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No buck for Minnesota's reclusive outdoorsman, Beryl Novak

Veteran hunter has a rare off-year for deer, but big Thanksgiving plans.

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Beryl Novak poses inside the ground blind he has used deer hunting for many years while showing visitors around his property Nov. 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

GREANEY, Minn. -- There were many reports of little deer movement and few bucks seen across northern Minnesota during this year’s 16-day firearms deer season that ended Sunday, and that held true for veteran hunter Beryl Novak, too.

You may remember Novak as the independent outdoorsman who has lived alone in his one-room deer cabin outside Greaney for the past 44 years.

Novak has been hunting for 61 seasons he’s 71 now and got his first buck at age 10 and has added up some 75 deer that he has shot, most on his own property. But he didn’t score this year.

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He saw a few does and fawns (he didn’t have a doe permit this year) and parts of a couple other deer he couldn’t confirm.
“I didn’t see anything with antlers the whole damn season, but I guess that’s how it goes. Even I get blanked out once in a while. … I saw an otter Saturday and some fresh wolf tracks on my property,” Novak reported Tuesday. “After that first big snow, the deer went nocturnal. My garden looked like a sheep pen out there (with so many deer tracks in the snow), but I just didn’t see any during the day.”

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Novak said he heard of very few bucks shot in his area north of Cook.

Beryl Novak steps out of the ground blind he has used deer hunting for many years while showing visitors around his property Nov. 1, 2021. Novak didn’t shoot a buck this year. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune free

“I’ll be fine. … I looked in my freezer and I still have some venison from last year,” said Novak, who had plans for a festive Thanksgiving dinner, alone, with grouse breast, squash from his garden and wild rice. “And a can of cream of mushroom soup over the top.”

Reporter's note: The original story about Novak has become one of the most-read ever for the Duluth News Tribune and Forum Communications Co., with nearly 1 million pageviews and appearing in newspapers across the country. The News Tribune received emails from across the U.S., and as far away as South Africa, grateful for the story and praising Novak’s self-reliant, northwoods lifestyle.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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