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Finding common ground under an October sky

In a time with many divisions, an opportunity to thank veterans, and enjoy a common love for hunting made this event special

Richard Strom holds a pheasant during the veteran's hunt on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve hosted by the Chippwa County chapter of Pheasants Forever on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Richard Strom said it was an opportunity for him to get together with brothers Russel, Roger and Ron and enjoy some hunting time together.
Richard Strom holds a pheasant during the veteran's hunt on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve hosted by the Chippwa County chapter of Pheasants Forever on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Richard Strom said it was an opportunity for him to get together with brothers Russel, Roger and Ron and enjoy some hunting time together.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune
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GRANITE FALLS — There are two things the Strom brothers have in common.

In a family of six boys and four girls, all six boys have served in the military, with the last of them about to complete his service this month.

Saturday, four of the brothers were able to hunt together for the first time in four years. Hunting is the other thing the brothers have in common.

“We love to hunt,” explained Richard Strom, of Willmar, as he walked alongside brothers Russel and Roger on the grasslands at the Heartland Preserve outside of Granite Falls. Brother Ron was on site as well.

A line of participants in the veteran's hunt return from walking a field on the Heartland Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
A line of participants in the veteran's hunt return from walking a field on the Heartland Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

The four brothers were among 71 veterans of military service and 28 guests of the veterans who were treated to a Saturday morning hunt for pheasants on the game preserve.

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It’s hosted every year by the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever, with help from a variety of volunteer helpers and organizations, including the Two Rivers chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters. Tom Brusven, a member of the PF chapter’s board of directors, believes the chapter started hosting the event as many as 25 years ago.

Pools of water were dispersed on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve to allow the dogs opportunities to cool down and hydrate. Ryan Schmitt tends to his dog, Coby. He was among 10 guides who brought their dogs and volunteered to help with the event on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Pools of water were dispersed on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve to allow the dogs opportunities to cool down and hydrate. Ryan Schmitt tends to his dog, Coby. He was among 10 guides who brought their dogs and volunteered to help with the event on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

He’s sure of this: The event continues to grow in popularity every year. This year’s version saw one of the largest number of participants. Along with a hunt, the veterans and the guests they invited were treated to a meal featuring barbecued brisket.

There was a patriotic salute as well. Evan Fagen from the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum piloted a P-40K Aleutian Tiger over the site as the veterans gathered at the hunt’s end.

The event is all about veterans getting together with their hunting buddies or family members and enjoying the companionship, as well as the outdoors, according to John Mader, chapter president.

"It's not about the birds," said Mader.

Participants in the veteran's hunt joined for a group photo behind the 87 birds bagged during the morning. Therere were 71 veterans and 28 of their guests participating in the event this year. It was held on the Heartland Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 and sponsored by the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever with support and help from a variety of volunteers and organizations such as the Two Rivers chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters.
Participants in the veteran's hunt joined for a group photo behind the 87 birds bagged during the morning. Therere were 71 veterans and 28 of their guests participating in the event this year. It was held on the Heartland Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 and sponsored by the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever with support and help from a variety of volunteers and organizations such as the Two Rivers chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

The participants ranged from veterans who served from the Vietnam era to today. Some brought guests including grandchildren.

In terms of service to the country, the Strom brothers certainly have a claim to the longest-running tradition. Their ancestors on the maternal side date their arrival in North America to 1640. “We have been in every fight this country has ever had,” said Ron Strom.

And while the event wasn’t about the birds, there were plenty of them. The 99 participants dropped 87 pheasants that were released and flushed by dogs as the participants walked the Heartland Preserve fields.

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John Mader (right) and Cory Enberg with the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever welcomed 71 veterans and 28 of their guests to the grounds of the Heartland Preserve outside of Granite Falls in Chippewa County on Saturday, Oct. 1 for the annual veteran's hunt hosted by the chapter.
John Mader (right) and Cory Enberg with the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever welcomed 71 veterans and 28 of their guests to the grounds of the Heartland Preserve outside of Granite Falls in Chippewa County on Saturday, Oct. 1 for the annual veteran's hunt hosted by the chapter.

Brusven said the local Pheasants Forever chapter decided long ago that its mission would focus on serving youth and veterans. It hosts an annual youth hunt in September on the grounds of the Preserve as well.

“It’s giving back to the community,” said Cory Enberg, a board member for the local chapter.

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And especially, it’s a way to thank veterans for their service, said Mader. In a time when there are so many divisions in the country, he said it's good to remember that we can all appreciate and thank our veterans. It’s something everyone has in common. He noted that whether you have served or not, chances are you have a family member or a friend who has.

As he spoke, participant Bob Anderson came up to Mader, his arm extended. “Thank you for all your hard work,” he told him.

A participant in the veteran's hunted hosted on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve outside of Granite Falls walked a field under an October sky on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The event was hosted by the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever with help from a variety of volunteers.
A participant in the veteran's hunted hosted on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve outside of Granite Falls walked a field under an October sky on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The event was hosted by the Chippewa County chapter of Pheasants Forever with help from a variety of volunteers.<br/>
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

The participants in the veterans hunt hosted on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve on Oct.1, 2022 downed 87 pheasants.
The participants in the veterans hunt hosted on the grounds of the Heartland Preserve on Oct.1, 2022 downed 87 pheasants.<br/>
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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