By Tyler Ohmann
They say that dog is man’s best friend, and there is not a much better example of that than Little Falls’ Simon Waltman and his yellow lab, Johan.
Johan was named after former Minnesota Twins superstar, Johan Santana, and will turn 11 in October.
“I like hunting with him,” Waltman said. “I probably wouldn’t even hunt birds if it weren’t for him. It’s my favorite part.”
Waltman began hunting when he was a boy. He’s not exactly sure when, but it began as a family affair. Hunting with his dad, brother and eventually his sister as well, was a fall tradition.
Eventually it was with dogs, and over a decade ago, with Johan.
“It’s kind of my way to relax,” Waltman said. “I really enjoy working with him, and I’ve always trained my dog myself, and I enjoy seeing him do the things that I taught him.”
Waltman mostly hunts around the area, but has also taken trips to North Dakota and in the Marshall area of Minnesota for pheasants and ducks.
“Being outdoors in the fall, which is my favorite time of year, is fun,” Waltman said. “I like the weather, and I like getting away from home.”
However, the most fun he has is with Johan.
“Actually harvesting the birds and pulling the trigger on the gun, that’s not the favorite thing for me,” Waltman said. “It’s seeing my dog working the field.”
“Seeing him enjoy the hunt is a pretty big thing for me. He gets pretty excited when I start loading up my truck and get my gear ready,” Waltman said.
Waltman hunts for nearly anything.
“I hunt as much as I can,” Waltman said. “I hunt deer, pheasants, ducks, geese, grouse.”
He hasn’t hunted turkeys, though he’s always wanted to.
Waltman has also begun making plans to travel out to the western U.S. for an elk hunt.
He began hunting with his bow at age 12. He recently bought a new bow after having his previous one for almost 20 years.
“I’ve harvested my fair share of deer, but not too many monsters,” Waltman said.
His biggest was a nine-pointer that he shot four years ago.
However, hunting has changed for him since his father passed away a few years ago.
“Since then, hunting has been different for me, because I grew up deer hunting and that was our family thing,” Waltman said. “I miss being able to do that with my dad, and I look at a lot of my friends and see how hunting is a family thing, so I feel like I miss out on that a little bit.”
However, the fall still holds a special place in his heart.
“As you are walking through the woods, you learn a lot about animals and different things that you see, and it’s always something new,” Waltman said.
It can also be a bit of a challenge.
“Once all the seasons are going, I’m always trying to plan my time, because I want to do them all,” Waltman said. “I like to get out and bow hunt, but I like to work my dog as well, so I try to get some ducks and pheasants as well, and give him his time that he deserves from me.”
Of course pheasant hunting lasts into the Minnesota winter.
“My favorite pheasant hunting is in an inch of fresh snow, so you can see some fresh tracks,” Waltman said. “Then you kind of know if you are in a good spot, and if there are birds in the area.”
Waltman was a member of the 2014 Sobieski Skis class C amateur baseball champion team, and though he retired after the 2015 season, he still keeps his teammates apprised of his hunting exploits.
“We just send pictures to each other and tell stories,” Waltman said. “We keep in touch about it, and even brag a little bit.”
It is something that Waltman is known for.
“When I think of Simon, I think of an outdoorsman who could go from being out on the lake in the boat, to the duck blind, to the deer stand, to the fish house without skipping a beat as the seasons change,” said Skis manager Brad Czech. “He’s a true outdoorsman, and he’s someone who respects nature and our natural resources.”
There is no sign of stopping in him anytime soon, or in Johan.
“I’ll have to keep an eye on him this fall with him getting a little older, but he seems to have plenty of energy yet,” Waltman said. “But I’ll keep doing this as long as I can.”