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United Special Sportsman Alliance offers young hunters a chance at their 'Dream Hunt'

Four young hunters set out on Saturday, Oct. 22, as part of the United Special Sportsman Alliance Dream Hunt for the opportunity to experience the northern Minnesota youth deer hunting season, but most of them came back with a whole lot more than meat for the freezer.

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From left, Brody Muellerleile, Ivan Polus, Dominick Estrada and David Jumenez pose with their deer as part of the United Special Sportsman Alliance Dream Hunt on Saturday, Oct. 22. 2022, in Leonard, Minnesota.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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LEONARD, Minn. — Four young hunters set out on Saturday, Oct. 22, as part of the United Special Sportsman Alliance Dream Hunt for the opportunity to experience the northern Minnesota youth deer hunting season, but most of them came back with a whole lot more than meat for the freezer.

The USSA is a volunteer-led, nonprofit “dream wish” granting organization. They provide unique hunting and fishing experiences for critically ill or disabled youth and veterans.

Whether they’re experienced hunters or have never bagged a single deer, the USSA provides relief from reality and a new experience.

According to their website, the USSA aims to help families escape from the world of hospitals and high medical bills by giving them a place of peace to focus on the quality of life, family ties and the wonders of the natural world.

Jack Juberian has been hosting young hunters and their families for the annual Dream Hunt at his home in Leonard for two years.

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Juberian heard about the program through a friend who had mentioned he had a perfect set-up for it. Now, he rounds up a few of his buddies every year to give children of all backgrounds and abilities the hunting experience of their dreams.

The children, accompanied by a family member and one of Juberian’s friends, hopped in the truck, bundled up in blaze orange and headed to nearby land to start the hunt. As the sun went down, they made their way back to the house one by one.

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Youth hunters, family members and volunteer guides pose with their deer as part of the United Special Sportsman Alliance Dream Hunt on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Leonard, Minn.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“This year, we set up a couple of fish houses which seemed to work pretty well,” Juberian said. “You never really know what kids you’re going to get — some can climb really high and others aren’t equipped to be climbing.”

Trophy memories

There’s no memory created in the outdoors that’s more clear than a hunter’s first deer. And for 10-year-old Brody Muellerleile, Saturday is a day he’ll never forget.

Muellerleile, from southern Minnesota, went hunting with his dad and two other guides. They saw a deer come out around 5:30 p.m., but he couldn’t quite get a good shot.

About an hour later, two more deer appeared.

“The one on the right side was a really big doe,” Muellerleile said. “I shot once and it was a good hit, but we didn’t want it to run out on the road so we shot it again to make sure it was down.”

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Brody Muellerleile, 10, from southern Minnesota, poses with his doe on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, near Leonard, Minn.
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Muellerleile said he was a little nervous behind the scope, but he felt good afterward and even helped gut it out. When he got back to the house, he celebrated his first deer harvest with a cold root beer while he told the others about his successful day.

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As 14-year-old Ivan Polus, from Apple Valley, Minnesota, returned to the house, he had not one, but two deer to show off. One button buck and one 9-point buck.

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Ivan Polus, 14, from Apple Valley, Minn., poses with his nine-point buck on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, near Leonard, Minn.
Contributed

David Jumenez, 15, came back with a five-pointer. He was accompanied by his little brother Dominick Estrada, 11, from Jordan, Minnesota.

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David Jumenez, 15, from Jordan, Minn., poses with his five-point buck on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, near Leonard, Minn.
Contributed

As the children, their families and guides gathered around telling the stories of their first deer, big bucks and missed opportunities — leading to the forgotten pizza spending a little too long in the oven — the group will remember this dream hunt for years to come.

Juberian also thanked Anderson Farms of Clearbrook and Dickey Farms of Leonard for their donation of land access for the Minnesota Dream Hunt.

“What a blessing to get four deer down with three kids in the first evening,” Juberian added. “I'm looking forward to doing more next year.”

Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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