Patzner looks back on a lifetime of hunting adventures

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Steve Patzner stands next to a musk ox he shot during a big game hunting expedition in Greenland. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Steve Patzner of Guttenberg — also known as "Mountain Man" — has been hunting and fishing since he was a child. The outdoorsman began, "It's the end of an era – I sold my Hovercraft five or six years ago and just sold my airboat yesterday. That river is dead – it's too bad."

The retired John Deere worker was born and raised in Guttenberg. He and his wife, Jan, have been married for 49 years. The couple raised three children, Eric, Rachel and Ben. "Ben is my main hunting partner," said Patzner.  

"I was fishing with a cane pole in Horseshoe Pond when I was probably five or six years old. I grew up along the hillside. I taught myself how to fish and hunt, and used to ride my bike all the way up Heitman Hill to hunt squirrel," he commented.

Patzner has come a long way since his squirrel hunting days. He and his son, Ben, have traveled extensively in the spirit of adventure. "We started traveling and hunting in 1989. We went to Quebec caribou hunting, Canada seven times, and Greenland, Argentina, Newfoundland, and Africa once. In the United States we hunted in Texas twice, and Idaho and South Dakota numerous times," said the seasoned hunter.  

Patzner has volunteered as a hunting safety instructor for the past 32 years, receiving recognition from the Governor of Iowa for his efforts. "I took my youngest one to the classes over in Osborne. Our insurance agent was the head of it. I stayed, and thought you're never too old to learn. He asked if I wanted to teach, and I thought I would give it a try. I wanted to encourage the kids to get outside enjoying nature and off their cell phones and computers," he explained. Patzner will return as an instructor once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. 

Africa

Patzner described his and Ben's hunting experience in Africa. He recalled, "Africa was a bad boy country. We landed in Johannesburg. