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Beauty and the bucks: Hunters return to Tettegouche with fond memories

They're all named Ron, the trio that comes to Tettegouche State Park each year to take part in its special deer hunt. They don't go by Senior or Junior. "Just Ron," the oldest, at far right, says. His son is at left, grandson in the middle, on the porch of Cabin A in the Tettegouche Club camp. Mike Creger1 / 2
Ron Ulseth, son of Ron and father to Ron, teaches engineering at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. Mike Creger2 / 2

Ron Ulseth stood on Mount Baldy last week to get reception on his cell phone but, believe him, he was there for the view. "I sent my boss a message," Ulseth said. "This is my office."

Ulseth was on his fourth annual trip to Tettegouche State Park with his son, Ron, and father, Ron, for its special deer hunt. They stay in Cabin A, the original structure at the formerly private Tettegouche Camp that eventually became part of one of the most stunning of Minnesota's state parks.

Here among rugged hills and sparkling lakes is a nature that draws the three men from Grand Rapids. The deer hunt is always secondary. If they came here for the luck, they'd be disappointed. "When people ask how we did, we don't hide the fact," the middle Ron Ulseth said. They came in on Tuesday and by Thursday, the last full day of the trip, they hadn't gotten one. Ulseth joked that the pressure was on since they've bagged three bucks in three years. "It's been pretty quiet."

"It's a family thing," the older Ulseth said. It's tradition. A calming way to get in touch with nature and each other on the shore of Mic Mac Lake.

They call it slow hunting, always during the week to avoid other hunters. Not that you would run into many in the expanse that is Tettegouche. "There's so much land to hunt, the oldest Ulseth said.

"We've done our part to not get lost," his son said.

They poke around the hills and lakeshores and probably put on 25 to 40 miles in the four days they are there.

The first day they concentrate on finding signs of deer. "Then we form a strategy," the middle Ulseth said, trying to keep his face stern.

"Obviously we're not very good at it," his son jokes.

There is a strong will to make the trip each year. "Even if we don't get a buck, it's the highlight" of the year, the middle Ron said. They have hunting land closer to home, but this spot is tradition. This is where the three get away and bond each year.

Last year, the youngest Ulseth, a senior in high school this year, tore a meniscus in his knee late in the football season. Six days after surgery, he was helping lug the deer camp gear the mile and a half to Cabin A. "I pushed the same cart out," he said of his heroics.

The trio takes pleasure in having none of the typical technological distraction at the 100-year-old cabin. There are periodic check-ins with phones on Baldy. The youngest had to bring a notebook computer to stay on top of schoolwork.

The oldest Ulseth is a longtime friend of Nick Kerr in Silver Bay. Part of the trip includes dinner at his place. "Just another part of the tradition," the oldest says.

His son points to the windows on the screened porch of Cabin A, explaining again the simple reason they are here. "It's the view. Right there is my 72-inch LCD screen - our windows."

It's quite an office out there.

Teaching outdoors

Ron Ulseth, son of Ron and father to Ron, teaches engineering at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. After seeing Tettegouche State Park and its camp area on past deer hunts, he decided to merge its pleasures with his work.

Part of his teaching philosophy focuses on serving the community, so he brought his future engineers to the wild of the North Shore last spring to help clear trails after the ice storm.

Plans are for students to come back and help with trail building and even the design of bridges.

Much of the work is drudgery, but Ulseth wants to drive that service part home. "They might not like the work but it isn't so bad when they can do it in a place like this."

"And once they build something, they see the value."

Crews have been in the trails and parks around the Lake and Cook County line.

Phil Leversedge, park manager at Tettegouche, Temperance, and George H. Crosby-Manitou state parks, is thrilled that Ulseth has brought more people in to enjoy the parks and put some valuable time in designing trails and bridges.

"Who would think that part of engineering is being out on a trail," Leversedge said.

Ulseth said he wants to show the diversity of work for his students, that engineering is more than just sitting in an office.

"Who would have thought that'd be a spinoff of deer hunting?" he said.