Three generations of deer hunters gather each fall at a North Woods site their forebears homesteaded more than 100 years ago.
“It’s not your typical underwear-hanging-from-the-rafters deer shack,’’ said Darrold Persson, 61, of Hibbing, a grandson who now owns the getaway nestled in the North Woods near Bear River. “It’s a preserved homestead. I’m so fortunate to walk the same ground that my grandparents did, where my mom grew up. This place is a big part of me.’’
“If they outlawed deer season, we’d still come. Deer season is a way to bond across generations and spend quality time together. Non-hunters don’t understand, but it’s not about the venison, it’s the stories we have, and the pictures, the tradition.’’
At 85, Persson’s dad, Don, of Hibbing is the patriarch of the place. He grew up just down the road and has known Myrna Olson, daughter of Elmer and Emma, since they were kids. They recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
“I love this place,’’ he said, relishing another season that brings family members — including those from Massachusetts and Colorado — together. “I really don’t care anymore if I get a deer.’’
What makes it special?
“The scenery. The quiet. The memories,’’ he said. One of his four sons, Denny, died of a heart attack at age 55 in 2005, and some of his ashes are buried there.
Another son, Dale, 51, left northern Minnesota for the Twin Cities for 25 years, but now lives near Pengilly, not far from The Farm.
“I can’t wait to get here, and I don’t like leaving,’’ he said. “For me it’s the camaraderie, getting together with family, telling stories, playing cards. There’s a lot of laughter. Getting a deer is just a bonus.’’
At 18, Taylor Persson of Hibbing is one of the camp’s youngest hunters.
“I’ve been coming since I was 10,’’ he said. “It’s a big deal. The best part is just hanging out here with these guys.’’
With his grandfather now 85 years old, and his uncle Darrold 61, he knows it’s up to him and the other younger hunters to keep The Farm’s long deer camp tradition.
“It will be kept,’’ Taylor vowed.
Not a typical camp
The place has always been called The Farm because Elmer and Emma raised a few animals and had a large garden on the 160 acres they homesteaded. All of the food raised was simply to survive. “It wasn’t a commercial farm,’’ Darrold said.
After Elmer Olson died in 1962, Don and Myrna Persson became caretakers.
A well and septic system were added in 1982; a bunkhouse in 1991, a front porch — the main gathering place now — in 1998.
“It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination,’’ Darrold said. “It’s just comfortable.’’
Besides its tidy white outside appearance, other things set The Farm apart from more typical northern Minnesota deer-hunting lodges.
“We’re probably one of the few camps with a defibrillator,’’ said Darrold. “We had the fire department come and give us first-aid training, too. Old guys like me want the young guys to know how to do that.’’
Also the camp has its own website (www.perssonfarm.com). And when deer aren’t in season, it serves broader purposes.
“It’s a deer camp from October through November, but the rest of the season it’s a family gathering place,’’ Darrold said.
Then there are the poems, written by Darrold, hanging on the wall. In one about his grandparents, he wrote:
“For the seeds that they planted so long ago
Continue to flourish — continue to grow.
Parents and children making memories to share
A heritage preserved — ever a family affair.’’
An opener to remember
As a storm dumped 3 inches of wet snow last Friday, 12 family members and friends gathered at The Farm. Though some didn’t get to bed until 1:30 a.m., they all got up around 5 Saturday morning, ate a quick breakfast, climbed into blaze-orange clothing and hiked to their stands.
Darrold spotted fresh deer tracks on his trail, and climbed into his enclosed, elevated stand shortly after 6 a.m., then watched the woods slowly become visible. Light snow fell.
“It’s like a Christmas card out here,’’ he whispered.
A shot rang through the woods at 7:10, a second at 7:15 and a third, more distant, at 7:30. Then around 8:30 came a single shot nearby.
“The great thing about deer hunting is it only takes one deer to make a season,’’ Darrold said.
As everyone gathered for lunch back at camp, Darrold’s son, Dustin, 33, of Oakdale, showed off a big 8-point, 215-pound field dressed buck he bagged.
“A doe walked into my shooting lane at 7:45,’’ he said. He had an antlerless permit, but didn’t have a clear shot. Even if he had, he wouldn’t have taken it this early in the season, in hopes of getting a buck. But 40 minutes later, he got what he was looking for. A big buck briefly stepped into the open, then disappeared into the thick woods.
“I didn’t have my grunt call, so I whistled and he came back into the lane, then turned sideways,’’ Dustin said, offering a perfect 75-yard shot. “I didn’t have time to get nervous.’’ He fired once, dropping the big whitetail.
“That’s the biggest deer we’ve ever shot!’’ Darrold said, giving his son a hug.
Another memory at The Farm.
Doug Smith • 612-673-7667
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