By Roberta Olson, Correspondent
What do you call someone who sits quietly in a woods, day after day, week after week, logging 80-100 hours, hoping to get one shot off? A bow hunter.
Father and son bow hunters, Martin and Leo Van Beck of rural Stearns County near Padua, share the love of the hunt, as well as the peace and tranquility in the field.
“It’s a pretty spiritual experience. You have a lot of time to sit and think — to ponder,” Leo said, a 20-year-old college student who is enrolled in the land survey program at St. Cloud Technical College.
Martin agrees, and confesses he may even take a nap on the deer stand. “It’s one of the few times to really relax. At home it’s always work all the time,” he said.
Their favorite place to hunt is a few miles away on land Martin and his brother, Nathan, own east of Glenwood. It is their private hunting ground, and they spend as much time as possible there during the archery season, which runs Sept. 16 – Dec. 31.
The Van Becks care about the land, and they care about the wildlife on it.
“We do food plots, plant corn, soybeans and alfalfa specifically for the pheasant and the deer,” says Martin.
“We leave it in all winter. We don’t harvest anything,” Leo said.
“If the winter is really rough they will actually eat it all,” Martin said. “It’s fun, cause I grew up on the farm, and then I get to farm a little for the wildlife. When you grew up on the farm it’s in your blood.”
In addition to feeding the deer, the men have an unusual approach to the hunt. They don’t party hunt, just for the sake of bagging a deer.
They set up trail cameras, which record the deer’s activity year-round. The cameras help the hunters because their land is very thick and overgrown.
“We go by pictures more than seeing them,” Martin said. “Trail cameras are so fun, as much fun as hunting.”
“You see familiar deer faces from one year to the next,” Leo said. The cameras allow them to follow the growth and development of individuals in the herd.
They do selective hunting of the deer.
“The last four years I shot a doe in December,” says Martin. “I hunted the whole season, trying to shoot a mature buck. We don’t shoot little bucks down there. We try to shoot the old does. The young does, 2- and 3-year-old does, have twins and triplets. The older does probably have one or no fawns. Those are the ones that need to be hunted.”
Martin comes from a hunting family of six boys, who live close by on neighboring farms, now with boys of their own. The brothers, schooled in the proper way to hunt by their father, in turn educated their sons.
Martin and his wife, Audrey, are both Melrose High School graduates. Martin owns Martin Van Beck Carpentry LLC, based out of their rural home. They have lived in their home on seven acres of land since 1991. A handful of chickens roam the yard, which is in full view of a couple of wildlife preserves and small lakes.
“All the rest of the animals are wild here, except one tiny kitten,” Martin smiles.
The yard includes a fenced-in garden which had been tempting a doe and her twin fawns this summer.
“We like to watch them,” he said. “They are not even afraid of us.” The yard also includes a small alfalfa plot planted especially for the deer.
The couple has three sons, Louis, 24; Leo, 20; and Luke, 18. While all three sons enjoy hunting, Leo is the most passionate. And while they have hunted with rifles and shotguns, and have hunted for game including mule deer, turkeys, ducks, and of course the prolific coyotes. Deer hunting with a bow is their choice.
Leo takes his camera along with his compound bow to the deer stand. “I take quite a few photos,” he said. “I work with a couple hunting companies, I give them pictures that they use on their social media and websites that they can use for advertising.” They include Drake Waterfowl, big game clothing; New Breed Archery; and Vortex Optics, who produce binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes and range finders.
Leo is using a bow from New Breed Archery. He used it last year to shoot his first buck with a bow, a 180-pound eight-pointer.
“It’s not the actual shooting, it’s everything else.” Like sitting for hours and watching a deer walk right under your stand. Or getting one shot a year and being satisfied with it.