurrence in the region. Heading down through the coulees, I crept further back into a section of public land far from the presence of another human being. I set up on a south facing slope in a small cut half way up the hill glassing the thicker & brushy north facing slope. The witching hour was settling in over the hills, casting a pink hue, making the landscape nothing short of spectacular. Does began to mingle in the evening glow, followed by a group of small mule deer does and a young stud tending his group of six. At a distance I put eyes on a buck worthy of a stalk on the far slope. He made his way across the hill coming into view and back out, his attention commanded by a lady suitor. It is always a catch 22 situation, the failing light, so magical but also bearing a curse. I needed to give it a shot, and snuck down from my vantage point 300 yards up the steep face of the hillside and into position. They followed the tree-filled draw, keeping their distance, the buck never wandering too far from the doe. Daylight was fading rapidly as they broke the 60-yard mark, well within the reach of my arrow. Glancing down my



pins, I knew it was too late, as I watched the big whitetail saunter out of range, and possibly out of my life. From experience, awaiting daylight would be long, and sleep would be fleeting. I woke up to a brisk landscape, covered in white frost, as I imagined the grass and sagebrush panorama endlessly sprawling out in darkness. There is no place I would rather have been. This morning was my chance as I set up in similar fashion and sure enough the buck followed the same doe on the exact path. There were does covering the area, and my head was racing with what-if scenarios. I was just praying they didn’t wind me. A muley doe and her fawn walked the fence line a mere three yards in front of me. The wind caught the side of my face, and the hair began to stand up on the back of my neck. The gig was up, as their heads shot up in my direction. All I could do was duck behind the small rise that protected me from their sight. It proved to be enough, as they couldn’t pin point my location. Again it looked like the buck was going to follow his lady staying outside of the red zone. I knew I needed to do something, and I let out a guttural snort wheeze. He didn’t like it at all, not one bit! He tensed up and side stepped out to 35 yards. As the arrow left my rest it seemed to float endlessly in the air. Finally, it crashed into the deer, exiting the other side. The next part kind of surprised me. He looked ABOVE RIGHT: Brettingen with his P&Y buck. BELOW: A mule deer passes by Photos by Ben Brettingen

dazed! All he could muster was 10 yards backwards before he piled up! I ran up on the buck, shocked at my good fortune! Nothing could take away from that moment, perched high in the hills of western North Dakota with hands wrapped around my prized possession. It felt unlike anything this boy from the timber of Minnesota had ever experienced: a whitetail with a true adventure behind it.

“I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own, that has a curious fascination for me.” -Teddy Roosevelt

“Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west.” Teddy Roosevelt




ABOVE: Katy Turner braves the cold Photo by Katy Turner Background photo by Bret Amundson

Winter, to me, can be summarized in a sound—by a key turning over in a salt-stained car, groaning until it finally agrees to start in the freezing morning. And of course, there’s misery in the

waiting. My breath puffs out before me as I sit and shake in the cruel cold. While it once served as a game (for dragon’s breath, or a villain’s cigarette smoke), it now threatens to fog up my windows, and I’m already late for work. Willing the vents to start kicking out some warm air, I rub my hands together, covered only by some cheap cloth gloves. All my winter gear—the real stuff and not the fancy winter clothes that are appropriate to wear with a business skirt—is stored with my hunting clothes at my parents’ house. So I continue this ritual of exhaling an aimed breath of hot air on one hand’s frozen fingers, while the other reaches out and wiggles the car vents to make sure they are open and to check if this intolerable cruelty is almost over. When I was a kid-back when I walked to school and grew out of my snow pants every season-the winter climate wasn’t an avoided concept but a constant thing to be prepared for. I came home each afternoon and my mittens would be propped up someplace to dry in preparation for the next day’s test of endurance, instead of being merely an afterthought while running out the door. Back when I walked to school, I was a winter-fiend, spending hours upon hours outside. I was a faithful Capricorn, a cold-loving baby. I went sledding and skating. I built snow forts and snowmen, and ate pounds of snow, even after the time we melted a snowball in class, and I saw all the dirt floating around in its puddle. But now, now I live in the Twin Cities where I wear high-heels outside when I shouldn’t. I remain



