Like introducing your kids to fishing, taking them deer hunting can be a fun, exciting experience loaded with memory-making opportunities. If your aim is to nurture a love of the outdoors and hunting in your children, it’s important that first hunts are enjoyable for all. Here are some tips and tricks to make the adventure go as smoothly as possible so everyone will want to return next year.
Although deer hunting season is a limited time (usually two to three weeks in Northern Minnesota), you’ll want to get your hunt on the calendar early to avoid scheduling conflicts with other family activities. Doing so also generates excitement, which is half the fun of any adventure.
Consider a Youth Hunt
Each season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stipulates a special Youth Deer Season, usually one weekend several weeks before the official firearm season. The main benefit of these special hunts is the opportunity to make it all about your kids. Since adults aren’t allowed to hunt, you can focus 100 percent of your attention on helping your new hunter have a great experience. Check the MN DNR website for hunting season regulations, including youth hunting dates.
It’s not uncommon for adults to decide “it’s just easier” to do all the prep work themselves. But planning meals, determining your driving route, packing sleeping bags and rounding up necessary gear is also part of the experience – and it’s fun!
Get some Shooting Practice
Long before you embark on your hunting adventure, make time for the shooting range. Every young firearm hunter should have at least one good shooting session, and preferably two to three, before his or her first hunt. Stay positive while your kids learn to aim and fire. Your patience will help grow their confidence, which will benefit them in other areas of their lives as well.
Outfit Them Properly
While it’s OK to outfit kids with hand-me-downs, be sure they have gear that will work well for them. Kids need to be able to move freely in jackets and pants, while keeping warm, and it’s imperative that boots fit properly. Nothing can derail a hunt faster than wet, frozen feet. Mittens or gloves and a hat are also bare necessities, as is a deer rifle fit specially for them.
Provide Creature Comforts
All kids are different, but most of them (at least my boys) are quite concerned with their stomachs. When you’re up early, it’s important to feed them at home, in camp or on the drive. I can’t eat that early, but kids sure can. Bring plenty of food for the hunt too. If you’re in a blind, that’s easy. It’s harder to eat in a tree. Take decent food, not candy but sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly anyone?), crispy bars, granola bars or wholesome cookies.
Know When to Call it a Day
Remember: your goal is to provide an enjoyable first hunting experience that will spark a life-long love of the sport. Kids’ attention spans are short, they get hungry, and they can’t walk as far as you. Be flexible and patient. If the weather is miserable, it’s better to call off a hunt than have an experience
that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.
While bagging that first deer may be top-of-mind for kids, take time to show them the other wonders of hunting. Star gaze, identify bird song and animal tracks, note the sounds of the forest, and celebrate the little things that you’ve come to love about spending time in the great outdoors. Above all, enjoy your time together.
A larger-than-life bucking bronco is painted on the outside of Falls High, a symbol of the school’s proud sports history and homage to a hometown hero who made a name for himself in the National Football League and as a professional wrestler.
Bronislau Nagurski was born on November 3, 1908, in Rainy River, Ontario. “Bronko,” as he came to be known, moved to International Falls with his family when he was five years old. It was while plowing his father’s fields that he was discovered and by the University of Minnesota head football coach. According to legend, the coach asked Bronko for directions, and Bronko responded by picking up a plow to point the way.
While at the U of M from 1927 to 1929, Bronko played four positions and was named All-America at both fullback and tackle. He proved himself as a physical player not afraid of using his impressive size and strength to make big plays. "I always used my strength in football,” Bronko is quoted as saying on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. “I liked to meet guys head-on when I was carrying the ball. Then I’d drop my shoulder, and catch him with that, and then brush him off with my arm. It worked - most of the time.” Bronko was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Bronko continued his football career – and reputation for brute strength – by playing for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. During this time, he helped the Bears win several division titles and two NFL championships. A famous sportswriter of the day, Grantland Rice, wrote, "Who would you pick to win a football game - 11 Jim Thorpes - 11 Glen Davises - 11 Red Granges - or 11 Bronko Nagurskis? The 11 Nagurskis would be a mop-up. It would be something close to murder and massacre. For the Bronk could star at any position on the field, with 216 pounds (98 kg) of authority to back him up."
The largest running back of his time, Bronko was bigger than most linemen of the day. He has the largest recorded NFL Championship ring size at 19½ and wore a size-8 helmet. A legendary tale of Bronko’s physical toughness holds that he charged through a group of defenders and hit the wall at Wrigley Field. On returning to the bench, he told Coach Halas, "That last guy gave me quite a lick!" Bronko’s pro career stats include 9 seasons; 4,031 combined yards; and 5 all-NFL selections.
In 1938, when Bronko was refused a pay raise to $6,500 he retired from football and became a professional wrestler. He was recognized as a multiple-time World Heavyweight Champion before returning to the Bears in 1943, at the age of 35, when the demands of World War II left the team short. In the NFL title game against the Washington Redskins that year, Bronko ended his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown. He was an inaugural inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame website says about Bronko: “Never fancy, he just ran straight ahead, over and through the opposition. Although he is best remembered for his bull-like running, he had no peer as a blocker and his tackling was as effective as any the game has seen. He was the complete player.”
After his retirement from wrestling, he returned home to International Falls and opened a service station. A local legend claims that Nagurski had the best repeat business in town because he would screw customers' gas caps down so tight after filling their tanks that no one else in town could unscrew them. He retired from that in 1978, at the age of seventy, and lived out a quiet life on the shores of Rainy Lake until his death in 1990.
Fall fishing on Rainy River, along the Minnesota/Ontario border, is considered a legendary North American fishing destination, especially for anglers who favor walleye. From the end of September into early October, millions of emerald shiners begin their run up the Rainy River from Lake of the Woods, and hungry walleye follow in droves. This influx of walleye makes for fun – and productive – days in the boat.
Walleye aren’t the only fish that draw autumn anglers to the Minnesota/Ontario border waters. Lower water levels and cooler temps make it an ideal place to catch feisty northern pike, crappie, perch, swift small mouth bass and huge lake sturgeon. Each fish brings its own bite, fight and challenge to the Rainy River fall fishing experience.
The ancient lake sturgeon cruising the river bottom are one of the most thrilling to catch on the river. The largest species of fish in Minnesota, some have been estimated to be up to 150 years old. Through September 30, anglers can keep one sturgeon within the size limit. October 1 through April is catch-and-release only, although most anglers hunt sturgeon for the sheer thrill of landing a prehistoric monster to brag about for generations. In fact, the Minnesota state record lake sturgeon was caught on Rainy River in 2018. The DNR certified fish was 73 inches long, just an inch over 6 feet!
Rainy River is easy to access, with multiple boat landings as you travel west along Highway 11. Be mindful that because the US/Canadian border is in the middle of Rainy River, it’s important to be aware of your position and prepared with the proper licensing and permits for both sides of the border. If you want to fish freely across the border on Rainy River, the Canada Border Services Agency has details.
The variety of fish, cool temperatures and fewer boats make Rainy River a premier Fall fishing destination. The river is a great spot to take in the changing fall foliage, between bites and to enjoy the beauty of the season.