Glad To See Herter’s Isn’t Forgotten About In Minnesota’s History

Typically when I land on the Minnesota Historical Society’s blog I expect to see reflections on Minnesota’s involvement in the Civil War, political flashbacks, you know that sort of thing.   Well, imagine my surprise to see a post showing a Herter’s Master Deer Call.   That’s right, if you’ve lived…oh, for let’s say 40 or more years on this earth and consider yourself an outdoorsman…well, there’s a good chance Herter’s has touched your life at least in some small way.

So, it’s only fitting how the Minnesota Historical Society makes mention of this icon of an outdoors store once headquartered in Waseca, Minnesota.   I can only say I was physically at the store once prior to its closing, but long before Cabela’s and Gander Mountain were household names, for most sportsmen the name George L. Herter was truly legendary.   And I would guess that many customers of Herter’s shopped by mail order and not at the store.   When the Herter’s catalog arrived in the mail it was a special day in the household, indeed.

Perhaps one of George L. Herter’s more controversial books, nevertheless it reflects a unique character during a different time in Minnesota’s outdoor history.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking a walk back in time you owe it to yourself to click directly to eBay and search for “Herter catalog.”   At most times you will find dozens of old issues still available in collections, some for just a few bucks…but the money is well worth it to see how sportsman gear has evolved over the past 40+ years.

The founder of the store was a real character.   Need some proof of that?   Just take a look at the titles of George L. Herter’s many books he authored.   Unfortunately, I never met the guy, but he was an interesting individual who believe in simple, yet solid advice.   His store was also pretty much built on that same principle, as well.

I would imagine as the generations get older there will come a time when few outdoorsmen, unless they study history, will have any recollection of the Herter’s name.   Oh, type in and it will take you directly to Cabela’s whom I believe purchased the rights several years back.   And yes, even Cabela’s who was once competitors with Herter’s still recognizes the value of selling under the Herter’s name.

So, when you see the Minnesota Historical Society post an iconic image from this great store…yeah, it is sort of a big deal to some of us who are growing a bit older in the tooth.   Many of us have fond recollections of the store and the catalog which was premium in its time.

And you know, there’s also something a bit nostalgic about remembering back to an era when you didn’t have say 200 choices for cold weather footwear and another 50 different options for waders.   Perhaps back when Herters was king the outdoorsmen spent more time worrying about woodsmanship and the quarry they chased…than they now do about all the clothes, gear and technology they take to the woods.

Let’s hear some of your thoughts on what you remember about George L. Herter, the retail store or that glorious mail order catalog.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Time For Governor Dayton To Go Sit In The Woods

Ever since 2003 the Governor of Minnesota, then Governor Tim Pawlenty, has honored the deer hunting tradition in our state with the Minnesota Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener celebration.   It mostly just amounts to a bunch of pomp and circumstance for the Explore Minnesota Tourism Department and the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association, but rightly so it spotlights a big industry in Minnesota which includes lots of orange-clad participants who enjoy their time spent in the woods.

IMG_0279In full disclosure, back in 2006, I got to host Governor Pawlenty here at the farm for that annual deer hunt.   Each year it bounces around to different areas of the state and this year the 2013 celebration is in Fergus Falls, Minnesota beginning on Friday and lasting into Saturday.

Okay, further disclosure I am not a big fan of our current Governor Mark Dayton.   Fair to say we don’t share many similar views on politics.   But apparently we also don’t share similar views on deer hunting.   Ever since becoming governor he makes a token appearance and departs the GDHO event stating he is not a deer hunter and doesn’t want to take part in the actual hunt.

Therein lies my frustration with the current Minnesota Governor.   Oh, sure, when he took office he was quick to leave his own impression on the sporting world by starting the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt.   But he refuses to hunt deer.   Why?   Claims he’s not a deer hunter and doesn’t care to shoot a deer.

Fair enough, but there’s much more to deer hunting than actually pulling the trigger.   How the hell is a politician going to adequately claim they can relate to me as a sportsman when they refuse to experience the sort of outdoors activities that fuel my soul.   In Minnesota each fall there are over 10 deer hunters afield for every pheasant hunter, and that ratio is growing each year as folks give up on the AWOL pheasant population.

When Governor Pawlenty hunted with me he spent time with other hunters in my camp.   He learned what motivates a person to get up at outrageously early times, dress in layers of warm clothes, and then head for the dark woods to sit and wait.