convinced that clearing off the car windows can be done fast enough that mittens aren’t needed and bare hands tucked into the sleeves will suffice, they never do. Today I cringe and act surprised at the idiosyncrasies of winter life, like it’s something new, when just last winter I had frozen eyebrows and a warm gator covering my smiling mouth. Kids run around in the snow, and adults sip warm beverages indoors, secretly complaining to themselves about “that feeling” they get in the winter, the dissatisfaction doctors associate with a shortage of vitamin D but can also be attributed to being stuck—stuck indoors, stuck in an adult life that tells you not to play outside like you used to, and stuck in old habits. Before I lived in the Cities, I lived in northern Minnesota. All winter, every day, all day, I was outside. The

winter gear I wore had ash stains from loading the garn at night. My gloves were lined with wool, and my hat rarely left my head (even when inside for meal time). But now I live in the Cities. I have an apartment and a job that doesn’t really work with hat hair. Last year I was prepared for winter, and I still have those skills and equipment, only now I’m ignoring everything I’ve learned, as I’m pushed along the busy highway called the “Winter Wait” (which seems to be what people do in the cities). And, since the Twin Cities is Minnesota, and I know there has to be other displaced outdoorsmen and women like me, I wrote this article. It is my confession, and more importantly, a plea. I ask that my displaced counterparts start wearing boots with their suits, start throwing snowballs at cowork-

ers when given the opportune moment, and that they stop to watch a grey squirrel run from the dumpster, knowing that the paper it holds in its mouth is about to be added to its winter nest in the tree a few yards away. I beg, that city-dwellers resist the urge to walk around an ice patch and instead run and brace themselves for a slide across a parking lot, just like when they were younger. We have so much opportunity to play, regardless of our location, especially in the winter. Deer, mice, squirrels, porcupines, coyotes, and wolves-they are all fighting for survival. They are constantly eating and moving to stay warm. They are weighing their options: the choice to flee from an expected danger or the choice to preserve precious calories. We are lucky enough to not only survive winters, but also have the opportunity to enjoy them. We understood when we were younger. When our gloves were soaked within seconds, and the first snowflakes that fell were greeted by a celebratory dance around the yard. It is ok that we’ve forgotten how to play. We can relearn. The moment a person slips and falls into a cushion of white, it’s there—that laugh or embarrassed giggle between friends. It’s still there. The Minnesota love shouldn’t be seasonal.




THE HUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED Story and photos by Tyler Scott


has arrived in full force across the Midwest--unlike any start to a winter I can recall. Below-zero temps being the norm, venturing outside has been rationed by most. Unless you’re consumed by a burning desire to pursue the elusive and wily predators who roam your local turf. Whether it be 30 degrees above zero or 30 below, chasing coyotes and red fox in western Minnesota becomes a winter pastime I enjoy sharing with good friends. A challenge unlike any other, successfully harvesting these brainy animals can be one of the most rewarding pursuits, taking into account that on most hunts, you and your partner will come up empty-handed and broken-hearted. One such rewarding hunt I shared in the recent past with my college roommate and hunting partner, Mike Vipond, was a local coyote tournament we had entered with no real expectations other than hopefully getting to maybe have an encounter. Well, this particular morning, we doubled our expectations. As daylight began to appear over the eastern sky, we found ourselves posted up under a lone tree on a fence line overlooking the deep bottom of an alfalfa field which adjoined to a large block of timber. Time of the year was early March; primetime breeding season for coyotes which led me to start off the calling sequence with a female invitation howl. No more did the first sequence of howls finish than a coyote started barking back from the opposite corner of the field. Another set of female invitation howls could not coax this particular dominant male out into the open, but knowing how territorial they can be this time of year I followed



up with a set of male challenge barks. Barking and spitting mad, he could not resist but see who was invading his territory. Over the nearby hill he came, bristled up and looking for a fight. Just a mere 75 yards away, he stood facing straight at us. I figured it was now or never and let the Savage .223 bark. We had already exceeded our expectations for the morning and through all the excitement we managed to keep our celebration to bare minimum as we hoped to maybe, just maybe, get another one in on the same set. I had never been able to call two in on the same set but why not try. You see it all the time on tv right? Having let things settle down for a bit, I turned on the go-to call used by every coyote hunter out there whether a novice or seasoned hunter: the rabbit in distress. Working the volume up and down to add more realism into the call, we waited patiently for probably 10-15 minutes with no response. Just when we were about to pull the pin on this first set, Mike caught movement on the horizon working in our direction. No way! Could it be? A second coyote was stealthily making its way towards us to capture a free meal or so she thought. As most coyotes will do, she was circling downwind of our setup. We needed to take the shot soon before the she would get our wind and the gig would be up. Mike was up to bat. Standing broadside at about 200 yards, the coyote stood gazing in our direction looking for any movement indicating a struggling rabbit. With one squeeze of the trigger, Mike put a perfect shot on what would be the winning coyote for the tournament.

