A priest’s deer hunt

November 19, 2010

Faith Outdoors

The following story comes from Father Michael Becker, new rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary and former pastor of St. Michael in St. Michael. He is an avid deer hunter who goes out annually with someone from St. Michael. He writes:

“I was out hunting this past weekend with parishioners from St Michael’s Catholic Church (St Michael, MN). Jerry Dehmer is a father and grandfather of many. His home is in St Michael, but he owns a couple farms up near Bagley, MN (west of Bemidji). So for the last 10 years he has farmed up near Bemidji, and returns home on weekends (or other days) to be with his wife in St Michael (or she sometimes goes up to be with him).

Every year, Jerry takes the youngest grandchild (boy or girl), who just became of legal age to hunt deer into a stand, and helps his grandchild shoot a deer, and every year they are successful. Jerry has a rule on his farms, that no one can shoot little bucks. As a result, every year, there are several eight-, 10- and even 12-point bucks that are taken off his land. And often, because Jerry is so talented at it, the youngest grandchild is one of those who get a big buck. This year, I happen to be one of seven that shot some nice bucks (mine a 10-pointer).

It is truly a family experience – especially love between a grandfather and grandchildren! But, I should not forget to remember his wife, Bitsy, who with some of the daughters, usually prepares all the meals while the rest hunt). Jerry is a devout practicing Catholic, who never stays in the stand on Sunday mornings, but always leaves it to go to Mass in nearby Fosston (except when I am with the Dehmers, I celebrate Mass for them . . . I’ve done so for the last 5 years).

One other really neat fact — Jerry often goes hunting for elk each fall as well. This fall he was out west  (southern Colorado, I believe) and lost his cell phone. Hiking around the mountains left like one in a million chances of finding that phone. He retraced every step he had taken the day he lost it, but found it not. Well, he said a prayer to St Anthony (patron of lost things), and some time later, one of his hunting buddies stepped off the path he was hiking, putting a leg up on a log, just to tie his shoe lace. Looking down he spotted a cell phone. It was Jerry’s. This is incredible, like truly a needle in a hundred hay stacks.”

After reading Father Becker’s story, I called Jerry to hear more about his deer and elk hunts. I discovered that, for the sixth time, he helped one of his grandchildren bag their first deer. The fortunate hunter in this case was Blake Barthel, 13, who shot a nice eight-pointer, which Jerry helped find. Later, he brought the deer to a taxidermist, another tradition he carries out for his grandchildren. Jerry had a total of 16 hunters in the party this year, and they took 10 deer, seven bucks and three does.

As for the elk hunt, Jerry was not able to bag one, though one of the other three hunters in his party did. However, he was able to take a nine-point buck in Minnesota. He came across two bucks whose antlers were interlocked as the result of a fight. One was already dead, and Jerry did the ethical thing and shot the other.

Sounds like a nice reward for all the work Jerry does every year to help out all of the hunters in his party. We need more hunters like Jerry in the field!

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek