Brainerd Dispatch/Vince Meyer
The 2004 hunting season nears an end, but the hunting career of Pershing Lundberg goes on.
Born July 9, 1918, Lundberg, who lives in southeast Brainerd, got a deer this year -- with bow and arrow. How many 86 year olds are still sitting in trees?
Lundberg shot his first bear at 79.
"That's it," he says. "I don't want another one."
He wanted a caribou and planned for a hunt in Alaska, but Cabela's outfitters said he was too old.
"Later my son told me some of those guys were way out of shape," says Lundberg, who's still in shape. "One guy fell out of bed and couldn't get back in."
He quit turkey hunting in Missouri six years ago when the landowners' kids were old enough to hunt themselves and took over the land. Duck hunting was given up many years earlier, though memories of good shoots and a harrowing day on the Mississippi River remain.
"We were on an island in the Armistice Day blizzard (of 1940)," Lundberg says. "My dog was so scared he sat right between my legs. It was so cold I couldn't even row. Then the ducks began to fly. We shot until dark. The wind began to blow and we knew we had to get off the island. Nobody had a lighter or matches. We would've froze to death. One guy wanted to go downstream but we would've tipped over. We made it to shore. We didn't realize how bad it was until the next day."
As a kid growing up in Pequot Lakes and then Wabasha, Lundberg would get a box of shells in exchange for three ducks. "That's the only way I could afford to hunt," he says.
With three friends he formed a duck crew that had a shack on the Mississippi backwaters near Wabasha. One of the party drowned ("Never did find him") and the crew eventually disbanded. "I'm the last survivor," Lundberg says.
In 1954, when Camp Ripley opened its gates to bowhunters for the first time, Lundberg was there.
"At the time," he says, "we thought 400 hunters in Camp was a lot. We could only go as far north as Normandy Road. We could hunt all month long. We just drove up to the front gate and checked in.
"There were a lot of deer, but we didn't have treestands. Everyone hunted on the ground. It was harder hunting. Sometimes during the dead part of the day a group of us would get together. One year a guy had a recurve (bow), the first one I'd ever seen. The rest of us all had straight bows."
Lundberg took his wife, Eula, to Camp Ripley a few times. "She'd sit in the car and eat my lunch while I was in the woods," he says.
Eula loved fishing and the couple would hit the water whenever possible. "She was from Missouri," Lundberg says, "and when she set the hook she set the hook."
The Lundbergs fished Gull Lake when the shoreline was still mostly unsettled. "Not a cabin on Upper Gull in those days," Pershing says. "We parked a small trailer up there for a few years."
He hands over a photo of Eula and him with a limit of walleyes on one stringer and a 9-pounder on another. Eula caught the limit, Pershing caught the 9-pounder.
"She was reeling 'em in," he says, "and I wasn't catching a thing. So I told her that when I catch one it'll weigh more than all yours put together. It almost did!"
Eula died in 1993 and Lundberg said he lost all interest in fishing. Yet until recently he made an annual trip to Canada with his son, John.
The constant in his outdoor world has been archery. Lundberg once made his own arrows from wood, using turkey feathers for fletching. His first bow was a Paul Bunyan longbow he bought for $5. His first recurve bow was a Blackhawk. He made his own recurve bow once but John broke it, a mistake he paid for by giving his father a 1982 Jennings Forked Lightning. Bow technology has advanced greatly over the past 22 years, but for Lundberg the Forked Lightning is advancement enough.
"Took me a long time to get used to it," he says. "With bowhunting you need rhythm. Instinctive shooting is quicker than using sights. Do the same release all the time and you'll be there. I think I'd like to go back to my recurve."
Deer hunting, it appears, will be the last pursuit to go. These days Lundberg hunts with a gun as well. The family party has 200 acres near Pillager with a hunting shack to which Pershing donated his old kitchen cabinets and sink.
Ask him if he'll hunt next year and he says, "Depends on how I feel. I'd like to. It's fun to be out there in nature. I like being in camp. I have two grandkids that hunt. But next year might be my last."
"He says that every year," John says, "but then the season rolls around and he's ready to go again."
Pershing looks at the old photos on the dining room table. One shows the deer crew of 1953. Another shows a long ago pheasant hunt in western Minnesota, when birds were plentiful and his legs were strong enough to go all day. A bout with pneumonia that landed him in the hospital this fall was a reminder that those days are gone.
But no regrets are heard from Pershing Lundberg. He leans back from the table and says, "I had a lot of fun through the years. I can't complain at all."
VINCE MEYER can be reached at email@example.com or (218) 855-5862.
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