Hunting unites three generations of Iron Range familyFor Tori Berg, now 13, of Hibbing, not too many things are more fun and more memorable than deer hunting. She and her older sister, Britny, 16, have both been going to the deer stand with their dad, B.J. Berg, and grandpa, Morry Berg, since they were 5 years old.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
“It was a cold, dark November morning. Most of the leaves had fallen off the trees. I was excited to go out into the woods. I love the outdoors, hunting, and fishing. After we woke up, we got dressed in our camouflage and orange. It was my first year shooting a rifle so I was nervous. My Grandpa and I were ready to start the day hunting.”
Tori Berg of Hibbing was just 10 when she wrote those words in 2009. She wrote them for an assignment in her English class.
“We were supposed to write about a fun time or a memorable moment,” Tori, now 13, says during a dinner at the Berg home on an early October evening.
The topic of deer hunting was a natural. For Tori, now 13, not too many things are more fun and more memorable than deer hunting. She and her older sister, Britny, 16, have been going to the deer stand with their dad, B.J. Berg, since they were 5 years old.
Follow them down the stairs to the family room before dinner, and they’ll show you the framed photos that cover three walls in the room. In the pictures, the girls usually are wearing camouflage or blaze orange. They’re holding ducks or geese they shot themselves. They’re holding big walleyes and muskies.
The girls will tell you about Tori’s 28½-inch walleye from Lake of the Woods. They’ll tell you about the morning Britny, napping in a field of goose decoys, woke up just in time to raise her gun and drop a giant Canada goose.
B.J. and grandpa Morry Berg, 69, of Williams, up near Lake of the Woods, stand quietly in the background, letting the girls do the talking. But the men were there on all of those days when fish were caught and ducks were shot. Hunting runs deep in this family, from Morry down to B.J. and his brother and on down, now, to the girls.
There’s another hunter on the way, too.
“When I get bigger, I’m going to hunt with Grandpa,” 8-year-old Ella announces at dinner.
“My Grandpa and I hopped onto his Argo, and we were on our way. Once we got out to the stand, we set up. I could hear the birds chirping, and the squirrels running through the woods. I had a good feeling that today was going to be the day. It was the perfect temperature. It was cold enough to make the deer move. If it were warm or too windy, the deer would most likely just bed down.”
The Berg family hunts from a deer shack in the woods near Canyon, where Morry’s dad hunted long ago. They call it a shack, but Morry and the rest of the gang tore down the old shack about a decade ago and built a new one. As a retired contractor, Morry knows something about building.
“Thirty-six by 36,” he says. “With a 14-by-20 entryway and a deck in back.”
“There are a lot of guys that go to the shack,” Tori says. “Me and my sister are the only girls during deer season.”
As at most camps, the Bergs eat well.
“We have this big plate of pancakes,” she says. “Every day, there are leftover pancakes. We crumble them up and put them in Ziploc bags and set the crumbs on the edge of the stand. Chickadees and lumberjacks (gray jays) and nuthatches come down. They swoop in and sit right on the barrel of the gun.”
“As we waited, we saw three wolves. It was a good sign and a bad sign. It was an outstanding thing because they would move the deer around. The terrible thing was that they are natural predators of the deer. I was getting dreary since we had woken up at 5 o’clock. When I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I fell asleep.
“After I had woken up, we had a snack. It was now around 9:30-10:00. My Grandpa and I had been out there for about 4½ hours now, and we had only seen a doe. The day seemed long and we were both tired.”
You can see the two of them sitting up there, grandfather and granddaughter, looking out over the spruce and the popples, waiting for a buck to come by. You can imagine them having their Dinty Moore stew at midday and their quiet conversations as they pass the hours.
“He teases me,” Tori says. “About boys. About how the deer are going to see my red fingernails. And he says I snore.”
She laughs as she says this, and Morry smiles back across the table at her.
“We’re hunting buddies,” Tori says.
“It was now around 12 o’clock and I was getting cold, so we turned on our heater. While my Grandpa was turning it on, I saw something down the trail. I looked through my scope and saw that it was an 8-point buck! I looked over at my Grandpa, and he gave me the signal to shoot.
“I put my cross arrows in my scope right behind his shoulder blade, and slowly pulled the trigger. We waited a while to see if it would come out any of the other trails. I was trembling. My Grandpa and I sauntered down the trail to look for the deer. We found the deer after trying to track it through the thick brush and swamp. We called my Dad and sister and they came and helped us haul it out. We cleaned all of the entrails out, and put it in the sled to go back to the shack.
“Once we got to the shack everyone came outside and congratulated me on my first buck. That was my favorite day out in the woods. I had a great time. Even though it was cold, and I was tired, I definitely want to go hunting again!”
Oh, she’s been hunting again. She shot a six-point buck the next year, in 2010. After that, she graduated from hunting with her grandfather.
“She got the hook,” he says with a grin.
Britny hunts with her grandpa now, feeding the chickadees pancakes, looking for her first buck. Tori will hunt with her dad this fall. She was hunting with him last fall when a six-point buck came in. B.J. thought she might take the buck, but she chose to pass it up.
“I’ve got a deer like that,” B.J. says she told him.
At 13, Tori seems to have her success in perspective. After dinner, when all of the questions have been asked and all the notes have been taken, Tori is asked if there’s anything else she’d like to add. She pauses for a moment, thinking, and those around the table grow silent.
“It’s not always about going out there and getting something,” she says. “It’s about going out there and enjoying the outdoors.”
From across the table comes another voice.
“And being with each other,” Morry says.
After she wrote the story in 2009 about her first buck, Tori had an idea. She mounted the printed story on a nice piece of wood. Her dad helped her wood-burn the edges. She put a photo of herself and that eight-point buck alongside the story. Then she varnished the whole works.
At Christmas, she gave it to her grandpa.