I’ve never been able to tell exactly what makes me need to hunt. Yes, I said need. There’s something unexplainable inside that drives me to need to hunt (and that something is likely inside you, too), and perhaps the root of that need is what I’m actually looking for when I head afield with an unfilled bear or buck tag. But whether it’s tangible or not, that “need” is definitely real (just ask my wife, who must put up with my insatiable crabbiness when the “need” comes calling and I can’t instantly quench it) and is something I thank God for every day. So I continue on my journey, running some days and stumbling others, desperately searching for something I—at least partially—hope to never find.
I grew up on a hog farm in southern Minnesota, so enjoying the outdoors came naturally. But no one in my family hunted. I have a grandfather who picked up a rifle and took after whitetails once the crops were harvested, and a few of my uncles were casual bowhunters, but I was never around hunting that much. I was given my grandmother’s (granny get your gun!) Winchester Model 61 pump-action .22 LR when I was 12, and it wasn’t long before I had my dad’s multi-acre garden free of rabbits, raccoons and any other varmint that dared trespass.
And when I turned 14, my dad bought me my first bow—a Jennings Bear—and I was off to the races. I did arrow a doe that fall, but I shot her in the ham and we never recovered her (honestly, I think I closed my eyes a few moments before releasing the arrow). And once the bow season wound down, I quickly learned to withstand the massive recoil of a slug gun and began hunting the firearm’s season with my uncles.
I was a freshman in high school when my dad “upgraded” my hunting arsenal by purchasing me my first Mathews bow, an MQ32, and I learned how keeping my eyes open while shooting greatly improved accuracy. It was also that fall when I began skipping football practice to bowhunt, and then I learned I needed to be in the woods much more than I wanted to be on the football field. So, logically, I gave up the ball for the bow. I eventually harvested my first deer that fall—a yearling doe with my bow—and I killed my first buck a week later with my bow. First deer, first buck … both with a bow. Who wouldn’t be hooked?
And on top of all that, Cabela’s opened a retail store in town, which made for a stressful financial situation for the aspiring outdoorsmen. My paychecks went from my place of work into my bank account, and then into Cabela’s cash register before I ever had time to make sure I had enough fuel money to get me back to work!
I graduated from Owatonna Senior High in 2002, and enrolled at University of Wisconsin–Stout that fall as a manufacturing engineer. Hoping to find a school that was “more my style,” I transferred to the University of Minnesota as a civil engineer the following fall. On my first day as a sophomore at the U of M, I got the news that my best friend was killed in a car accident. Due to my mental state, the remainder of that semester was … well, less than productive. A guidance counselor finally grabbed me and helped me realize that life’s too short to not pursue a passion. I learned that I could either study all week and squeak out a “C” on a chemistry test, or I could whip-up an eight-page paper the night before the due-date and get an “A.” So I made the switch from engineer to English, or as I like to put it, from smart guy to word nerd.
My budget grew slightly when I moved to college and began working, so hunting black bears seemed to be a natural progression for me. I did my homework, found some land and began baiting, and I harvested my first do-it-yourself Minnesota black bear in the fall of 2005 with my trusty slug gun. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hunt whitetails. But after being face-to-face with one of the top members of the food chain, there was no going back for me. And if you look closely, you’ll notice I always wear a tooth from that bear around my neck, to help me think like one of Mother Nature’s top predators.
I graduated from the U of M in December of 2006 and immediately joined the outdoor industry by taking a job as the associate editor for Deer and Deer Hunting magazine. And although I enjoyed what I was doing and loved the people I worked with, I made the move back to Minnesota in August of 2007 to work on the editorial staff of North American Hunter.
I was married this past October—yeah, I know … I’ve already heard it from my hunting buddies: “You got married in the fall? Idiot!” Although I cannot deny the “idiot” part, I did get married after most seasons have opened (black bear, whitetail archery, waterfowl, upland birds), and before the rut begins. Plus, she’s a heck of a girl, and when I finally realized just how special someone had to be to put up with me full -time, I had to seal the deal!
So, here I am: Searching for the root of my “need,” sometimes writing, sometimes hunting—and having a great time reading and publishing your stories, and those from fellow NAHC members.
Enough of my endless babbling; I must get back to work before Gordy catches me slacking.
I hope to see you soon, but until then, let me leave you with this:
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson