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DEER TALES: Short deer trip long in memories

Denny Hopman of Detroit Lakes, Minn., gives the thumbs-up after shooting a deer in "The Tag Mahal," the name he gave to the enclosed stand of his nephew, Dean Dahl, in Pennington County, Minn.1 / 2
Denny Hopman, 80, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., has reason to smile after shooting a deer Nov. 14 while hunting with his nephew, Dean Dahl of Thief2 / 2

PENNINGTON COUNTY, Minn. -- The past two years, my uncle, Denny Hopman, has made the trip from his home in Detroit Lakes to join us for deer hunting here in Pennington County. Denny turned 80 years old this past April, making the year a special one for him.

He had opportunities at deer the past two seasons, but the shots had missed the target. That seems to be a part of deer hunting, with a clean miss being looked back on as a good miss.

Denny stayed in good spirits, enjoying the day, even though his tag remained unfilled. That makes for a good hunting companion -- enjoying the day with no sign of disappointment.

I checked with Denny the afternoon of Nov. 13 to make sure plans hadn't changed. I mentioned we would like to send him home with a deer this year. He said that didn't matter, he was just glad to make the trip up!

Denny arrived about 2 p.m. Nov. 14. By 2:30 p.m., we were in the enclosed stand, waiting for that exciting part of the afternoon. My uncle refers to the stand as "The Tag Mahal" -- quite a compliment!

The afternoon passed without any deer showing, but things can change quickly, which they did when daylight was starting to fade away.

We had talked about packing it in when I noticed a single deer moving out of the willows about 100 yards out. I told Denny there was a deer coming across if he wanted to try a shot.

Reaching for his rifle, his response was immediate.

Lowering the window for his rest, I backed away. With 80 years behind him, his .30-06 laid still on the rest. After looking through his scope for a few seconds, Denny looked up:

"Can't see the deer!"

Looking into the scope again for a few more seconds, my uncle looked up and ahead. "I still can't see it!" he said.

This time, with the deer standing broadside at 150 yards, Denny zeroed in on him, squeezed the trigger slowly and ... "click."

There was no shell in the chamber!

Standing behind observing this seemed to take a lot of time! The deer moved about 20 feet, again broadside. This time, Denny made a good shot count, and the deer dropped.

After a few seconds of congratulations, I looked out to see the deer had gotten back up and was heading into the willows. Daylight soon would become an issue, and I thought of searching in the dark -- not easy.

The deer lay 15 yards into the willows, and Uncle Denny had made a good shot. This year, he would go home with good venison. His stay was short but long on memories. He headed home on Nov. 15, a beautiful Friday morning, to share the day with his son, Kent, who turned 51 that day. He also had a story to tell.

Happy 80th year, Denny!

Old age paid off for this hunter

Patience Hervey of East Grand Forks shared this story about her father, Arvid Peterson, which appeared in the newspaper in Badger, Minn., where her parents lived.

"Dad went deer hunting many years with my brother, Gene Peterson of Gatzke, Minn., and his son. Dad was 90 years old at this time! Dad died at age 93," wrote Hervey, who said the encounter likely would have happened in 1980 or 1981 because her dad died in 1984.

Here's the story Peterson wrote as it appeared in the Badger newspaper:

"On the first morning," Arvid said, "I picked up a chunk of wood to sit on and placed myself in some brush near a ditch along a narrow road. After sitting for about one-half hour I found this chunk of wood was not in the form of a bucket seat and my seat got tired, so I arose very slowly (my old age) and with plenty of patience to stand I stood there like a stick, moving only my eyes.

"Although my nose was dripping I simply let it drip. Well, about 20 minutes passed, then I saw a buck walking right towards me. I could have shot but he was still walking and I wanted a standing shot. I let him come within less than two rods (about 10 yards) of me, then he must have seen my eyeball because he stopped and put his head high in the air.

"I pulled the trigger ... the first jump he made just missed my nose, then he dropped about 10 rods (55 yards) from me. I had been out on my post less than one hour."

If you have a hunting story or memory you'd like to share with other Herald readers, send it to Brad Dokken at or by postal mail to Dokken c/o The Grand Forks Herald, 375 Second Ave. N., Box 6008, Grand Forks ND 58206-6008.