Scoring a double on the first set of the day way outdid any expectations we had planned for. Even though the rest of the day turned up nothing, we had chalked it up as one the best days afield predator hunting. Memories such as this are why going afield with a good friend or family member can truly make the experience of predator hunting that much more enjoyable. Whether it be setting a snare on a heavily used coyote trail meandering through the cattails or making a calling stand on a ridge overlooking a swampy bottom, sharing these experiences with a good friend is often much more rewarding than doing so yourself. Feeding off each other’s ideas of where to set or how to set has more often than not paid off in a successful hunt. Making the trek back to the vehicle carrying your partner’s rifle while he/she totes your prized harvest are memories you will take with you forever.




on the fly

Don’t let winter cool your fly fishing passion!



By Doug Harthan, Front 20 Outfitters Photos by Erik Thue

I’ve been fly fishing for about 12 years, and it’s become an addiction. It’s hard to put the rods away when late fall arrives. Chances to get out on a river or stream in the winter and fish open water are cherished. It makes the winter more bearable and makes me feel like spring is just around the corner. Fortunately, we have a number of options in the Midwest to fish year round, and there are plenty of days during the winter when conditions allow us to get out and do some fly fishing. Granted, the fishing will be slower and most of the fishing areas are catch and release, it’s more about the experience of being out there than taking a fish. I’ve wanted to get down to northeast Iowa for the last couple of years to check out their trout streams, so after deer season ended this year, my wife Roxanne, and I traveled there. We spent the weekend in Decorah, IA, which is about 70 miles south of Rochester, MN. This area of Iowa is part of the Driftless Region, having a rugged landscape and coldwater trout streams. The Upper Iowa River flows through Decorah, and there are several smaller spring creeks containing trout that are within 15-20 minutes from Decorah. Best of all, Iowa’s trout season is open year round, allowing for some winter fly fishing during November and December. I fished on one of the area streams with Jared, a guide with the company Driftless on the Fly (http://www. The weather was a bit nippy to say the least, but a winter morning spent fishing in the Driftless Region, with its hardwood valley, has a beauty all its own. The water was a clear aqua marine color, making it one of the prettiest streams I’ve seen. We caught both rainbows and browns and saw many other fish, so there didn’t seem to be a shortage of fish. I did have a little trouble hooking

them. I blamed it on the cold. I wasn’t disappointed at all, other than wishing we could have stayed a couple more days in order to explore more of the many streams in the area. Unfortunately, work schedules prevented that, but we’ll be visiting again for sure. Over the years, I’ve learned some things about winter fly fishing that came in handy while fishing in the Decorah area. It is generally a nymphing game, with smaller flies like pheasant tails, midges, baetis nymphs and scuds. On warmer days, a midge hatch may offer the chance for some dry-fly fishing. Staying warm is key to an enjoyable fly fishing experience. It helps to dress in layers and fish during the warmest part of the day. The fish will be more active during this time as well. If your waders have felt soles, be careful as the snow tends to build up on them and they become extremely slippery. I would recommend avoiding felt and instead getting a pair with the newer, sticky rubber soles to help with this. Since it’s winter, the fish are living in leaner times, so I encourage people to handle fish carefully, use barbless hooks and release quickly to prevent additional stress on the fish. If the guides on your fly rod are freezing up, you can try one of the commercial ice-free pastes, or I’ve heard that PAM cooking spray works too. To be honest, up to this point, I’ve never used anything; I just occasionally stop and break the ice out. The Upper Midwest offers many winter fly fishing opportunities, which can be made during a long weekend trip. The Driftless region of Iowa is one such spot. While Minnesota and Wisconsin close their trout seasons at the end of September and open again for catch and release from January 1st - March 1st, 2014 and March 1st – April 27, 2014 respectively, Iowa’s trout season is open year round, providing late season fishing in some beautiful waters.




