Wayne Tillotson, a customer of ours from All Phase Electric & Control in Cuba City, Wisconsin, and his wife, Denise, have been bicyclists for some years. In July 2016, they happened to be biking in the same area that the Ragbrai Bicycle Ride was taking place. After talking with some people, they learned that Ragbrai was the biggest bicycling event in the country and possibly even the world. It was started in 1973, and it takes place annually during the last full week of July. Every year is a different route across Iowa, starting at the Missouri River and ending up at the Mississippi River. This year, Team DSG La Crosse took the challenge. Our team was made up of Wayne and Denise Tillotson, as well as myself, Joe Macejik, and my wife, Judy. On July 30, along with thousands of others, we rode 420 miles with 16,489-foot of climb for an experience we will never forget. People from all over the world participate in Ragbrai, and if you like to ride its worth looking into!
At the end of April 2016, a few close friends and I had gotten word that the spring walleye bite was on fire in Devils Lake, ND. That Saturday, we packed up the pickup and headed west. There were a few spots that we wanted to try but knew we were more than likely going to end up fishing our favorite “secret” spot, so we decided to head there first. After a few miles down some old dirt roads and past a road closed sign, we were finally there. We put our waders on and began to walk out onto the sunken dirt road that Devils Lake had engulfed years ago. We got out into the lake about 50 yards and as we stood in our waders next to fellow fishermen that were in their boat, we began casting jigs into the bay. On my second cast, I hooked into a 22″ walleye and instantly knew we were in for a great day. After a few hours, thousands of casts, and countless jigs, we had a stringer of beautiful Devils Lake walleyes. The bite was definitely on as we not only caught our walleyes, but we hooked into so many northerns it was comical. It was all too difficult to keep our jigs away from the northern pike and catch the walleyes we had came for. On our way back to Grand Forks, we all realized this would be one fishing trip we would not forget.
Grand Forks, ND
When Hilary Gietzen finished second in the 2012 North American Sheep Shearing Challenge (NASSC), he was a bit disappointed, but certainly not defeated. Motivated by his near victory, he was determined to make the outcome at the 2013 NASSC final at the Calgary Stampede a better one. Gietzen set off in his single engine Mooney airplane from his home in Minot, North Dakota, on a three-hour trip to Calgary, Alberta. On a trip in which his wife would normally accompany him, this time he rode solo. Even as floodwaters receded from Calgary, he safely landed his plane with one goal in mind: first place.
As a full-time sheep shearer for more than 30 years (he also works as an apprentice at Huizenga Electric in Minot), Gietzen tried to approach competition days like any other workday. But as he entered the arena on the morning of the first day of competition, he had a feeling that this competition would be one to remember.
With more than 30 professionals in the field, Gietzen knew his speed would have to be swift and his workmanship sharp. After all, in his 50s, he was one of the oldest competitors by about 15 to 20 years.
After each round, competitors were scored by a combination of time and workmanship, and then ranked. Early on, Gietzen quickly got a good feel of which combs and patterns were working best on the Canadian sheep and how the judges were scoring. At this event, the judges were valuing workmanship over speed, which played right into Gietzen’s favor. He was quick, but his workmanship was what set him apart.
Every two hours or so, Gietzen was shearing groups of three or four sheep at a rapid pace of one-and-a-half minutes per sheep. He was off to a great start and remained in the top eight throughout the day, reaching as high as second.
On the second and final day of competition, Gietzen entered the arena in the morning feeling confident. He was in the top group of shearers, but not leading, and it was just where he wanted to be – escaping the pressure that comes with holding on to first place. With the field narrowing, Gietzen was holding steady, ranked second going into the semifinals. He and three competitors – a Canadian and two Australians – were now challenged to shear eight sheep per round. Despite the amount of physical stamina and mental focus it takes to shear, Gietzen made it look easy. Every competitor was pushing their hardest for a chance at the title, but once again Gietzen held his rank in second place and earned a spot in the final.
In the final, Gietzen would go head-to-head with a significantly younger Australian man. It was an interesting contrast in styles as the final began, and the round was over in a little more than 12 minutes. Gietzen heard each time a gate opened on his competitor’s side and knew that he was slightly behind in time, but it didn’t bother him – he felt that he had done what he needed to in order to win. The judges deliberated, then announced that Gietzen’s instincts were correct – he had won the championship! With cheers from a crowd of more than 200, Gietzen felt redeemed and proudly accepted the championship award.
For Gietzen, the validation of being a champion made the trip worth it. He celebrated that evening with a banquet-style meal with his fellow competitors, but was quick to head back to Minot the next day. After all, there were more sheep to be sheared at home.
