Alexandria’s John Tollefsrud had previously had just a small sample size of deer hunting experiences before tagging his first-ever deer during the Minnesota firearms season this November. And they weren’t good.
“Way back when, probably in my college days, I hunted deer twice. The one time I fell asleep. The second time, everyone in our party got stomach flu,” Tollefsrud said with a laugh. “That was the extent of it.”
At age 67, Tollefsrud is now getting a better taste of what deer hunting is all about. At a time when some others in his age category are getting out of hunting, he is jumping in.
Tollefsrud purchased a 30-acre piece of property north of Alexandria a couple years ago with the idea in mind that he might use it for hunting with his family. The Tollefsruds have six grandkids who he wanted to make sure had a place to go and be outdoors. The property is 20 acres of agricultural land and 10 acres of timber.
Tollefsrud and his 9-year-old grandson, Charlie, were hunting together in a ground blind overlooking a bean field the morning of Nov. 7 this year when Charlie spotted movement.
“I never did see the bucks that came in until they came out of the woods,” Tollefsrud said. “But he saw them way down and said, ‘Grandpa, there’s two bucks down there.’ He has amazing vision for his age.”
A creek bottom is in the timber behind their blind, but the deer stayed along the tree line that borders the field. The bucks eventually worked their way into the beans. With a Savage 20 gauge, Tollefsrud shot his first-ever buck -- an 8-pointer -- with his grandson by his side.
“He’s a big hunter, and he thought it was really cool,” Tollefsrud said of Charlie. “Last year, his dad shot a buck with his bow too. He could trail him through the woods on the blood trail, and it wasn’t big. He’s got sharp eyes for that kind of stuff. He thought it was pretty cool.”
Moments like that November morning are what has gotten Tollefsrud into hunting at an older age. His original plan with this 30-acre property was to build a storage shed on it.
“When I bought this land, it was so pretty that I didn’t have the heart to do that,” he said. “I don’t have the heart to put a building on it.”
There are a couple of trails for the kids to ride 4-wheelers on, and just having a place to go for walks or sit outside for a while has been a welcomed reprieve.
Tollefsrud hunted last year with his bow without tagging a deer. But he and his family always see deer. Like many properties around the Alexandria area, wildlife has been plentiful each time out.
“There’s turkeys out there. There’s pheasants, there’s grouse,” Tollefsrud said. “A neighbor not too far away got a bear and a timberwolf on his trail cams this year. So it’s just about the love of being outdoors and in the woods. How many of those things people never see.”
Hunting is not always easy physically, which is why numbers show people aging out of it as they get older. Tollefsrud had back problems this year that have limited how long he can sit, but he also has seen a welcoming community around him from a neighbor and the former owner he purchased the land from.
“They just said if you get a deer, call us up and we’ll help you,” Tollefsrud said. “At my age, it’s not as easy dragging a deer out of the woods...it’s just a special place. I’ll go sit for a while and then just go for a walk. It’s just nice to be outside.”
Tollefsrud has a couple of bonus tags he could use on does this year if he chooses, and he didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked if he will hunt again next year.
“I grew up in Mankato, and my favorite was duck hunting and pheasant hunting was decent at that time,” Tollefsrud said. “All my friends gave (hunting) up. It takes an effort. All of my buddies do not hunt anymore, so I did it to make sure the kids had a place to go and the grandkids. I’m not getting any younger, but I just enjoy getting out in the woods. This gets you out there.”