Story and photos by Ben Brettingen

It was an experience foreign to me. I have spent my fair share of time in the trees and around quality deer land but this was entirely different. As I stared over the landscape, a dozen ridges carved from the countryside laid in front of me. I didn’t know what I was in for as my fellow hunter, Evan Buhr, scaled the deep cuts with relative ease. It was unlike any of my hunting trips in the Midwest, almost resembling the slopes of western North Dakota and making central Minnesota look like child’s play. This bluff country is where Buhr calls home. As the pitter-patter of lingering rain drops fell from the vibrant leaves of September, he made his way towards an area of his property aptly named “Heaven.” “It’s a perfect recipe for trophy deer, “ Buhr told me. “I can’t pinpoint why exactly it’s so phenomenal. It’s a great transition area between mature woods on the hillside, leading up to a hidden field and an abundance of bedding areas left untouched. It’s the deepest darkest piece of timber, and I am the only one willing to trek back there.” I did question his sanity as he was loaded down with his climber, day pack and archery tackle. “It’s not a bad walk for me,” he quipped, “only about three miles.” I thought to myself, “Either there is something special about Heaven, or he is going to be one tired and disappointed hunter tonight.” He explained his previous encounters with a buck named Zombie. This big ten had tines that reached into the



“My phone lit up, buzzing in my coat. ‘I hit one’ was what scrolled across the screen”

air like a New York City skyscraper, but had the mass of a Midwest farmer. He had the misfortune of slamming an arrow into this buck’s shoulder at 12 yards the year prior. After jumping him five times in the following three full days of searching, Buhr left demoralized. Luckily two days after, Zombie started showing up on trail cams, with only a bump on his shoulder to show for it. Buhr was going in for redemption this year, and it was time for Zombie to fall from Heaven this prime September evening. The weekend weather looked to be about par for late September, but as we headed south the temperatures seemed to climb past the weatherman’s prediction. As we pulled into the farm, the mercury topped 80. Our saving grace was a giant front rolling in from the Dakotas. As expected, the rain started Saturday afternoon and turned torrential with driving rain and straight line winds, all as the temperature plummeted. It poured as we walked into the woods, but finally began to let up right as we reached the set. Here were all the ingredients for a banner evening: the woods grew quiet, the only sound to be heard was the lingering water droplets from the thick hardwood canopy. Under the cover of damp earth, a buck appeared along the side of the large sloping hill. “I reached for my phone to take a picture of him,” Buhr said. ”I thought he was the same 3-1/2-year-old eight-pointer named Angel,



Buhr with his trophy whitetail

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who I had been seeing in Heaven-- hence the name Angel! Then I took a better look at him and realized he was a giant!” Within ten seconds of seeing the deer on a parallel trail, he was at full draw. “Everything happened so fast, it’s funny how that works. I have taken plenty of nice deer but every time, it catches me off guard! I guess Heaven isn’t exempt from buck fever!” “I leveled my 60-yard pin on the sweet spot, and let it fly!” Buhr explained. The sound was similar to taking a baseball bat to a small tree, as I saw him run off with an arrow impaled in his midsection. He continued, “I couldn’t stop thinking about last season, I knew I had put a lethal hit on him but the memory kept creeping into my mind.” My phone lit up, buzzing in my coat. “I hit one” was what scrolled across the screen, soon followed by a picture of a pool of blood lying on the wet leaves. After waiting an hour, Buhr went to go find his arrow. As he was picking it up, the buck jumped up in front of him and began running. “It’s happening all over again, same story different year,” he thought, amazed at his misfortune. After pushing the deer, he turned and made the long walk, which now probably felt like an eternity, back to the truck. After six hours of waiting, we ventured back into the woods and marked a blood trail. We canvased the area immediately surrounding first blood to no avail. We reasoned it would be best to wait until dawn. “When I got home, I was so exhausted, my mind couldn’t even keep my body awake as I drifted off,” Buhr



said. As the morning sun peered over the trees, the help of the golden light illuminated the bottoms, and we made the walk once again. The giant pools of blood were faded by the rain which continued to fall from the canopy. The blood trail ended as we started a grid search of the area. Evan took the high ground as I opted for the bottom along the creek bed. After making a few passes, I was growing skeptical. I made my way in the bottom of the dried up creek and glanced to my right and the unmistakable shape of antlers glowed from the hillside. I began to yell, well, more like scream for Evan. Then I heard crashing from up the hill, as he started down the slope at a full sprint. As he laid his hands on the thick main beam, relief radiated from his smile. This wasn’t Zombie but a different buck with a similar main frame 10 with 15 scorable points. Nothing could have ruined this day, as he triumphantly dragged the deer up the hillside. There couldn’t have been a more deserving person to lay down a truly great whitetail.


