From the archives — How to wrestle a deer

Rather than bore you with more thoughts on the election, I thought I’d share this blast from the past in honor of deer season. This is a column from Feb. 16, 2000.
Doug Welinski, a wildlife technician at the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area, never had any formal training in deer wrestling. In the past, in order to tag and radio-collar deer, he chased the deer out of traps into nets that were held by two other people, but the work required too many helpers.
Then he heard about a woman in South Dakota who would climb into the traps and subdue the deer single-handedly. Not to be outdone, Welinski gave it a try, and he has perfected the technique well enough to be able to pass it on to others — like newspaper reporters.
After Doug and I had visited a few traps, he asked me if I wanted to try one. I didn’t think twice, since I’d grown up watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and knew this might be my last chance to wrestle a wild animal like Marlin Perkins’ assistant Jim used to do.
“Sure,” I said. “If it’s a small one.”
After a few more traps, we came upon one that was occupied by a good-sized fawn. Without stopping to think, I crawled under the door and paused a moment, wishing I’d stopped to think.
As I grabbed the deer, it got its legs free and began to kick. I had already broken rule number one: Get on top of it, so the legs remain underneath the body.
“Let go and try again,” Doug said.
I thought he was crazy. The hooves were already flying. What would happen when I let the critter go?
This time, though, I followed his directions. When the deer got its footing, I came down on its back from above, and it dropped to the ground with its legs folded under it.
Once I got the mask over its head, it settled down and let me tie the rope around its forelegs and the belt around its waist and back legs. I carried the beast out of the door, proud as a farm boy who’d roped his first calf.
Our roll in the alfalfa was an experience I’ll never forget — the feel and smell of thick fur, the hooves flailing against my chest and arms, the panicked bleating of the young fawn, and finally the heaving chest between my knees as I sat astride it.
If anyone ever offers to let you go toe-to-hoof with a wild animal, I recommend that you don’t think twice.
And follow the directions.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger. You can read his blog posts on the election (and other topics) at


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