Raven, the star of KARE 11’s “Minnesota Bound,” was in no mood to sit still while her co-star Ron Schara was being interviewed.
Her image and reputation for being a well-trained Lab went into the ditch before the interview even started as you can see on my startribune.com/video. While I was setting up my camera equipment, Schara instructed the dog, more precisely identified as Raven III, to jump up on the flatbed of the truck that was the scene of our interview. I told Schara that Raven was going to have to do that again, once my camera was ready.
To my delight, Schara’s patience was tested as Raven took her sweet time doing as commanded. Maybe that ACL she had repaired about five years ago was aching. It was raining. My video also includes a clip from 2011, when Raven and I were at the same party and she was following the boss’s commands precisely.
This month Schara celebrated 20 years of “Minnesota Bound,” with a one-hour prime-time special, show #704. I took this as an occasion to do a Q&A with Schara, someone with whom I was friendly toward the end of his Star Tribune career, which spanned 1968 to 2007.
Don’t you want to know if Ron has done everything bears do in the woods?
Q: What are three things you would change if you were in charge of the DNR?
A: One, I would be more accountable to the collapse of the fisheries of Mille Lacs. Nobody’s been fired. Nobody’s been [reassigned]. Why not? Clearly DNR made a huge mistake there. Second thing I would do is be more proactive media-wise. I would have more news conferences, etc. And the third thing I might propose changing is having a citizens commission instead of a single commissioner, to take some politics out of it. I like our commissioner today, but he’s still appointed by the governor. Raven, heel, here. Sit down.
Q: What did you think of wolf-hunting season?
A: Wolves are no different than deer. They’re a renewable resource. I support wolf hunting, as long as it’s controlled. We can have wolves and we can have hunting, just like we have deer hunting. Raven, heel, here. Sit down here. She’s bored. She’s heard all my answers before.
Q: What are the biggest conservation issues facing Minnesota?
A: Clean water and disappearing prairie and a generation of folks who are not connected to some of those issues.
Q: What are your thoughts on getting youngsters outside and away from iPhones, computers, video games? Kids are the future conservationists. Did you see the story in the Star Tribune about the problem of getting minority kids interested in fishing?
A: Yes. We can’t do enough of that, as far as society getting out. All we can do is plant the seed. We need parents and others to get more involved and just don’t say, Hey, stare at your iPhone. There is a huge disconnect between kids and nature and I don’t think that’s good. You’ve got to be part of nature. That’s where you came from.
Q: Should bears be shot when they wander into suburbs, or should they be tranquilized and returned to the wild?
A: That’s a tough question because we all would like to see them tranquilized. Being tranquilized is not easy also on these bears. And then if you take a bear and put him in a strange area, who knows what will happen to him? On the other hand, if I was a bear, I’d rather be tranquilized, given a chance. Frankly, suburban people panic way too much when they see a bear up close. They’re not that dangerous. Leave it alone, or if you have no choice and he’s looking at you like you’re a threat, I would shout, raise my arms and be bigger and bolder than the bear. Not easy to do when your knees are shaking. [Laughter] Raven, come here, stinker. She says, This isn’t my usual gig.
Q: Have you ever pooped in the woods?
A: Yeah. In fact, there are techniques to make it more comfortable. Trust me, if you ever have to go, you will appreciate the most comfortable way and I have learned to make it as comfortable as possible. Not something I look forward to, but sometimes duty calls.
Q: Don’t you ever feel sorry for animals who start hanging around in what once was their territory?
A: Of course, but do you want to move?
Q: I live in the metro.
A: This once belonged to the wild critters, too. I get tired of people pointing fingers. Why don’t you move? The wild critters had all of this at one time. Here’s the deal: We can’t eliminate ourselves and we have to make room for critters where we can and we’ve done a lot of that really well, but obviously there are some cases where we haven’t done so well.
Q: Has Raven ever had an accident in the house?
A: Interestingly, I think one time, and she didn’t tell anybody. We found a little bit of an indication in the carpet. But really, this is Raven III, over the 20 years there’s only been one major accident Raven has had and it was a big one. And it was in a big place, the Mall of America! This was Raven I. I didn’t quite understand what Raven’s needs were. I didn’t give her time to do her thing outside. She got into the Mall of America and I suddenly sensed she wasn’t walking with me anymore. She was squatting. Dropped a big pile there and then a security guy came around the corner and said, “What are you doing here with your dog?” I said, “This is a very important dog!” [Laughing] He said, “Go ahead, I’ll clean it up.” There you go.
