Putting hunting in its place
Myron Sahlberg of Alexandria loves the great outdoors and finds a lot of enjoyment in the sport of bow hunting.
A teacher at heart, Sahlberg has taken his love of hunting a step further, and is educating two area youth in the sport as well.
Sahlberg, a communication art and design instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, first connected with 16-year-old Isaac Johnson of Nelson a few years ago.
Isaac's father, John, talked often with Sahlberg about Isaac's interest in hunting. Sahlberg started having conversations with the boy in church about hunting.
"Isaac is a quiet guy, I am a quiet guy," Sahlberg noted. "We identify quite well through our personalities. We talk about other things, too, like our spiritual life and values."
Sahlberg helped Isaac skin a chipmunk he shot with a BB gun a few years ago, and last year invited him over to see a doe he had shot with his bow and to help skin the animal. He also gave him the hide so he could get it tanned.
Isaac first got into the sport of pheasant and duck hunting, but became interested in bow hunting after listening to Sahlberg talk about it.
"I was interested in it a little bit, but he's the one who actually got me excited about it," Isaac said. "I like that it's quieter, and you get to sit and watch all the different things in nature."
This year, Sahlberg helped Isaac adjust his compound bow so he could start shooting it, but encouraged him to wait a year to hunt with it so he could practice and get acquainted with it.
This fall, Sahlberg acquired another youth mentee when his wife, Ellen, heard Karen Hildebrandt of Alexandria talk about how her 12-year-old son, Graham, loved hunting.
Ellen volunteered her husband to teach him a few things, and now he had two hunting mentees.
"It's been an amazing experience for him," Karen said about her son. "Now, anything that he comes across in his sports magazines that has to do with a bow he clips out and puts in a folder. He loves it."
This fall, Sahlberg took the boys out to the woods to show them how to scout for signs of deer. He also taught them how to choose locations to place hunting stands.
Later, he took Isaac with on an evening hunt and they saw about nine deer.
"It's a lot of fun being with Myron and letting him teach me about the different things - about what the deer will do, where they'll go, and stuff like that," Isaac said of the experience.
Sahlberg called both boys after shooting a buck on a Friday evening to tell them his news.
He took both boys out for breakfast at 6:30 the next morning and then took them to the woods to trail the deer, along with Roger Rosengren of Garfield, who mentored Sahlberg in the sport of bow hunting.
"Roger and I met as young boys in northern Minnesota," Sahlberg explained. "We became reacquainted about 25 years ago when we moved to Alexandria. He introduced me back into hunting through archery. He did much the same things with me as I am doing with the boys. We have spent many hours in the woods scouting, hunting and tracking deer for each other.
"I needed his expertise on this one and the young eyes of the boys to help track this buck," Sahlberg added. "Isaac is strong, curious and very attentive to the process. He was a great help tracking and pulling the deer out of the woods."
Sahlberg taught the boys how to field dress the deer, and shared with them his concern that they respect the life and death of this deer and talked about God's provision through nature.
THE SPORT OF HELPING OTHERS
Sahlberg typically processes his own deer, and intended to involve the boys in that activity as well.
However, after hearing about the need for processed meat at the local food shelf, he decided to donate his first deer of the season. The food shelf will only accept commercially processed game, so he took the deer to the Osakis Meat Locker.
The adult Sunday school class at Lake Community Church in Alexandria decided to pay the processing costs as a good-will project.
"I gave a few pounds of meat to each of the boys and all the rest (72 pounds) was delivered to the food shelf," the hunter said.
Sahlberg claims he has enjoyed sharing his love for and knowledge of archery with the boys, preparing them for the day they will go on their own hunt.
But the mentor admits that the process is about more than just bagging a trophy animal.
"I see these times with the boys as more than hunting," he said. "It is learning to value family, life and God more than hunting.
"I want to help these boys enjoy hunting and put it in its proper place in life. Hunting isn't just about killing. Life and death go together in this world. God put us in charge of managing nature. We are to enjoy nature and all its bounty. Hunting helps a person see how all this works."