Outdoor aerial archery shoot Shed dog competition Trout pond

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Dylan Beach with his monster buck on display at the Kruger Farms booth Also, this year Robinson Outdoor Products President Scott Schulz will be on hand, as well as Bob Richardson and Larry Woodward from “Scentblocker’s Most Wanted” and “Outdoors in the Heartland”. Plus Travis and Leigh Creekbaum from “Scentblocker’s The Chase”, Pat and Nicole Reeve from “Driven”, and James Brion and Rob Dunham of “Nosler’s Magnum TV”, “The Zone”, and “Moment of Impact”.

Paige Duke and Mika




Photo by Mike Lentz

If vacation means going “up north” for the weekend, You might live in Minnesota. -Attributed to Jeff Foxworthy



Photo by Bret Amundson

Of Winter In Minnesota

A Photo Essay

Photo by Mike Lentz



Tony Crotty gets ready to drill another hole Photo by Bret Amundson

Joel Nelson and James Holst from In-Depth Outdoors Photo by Ben Brettingen

A Cold Day on the Lake! Photo by Jake Flaa

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” -Carl Reiner 34


Who’s ready for a shore lunch on the ice? WWW.MINNESOTASPORTINGJOURNAL.COM Photo by Ben Brettingen


“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

“The Coyote” Photos by Brian Grund Chasing the Wind Photography

Bemidji, Minnesota





“Sunny Morning Moose” Photo by Nace Hagemann

Ruffed Grouse Photo by Michael Furtman



Red Fox Photo by Mike Lentz

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” -John Steinbeck



Mika outfished us! Photo by Bret Amundson

The problem with winter sports is that, follow me closely here, they generally take place in winter. -Dave Barry

“Multi-tool” photo by Cory Loeffler

Frosty Honker photo by Cory Loeffler Mika a snowdrift during drills 40bustsMINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL Photo by Bret Amundson



The night was short and fitful. I stayed up

WORKING DOGS CASTING CALL: Another moment where you realize the time spent in the backyard was worthwhile. Story and Photos by Bret Amundson



later than I had planned due to rolling dice and the promise of a successful game of 6-5-4. That turned into another game and another and another. Finally, the arm wrestling matches made us all realize that it was time to turn in. Good times. But in all reality, I was more excited for what was coming when daybreak rolled around. The final weekend of the 2012 pheasant season offered a hunt that rivaled any that I’d been on, and it was time to do it again. The results were nearly identical even if we had to work a bit harder at it in 2013. 16 birds in hand and not too many free passes were given. The final tally was not what made this hunt memorable for me however, as I didn’t pull off any shots worthy of remembrance. What I’ve come to enjoy just as much as tickling that trigger, is watching my yellow lab, Mika, dissect a slough full of cattails and extract rooster after rooster. A lot of dog owners will tell you that, but it’s not lip service. I spend just about every waking moment with my dog going through my daily routines. She bounces around as I perform the most mundane task, because she knows that I’ll be reaching for the orange vest eventually and heading down the driveway. Once she jumps from the front seat and noses her way into heavy cover like a gnarly mess of intertwined cattails, it’s her turn. Those who know me well have heard my stories of her first year. In fact I wrote about it in the Fall 2012 issue of Minnesota Sporting Journal. Saying Mika was a handful was being polite. I used nicknames such as “Blur”, “Ninja”, “Marley” and a few choice words that my editors would have to spend minutes deleting, so I saved them the time and omitted them myself. Young labs