Q: There were male Lassies. Aside from their inability to deliver puppies, is there any other reason there won’t be a male Raven?
A: Well, males. There are some great male dogs out there. I had one at one time, but males like to raise their leg over everything and they are always sniffing around looking for more than pheasants, if you know what I mean. Females don’t do that. I think ancestrally the females hunted for the litter. When I ask Raven to hunt for pheasants she concentrates more on that.
Q: Have you ever had to tell somebody to stop something they were doing to Raven?
A: Very seldom. People are very kind to Raven. I watch, though, because you never know what people might think they can do to the dog. Literally 99.9 percent of people are kind to my dog. She’s the star after all.
Q: Ever taken advantage of Minnesota’s extensive bike trail system?
A: I don’t know how to ride a bike. Just joking.
Q: I’ve heard that when deer are on the roadway, you should just hit them.
A: I don’t know who’s telling you that, but if you swerve and don’t do it correctly you can total your automobile. Better you hit the deer than kill yourself. I hit my brake if I can. The other thing: Hey, wake up! Deer move early in the morning and late in the afternoon. If you’re in deer country, which is all of Minnesota, be more watchful. Slow down! Give the deer a chance.
Q: Who’s going to replace you: your grandson, Jake, 10, or daughter, Laura Schara, who does cooking segments on “Minnesota Bound” and co-hosts “Due North Outdoors” on Fox Sports North and “Destination Polaris” on the Outdoor Channel?
A: That’s a good question. You know, I’m kind of looking for someone to succeed me but I haven’t found anybody as good looking yet. [Laughter]
Q: What has your grandson taught you that you didn’t learn from your daughters?
A: Well, he’s a boy. I’ve raised two daughters, Simone and Laura, so there’s a difference. Simone is very much an outdoorsman like Laura. I tried to teach them that they could do anything boys do. You know, I don’t know why it is, but you seem to enjoy your grandchildren more than your children. That’s maybe not even true. But the thing is you can give your grandchild back. He’s been a delight. I think as a grandfather you’re more patient, not as uptight as you might have been with your own children.
Q: We’re up to Raven III. Why do you look splendid as ever, without being replaced every few years like hoary-haired Ravens are?
A: Genetics. Just been blessed. My mother’s brothers all were gray in their 20s. My dad never got gray except on the sideburns, which is where I’m gray now.
Q: Are you still sticking to the story that you don’t dye your hair?
A: I don’t dye my hair. Seriously. [Now, I’m laughing] Do you dye your hair? [Oh, yeah, I replied] I don’t. You could put a stack of Bibles here. Ask my barber, I don’t dye my hair.
Q: What’s the name of your barber?
A: Tim Hawkins. Give him a call. You’re welcome. He’s been cutting my hair since I was in musical theater in 1967. I was a singer with the “Edgewater Eight.” The Edgewater Inn was a fancy club and restaurant.
Q: When was the last time this über outdoorsman had a mani pedi?
A: Had a what ? I don’t know what that is. Oh, C.J., my hands are so ugly, no one would look at them. The other thing is my feet are so ticklish, I can’t stand anybody to touch them.
Q: Why did you try to mess up that Christian Ponder interview I was doing at Winter Park? Do your remember that, you little devil?
A: I WAS THERE FIRST. I was trying to interview the guy and ask him some questions about fishing and didn’t need anybody eavesdropping, especially a columnist of your ilk!
Q: Why isn’t Ponder a better quarterback?
A: He still could be. He’s got everything else — a great personality, very approachable. Has quite a story of his own on how he overcame drugs — he got hooked on painkillers in college — by the way, so I liked him. I wished he’d played better.
Q: Raven hasn’t done anything to earn a treat today, but do you ever give her steak?
A: Leftovers once in a while. No bones. No chicken bones.
Q: Can you pick a favorite story or stories from 20 years on TV?
A: It’s tough. But one of them involves a guy, Steve Larson, I spent a day with. We ran his boat, he ran the motor, he cast, he put a minnow on his hook. He reeled in a bluegill, he took the bluegill off his hook, held it up to the camera and did it all with no hands or arms. He did it all with his toes and his feet. He was born that way. Very inspiring.
Q: Regret your decision to leave the Star Tribune?
A: January 1968, I wrote my first column. Star Tribune was very good to me. I look back in amazement that I left to take another job that may or may not have lasted. But it turned out good for me.
Interviews are edited. To contact C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her watch Fox 9’s “Buzz.”