His wife, Sue, who accompanies Steve to duck and goose blinds around Appleton, Minn., every fall weekend, says her husband is obsessed with hunting.
While growing up in Appleton, Steve started to hunt before he first attended school. He began spending fall weekends hunting when he was four or five, and started carrying a gun by the time he was nine or ten.
"It's been a long-time family tradition for me," Steve explained. "You grew up and you knew (hunting) was part of fall."
Steve and Sue actually didn't meet on a hunting trip nor was their first date in a hunting blind. But it was close.
They met years ago at the University of Minnesota-Morris, where both studied biology. A few months after they started dating, they were both in the field. According to the Aagesen family tradition, Sue had to carry the lunch and observe for the first year.
Soon Sue joined the Aagesen hunting crew for good. She hunts partly out of her love of the outdoors and partly because she doesn't want to stay home alone. "I choose to go," she explained. "I knew before I got married that was the way it would be."
At Aagesen family weddings, there aren't any dark secrets like I Married the Mob. Sue, though, has felt compelled to explain the family business to a niece-in-law before her wedding day. For the Aagesens, the family business is hunting.
Because she grew up on a farm that raised chickens and ducks near Worthington, Minn., Sue fit right in when it came time to clean the game. She had lots of butchering experience from growing up. She also has taught taxidermy and the basement of their Paynesville home is decorated with mounted waterfowl, deer antlers, and antique hunting and fishing equipment.
Both Steve and Sue are high school biology teachers. Steve, who originally considered a wildlife biology major, teaches at Paynesville Area High School. Sue teaches at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School.
Their jobs keep them indoors for most of the week, so their passion for enjoying the natural world must be satisfied on weekends.
In the summer, they garden, bird watch, hike, and fish. In the fall, they hunt.
They hunt the early goose season, the regular duck and goose seasons, and for pheasants. They deer hunt in November. At left, Steve and his dog. If more than one season is open, they will mix the type of hunting they do. For example, they may hunt for ducks at sunrise and sunset, and go pheasant hunting during the day.
Not only do they hunt every weekend, they spend from dawn to dusk in the field. They carry a field lunch each day. "Driving around isn't how we hunt," said Steve. "We're out of the car in the morning, and we don't go back in until daylight ends."
Their hunting crew is still comprised solely by relatives. For a typical weekend of duck, goose, or pheasant hunting, they might have a half dozen hunters. For deer hunting, they typically have nine, including three female hunters.
They do all their hunting on public land around Appleton, which is close to the game refuge around Lac qui Parle. Despite the dry weather in the last few years, duck and goose hunting in the western part of the state has been good, according to the Aagesens. "In the '90s, there's still more water than there ever was in the '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s," Steve explained.
Their hunting base is at the home of Steve's mother in Appleton. His mother, now 88 years old, still hosts a half dozen hunters every weekend of the fall. The Aagesens feel that having these regular family gatherings keeps their family closer than most.
The last time that Steve and Sue missed an entire weekend of hunting was for the baptism of their eldest daughter, Heather, nearly a quarter century ago. Heather was born in October, in the heart of the hunting season. Sue missed hunting the weekend Heather was born, too, but Steve managed to hunt a little around Paynesville.
On the weekend of the baptism, though, neither Steve nor Sue went hunting. And they both got a lot of grief from their relatives who missed hunting, too.
Not accidentally, Steve and Sue's two youngest children, Bret and Erin, were born in the summer, the off-season for a hunting family.
All three kids were exposed to hunting, but only Bret has his parents' passion for it and continues the family tradition. Right now, though, Bret is playing college football at Southwest State University in Marshall, which cuts into his hunting time.
The whole family eats their game. Steve and Sue take care of what they shoot and freeze the game for storage. Since they are also avid gardeners, a joke around their house at dinnertime goes, "Grew it. Grew it. Shot it. Grew it."
Game isn't the main reason that they like to hunt. "It's the early morning sunrises. It's the unusual wildlife you see in the morning. It's not the bag limit," Sue explained.
"I like to hunt and get some game, too," Steve added, "but I'm happy even if I don't." His pleasure comes from the serenity and beauty of a sunrise, from seeing his son shoot his first duck, or in spotting the first goose of the fall.
If a robin is a sign of spring, then a goose call is the sign of fall.
Steve and Sue enjoy the sights and sounds of waterfowl so much that they spend time in the summer driving to sloughs and watching birds.
They plan to continue hunting for as long as they can. One concession to age they have started to make already is getting better equipment: lighter decoys, better carriers, a lighter canoe, etc.
When they retire and have all week to hunt, they probably will hunt more frequently, but less intensely. Instead of hunting all weekend, they might scale back to hunting in the blind for a couple of hours each morning. Eventually, they may make room for taking afternoon naps and watching Vikings games on Sundays.
Steve is already looking for places that will be easier to hunt, saying, "I know I can't slog through the mud forever, but if I can find a place where I can park the car, walk 100 meters, and hunt I will."
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