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Becker County Sportsman - A family deer hunt

The 60 year-old farmhouse of Don and Gladys Lefebvre is stately along State Highway 59, about six miles north of Detroit Lakes. Most of the original farmlands that went with it have been subtracted and what remains is a nice estate, garden and out-buildings -- including a kennel.

As it does every deer season, it is the gathering place of the sons and daughters of Don and Glady, and this year it included Don's 80th birthday celebration,

I broke in on the gathering at noon on opening day. Contrary to the usual custom, there were no deer roped to the limbs of the many oak trees in the farmyard.

But it was a grand gathering, with a potluck dinner, that I was very fortunate to be invited to share. This family group puts fun back into a deer hunt. Downing some venison, well that's somewhat incidental -- serious to a degree -- but if not everyone's tag is filled, well it is acceptable.

Jerry and Clare Sinner of Brainerd were here. Clare's father-in-law is former North Dakota Governor George Sinner. Greg and Becky Orr, residents of Detroit Lakes, were there along with the sons of Dave and Lonnie Stern of Alexandria. The sons Joshua and Aaron are serious hunters, among the more earnest among the orange-coated clan. Just down the highway from the farmstead live Janelle and Curt Erickson. Their son Tim was among the huntsmen, and almost always can be counted on to down a big buck. Vanessa Orr, a grad of UND, is employed locally by a health unit, and she has withstood critical comment but always fills her deer tag -- including this season.

Dinner was potluck, and what a sumptuous feast it was. There were fully a dozen entrees, lots of salads, escalloped potatoes homemade rolls.

It was noisy of course, but the spontaneous uprising of conversation covered deer hunting, family matters, football and the weather. Everyone brought his or her cooking specialty. It was a feast, which would equal or surpass any Thanksgiving spread anywhere.

Courtney Skinner of Brainerd doesn't hunt, but envies Vanessa Orr, who is familiar with the deer rifle and filled her tag again this year. As I've said, Courtney is a published author, and recently, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press featured a piece that she had written for that newspaper.

Glady stood amid the noise and commotion, enjoying everything. Don was at the table, deer tag and license in his pocket, unfilled at noon but hopeful that he would have a deer in the sights of his rifle that afternoon.

With no deer in camp at noon, the parties invaded the nearby woods a second time, in the afternoon. But it was not until the evening of the second day before any deer fell to this hunting party. Aaron Stern was delighted and proud of the very big deer with a huge rack that he took.

Tim Erickson also took a nice buck. Greg Orr will hunt all season but expects to be successful this season, as he almost always has in the past. Randy Lefebvre lives up the road near Westbury and was on hand for the birthday party of his dad. Another experienced hunter, he was very confident that he would fill his tag.

This attitude of the hunters in the deer camp of Don Lefebvre is a great one. Hunt deer with a certain amount of passion and determination but don't make it a must do thing. With that attitude, there was fun at this deer camp that I visited. Things worked out well with three tags filled by the end of the second day. And each of the kills were great animals that any hunter would proud of. The 80th birthday celebration was yet another of the joys experienced by this family hunting group.

Other deer hunting; other fortunes

The place to visit on opening day to determine the local success is the commercial processor. I had received an early report that locally, the hunting success was a disappointment. This wasn't evident at Hoffman's Meats at the junction of Highway 34 and Washington Avenue. Plenty of deer were being readied for temporary storage in the big reefer which is used to cool down and stiffen the critters prior to skinning, on the inside sheds.

North on Highway 59 is the processing location of Lakes Meat Processing. This is a family enterprise, owned by Brad Bachman and with the sometimes assistant of his dad, Wayne Bachman. Here too there were plenty of deer coming in, with the skinning process already underway when I was at the place. Eager children and grandchildren flitted about the area ready to "help" in the work. Brad told me that he had a good response to his suggestion that some of the meat processed there would be donated to the local food shelf.

Gerald Faith, operated the Audubon Meats Company for the past two decades, and he too advised me that there were more donations to the food shelf program that there had been in past seasons.

Other deer camps we have known

Years ago, there was the Harry L. Johnston group. With myself as a participant, along with Harry's sons Mike and Patrick, Curt Weldon, Ron Joy, and "West Avenue" Ken Pearson were hunters seeking a deer. The camp was at Round Lake, which is just outside the east boundary of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Thirty years ago, this was one of the prime deer hunting areas in Becker County, and we usually filled all of the deer tags. There was a long, low Motel style building on the lakeshore, which has burned, but when we were at this camp, some serious deer hunting was in order. Today, Pat and Harry Johnston hunt deer in the vicinity, and generally will not settle on an average animal. They've taken some trophy deer in the past.

The Steinmetz deer camp

Another legendary deer camp is that which Leo Steinmetz and Lennis Geer established a few miles from the borders of Itasca State Park with Pontiac dealer Milford Kandt and the Steinmetz sons. Dr. Don, John, Ken, Bob and Dick were hunters here. The place has since been torched. And in its time, razed a couple times. Rebuilt again this summer, it was used for ruffed grouse hunting, with better than average success this past fall and deer hunting was again a serious matter there. I've had no report of success at the place so far this year, but I'm expecting that some venison will result.

Hmong hunters are finding Tamarac

Saint Paul has a large number of Hmong people. These Southeast Asian men are traditionally great hunters. They'll hunt everything, but have been a bit tardy in accepting the restrictions, resulting in some necessary instruction as to the American way of public hunting. Several parties of Hmong hunters have been seen on the public lands of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. I've heard no incidents of any non-compliance of the Federal rules governing the hunting on Tamarac, so I presume that everything we have accepted as hunting rules and regulations have been adhered to. No incidents similar to the ugly encounters experienced in Wisconsin over the past several seasons.

Statewide, the Minnesota deer season

The agricultural areas of our state are again producing a lot of big deer. It appears that from early reports, a near record season will again be a result for 2007. All things considered, Minnesota continues to be a great state for the hunting enthusiasts. No, we don't have elk, any antelope, a lessened number of moose, but there is big and small game, along with waterfowl and increased pheasant numbers. Minnesota hunters should count their blessings.