NEWFOLDEN, Minn. — Stuart Sethre figures he’s shot about 75 deer, give or take, over the years, but the longtime hunter came up short in 2019 and didn’t fill a tag.

He wasted little time changing that Saturday morning, Nov. 7, the opening day of Minnesota’s firearms deer season.

Sethre, 93, shot a 10-point buck shortly after 8:30 a.m. on opening day on the family’s hunting land northeast of Newfolden, Minn.

Even after all these years — he started deer hunting in 1948 — the sight of a 10-point buck walking toward him up the trail gets the blood flowing, Sethre admits.

“A little bit,” he said in a phone interview. “I can’t deny my heart starts pounding when it comes walking toward me, and it’s about 300 yards away.”

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Even on the coldest days, a buck walking up the trail means freezing soon is forgotten, Sethre said.

“You’re warm as toast,” he said.

Sethre hunts in an enclosed stand that one of his sons made for him about a decade ago, and staying warm on opening weekend wasn’t a problem, with high temperatures reaching into the 60s both days.

Recalling his dad’s opening-day success, son James Sethre said he was in a stand around the corner about 200 yards away, along one of the trails that zig zags through the family’s hunting property.

“The deer came by my stand, but I let him go — I didn’t want that one,” James Sethre said of the buck. “I was hunting a larger one.”

When the buck disappeared around the corner, James says he heard his dad shoot a short time later.

“Dad’s 93 years old so you know what? Pretty much for him, brown is down,” James said. “So it was a really nice animal for him to harvest there.”

The buck was “about 100 yards or a little over, maybe” when he shot, Stuart Sethre said.

“It’s not uncommon for him to harvest a deer every year,” James Sethre said. “Last year was the first year he didn’t get one, I think, for many, many years.”

The buck he shot was the only one he saw on opening day, Stuart Sethre said.

“Last year, I didn’t see any, and the year before, I (saw) about 17, so that’s the way it goes,” he said.

As with hunting camps across the Northland, the Sethre camp is a gathering place for friends and family, a camp steeped in tradition where memories are made and stories are told.

“I have three other brothers that come up and hunt,” James Sethre said. “I have two nieces and one nephew that like hunting and then, of course, my father. And then there’s another neighbor of ours that has a camper that he parks on our property, and he hunts with us, too.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant some changes at the hunting camp this fall, James Sethre said. The precautions include social distancing protocols, wearing masks and trying to minimize close contact, both with Stuart and his wife, Joan, who’s 90.

“We’re trying to make sure that we don’t have very much close contact with them and yet it’s very difficult now,” James Sethre said. “It’s not as fun as a normal year, I’ll say, because we’re kind of a close-knit family. We’re all used to social distancing now, but it’s still difficult.”

Stuart Sethre moved to Newfolden in 1943 when his father started the grocery store known today as Sethre Foods. He later bought the grocery store, which James Sethre runs today.

The elder Sethre still had a bonus tag to fill as of midweek and hoped to shoot a doe while hunting with his two granddaughters, who make the trip north from the Twin Cities. Deer hunting today is better than it was in the old days, he said.

“I tell you, back in ’48 when we started hunting, we hunted for 10 days, and we started at 7 in the morning and we quit at 5 in the evening, and we hunted all 10 days to get our 10 deer,” Stuart Sethre said. “There was a lot less deer then and tougher hunting.”

Surprise moose, surprise rack

ULEN, Minn. — Opening morning of Minnesota’s firearms deer season produced quite a surprise for Aaron Lommen.

Hunting northwest of Ulen, Minn., Lommen saw a “big brown furry spot” at 6:30 a.m. about 400 yards from his stand. He couldn’t see much in the low light but watched it move and expected to see a big deer when the light improved and shooting hours arrived.

“It finally got light enough, and it was a moose,” Lommen, 24, of Grand Forks, said. “It was the first moose I have ever seen personally so that was awesome.”

In hindsight, perhaps the cow moose was an omen of better things to come.

The rest of the morning was pretty quiet, said Lommen, who works in the Grand Forks branch of Houston Engineering.

“I saw a doe in the morning, and that was it,” he said.

Back at camp, Lommen says he wasn’t in a big hurry to go out again but his older brother, Brooks, encouraged him to head back to the hunting spot, an expanse of tall grass and cattails. It’s in a part of the state limited to shotguns with slugs.

“I had to put a new window in my stand so I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll go do that and we’ll go from there and see what happens,’” Lommen recalls.

He replaced the window and was looking at election results on his phone, glancing at his surroundings every 10 minutes or so, to see if he could spot any deer moving.

By this time, it was about 1 p.m., not exactly prime-time for deer hunting.

“All of a sudden, I look over and I see this buck, he kind of hopped through these cattails and went up and down and I saw those horns and I was like, ‘What was that?’ ” Lommen said. “I grabbed my binoculars and looked as quick as I could. I could see him, I saw the horns.”

The buck was 160 yards away according to his rangefinder, Lommen said. He put down the rangefinder and picked up his shotgun.

So began the agonizing wait.

“I had (the crosshairs) right on him,” Lommen said. “He’s walking through the grass and I don’t have a shot at all. I’m letting him keep walking.”

Meanwhile, the buck kept dropping in and out of range.

“All of a sudden, he stops. He looks right at me and that’s when I went ‘boom,’” Lommen said with a laugh. “I put it right on his back, and I dropped him.”

Lommen waited for his brother to arrive from camp and went down to see what he could find in the tall grass.

He expected to see a buck with a small basket rack — if he found anything — but instead walked up on a 13-point buck with matching drop tines.

Aaron Lommen (left) and his brother, Brooks, with the drop-tine buck he shot using a shotgun with slugs on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, the opening day of Minnesota's firearms deer season. Aaron is getting a full head mount made of the buck. (Submitted photo)
Aaron Lommen (left) and his brother, Brooks, with the drop-tine buck he shot using a shotgun with slugs on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, the opening day of Minnesota's firearms deer season. Aaron is getting a full head mount made of the buck. (Submitted photo)

“Brooks sprinted out to where I was — a full run — and came out and looked, and he was like, ‘This is the coolest buck I’ve ever seen in my life,’” Lommen recalls with a laugh. “Right away he’s like, if you don’t get this buck mounted, I’m literally going to be (mad).’”

Lommen is getting a full head mount made of the buck.

“I really don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “This is the biggest buck I’ve ever shot in my life — by far. Altogether, it was a great hunt, and I am glad I got to experience the whole thing.”

Fourth time’s a charm

BELTRAMI COUNTY, Minn. — For three seasons, Coral Heyd had waited for the opportunity to draw back her bow on a deer.

Saturday, Nov. 7, in her fourth season of trying, the 14-year-old Central High School freshman got the opportunity while hunting with her dad, Jon, in Beltrami County.

As Jon tells the story, a “beautiful-sized” doe walked within about 16 yards of where they were hunting.

Finally, after all of those hours in the stand, Coral’s wait for an opportunity was over.

Coral Heyd, 14, of Grand Forks and her first archery deer. (Submitted photo)
Coral Heyd, 14, of Grand Forks and her first archery deer. (Submitted photo)

In the way it often happens with hunting trips, there was a bit of adversity on the trail to ultimate success. They lost the blood trail, Jon says, and had to finish tracking the next morning with help from Coral’s mom, Lisa, and sister, Sierra.

It didn’t take long.

“One hour of tracking and the smile happened,” Jon said. “This was a big moment and a fun hunt.”

And yes, he added, “Dad was more excited.”

Wanted: Your deer tales

Have a deer tale you’d like to share? Send your hunting story and photos to Brad Dokken at bdokken@gfherald.com.