Elk River makes its way to the Game Fair

Sports Reporter

by Eric Oslund

Sports Reporter

The Game Fair, located just north of Anoka, is all about passing on an interest of the outdoors to the next generation, and it has been doing so for 36 years. People come from all over to share their passion with others like them, and there is one Elk River resident that has been doing his part there every year since it first opened.

If you take a right upon entering into the Game Fair, and go behind the grand stands, you’ll run into the tent of Kurt Baumgartner, an avid hunter and founder of the 100-yard shot.

Kurt Baumgartner (left) and his son Andrew work their tent at the 2017 Game Fair. (Photo by Eric Oslund)

Baumgartner was born in Germany and then moved to Minnesota when he was five years old after being adopted by his parents, and that’s how he fell in love with the outdoors. His father loved to fish and hunt, and passed that down to him – the same way he has now done with his kids. But bow hunting was something he had to get into on his own.

“My dad was a hunter, he was not a bow hunter,” he explained. “And bow hunting, I’m talking way back, bow hunting wasn’t as popular as it is now… When I was in my early-to-mid 20’s I got interested in trying archery and bow hunting. Got started in it and have been doing it ever since.”

He’d often get together to practice shooting his bow with some friends and as they got better and better, they started stepping further and further away from the target.

They eventually would get back to around 100 yards, the length of a football field, and still be able to hit the target. Baumgartner then had the idea to talk with Chuck Delaney – one of the Game Fair’s founders – about promoting the sport of archery more, and he would do so by hitting balloons from 100 yards out.

Kurt Baumgartner watches to see if a number of different shooters can hit the target he has set up 100 yards out. (Photo by Eric Oslund)

“It’s something people don’t see every day,” he said. “So we just, not that we were super good to begin with, we just practiced and started breaking them at 100. I’d stand in front of a grand stand full of spectators, with Ron Schara saying, ‘OK, he’s going to break some balloons at 100 yards.’ And I’d be like, ‘I better break some balloons at 100 yards.’ Just got started doing it that way.”

People were always amazed by the shots he would make, as it’s not easy to hit a target with a bow and arrow from that distance out, but there were always those at his show who believed they could do it themselves.

“I had guys saying, ‘I’d really like to try that,” or I’d have guys saying, ‘I think I could do that too.’ So we turned it into a contest,” Baumgartner explained.

The 100-yard shot has now been a staple of the Game Fair for six years. He originally convinced Delaney to help him out, and the Game Fair founder put up $1,000 to be used in the contest with $500 going to the winner, $300 going to second place, and $200 going to third place.

The Baumgartners are now working on their own brand, BaumJäger, designed to promote the outdoor lifestyle. (Photo by Eric Oslund)

Baumgartner has seen an increase in popularity every year for this event, with 68 people participating a year ago, and the best part about it is that there has been a new winner every time.

“First, second, or third, it’s always been a mix of different people,” he began. “I have a lot of returning shooters who are very good shooters, but it’s not as easy as guys think it is. I’ve never had the same person win it overall and I’ve never had the same three people finish first, second and third. It’s always been someone new, which is good. I don’t want people to think that they can’t compete. That they can’t walk up and compete because guys that are tournament shooters or something are going to walk away with it, that’s not the case at all.”

The final round of the 2017 100-yard shot will take place in front of his tent – Archery World – on Aug. 20 at 3 p.m., and anyone is welcome to come and watch.

 

Elk River Kennels:

Elk River Kennels has been in existence for over 20 years, and has been a staple at the Game Fair since they first started up. It all began with Al Freidberg, but has since been passed to Jeff Latour when he purchased the kennels 10 years ago.

They deal with everything from grooming, boarding, obedience training, and hunting training at the Elk River Kennels, and take a different approach with their business than other trainers might do.

The owner of the Elk River Kennels, Jeff Latour, stands in his tent at the 2017 Game Fair. (Photo by Eric Oslund)

Instead of having a strict training regimen they follow with all the dogs, they cater their methods to each individual animal they receive.

“Dogs are no different than people, every dog has a different personality, so how you treat the individual dog – I think the key to my success has been I am able to look at a dog after I’ve worked with him and say, ‘OK, I can put this kind of pressure on it or I can’t. I have to train this dog this way or this dog this way,’” Latour explained. “Even though they are in the same program, trying to accomplish the same thing, the way I teach them to get to that point are completely different for any two dogs.”

Even the amount of time it will take to train a dog varies due to age, breed, or just their personalities. Him and his staff will treat each as an individual and do their best to get them trained.

The dogs’ owners certainly seem to appreciate it as he will often see a lot of the same faces, which is a reason he enjoys attending the Game Fair. He gets to talk with his clients about how their dogs are doing, dogs which will often remember him and go treat the man who trained them with a wag of their tail.

Latour is always looking for more dogs to welcome to the Elk River Kennels, with the only requirement for acceptance being that they have to be up to date with all their shots, and they recommend a vaccination for Lyme’s disease.

Whether it’s obedience training, hunting training, or getting a rescue to open up more, Latour has become well versed in dealing with dogs and is always will to help out.