2012 was a special elk hunt for Jared Bloomgren, an employee owner at DSG in Rapid City, South Dakota. He drew an unfamiliar elk unit in Montana and was forced to rely on wildlife biologists, wardens and even Google Earth to narrow down an area to hunt. On his fourth day of bow hunting, Bloomgren caught sight of the bull of a lifetime. The bugling elk was massive, sporting a seven-by-seven rack that seemed to go on forever. Bloomgren quickly dubbed it the “Royal Flush.”
The hunter was lining up a shot when a nearby cow spooked, sending Royal Flush into the trees – but not before the beast looked back and caught site of Bloomgren. Thereafter, the huge elk quit bugling, adding an extra challenge to Bloomgren’s hunt of a lifetime. The next five days played out much the same, with Bloomgren stalking the trophy but always ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He drove home to South Dakota empty-handed.
Bloomgren’s purpose was clear when he resumed his hunt a few weeks later. Because Royal Flush seemed to possess a unique combination of stubborn intelligence and hunter clairvoyance, Bloomgren decided to shadow the bull and his cows in the hope of capitalizing on a mistake. In fact, the hunter followed and tracked his prey nearly round the clock for five more days. His surveillance had revealed that Royal Flush spent a few minutes at the water by himself at the start of each day. Bloomgren used a cow call to get close on his last morning in Montana, but the giant elk spied him. Their eyes locked, the hunter drew, but the arrow caught a branch. Royal Flush escaped once again.
The hunter went home dejected once more, then gathered himself for one last attempt. It was early October when he returned to Royal Flush’s home territory. Snowflakes began to fall, and soon he found two raghorn bulls sparring. The young bulls suddenly moved off, with a herd of cows arriving instead. Bloomgren knew that an older bull must be with them, a logical reason for the two youngsters’ retreat.
Minutes later, Royal Flush revealed himself from behind a downed tree just 45 yards away. He was distracted by the young bulls, charging them to protect his harem. It turned out to be a fatal mistake. As he turned back to his herd, Bloomgren lined up his rangefinder, then drew his bow as the beast put his head down to feed. His arrow was true, but Royal Flush dove into the brush nonetheless. Bloomgren found him and put a second arrow into the massive bull before it bolted once more into the timber.
With darkness almost upon him, Bloomgren waited until morning to track his prize. He found the elk 40 yards from his last point of contact, and though it had succumbed to the arrows, it was no less impressive. In fact, the bull measured out at more than 412″ gross – the biggest bull taken in Montana in 2012 under those conditions. For Jared Bloomgren, playing his cards correctly paid off with a winning hand – the incredible Royal Flush.
Shane McCollum is an inside salesperson for the electrical segment at DSG in Fargo. He’s in his 40s now, but when McCollum was in his late 20s, he decided that he really wanted a bobcat mount.
Over the next few years, he taught himself how to track and trap, and his first trophy was a bobcat that he still has today. Since then, McCollum has become an accomplished trapper, with his favorite quarry being beaver.
A decade later, McCollum’s 14-year-old nephew asked him to pass on his knowledge. McCollum agreed, and it was a cold, wet December morning when the two set out near Bemidji, Minn., to scout for prey. Anyone who has ever been to this part of the world knows that the trees are thick, and the weather can be fierce. They slogged through rain and snow for miles, occasionally setting a trap for beaver or mink.
Then they saw them: cat tracks – big cat tracks. McCollum explained to his nephew how bobcats have a habit of walking in their own tracks over and over. This meant that the animal would almost surely return. It was the opportunity they had been hoping for.
They followed the tracks until they found a suitable choke point – a spot on the trail where trees on either side would force the animal to follow a narrow, predictable path. McCollum showed his nephew the time-consuming steps involved with preparing a blind-set snare, which included arranging the restraint cable at head height for the bobcat to walk into. With any luck, the cat would find himself quickly caught by the neck, and McCollum’s nephew would have his own prize mount.
But trapping takes patience. For the next three days, McCollum’s nephew roused him out of bed so the two could hit the trails before dawn, hiking up to eight miles a day through dense brush, thick snow and freezing temperatures. Every day they would see deer and grouse. They even managed to trap two mink and a handful of beaver. But the bobcat snare stayed empty. McCollum had seen similar traps stay empty for months, but he kept that to himself, not wanting to dampen his nephew’s enthusiasm.
On the fourth day, McCollum saw fresh tracks as they approached the snare. He held his breath but said nothing. When they saw the bobcat in the trap, McCollum’s nephew literally jumped for joy. The male bobcat was even more incredible than he had dreamed: 34 pounds, 54 ¼ inches from nose to tail – a big cat for sure.
“I’ve spent my whole life walking through the woods,” McCollum’s nephew told him with a smile that put the December sun to shame, “but I never looked down. I never saw that there were tracks and that I could follow them.” His uncle shared his pride, and now both have bobcat mounts to provide vivid memories and exciting stories they can share.