Inclusion and community with individuals on ‘the hunt’
In the fields and woods of northern Minnesota lies an opportunity for inclusion and community with centuries of history and an abounding level of local interest the large animal hunt.
People with disabilities enjoyed such an adventure with an expert guide and now full-time executive director of East Polk County DAC, Cooper Wilson.
Young and experienced teaches individuals
Just shy of 30 years old, Wilson has hunted for his whole life, and shared his experience with Larry Ostlund and Dale Williams, who attend the EPCDAC program.
“They’ve been limited to an extent by their disabilities their whole lives, and haven’t had these opportunities,” said Wilson. “It was a fun thing to do, to give it a shot and both enjoyed it.”
Using rifles chambered in 7mm magnum with suppressors, the men pursued cow elk, females weighing 500 to 700 pounds. The place was 2S Whitetail Ranch in Clearbrook, just over a half hour from Fosston. Wilson went to high school with the owner.
Unusually large game animals
This large game wonderland of sorts has some whitetail deer with antlers measuring in the high 300-inch range, way more than double what a respectable deer might measure in the wild, Wilson explained. Other species that can be found at the ranch include fallow deer, elk, sika deer, audad, bison, and more.
The fenced in area with almost no predators allows the animals to focus on growth rather than the calorie burning stresses of survival, said Wilson. Hunting ranches breed the animals for superior genetics and use high quality feed.
While controversial to some, such ranches work out well for the individuals he serves at EPCDAC. Neither Ostlund nor Williams fully realized the size of the animals they would see there. Ostlund is 73 and Williams is about half that age.
Ostlund was in a deer stand with Wilson, and a ranch guide was along the whole time. The EPCDAC individual looked through binoculars at different animals.
It turned out that the elk were in a different field, so they had to move to get a shot at one. “To my surprise, he was more reserved,” said Wilson.
Ready to go, with help as needed
Ostlund had some help from Wilson in holding the gun and aiming but did pull the trigger when ready. One shot placed behind the shoulder reached the animal’s vitals and brought it down.
The day after he harvested the animal, there was more excited after processing what had happened. “I don’t think he had ever hunted, maybe once and that was years ago.”
Williams could hunt independently, said Wilson. He was unsuccessful on his first attempt as the elk didn’t get close enough, but a second was successful right away, bringing the animal down with one shot to the neck area, Wilson explained. Williams had hunted many deer in the past.
'It's what people do here'
Hunting is a cultural norm in this area. “It’s something that nearly everyone’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents did,” said Wilson. It was about providing for one’s family. Now many people go to the store and buy a package of food and don’t understand where it actually comes from, he explained.
The activity yielded hundreds of pounds of meat and the men were generous to share it. After each harvested the elk, they enjoyed some very fresh tenderloin for supper. In a week to 10 days, they were able to pick up their meat from a processor near Fosston. Social Security spend down funds helped the hunters pay for the experience.
The elk offer high quality protein, said Wilson, with steaks, chops, roasts, burgers, and others. One of the program participants gave much of his meat to staff. “Everyone was pretty supportive.”
Wilson was a waterfowl hunting guide for two and a half to three years. “My whole life I’ve hunted. Every chance I’ve ever gotten I have taken to go.”
Other wildlife can get interesting
Bears are not an unusual sight in this area, but Wilson had seen one in his yard the morning of this mid-June interview. “They tend to stick to themselves and not cause any problems.” A dog can often scare them away.
He was planning for some dock fishing with people from EPCDAC in the coming weeks. Outdoor activities abound in this area.
“I’ve done this my whole life so none of this stuff is new to me,” said Wilson, who finds it fun to share these opportunities with others.