When Governor Pawlenty hunted with our group he got to experience nature come to life as the sun peaked over the horizon to slowly warm the frosty morning air.   He witnessed nature at what I believe is its finest hours of the entire day scurrying to life.   Indeed, the deer hunter is sitting in a balcony theater seat watching the drama known as nature unfold 360 degrees in all directions around them.   How can life get any better than that?

Deer hunting is very different than pheasant hunting.   Oh, sure, both activities enjoy nature in its own unique way…but calling yourself a pheasant hunter in no way provides any understanding as to how life as a deer hunter is enjoyed.   There simply is no substitute for experiencing deer hunting first hand.

It’s almost like the backyard bird watcher who enjoys feeding and watching birds from the kitchen window.   Gives them a better sense of nature when they can observe it with their own eyes.

But remove that wall and pane of glass and suddenly it opens up a new dimension to be sitting out in the woods motionless and have a Black-capped Chickadee land on the barrel of your rifle completely oblivious to your presence.   Or a flock of wild turkeys completely surrounding your tree scratching in the leaves unaware they are being watched ever so closely from a perch above.   Or a pair of red squirrels frolicking in the nearby tree attempting their death-defying acrobatics.

Notice I made no mention of deer.   That’s right.   Deer hunting is so much bigger than just killing a deer and bragging about it to your friends.   Of course, I would expect a non-deer hunter to assume bringing home the venison is the sole motivation for being in the deer woods this time of the year.   Yet, that’s the sort of misguided notion people have about things when they don’t take time to experience an activity first-hand for themselves.

Surely, if deer hunting is important enough for 500,000 Minnesotans to spend countless hours out sitting in the trees this coming weekend, our state’s chief executive officer can share a few hours of his precious time discovering for himself the many wonders of deer hunting.   Governor Dayton, deer hunters deserve that sort of respect and showing of support from you when acting in the capacity of governor of a sportsman-oriented state like Minnesota.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

What Makes An Outdoors Expert In Your Mind?

Before I get going on this blog post I want to make a confession.   I DO NOT consider myself an expert in the outdoors.   In fact, the older I get the more I realize just how much I still have to learn about most topics.   Oh, sure, I have plenty of experience in certain aspects pertaining to outdoorsy activities, but none of them relegate me to the status of considering myself an expert.

Yet, these days I seem to be in the minority.   Look around and everyone—or so it seems—is claiming to be an expert about something relating to hunting and fishing.   As I page through most sporting publications I see “so-called” experts giving seminars, serving as pro-staffers, etc. as if this is supposed to mean something to me.

SLD_1601Honestly, Mr or Mrs. Advertiser…if your experts are names I am not familiar with in the outdoors world does promoting them as being at the top-of-their-game really have any significance to the average sportsman?

Okay, let me stop here by saying this post is not about bashing industry experts.   Quite the contrary, my question to you is what qualities or level of achievement constitutes “expertise” in your mind?   Is it the fact they have a wall full of trophy fish or game in their den?   Or is it a certain intellectual aptitude they have for discussing a particular topic?   I don’t have the right answer, and quite frankly there probably is not single correct response.

I think back several years ago to a stunt the Today Show pulled for a segment.   In a nutshell, they set up an autograph session with a no-name actor signing their autograph at a booth.   Unsuspecting people lined up without any regard for who the person was signing and taking pictures with the would-be autograph hounds.   You see, it didn’t matter if the person giving the autograph was legit, what mattered is everyone automatically elevated them to someone of importance.   The person was instantly—and I might say, undeservingly—famous.

Sometimes I wonder if this same mentality doesn’t occur in the outdoors world.   When someone holds themselves out to the world as important and worthy of respect, sportsmen often flock to them like lemmings on an outright run heading directly toward the cliff.

To some extent I think outdoors television is also largely to blame.   Obscure people garner enough sponsorship and funding to all of a sudden become “somebody.”   Doesn’t always matter if they have a lick of ability in front of the lens or a personality to entertain or enlighten, what matters is they get exposure and get groomed to become “somebody important.”

In closing, I want to ask each of you this important question.   Who gets your respect in the outdoors?   Is it the person who has deep pockets and can afford to buy notoriety?   Is it the person who has overcome great odds and achieved something most sportsmen could never dream of accomplishing?   Or do you simply follow the crowds and give undeserving folks a status they shouldn’t otherwise attain if their bio was scrutinized much more closely?

I know for one thing I’ve started taking a closer look at those folks within our industry who ask to be recognized and/or treated special as someone important.   In many cases I’m not seeing they are much different than me…and like I started out in this blog saying, I AM NOT AN EXPERT!

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.