North woods man
“I was so little I’d put the stock over my shoulder instead of against it so I could get the shotgun to where I could aim it. My father had a wonderful carpenter friend who made a stock that would fit me.”
Flett has endless stories about hunting with his father, but one is his favorite.
“Dad was a great shot. When I was a kid rabbit hunting with him, he’d never miss. One day in Minnesota we were deer hunting around a huge meadow. He was in a tree stand on one side and I was on the other. We had several guns, and he asked which one I wanted. I didn’t hesitate too much; I took the one that gave me several shots without reloading and left him with the single shot.
“An eight-point buck came out on my side of the meadow, and I had a shot at him. I fired and missed. I fired again. Missed. Again. Missed. He ran full speed straight at the tree Dad was in. Dad fired at him but missed and the buck kept on at a full run at the tree. Dad broke the gun, took the empty shell out, rammed in a new one and closed the gun just as the deer charged past the base of the tree. Dad reached up with his left hand and grabbed a branch and used it to swing himself around to his right, the gun in his right hand, and as the deer went under the tree he fired, one-handed, and brought it down still holding the branch. I just sat back down in my stand in awe; I’ve never seen anything like it.
“I keep trying to be as good as he was, but I don’t think I’ll ever make it.”
Flett enjoys the outdoors by himself, but these days he tries to find ways to take his wife Natalie and the three youngest of this seven children, Gage, 8, Medora, 5, and Amra, 2 1/2, with him. “Sometimes I’ll stay out six or eight weeks just so that I can come back and do a four-day hunting trip,” he says. “I used to do fishing trips like that but not so much now.”
His children, he says, grew up loving the outdoors as much as he and his father did. Eldest son Paul and eldest daughter Brandy were particularly keen and still are, he says. “They used to pester me to go fishing when they were little, and now the youngest ones do the same thing, and they’ve been camping and fishing since they were babies,” he says. “We took Medora camping and fishing with us when she was 11 weeks old.”
Before the family moved to Iowa, they lived in a small house in remote Silver Bay, Minn., a small town on the northern shore of Lake Superior near the Canadian border, surrounded by wilderness and wildlife. “The little kids were raised on the outdoors from birth. We had timber wolves, bears, moose and deer in the yard, and we all loved that,” Flett says. “Our house was heated with a wood-burning stove, and at the night the animals, especially the wolves, would come in to share the heat coming off the outside of it. They’d be there in the morning when I went out. When they were real little, the kids would come in and say, “Daddy I think there’s a bear coming,” and I’d think that was a cute thing to say and I’d ask, ‘Why do you think that?” and they’d say something like ‘I can see him.’
“Whichever way we went from the door we were in the woods, and I think we’d all like to live somewhere like that the rest of our lives. Natalie is from Montana, and her whole family is into hunting and fishing, too.”
And it’s with Natalie and the smallest children in mind that Flett looks around and figures that a mountain in Montana, maybe Big Bear Mountain, is where the family will go once his fledgling trucking company gets established. “Montana is where she’d like to be, and it’s a wonderful place for a hunter and fisherman like me.”
Natalie Flett says the woods and stream are more than just a place for her husband to hunt and fish: “For some people the woods are a spiritual place to be, like a church, and that’s the way it is for him.”
“I love that he loves what he’s doing and he’s passing on that passion to the kids,” says Natalie Flett. “They love being out there with him, exploring. I think we’d have done fine out in the wilderness in the 1880s; we feel so comfortable out there.”
Flett mostly hunts whitetail deer and small game. He also hunts black bear in Minnesota and spends a lot of time trapping but says he’s never hunted big game. Which brought him to the tractor at GATS.
“It immediately caught my eye at the show because I’ve been thinking of big game hunting,” he says. “I’ve applied for a moose permit for years in Minnesota. I’d put in my $3 and wait, but I’ve never got one. You’ve got to be really lucky to get one, and when you do it’s the only one you’ll get in your lifetime. So without any luck there I’ve started thinking about Montana elk.”