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Remembering Dale Telle of Warroad, the Lake of the Woods legend they called 'Ducks'

Telle, a longtime Warroad educator, lifelong hunter and angler, and fishing guide, died Sunday, March 13 at age 90.

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Dale Telle sits in his living room overlooking the Warroad River in this 2021 family photo. Around him are the competitive sport and wildlife trophies he gathered throughout his lifetime. Telle, who turned 90 in February, died March 13, 2022. Most of the taxidermy he did himself – self taught.
Contributed / Scott Telle
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WARROAD, Minn. – There’s a line in “The Old Rugged Cross,” the popular hymn written in 1912, that says volumes about Dale Telle and the good life he lived:

“Till my trophies at last I lay down. …”

“‘The Old Rugged Cross,’ was one of his favorites, and I thought, how fitting those words are for this man,” son Scott Telle of East Grand Forks said earlier this week. “If you stand in the living room of his home in Warroad – he built that room himself back in the ’60s – it is decorated from one wall to the next with all of the achievements that he made. In sport, in competition, in the outdoors.”

Telle, a longtime Warroad educator and coach, a lifelong hunter and fisherman, charter boat driver and fishing guide, and a true pioneer in Lake of the Woods fishing circles – the renowned walleye hole, “Telle’s Flats” in Manitoba waters, still bears his name – died Sunday, March 13, at LifeCare Roseau Manor in Roseau, Minnesota, where he had lived since October.

He was 90 years old.

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“There are trophies for curling, for football, for Army softball and Army volleyball, and he was just as proud of that as he was the pheasant hanging in the corner that he mounted himself or the 30-pound muskie that he took off the Northwest Angle one summer, or the 32-pound lake trout from the Ontario side (of Lake of the Woods),” Scott Telle said. “The list goes on and on all the way around the room.

“And those trophies will stay right where they were and right where they have been. Some of them have been there for almost 50 years.”

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Three generations of the Telle family – Dale Telle, Scott Telle and Isaac Telle – enjoy a day of fishing Aug. 6, 2014, on a flat-calm Lake of the Woods.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald

Well-earned nickname

A Grand Forks native, Dale Telle graduated from Central High School in 1951 and attended UND, where he played football and landed the nickname “Ducks” because he hunted so much and occasionally was late for practice.

Telle graduated from UND in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and the nickname stuck with him the rest of his life.

“He would have to run a lap for every minute he was late to practice, and he was probably in the best shape of anybody on that team because he would wade through the sloughs west of Grand Forks and then he would chase back into town and do his full practice and then run all those extra laps,” Scott Telle said. “He loved to fish, he loved the outdoors.

“Hunting was his passion – you name it, he pursued it – and duck hunting was his absolute joy.”

Telle was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956, a month after graduating from college. He then taught in Grand Forks for a few years before moving his family in 1967 to Warroad, where he took a sixth-grade teaching job and became an assistant coach of the Warroad High School hockey team.

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“I wanted to get closer to the walleyes, and here we are,” Telle told the Herald in August 2014 on a day when the big lake’s walleyes were cooperating.

WARROAD, Minn. -- Lake of the Woods stretched out like a giant mirror as Scott Telle steered his 27-foot Sportcraft out the mouth of the Warroad River for a day of fishing with his dad, Dale; son, Isaac; and family friend Warren Strandell of East...

By 1968, Telle was driving a fishing launch on Lake of the Woods and started Telle’s Launch Service in 1977. His “Telle's Lake of the Woods Spinners” became popular tackle for anglers on the big lake. Telle retired from teaching in 1974, but came back as a “temporary” teacher from 1978 until 1994.

He sold the launch business in 2002.

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Dale Telle of Warroad, Minn., celebrates landing a walleye he caught with help from his grandson Isaac, 11, of East Grand Forks on Aug. 6, 2014, while fishing Lake of the Woods.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald

So many stories

Like mallards swarming a prairie slough, the stories and the memories have been pouring in this week as friends and family remember the man they knew and loved.

“It’s a testament to him and his likeability and his love of other people,” Scott Telle said. “He had probably the greatest sense of humor of anybody I’ve ever met. I think some people are just born with that trait, but he found fun in everything – he truly did.”

Dick Myers, a retired Warroad hardware store owner who lives on Flag Island in the summer and Arizona in the winter, said he hunted and fished with Telle for “probably 40 years.”

“With our two sons, Scott and Jess (Myers), we hunted in Canada and you could take five geese a day,” Myers recalled this week from his winter home in Arizona. “Dale kept track, and we shot almost 3,000 Canada geese” over the decades.

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Dale "Ducks" Telle and Dick Myers of Warroad, Minnesota, mark a successful goose hunt near Vassar, Manitoba, in the 1980s.
Contributed / Jess Myers

There was a time, Myers recalls, when Telle would go duck hunting on Lake of the Woods on the opening day of deer season instead of deer hunting; his passion for waterfowl was that strong.

“I got him deer hunting, and he started deer hunting with me and he shot a couple of really nice bucks up at my deer camp” in Beltrami Island State Forest, Myers recalled. “I don’t know what to tell you – we just spent a lot of time together.

“He was a very nice guy. He was very outgoing, and he always remembered names.”

Declining health the last couple of years limited Telle’s time outdoors, Myers recalled, but up until a few months ago, he still was a morning coffee regular with a group of Warroad men who call themselves “The Legends.”

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Dale "Ducks" Telle (second from left) and Dick Myers (second from right) of Warroad, Minnesota, along with hunting partners Cecil Bell (left), of Orono, Minnesota, and Tom Beadle (right) of Warroad, after a successful duck hunt in the early 2000s near Mather, Manitoba. Telle, who died Sunday, March 13, 2022, was a hunting and fishing partner for some 40 years, Dick Myers said.
Contributed / Jess Myers

Like every trip, their last waterfowl hunting trips together were memorable, Myers says.

“I took him up to my place in Manitoba about five years ago, and we had a great mallard shoot one day. That was his last duck shoot,” Myers said. “Then, about three years ago, John Marvin took us onto some Marvin property right by the lake, and Dale and I, I think we shot about seven or eight Canadas, and that was our last goose hunt together.”

Rick McBride, a retired Warroad math teacher, drove a charter boat for Telle on Lake of the Woods as a summer job beginning in 1986.

They also both attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Warroad and were part of the same morning coffee group.

“He was great to work for,” McBride said this week from Arizona, where he spends the winter. “At the end of every day working, he would always say, ‘Thanks for working today.’ I don’t think I ever left there once when he didn’t thank me.

“Just a great guy.”

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Dale Telle stands in the doorway of son Scott's deer camp "a few years back" near Williams, Minnesota.
Contributed / Scott Telle

In recent years, weakening eyesight kept Telle from seeing distant objects, including the lakeshore landmarks he used when fishing Lake of the Woods on his own.

During the night leading into his final day, Telle was in his bed looking around the room.
His wife, Theresa, and daughter Heidi Cole were at his side.

“He told us that night,” Cole said, “‘I can see the shoreline. I am going fishing tomorrow, no matter what.’”

Telle is survived by his wife, Theresa; six children: Debra (Garry) Hadden of Nevis, Minnesota; Gayle (Dale) Gulbranson of East Grand Forks; Dale Scott (Linda) Telle of East Grand Forks; Heidi (Matt) Cole of Warroad; Roxanne (Richard) St. Pierre of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Jennifer (Robert) Rose of Warroad; 19 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 19, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Warroad. Visitation is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 18, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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