By Jennie Zeitler
Hunting season won’t start quickly enough for Dennis Suelflow of Sauk Centre. Even though he’s been bow hunting since he was 12, the anticipation and the pleasure never get old.
Suelflow grew up on a farm close to the Iowa border and attended Minnesota State University Moorhead. He married Kate and they moved to Sauk Centre in 1971, so he could teach Industrial Arts at Sauk Centre High School.
“We enjoy the people and the locale,” he said.
He left teaching in 1989, and has been travelling across the Upper Midwest as a factory representative for Kozy Heat Fireplaces since 1990.
Bow hunting has been a lifelong pursuit, something he came to know as a child.
“My father enjoyed bow and arrow hunting, and my mother insisted that if we killed it, we ate it,” he said. “I got my first deer at age 12. We hunted everything — pheasants, Hungarian partridge, ducks and deer.”
Suelflow has hunted deer in Wyoming, elk in Idaho and Colorado. He’s been to Alaska three times to hunt caribou and moose, and he’s been to South Dakota many times to hunt antelope, deer and pheasants.
In addition to using a bow and arrows, Suelflow uses a muzzleloading shotgun and muzzleloading rifle.
“I had to use a muzzleloader in Alaska because we couldn’t get close enough to use a bow and arrow on the caribou,” said Suelflow. “Funny thing is, my friend who is a bush pilot stayed with the plane while I ran out closer to three caribou. They were spooked so I looked back at the plane to see him surrounded by caribou.”
While hunting in a state hunting area near Westbrook years ago, Suelflow brought home a deer that had to be dragged a half-mile to the vehicle.
“I was with my dad, Harold, my father-in-law, Harry Honzo, and my son, Dean,” Suelflow said. “We had hunted the same spot the previous year and were determined to go there again. The deer was from a herd of 60.”
Another time, Suelflow was hunting with his son, Adam, near Lake Winnibigoshish, when he nabbed a bear.
“It was a guided hunt and we were in an elevated stand,” said Suelflow.
Suelflow believes a hunter experiences three basic stages. The first stage is the “really eager, want to kill everything that walks, crawls, flies or sits in water” stage, he said. “That’s when a hunter is not happy unless he gets something every time he goes out.”
During the trophy stage, the focus is on specific animals. They are the goal of every hunting trip, and a hunter is not content without them.
Suelflow is in the third stage, someone who goes out and appreciates the day.
“It happens when you first start taking kids out,” he said. “It’s not about you anymore. Probably the most enjoyable hunting I’ve done was when I took my 10-year-old grandson, and he got his first deer.”
Suelflow speaks very appreciatively of the way his wife has supported his hunting activities over the years.
“She raised the kids while I went through the first two phases,” he said. “She put up with a lot and I give her a lot of credit. We’ve been married 42 years.”
Suelflow recently returned from a four-day antelope hunting trip to South Dakota with his son, Dean.
“The vastness of the land was impressive. With binoculars, I could see antelope three miles away,” he said. “I got to spend four days with my oldest son and it was really neat. We walked 10 – 15 miles every day. It’s fun to do different things and look forward to them. The people you’re with mean more than actually getting something.”
Prior to buying the land, Suelflow hunted on the 120 acres he and his wife now own for 30 years.
“We helped the couple who lived in the older house,” he said. “When they decided to sell, we were given first chance to buy.”
Suelflow spends a lot of time and money planting food plots on his acreage and keeping trails open all year. He plants chicory, clover and turnips in any open space. Soybeans are planted very late so that they are still green until late September.
Four good friends of Suelflow spend a lot of time on the property, helping out when asked. Family and friends are invited to hunt there.
“The rules out here are that you can shoot a nice buck or doe to eat, but to leave the little ones,” Suelflow said. “The kids can hunt with a gun until they’re 16. Then they have to use a bow and arrow or go somewhere else, so we don’t kill everything.”
Suelflow estimates that 30 to 50 deer walk under his deer stand every year. He enjoys watching the wildlife and has trail cameras set up to watch from the house.
“I like to hunt, but I’m not any kind of expert,” he said. “I just enjoy nature in general, and getting away from things.”