The Spirit Lives On Long After The Deer Hunter

When Kevin Rokenbrodt went deer hunting last weekend he finally got to hunt with his Uncle Gary.   Since around the age of 10, Kevin’s uncle talked about deer hunting and the dreams he had of Kevin someday joining him for the annual hunt.

As a youth, Kevin took the Minnesota Firearms Safety class and did everything a youngster should do to prepare for his first firearms deer hunt.   Kevin’s uncle even gave him one of his favored shotguns which he ended up using during last weekend’s Minnesota deer hunting opener.

The only thing physically missing from the experience was Uncle Gary.

You see, several years back Gary Urness passed away after a long and difficult struggle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS).   As Kevin found out, his uncle might not have been with him “in body,” but he was definitely along for the deer hunt “in spirit.”

Kevin patiently sat in the same deer stand his uncle painstakingly built many years ago.   He experienced the same sights and sounds his uncle had enjoyed each fall during his healthy years.   He hiked the same path to the stand his uncle would have walked oh so many times before him.   In fact, as Kevin discovered, there were moments just sitting quietly in the deer stand when he could sense his uncle sitting right next to him—encouraging him, coaching him, and probably explaining the virtues of being patient as a deer hunter.

It was 25 years ago when Kevin started hearing about these deer hunting dreams shared by a respected elder.   Today, however, Kevin is 36 years old and lives with his family in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   After all these years the unfulfilled promise of getting to go deer hunting with his uncle had never been forgotten.   Even though the young kid had now turned into a man, the desire to live out the dream always lingered in Kevin’s mind until this fall when he finally chose to go deer hunting with his uncle.

I can certainly relate.   In fact, deer hunting to me is much more than lining up the sights on a deer and then pulling the trigger.   Much like Kevin experienced, deer hunting is also about spending solitary time in the deer stand and contemplating what’s important in life.   Thinking about things past, present and future.   Inevitably, as you grow older as a hunter, there will be those partners who have moved on to higher hunting grounds.   Their memories remain important and there’s no better way to honor their spirit than to do so in the deer woods.

My father passed away when I was 10 years old.   We never got the opportunity to hunt together and share that sort of bonding experience.   Yet, each season when I step into the deer woods my dad is right by my side.   My actions in the woods are guided by doing the sort of things I feel would continue to make him proud of his son.   In so many ways I can still feel his presence when I hunt deer…and the deer woods feels much more real than visiting a grave site and paying any such proper respects at that venue.

Fall 2010 will be the next big step.   It’s when Kevin Rokenbrodt plans to bring his young son deer hunting with him for the very first time.   In the deer woods Kevin will teach his boy the proper and safe ways to hunt the whitetail.   But that’s not all.   It will also be done in Uncle Gary’s beloved deer stand where Kevin finally introduces his son to an important life influence that continues to live on and thrive—even, if only in the deer hunter’s mind.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Guess What I Did Five Years Ago To This Very Day…

Any ideas?   C’mon…I’ll give you a hint.   It has something to do with this blog.   Actually, it makes today sort of a monumental event in this blog’s existence.    That’s right, you probably guessed it…five years ago to this very day I posted my first blog message on this board.

All I can say is WOW…has the time sure flown by.   I entitled that little entry as “Let The Journey Begin.”   Now, as I reflect back, I can definitely say this blog has been a journey.   Oh, sure, there’s been a few bumps in the road.   Every journey worth traveling is going to have them.   But all in all it has been a wonderful experience.   I must say, if nothing else, it has helped me hone my outdoors communication skills.

In that first blog post I kept things pretty short and sweet.   Here’s a snippet of what I said:

At times I will likely write about my daily experiences in the out-of-doors here in southern Minnesota. At other times it will be tackling some tough issues and how they affect the outdoor world we all enjoy. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I write…in fact, a good blog site will challenge you to see things from a different perspective. I do expect, however, that the topics covered will be varied and interesting (at least 90% of the time).

Those very words still ring true today.   In fact, I’ve learned that tackling the controversial topics can be very enlightening.   Countless times I have taken a company to task and eventually received a response from the owner or the company’s CEO.   Indeed, I can attest the power of blogging is very real.   I’ve discovered that.   Now, others are discovering it as it seems everyone these days has a blog.

I’ve also had folks strongly disagree with my posts and challenge me to look at a certain topic in another way.   Such has been the case with my last blog entry posted to the and linked to from this site.   When I posted it I knew it would raise some eyebrows and be controversial in some people’s minds…that’s just how it works for some topics.   Still, I’ve learned to write about what I believe in and let the chips fall where they may.   Besides, if you’re proud of what you do and say isn’t that really all that matters?

