Terry Brisk loved hunting and fishing and made it a point to stay active outdoors with his family in rural Little Falls.

Babe Brisk, his mother, said deer hunting was Terry’s favorite. Bow, rifle and muzzleloader. And for this year’s firearms season, Terry made places in the woods for his wife, Pam, and their four children: John, 15; Nick, 14; Franny, 12; and Mikey, 7.

“The little one didn’t carry a gun, but we wanted him out there with us,” Pam said. “All the kids were like that growing up.”

Opening weekend was thrilling. John shot two bucks Saturday, and Pam shot a third deer late Sunday. Terry had planned to work Monday at his job in Brainerd as a heavy equipment mechanic for Ziegler CAT. But temperatures were warm, and he worried about Pam’s deer spoiling. First thing in the morning, he and Pam drove the venison to Thielen’s Meat Market in Pierz for processing.

“He was here at 8 a.m. to drop off the deer,” Joe Thielen said. “Things were good. They were happy.”

From there, Pam went to look after a neighbor girl and Terry returned to the woods for a solo hunt with his trusty Winchester .30-30, a rifle he wouldn’t be without. Later that day, sheriff’s deputies found Terry dead, clad in blaze orange on an oft-hunted corner of his parents’ private land. His lever-action gun was missing, and his death is being investigated as a homicide.

“We are not going to give up,” Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen said this week in an interview.

Investigators for the county and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) won’t share details of the crime scene, nor will they speculate in public about possible scenarios. At a news conference Dec. 7, Larsen said the 41-year-old hunter died from blood loss resulting from a gunshot wound. He wouldn’t say from what distance or direction the shot or shots came from, but he noted it was “definitely a homicide.”

“It’s just such a mystery. It’s mind-boggling,” Babe Brisk said this week. “There’s just no answers.”

Since the news conference, the sheriff said his department has received “some good leads” and that investigators continue to search for the missing rifle. The only new tidbits he released were that trail cameras in the area have been “canvassed” by investigators and that the missing gun lacks a front “peep” sight. It broke off and Terry hunted without it, Larsen said.

The sheriff also said that in all the data collection and interviews conducted so far by investigators, nothing negative has surfaced about Terry.

“He was a good guy who loved to hunt,’’ Larsen said.

Not a fighter

Babe Brisk said her son wasn’t someone who would fight another hunter over a deer. Whitetails are abundant in Belle Prairie Township, where she and her husband have operated a gravel pit and processing facility. The resource is located on more than 100 acres of rolling, wooded land that Terry and his family have hunted for years.

“He wouldn’t fight over a deer,” she said. “If they needed it, he would say, ‘Go ahead and take it.’ ”

Babe said the only thing she could imagine is that Terry confronted a trespasser or trespassers in the gravel pit area near the northwest corner of Hawthorn Road and Jewell Road. His body was found there, close to the mine. The pit attracts agate pickers, and the family is commonly shooing them away for safety reasons.

“Some of them get pretty smart with you,” Babe Brisk said.

She and her husband had driven into the pit that day to check on it — something they do frequently. They saw Terry’s pickup truck and figured he was hunting.

Randy Brisk, who lives in Sartell, said his younger brother was well known around Belle Prairie Township, Pierz and other parts of Morrison County. Running errands or going places with him would take extra time because of his chats.

Terry’s death was “the biggest shock” because he lived for his family and the outdoors, Randy said. A good time for Terry was angling for panfish or trolling for northerns with the kids on Platte Lake, 6 miles southwest of Mille Lacs. That’s where Babe and Virgil Brisk own a shoreline lot.

Pam Brisk said she and Terry loved their “redneck pontoon” on Platte, an old boat that gave them countless hours of pleasure. “Just enough room for the kids, the dog and a grill,” she said. “Doesn’t get any better, right?”

She said she didn’t think anything of Terry going hunting on Monday. He had checked in at work to make sure they didn’t need him, and he just loved being out in the woods. He wasn’t a trophy hunter, per se, she said. But he once shot an 11-pointer — a real monster — that hangs from the wall in their bedroom. A few other mounts also decorate their home.

On Jan. 13, Pam said, she and Terry would have celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary. They met at a wedding dance and had been together ever since. His loss has been difficult for each family member and they all show it in different ways, she said.

She wants justice for the person who robbed her children of a father, but lately she hasn’t had a burning desire to know what happened.

“I don’t know how I feel anymore,” Pam Brisk said. “It’s hard to sit here every night without him. I suppose it would be great if they found something out, but it’s not going to bring him back.”