Mika poses with a western Minnesota longtail

can give you roughly the same result as an exploding 2-liter bottle of pop that’s been thrown in a washing machine. As a new dog owner, I made some mistakes that compounded the problems, but eventually we figured things out together. All the more reason I savored the taste of this particular pheasant hunt. Just 3 weeks shy of her 3rd birthday, she stole the show. We had some veteran dogs that performed valiantly and worthy of praise, but there were two retrieves in particular that made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Both blind retrieves that involved casting. Late season pheasant hunting usually entails long, hard walks through ice-covered sloughs, ringed with reeds and cattails. The birds find refuge from the elements until they’re flushed from a persistent bird dog that’s followed their scent upwind. A cattail flush can be a heart-pumping experience because there’s usually no warning. In lighter cover, a dog’s body language will tell you there’s a bird nearby. Once your pup disappears into that cavernous underbelly where the pheasants can roam, you better carry your gun at the ready. This hunt was no different, as a ball of feathers rose up with a clattering of wing beats in front of me. Before I could finish saying “ROOSTER” I had launched 5 shot towards it. A poof of feathers came off, but he continued flying. I cracked off one more shot before it was out of range. Bryan Haugrud, the hunter to my right took aim, but the bird escaped into the air over the adjacent field. I watched incredulously as I thought we’d let one get away, but as I’ve seen many times, it finally just crumpled up and dropped out of midair. I’m not sure on the biology of it all, but usually it’s referred to as a “heart shot”. Haugrud had his yellow lab Briley along and was nearest to the downed bird. “Mind if I work my dog for this retrieve?” I asked him as I started in his direction. Mika had always been pretty good with hand signals but had a few hiccups with stopping short on long distance retrieves. I’d worked with her in the backyard this fall with dummies and wanted to see if anything had sunk in. “Sure,” was Bryan’s response so I sat Mika by my side, gave her a direction and sent her off. Without knowing where the bird lay, she had to rely on my point. Ideally she’d run in a straight line until she saw or smelled the bird. Her line wasn’t bad, but she did stray a bit to one side. In



my excitement that morning, I had charged her collar but forgot to put it on her! (I work almost exclusively with the collar when I pheasant hunt as I try to be as silent as possible in the field.) Without the tone and vibrate, I had to resort to old fashioned methods. “Mika, sit!” She sat. I motioned to the left with a big, emphatic arm swing. She turned left and darted off, snow kicking up behind her. She ran directly to the pheasant and proudly brought it back. Unbeknownst to me, she had an audience who offered her some praise and ear scratches when we got back. I did most of the training for her, but I really can’t take all the credit. She had the introductory bird and gun training at Oak Ridge Kennels, but it was Tom Dokken’s “Retriever Training” book that really helped me along. A lot of time was spent in the backyard, and a lot of help from friends and family made a huge difference. All the hard work translates to big smiles when your dog traffics that prize from its landing area to your hand and overcomes multiple obstacles along the way. The final walk of the afternoon saw Mika and I work our way down one side of a long slough. Birds, deer, coyotes and other unidentifiable animals had trampled trails that crossed through the snow leaving deep ruts. Heavy snow bent branches and created tunnels and hiding areas. I only imagine that the area reeked with bird scent as Mika’s tail went into overdrive. A solitary hen would appear so we continued towards our posters at the end. Later, a rooster lifted from the slough’s center and outflew the oncoming pellets. Just moments from freedom, Ken Olsen, our poster on the left, shouldered his gun and pulled the trigger. A poof of feathers fell slowly to the ground as the bird trekked on. A couple more shots rang out from Olsen and Keith Dalen, but the bird seemed unaffected. I felt the first shot looked like a solid hit so I kept my eye on him hoping for the “death tumble”. Sure enough, at least a quarter mile into the next field, he dropped straight down as if he ran out of gas. I was the only one to see him drop, so I brought Mika over for blind retrieve round two. I lined her up and let her go. This time her line was

straight as an arrow. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the target, so I was guessing. Once she got out, I blew my whistle and got her to sit. I directed her to the right and she bolted that direction. There was a small dip in the field blocking my vision, but I could see that she hadn’t found it. Another whistle blast and she sat. I gave a big, sweeping motion to the left and she was off. She disappeared behind the hill, and I waited. And waited. Then, just as I was about to head out to help, she reappeared with a mouthful of feathers. “By golly she found it!” was the comment I could hear drift across the field. I acted as though I knew she would, but I was thinking the same thing. I had no reason to doubt her, but you never know. They say the glory years of a hunting dog begin around age 4. If that’s true, I’m pretty sure I will have the greatest dog in the history of dogkind. Of course I’m biased though, just like every other dog owner.




CHEF’S CORNER Pheasant Egg Rolls


After a season of chasing long-tails in western Minnesota, it’s time to figure out what to do with those roosters in your freezer. A creative way to prepare them with a unique ethnic flavor, is to roll them up into egg rolls. Melea Ellingson from the Watson Hunting Camp (www.watsonhunting. com), along with (a little) help from her husband, Chuck, shared their recipe with us.