Five years ago when I began blogging the outdoors communication world did not take blogging serious.   Ha!   Boy, have they sure learned their lesson.   Today, the term new media (which includes the likes of bloggers, podcasters, vidcasters, etc.) have taken the world by storm.   Many happen to have journalistic training…others, well let’s just say they produce content that appears a little rough around the edges.   Still, folks are getting the word out to the best of their abilities and I have to say it’s all very inspirational.

Lots has changed in my life during the past five years while I’ve been blogging, too.   I left the confines of being employed (doing ambulance work) to become self-employed on a full-time basis.   Oh, it was scary at first…but I had confidence it would all work out.   And it did.

Other life events also occurred.   Nearly 4 1/2 years ago I married the love of my life, Roberta, who has been such a true inspiration to me.   Not only does she keep me in line (somebody eventually had to do it, I guess), but she has added so much to my life in ways I could not have imagined before getting married.   And let’s face it…getting married for the first time at the ripe old age of 42 had some challenges in and of itself.   But, I’ve learned it’s possible an old dog can learn some new tricks, so to speak.

Then came along the next biggest event in my life 15 months ago also to this very day.   My daughter, Elsie, was born and has totally transformed this hard-core outdoorsman into discovering another important life role — that of being a daddy.   Honestly, I am blessed with so much good in my life at times I almost feel guilty.   Instead, I choose to cherish it all and not take anything for granted that the good Lord has provided for me.

Changing gears just a bit, it might interest you to know that over the years my blog site has averaged about 250 unique visitors each day which totals almost a half million visitors during the short lifetime of this blog.   To me that’s just crazy!   Oh, I know many other popular blogs do much better…but these stats far exceed my expectations when I started this crazy thing.

As I look ahead, I hope to have time to do even more blogging during the next 5 years of my life.   It likely won’t happen that way…but in a perfect world it would.   Most of my blogging efforts today are posted over at the and then linked to from this site.   We’ll see how much longer that relationship happens…but, in the meantime, I hope you will continue to check out my postings on that site, too.

In closing, I want to thank all who have faithfully been along for this fascinating ride.   And to celebrate this anniversary milestone, I’m giving away 10 FREE Sportsman’s Blog Caps to the first 10 people who send me their complete mailing address.   That’s right…simply drop me a line at and indicate if you want your cap to be: #1. Fishing themed; or #2. Camo themed; or #3. Blaze orange themed (only choose one).   Limit one per blog reader.   Available only to the first 10 parties who send me their complete mailing address and cap choice.

NOTE: The Sportsman’s Blog caps have all been spoken for…thanks to everyone who made a request. (9/22/09)

Keep enjoying the outdoors!!

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.


A Hunting Story of Determination, Misfortune & Success

When Jeff Flood of No. Mankato (Minnesota) climbed out of bed 10 days ago and slipped on his socks to go turkey hunting he was still unaware of the raw excitement awaiting him just hours later in the turkey woods.   What follows is a story about a determined hunter who also happens to be a close friend of mine.   I’m blogging about Jeff not only because he shot what appears to be a record-breaking bird (at least for Minnesota), but in the process his unusual hunting experience on that day also earned him a trip to the local emergency room.   As you will soon learn, sometimes as a hunter you must make physical sacrifices in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Jeffturkey1Jeff stated he arrived at his hunting blind by 5:30am and was already a little concerned because the sky was quickly getting brighter with each passing minute.   Nearby, and still in the roost, he could hear a gobbler repeatedly sounding off as if it was very impatient to get the new day started.   He quickly got his gear organized in the blind and then began with some soft-calling to coax the noisy turkey from its roost and in the proper direction to Jeff’s location.

Moments later Jeff indicated that he could hear the gobbler on the ground and that, indeed, he was quickly on the move.   Jeff explained to me that his heart was pacing a bit quicker because it was now obvious this turkey was closing in on the lucky hunter’s location.   Then, about an hour after arriving at the blind, Jeff finally got his first look at the old boy…and he was huge.   Still, with way too much brush separating the hunter and with the bird being about 60 yards out, he hung up by strutting and gobbling choosing to only move in a small area.   It seems the tom had seen Jeff’s decoys and was now expecting those inanimate, uncooperative hens to come to him.

This little chess match continued for nearly an hour when finally the gobbler decided it was his next move to make the love connection.   Jeff watched as the big tom inched closer and the moment of truth would soon be upon both the hunter and his bird.   Jeff, shooting a compound bow, described a narrow shooting lane that the bird must walk into before releasing the arrow.   Just two…maybe three steps more by the turkey and the arrow would be released by this excited hunter who had never before shot a turkey using archery equipment.

