I grew up hunting in southwest Minnesota near the town of Minneota, where my grandparents lived and my dad was raised. My grandpa began hunting with family friends on two farms near Minneota during the first few deer seasons in the early 1970s (for many years, there was no deer season in that part of the state due to the low deer population). Down in my grandpa’s basement he had a big buck mounted that he shot in St. Louis County in 1949. He used to make the trek Up North every year until, finally, they opened the season closer to his home. My brother and I were always interested in his stories of hunting the “big woods.”

My first deer season was 1992, and by then the Minneota deer camp was a well-established tradition, even though the season was only two days long every year. As my older brother and I got more into deer hunting, we started dreaming about having our own camp Up North.

In 2006 my brother and I made our dream a reality when we bought 40 acres near the town of Babbitt, Minn. We built a small 16-by-20-foot shack with a wood stove, four bunks, small dining table and kitchenette. My grandpa’s buck is hanging on the wall, and each year we make a toast to Grandpa Art where it all began. This was our seventh season in camp, and my nephew Connor’s first year. My twin boys are 3½ years old, and we already have plans for a bunk-room expansion to make way for our growing camp!

Kirk Pennings, St. Paul


SEND US YOUR ICE-FISHING HOUSES! Cabin Country wants to celebrate your favorite hideouts this winter, especially your ice-fishing houses, but also your cozy winter cabins. Please send your photos  and stories to cabins@startribune.com or submit online at www.startribune.com/hideouts.