'A way of life'
Whether it's hopping into a boat and fishing or sitting in a deer stand, turkey or duck blind, there is always something in season for a Minnesota outdoorsman. Finding time for the many outdoor activities is not always easy, but for Red Wing native Jim Isensee, retirement has opened up his availability. More importantly, at the age of 92, Isensee still enjoys getting out and doing what he loves.
For example, last weekend he visited Round Lake near Amery, Isensee said. The goal: panfish
He said he has been to Round Lake several times in the past. This trip according to his daughter, Ann Vogel, netted the fishing party a whopping 75 fish.
"The fish have been biting," Isensee remarked. "Plus, when it comes to eating, panfish are pretty hard to beat. We get an assembly line, filet them up — it's wonderful fish."
Isensee has his eyes set on another trip later this summer though. He leaves Aug. 6 for Kodiak Island in Alaska, where he will be fishing for halibut, salmon and sea bass for five days.
"The key to the trip will be the weather; usually it's a stable time of year," Isensee added. "I was up in Alaska in 1980 on Labor Day and cars were coming back to town with snow on them."
Aside from fishing trips on lakes, Isensee said he spends the majority of his time on the Mississippi River. His passion doesn't lie purely with fishing, however. Conservation of the river banks and water is an important issue for him.
"The river right now is pretty messy, a lot of debris," Isensee said. "This time of year you have to be extra cautious as wake shakes stuff from the riverbanks."
He currently uses a 16-foot Alumacraft with a 40-horsepower Yamaha engine, about the right size for the river he said. It's the bigger boats that raise concern for Isensee.
"We see 300-horse(power) outboards now that are raising hell," he said. "You can see where we have the no-wake zone now there is no (shoreline) damage. Other areas have lost so much shoreline because of the bigger and bigger boats. We should be trying something to fix this problem."
An all-around outdoor guy
In addition to Isensee's summer fishing adventures, he is also an active deer, duck and turkey hunter.
"I hunted ducks last fall and I intend to hunt this fall," Isensee quipped. "You start off with duck hunting and then go straight into deer.
"I deer hunted with a bow for years. A lot of years I wouldn't even draw the bow since something would be in the way of a shot."
For Isensee, hunting isn't just about filling a tag. Taking in the sights and sounds of the outdoors are a way of life.
"I've seen bucks chasing does, coyotes, grouse, turkeys, all those things," Isensee said. "About 30 years ago I saw this giant buck shaking this large tree with its immense rack. Steam would come off from him as he sniffed the air. At about 60-70 yards out, the deer looked right at me as if to say 'I know you're there,' and then trotted off."
Isensee had just as many tales to share about his yearly spring turkey hunting routine, something he said that once you do it, you're hooked.
The tom he shot this spring was taken down from about 20-25 yards away in a corn stubble field with three hens and toms strutting about.
One particular turkey hunt that stood out to Isensee occurred two years ago. He said he had two toms come into shooting range and he shot the larger of the two.
"The other bird just went nuts, he gobbled and gobbled then came over to the bird that's now flopping on the ground and jumps right on top of him," Isensee said. "I wish I had a camera. He just went berserk."
It's memories like those that stick with Isensee today and keep him motivated to get out and experience the outdoors. Out scouting the area one week before he shot this year's turkey, he saw seven turkeys and seven deer in quick order.
"Just a great outdoor experience," he remarked. "You're amazed at what shows up."
Being 92 years old has had little effect on his ambition to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
"It's a way of life for me," Isensee concluded. "I'll do it for as long as I can."