To make the shot, Jeff was kneeling on the ground in his blind in a perfect shooting position.   That’s when it happened!   The unexpected.   You know, sometimes when the body gets older it has a strange way of reacting to the increased adrenaline cursing through the bloodstream.   Now, when Jeff was only seconds away from releasing his arrow, his body had other ideas on what he would be doing this morning.   Jeff got an excruciating “charley horse” that involuntarily snapped his body to the side to stretch out his leg muscle and to dissipate the sharp, stinging pain.   Simultaneously Jeff lurched sideways while also letting-off the draw on his bow so his hands could quickly attend to his aching, sore calf muscle.


Jeff soon realized his problems in the blind have now been compounded.   Not only did he figure he’d probably let out a moan when the pain first struck…but unfortunately the process of quickly releasing from a full draw had somehow seen the broadhead slice through his leather glove and deeply cut his left trigger finger…down to the bone!   It wasn’t painful…at least not like the charley horse…but the blood was spurting and in no time the wound had completely soaked his glove.   Suddenly, the pain in the calf was a secondary concern to the dealing with the blood loss on his left hand.

He looked around and could not find any suitable bandaging material to control the bleeding.   In a matter of no time there was enough blood on the ground about the size of a small dinner plate.   He put pressure on the wound with his right hand and it seemed to work…but whenever he released it would gush again.   So quick thinking, Jeff decided the best way to put constant pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding was to tightly grab hold of his bow…and it turned out the technique worked almost perfectly.

Okay, here’s where many hunters would have said…SELF…you have a non life-threatening wound here, but one that likely needs prompt medical attention.   Perhaps that would have been the prudent action to take.   But to expect this particular hunter to ruin a good morning turkey hunting due to a slight injury or misfortune would be a mistake.   Jeff simply does not approach hunting that way.

Jeff figures it was about 15 minutes or so from the time he last seen or heard the bird until he re-focused totally back on his hunting.   Now gripping the bow tightly with his left hand, this determined hunter gave out some soft yelps hoping for the best.   To his surprise the big bird was still working the area only about 45 yards away, but out of sight.   After another hour or so the bird worked back into bow range and Jeff finally placed his shot in a shooting lane about 2 feet in diameter.   The arrow hit the center of the bird’s chest at 25 yards as the tom whirled around and disappeared.


Jeff looked for his bird for about two hours but was having no luck.   He saw plenty of positive signs indicating a hit…but no bird.   His finger began throbbing once again and dripping more blood.   He also claims he was growing a bit light-headed and thirsty…so he figured he better go get some help.   At home he found a first-aid kit…so he bandaged himself up, drank a bottle of water…called a friend to explain what happened…and the two of them resumed the search back in the woods.

Eventually Jeff found some blood (that he figured wasn’t his own) so he followed it.   About 10 – 15 minutes later they tracked the bird to a tall grassy area where suddenly the big turkey jumped up in front of the hunter in an attempt to fly away.   The bird hit the ground running so Jeff wasted no time in reacting similarly.   At one time Jeff was so close to grabbing the bird that he reached and only got a handful of feathers.

Perhaps it was because Jeff had sacrificed so much already for this tom he was not about to let it get away.   Eventually, Jeff got close enough to it again so he body-leaped as if to tackle it.   He got it alright…landed squarely on top of it where he quickly dispatched the massive tom.   A full 5 hours and 15 minutes after this whole fiasco began…Jeff finally went home beaming with pride from the woods with his monster bird slung over his shoulder.Jeffturkey4

Now, after a brief picture session back home…Jeff was off to the registration station with his big gobbler…eventually, and once the excitement of the morning had started to subside, Jeff even made it to the emergency room to attend to his injured hand.

Now for the vitals from this hunt:

SPECIES: Eastern

WEIGHT: 29 lbs, 0 oz.

BEARD: 10 inches

SPURS: 1 1/8” on both sides

STITCHES: 7 (in the hunter’s left trigger finger)

According to the National Wild Turkey Federation records, Jeff’s bird smashes the present record for an Eastern turkey taken with a bow in Minnesota ranking on weight alone.   The next largest turkey recorded (also the present record holder) that was shot with a bow weighed 24.5 pounds taken last year by a hunter from Anoka.   In fact, Jeff’s turkey is only about 10 oz. away from being the largest turkey ever taken in Minnesota by either gun or bow (according to this records registry).   As you can imagine, Jeff is now completing all the paperwork necessary to register this fantastic bird for the books.

In closing, I share this little story with you for several reasons.   First, I think it shows how a person can turn dedication and determination into success by overcoming great obstacles during the hunt.   And while I will never condone all of Jeff’s actions as they pertained to his own physical wellbeing, it’s a great reminder that when you hunt (especially with scalpel-sharp broadheads) you need to carry an emergency kit with you at all times “just in case.”   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those of us who had a boring spring turkey hunt by all comparison sometimes need to live vicariously through someone else who persevered in the challenge and tasted turkey hunting success.

2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.