-In large saute pan, sweat the peppers, onion, garlic and corn in 1T butter, 1T olive oil and 2 T soy sauce for fifteen minutes and set aside. -Cook rice according to directions, set aside. Satuae cubed pheasant meat with 1T butter, 1T olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. -Lay egg roll wrapper down in diamond shape. Spread 1T cream cheese in a line on the middle of your diamond. Sprinkle a few bacon crumbles on the line of cheese. Add a spoonful of rice along the cheese followed by the vegetables and finally the pheasant. Take point of diamond and wrap around the filling, fold in each edge of the wrapper. Carefully continue to roll the filling to enclose the wrapper, keeping it as tight as possible. Use a few daps of water to close the edges of the wrapper, creating your egg roll. -Fry in hot oil until cheese has melted, filling has heated through and wrapper becomes crunchy and golden. Yummy!



1T Butter 1T Olive Oil 2T Soy Sauce 30 egg roll wrappers Three red bell peppers,seeded and diced Ten jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced Five chili peppers, seeded and minced One large onion, diced Five garlic cloves, minced One can whole kernel corn, drained Twelve strips crispy bacon, crumbled Two 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature Two cups cooked brown rice Three cups cooked pheasant meat, cubed




Story and photos by Matt Soberg

When the brave fur traders with teams of dogs trampled the snowy west central Minnesota hills in or around 1868, they discovered the unmistak-

able potential of the river’s rapids in that sleepy little valley, and my hometown, Pelican Rapids, was born. At that time of year, the frozen river banks bore reflection to the frigid essence of a Minnesota winter. To the north, the same river led them, upstream, to a shallow fishery with the potential to provide substantial sustenance. Through their trek, the traders certainly traveled from the east, to some degree, past vast lands of water, and at that time of year, ice-covered lakes. I imagine them wrapped with fur and wool and protecting themselves and their dogs through closeness to the warmth of fire. Theirs was a land of ice. The traders were professionals of the northwoods life. To maintain in these wintery conditions, it was essential for the brave souls to find food and shelter, and they understood that – they had undoubtedly been doing it for years. It was about survival. One, or maybe all, of them was a proficient logger or woodworker, making the building of simple sleeping shelters a priority and while not particularly easy, something they knew how to do. The surrounding forest-covered

“I imagine them wrapped with fur and wool and protecting themselves and their dogs through closeness to the warmth of fire.”



hills offered numerous logging and also hunting opportunities, perfect for building and also for finding food. The traders either already knew or quickly learned the almost unlimited potential of the freshwater resources of the Pelican River and surrounding lakes. When red meat is your staple, the fishy-white flakes of local panfish or walleye are a healthy and welcome addition to dinner. As you can imagine in a Minnesota January, the difference between finding fish and not finding fish is approximately two feet of ice. With chisels, saws or any other tools that could drive through the dense, frozen water and with blood, sweat and probably some tears, the brave men made the water appear from under the ice. With access to the fishery, one, or maybe all, of them were proficient fishermen. Simple windchills make it difficult to sit mid-lake on the icecap, and only a few sunny days each winter offer the opportunity to fish outside without a windbreak. I imagine the settlers combined their building and fishing talents to utilize the lake’s resources in a more efficient way. Simple, small wood shelters were built over established fishing holes, and with a small fire in the corner, the men peered down through the crystal clear water - either spearing or angling, essentially hunting through the depths. And they found fish. The ice shack was born. Ice fishing had been utilized by the American Indians for many generations, but there appear to be differing stories for the actual origination of ice shack fishing in

Minnesota. Ice fishing really didn’t become popular until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Whether true or untrue, by some it has been interestingly attributed to a gentleman by the name of Sven Stevenson in 1888 when his outhouse slid down a hill onto Lake Minnewaska. At that time, the ice shack was utilized more for survival than for recreation or leisure, however, I hesitate to think the fishermen didn’t get some enjoyment out of sitting in the shack, warm and simply fishing. The sport of fishing includes an inherent need for patience, for waiting. To be a good fisherman you have to leave any sense of urgency at the door. With the time it takes to “fish”, there is also an inherent need to be a storyteller in my opinion. And oh, how those stories were told. I wish I could have been on a fly on the wall of Prairie Lake shack back then. Since then, the ice shack has certainly evolved in the sense of manufacture and fishing techniques. The modern shacks-on-wheels are a luxury born by technology and are certainly a stark contrast to the old wood shacks of the 19th Century. The spears are now probably more aerodynamic and sharp. The fishing line, rods, reels and lures are more effective than stick and string. Power augers have replaced the axe. Ice fishing traditions have never changed. Although technology has changed techniques, I don’t believe it has significantly changed what happens inside the shack, and that is my favorite part of Minnesota ice fishing. From the 1800s until now, the traditions, stories and

