Dennis Anderson: Hunting will take back seat to helping

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2011 - 6:44 AM

Matt Keller of Bemidji loves hunting ducks and geese. He has decided that he loves helping struggling children around the world even more.

hide

Matt Keller and his son Indiana with a harvest of waterfowl.

Photo: , Photo courtesy of Matt Keller

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Exactly when Matt Keller learned that waterfowl hunting is more fun when accompanied by a kid or two or 10 or 12 is difficult to pinpoint. What he knows now is that as much as he loves duck hunting, and goose hunting, he loves kids more. And not just his two sons, ages 7 and 9, who will accompany him Saturday morning, when the state's waterfowl season opens.

Keller, 33, of Bemidji, well known for the website he runs, www.minne_sotawaterfowler.com, is hanging up his scattergun, at least for a while, beginning next summer when he and his wife, Heidi, move to New Zealand to prepare for lives as missionaries to kids worldwide.

"We're selling everything we have," he said. "Our hope is that someday we'll be working in a rescue house for kids, though we don't know where. Maybe South America. Maybe somewhere else. Thousands of kids in the world are homeless. We want to help get them on their feet and give them hope."

For about a dozen years, Keller, a graduate of Bemidji State University and Oak Hills Christian College, has ministered in the marsh, as it were, to hundreds of kids in the Bemidji area, an effort that began when a young boy asked Keller if he could tag along on a duck hunt.

"I had never been asked that before, but I said, 'Sure,' " Keller recalled. "We got the boy's hunter safety course taken care of and took him trapshooting to prepare for the hunt. He couldn't hit anything, and when we took him hunting, he went through a box of shells before he took a shot, literally, at a sitting duck, and missed that too."

The boy had poor vision, Keller would learn. And couldn't read. No one had told him that he needed glasses.

"That was what opened my eyes to what's really going on in our community," Keller said. "It's since snowballed to what it is now."

"What it is now" is a lot. With help from family, friends and other volunteers, Keller, through the nonprofit Timber Bay Youth Outdoor Adventures, leads outdoor trips for Bemidji-area kids.

A recent trip to northwest Minnesota to hunt cranes and geese was typical: Sleeping in a donated deer-hunting shack, a group of boys and adult volunteers hunted together, cooked together, ate together, prayed together -- and learned from one another.

Similar trips are taken each year to Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains, to the Boundary Waters and onto frozen lakes to fish.

None of which Keller could have predicted seven years ago, when his dad, Jim, died at age 50.

"Dad had a vision that our family should start a business to keep us together," Keller said. "That's when we started minnesotawaterfowler. com. My three brothers and my sister and mom are all involved in some way. I do most of it. But it keeps us together, like dad wanted."

The site has a loyal following in part because it stresses what its name suggests: duck and goose hunting in Minnesota. Not North Dakota, Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Minnesota.

"My love has always been Minnesota," Keller said. "The hunts we take, and talk about, aren't guided and aren't on leased land. People want to see what's available in their own backyards. There's plenty of good duck and goose hunting still here."

Spectacular waterfowling videos shot by Keller and in particular his brother, Andy, prove the point. Ostensibly, the stars of each -- video sales help fund the youth trips -- are the mallards and ringnecks and blue-winged teal that cup their wings and pitch into decoys. Keller knows differently: It's the kids who are along on the hunts, who wade in the dark through deep sloughs and across farm fields to position their decoys just so.

They're the real stars.

When the sun rises Saturday morning over a northwest Minnesota marsh and another Minnesota waterfowl season begins, Keller will ready himself in a blind with his 7-year-old son Trace and 9-year-old son Indiana.

Chances are even before the first duck appears over his string of blocks, he'll consider what a long strange trip it's been, from son of a lost father to father himself -- to whatever lies ahead.

Which might not include another Minnesota duck opener anytime soon.

"I know we have problems in Bemidji and in Minnesota," Keller said. "But in some cities of the world, there are 50,000 kids living on the streets. I think about that and about all the possessions we have, the stuff we own, and it's all so meaningless.

"We can't help everyone, my wife and I know that. But we've been thinking the last few years about trying to help. I'm really going to miss waterfowling. But if we can change things for the better for a few kids, then good."

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Boston 0 Bottom 5th Inning
Pittsburgh 2
Toronto 2 Top 6th Inning
Baltimore 4
Washington 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 1 Bottom 5th Inning
NY Mets 7
NY Yankees 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Chicago WSox 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
Cleveland 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Houston 1
Detroit 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Minnesota 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 2nd Inning
St. Louis 2
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Colorado 0
San Francisco - J. Peavy 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Seattle - R. Elias 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Texas - N. Tepesch 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 9:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close