Mutual respect and generosity are underlying themes in the stories of those who won the 2001 Deer Hunter's Ethics Award.
Honors for exhibiting the highest standard of hunting ethics went to Barb Hanson of Baudette in the adult award category, and to youth winners Greg Graham and Billy Wentzlaff of Henderson and James Borgardt of Belle Plaine. The awards ceremony was held April 27 in Blue Earth in conjunction with the Minnesota Deer Hunter's Association (MDHA) annual State Habitat Banquet.
Bowhunting enthusiast Barb Hanson knew the feeling when 12-year-old Danny, the son of a friend, confided that he was sad because he received a bow from his dad who died recently and didn't know how he was going to learn to use it. Hanson understood because she lost her son and hunting partner when he was killed three years ago. So Hanson asked Danny if he would like to go hunting with her. She took him out before the hunting season and let him decide where he wanted to hunt. She also took him hunting with her when the season opened.
"I'm sure she gave up her personal hunting time to help Danny learn about hunting," said Bob Hanson, who nominated the winner.
Youth award winners Greg Graham, age 16, Billy Wentzlaff, 13, and James Borgardt, 12, resolved a classic ethical deer hunting challenge in a way that was a credit to everyone who loves the sport.
The story began when James Borgardt shot a four-point buck. Accompanied by his father Larry Borgardt, James trailed the deer. When the deer crossed property lines, they stopped to get the landowner's permission to proceed. After getting permission, the Borgardts saw the wounded deer but could not make a shot because of thick brush.
A bit later they heard gunshots and concluded that another hunter had killed the wounded deer. James said he was glad someone else got the buck so it wouldn't go to waste.
As they proceeded, the Borgardts met Greg Graham, who said his younger brother had killed the deer. After saying they were glad Greg Graham and Billy Wentzlaff had gotten the deer, the Borgardts asked if they could take a look at it to see its antlers and find out where James had hit it. Greg Graham agreed. After the Borgardts saw the deer, they congratulated Billy Wentzlaff on his good shot and turned to leave. As they did, Greg Graham said, "Since you (James Borgardt) wounded the deer, it should be yours."
Larry Borgardt replied that they did not come to take the Graham's deer. Then James Borgardt walked over to Greg Graham and Billy Wentzlaff, shook their hands, and thanked them for giving him his first deer.
"It was great to see those three young men, and should I say great sportsmen, decide whose deer it was on their own," Larry Borgardt said.
"We are proud of hunters like Barb Hanson, Greg Graham, Billy Wentzlaff and the Borgardts, who serve as models for all of us," said MDHA Executive Director Mark Johnson.
Sponsored by the MDHA, Turn in Poachers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Deer Hunters Ethics Award honors deer hunters who have exhibited conduct that can serve as an example of admirable hunting practices.
For information about how to nominate people for the 2002 Deer Hunters Ethics Award next fall, contact Mary Edel at MDHA by calling 1-800-450-DEER (3337), or by e-mailing her at email@example.com.