Whether true or untrue, by some it has been interestingly attributed to a gentleman by the name of Sven Stevenson in 1888 when his outhouse slid down a hill onto Lake Minnewaska. 48


“Simple, small wood shelters were built over established fishing holes, and with a small fire in the corner, the men peered down through the crystal clear water...”

moments inside the shack remain the same, and that is why ice fishing in Minnesota is such a special experience. I remember spending hours in the ice shack with my father as a kid, honestly not fishing much but rather playing hockey or making snowmen. In high school, the ice shack was a weekend getaway from reality, a place to be teenagers, enjoy friends and fish some. Now, the ice shack is something different for me, and I think I understand why Sven and the fur traders started embracing the ice shack so much. I enjoy the feeling of being out on a sheet of ice – it is a unique feeling I think only us northerners may understand. I enjoy the idea that a house sits on that ice, in the middle of the lake, warm and waiting for an afternoon of experience. I enjoy opening that door and having my eyeglasses fogged up and being greeted by my grandfather with a handshake or pat on the back. I enjoy sitting on a bucket in the corner for hours just listening to the stories that float around the smoky air of the small structure. I’ve heard those stories a million times and enjoy the new versions just as much as the first. I always wet a line, but it is rarely about the fishing for me anymore. The ice shack is a place for fishermen, for camaraderie, smart talk, stories, lies, therapy, stress relief, beef jerky, cheese and beverages. The ice shack is a place where we preserve our Minnesota fishing traditions.

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Matt Soberg is the editor of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine and splits his time missing birds and losing fish between Minnesota and Pennsylvania.



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MNSJ Vacation Destinations

WHAT IS IT: Ecological and Sport Fishing Resort WHERE IS IT: Just minutes away from the Costa Rican and southern Nicaraguan border this lost paradise is located in the Rio Maíz National Park, a vast area filled with history, virgin jungles and wildlife and some of the best fishing imaginable. WHAT CAN YOU DO THERE: Come explore exotic Fishing, Birding, Hiking and Kayak Tours. Our guided tours will allow you to discover all that’s hidden in this great universe of wildlife creating memories to last a lifetime. Or, just lounge around our unique infinity pool, which offers fantastic views of our perfectly manicured gardens and Captain Morgan’s Lagoon. Questions?

Call 785-294-0703 or



JULY 17-18-19









Family Day • Fun Night! Beer & Wine Tasting Variety of Food • Crafters/Artists Wiener Dog Races • 5K Run/Walk Chainsaw Demos • Dog Agility Show Dessert and Home Brew Contests Redneck Olympic Games Buzzed Up Spelling Bee for Adults Activities & Entertainment All Day.

2 Bands in the MDJ Saloon at Night

N N N N N Same Weekend as 3nrd nual Jammin Country A

Festival THE PERFECT FALL OUTING FOR Seating Puts Families-Friends-Girlfriends-CouplesSoftball You Up Front! Grandparents...Something for Everyone! Always A Good Time At MOONDANCE

Over $5,000 in Cash & Prizes! Team Beer Drinking Trophy!!! Divisions: Mens & Co Rec.

! s o n a i P g n i l e u D N O O L A S J D M t a 5 ly

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It’s a Whole Lotta Fun!



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Saloon Open at 5 p.m. Happy Hour 6-8 p.m.

Buy Your Tickets NOW!




Tr y Before You Buy

Food Plots Nutrition Game Cams O utdoor Filming

Rifle Shotgun Muzzleloader Archer y



+Free Rack

Scoring by the Minnesota O fficial Measurers


whitetAiL expo APRil 4 th - 6 th , 2014

Kruger Pro Shop

Starbuck, Minnesota

Admission $10 at the door $5 on Free if you bring in a 130”+ previously un-measured whitetail rack!

Fac tor y Representatives and Pro -Staff on hand!

30344 County Rd. 18 Starbuck, 52 MINNESOTA SPORTING JOURNAL MN • • 877-631-0490

Profile for Bret Amundson

Minnesota Sporting Journal - Winter 2014  

Hunting, fishing and the rest of the activities Minnesotans do in the outdoors every winter are covered in adventurous stories and high qual...

Minnesota Sporting Journal - Winter 2014  

Hunting, fishing and the rest of the activities Minnesotans do in the outdoors every winter are covered in adventurous stories and high qual...

Profile for mnsj