Nobody has to tell Matt Breuer about the importance of sleep. By day, he treats and diagnoses sleep disorders at the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center — basically, helping people sleep. And by night? Let's just say sleep isn't high on his list of priorities.

"Between trying to have fun, running two small businesses and working [at the sleep clinic], it's quite interesting," said Breuer, 36, who lives with his wife and two children on a small farm north of Bemidji, Minn.

In addition to his day job, Breuer guides hunters, fishermen and foragers as part of Northcountry Guide Service, and does marketing and promotional work through Northcountry Promotions. He's on the board of directors of the Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society, and recently became the recruitment and retention coordinator for the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society in his region. And yet, he still makes time to hunt, fish, forage, trap — whatever gets him outside and keeps him active.

"I've been outdoors my entire life, and I grew up in a heavy hunting and fishing family," Breuer said. "When you live in Roseau or Thief River Falls [two places he lived as a youth], all you do is drive around and look at game, shoot guns or go fishing. That's just what we did."

During a recent conversation, Breuer discussed the lifestyle he's created for himself and his family, and expounded upon a variety of other outdoor-related topics. Here are his edited excerpts:

On balancing family, work and the desire to be outside

It's really tough when you're working a full-time job. My job is pretty tight-packed — I work 40 hours in three days — so that allows me the rest of the week to do my guiding. But in the summer when I'm guiding, I don't get to see my family as much as I'd like. Luckily, they have all taken in the outdoors, so we do spend a lot of time together. It reminds me of my childhood. If I wanted to spend time with my dad on the weekend, I had to be grouse hunting or goose hunting or fishing. It helped me to get outside, and once I was outside I was able to appreciate it.

On spending family time outdoors

I always try to push getting your family outdoors. That's something that's really big in our family. The best memories I have with my kids are almost all when they are outside with me. My wife was actually an animal lover when I met her, and used to cry when I'd bring home a deer. Now she's a hard-core deer hunter and turkey hunter. And I've turned her into a grouse connoisseur.

On eating wild game and fresh foods all year

The only beef I've purchased since I was probably 22 or 23 years old is when I've wanted a nice steak. Venison and bear meat — that's our beef. We don't eat store-bought beef. We have a small farm and we have chickens, so we don't buy eggs. Chicks and grouse — that's our white meat. We don't buy mushrooms. We have a large garden, so we typically don't buy vegetables. We basically try to live off the land as much as possible. The base of everything we eat comes from the land.

On trapping fur-bearing animals

When I was a kid, I had a favorite uncle who was an outdoor painter and handyman. Once fall came, all those jobs were done, so he would stay with us the entire fall. He ran a trapline between Thief River Falls and Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, and I would run the trapline with him. [Later in life] I got sent out on a writing assignment to do a story on a father-and-son trapping duo. It sparked all these memories and I decided I was going out and buying traps the next day. I like that every day you are starting fresh. It's kind of like mushroom-picking in that you don't know what you're going to find, but you hope you're going to find something. It's the element of mystery.

On his involvement with the Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society

When I was a kid in the 1980s, there were quite a few sharp-tailed grouse around. Then the population decline started really happening. I remember as a kid I could be waiting for the school bus and see grouse running across the road. Then all of the sudden it was like they were just gone. I always thought I'd have to go to the Dakotas or Montana to hunt sharptails after that. Then I found out about the Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society and wanted to volunteer and do whatever I could to help. They really didn't have any feet on the ground in northwestern Minnesota, and that's one of the only places in the state with a stable sharptail population.

Joe Albert is a writer from Bloomington. Reach him at