Daryl Melbostad, at left, and his son, Andrew, are avid bow hunters. Andrew, however, will be sitting this season out after breaking both wrists in a fall from a tree. Both men recommend using available safety gear when hunting to keep everyone safe.(Bluff Country Reader photo by Craig Moorhead)
Daryl Melbostad, at left, and his son, Andrew, are avid bow hunters. Andrew, however, will be sitting this season out after breaking both wrists in a fall from a tree. Both men recommend using available safety gear when hunting to keep everyone safe.

(Bluff Country Reader photo by Craig Moorhead)
"I haven't entered any horns into the Pope and Young or Boone and Crocket record books," Daryl Melbostad of rural Spring Grove said, "But it seems to me that a trophy is in the eye of the beholder."

"I believe that every animal harvested by archery hunting is a true trophy, because there's quite a bit of a challenge involved... A lot of television shows and hunting magazines put extreme pressure on new and young hunters, that you have to shoot this animal with a big rack or you're not a real bow hunter. I think that's misleading," he added.

Daryl has 40 years of bow hunting experience. His 22-year-old son, Andrew, is also taken with the sport, even though he'll be sitting out the 2012 season. Earlier this fall, Andrew was hanging tree stands when he fell about 15 feet, breaking both wrists.

"It could have been a lot worse," he admitted. "I've been hanging stands for about six years, so it's become kind of second-nature. I just made a mistake. I got in too big of a hurry. If telling what happened to me saves somebody else from doing what I did, then I don't mind talking about it... I don't want anybody else to go through this."

"There are no official stats on elevated stand falls because there is no reporting requirement," stated Captain Mike Hammer of Minnesota DNR's enforcement division via email. "However, ask any ER doctor or physical therapist, they will tell you folks are falling all the time. Elevated stand safety is of big concern for hunters."

Hammer continued, "They should always use a fall arrest system when leaving the ground. There are many types available at most sporting goods stores. They should always be practicing the three-point rule. Two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand should always be in contact when climbing."

"Most if not all portable stands purchased today include a fall arrest system and instructions for its use," Hammer said, adding that the DNR has lots of hunter safety information available on its website, including more on tree stand safety.

In case one has any doubts about it, dropping headfirst towards the ground isn't a good thing. By instinctively putting out his hands, Andrew probably saved himself from a much more serious injury.

"I played football all through high school," he said, "and that was a lot more of a hit than any football player ever gave me."

With three surgeries behind him and a couple to go, one may think Andrew would consider giving up his outdoor pursuit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I wasn't wearing a safety harness at the time," he said. "I would have fallen maybe a foot and a half if I would have had one on... There are multiple versions of safety harnesses out there. I already have a list of things I'm buying for next year and I don't intend to skimp on that item."

Holding up his casts, he added, "Spending $200 or $300 on safety gear is nothing compared to what this costs."

Father and son gravitate towards different types of archery gear. "I'm an ultra-traditionalist," Daryl said. "Andrew likes to go high-tech."

"I've broken numerous bows of all types, because I shoot a heavy-poundage bow and I used to shoot a tremendous amount. Sometimes I draw too far back and stress them past the max...," Daryl explained. "The last deer I shot was with a hickory long-bow Andrew made me. It was the first and last deer I took with that bow. It's retired now."

"I do like to check out all the latest gear," Andrew admitted. But bow hunting is about a lot more than equipment, he said.

"Last year was my eighth year bow hunting, and it was the first time I shot a buck... You hear people talk about buck fever when the gun season comes around," Andrew continued. "I've shot numerous animals with a bow and arrow, and I still have issues calming my nerves when I have an opportunity to take an animal. I get excited.

"It's fun just to see them, fun to get them that close. I may not have a lot of years into it but I do have a lot of time in it... There are probably about 30 things about bow hunting that I love," Andrew said. "One of the biggest is just the peace of being out in nature. You can drive past the same place every day, but once you take the time to get out and get in the woods, it's completely different."

Time slows. Animals of all types go about their routines. For a busy human observer, a whole new world appears. "It's beautiful, peaceful," he reflected. "It's God's country."

Daryl agreed. "There's always beauty in nature," he added. "Just being out there, you can count on seeing something new. It could be raining, or it could be a cold morning in camp out west with snowflakes coming down... You hear or read about a lot of these things, but to actually see it happen, there are just no words to describe it."

"I've had chickadees land on my arrows when I'm holding my bow," Daryl described. "I've had squirrels sit on the same tree stand that I'm on. You're sitting still, and you see all kinds of wildlife."

"It's a good learning experience," Andrew said.

"Sometimes you'd be better off carrying a camera," Daryl grinned. "But you never know when the trophy of a lifetime might appear...

"I've been to Wyoming, Montana, Idaho on bow hunts. This year Andrew came along. He and I went to Colorado with some friends to hunt elk. It was a great trip whether we harvested any animals or not. You spend some time with friends, enjoy the camaraderie. You see all that scenery, the mountains. We didn't bring back any elk, but it was still a successful trip," Daryl said.

"Hunting here in southern Minnesota can be an awesome thing, even if we don't have to hike miles back into the mountains," Andrew said. "That's more like roughing it, and it's a blast. But Houston County is a great place to hunt, too. When you climb down out of your stand after dark, and you look up... Well, there's people who live in the city who don't ever know how many stars are up there in the sky."

"It's true," Daryl said. "What we have right here is special."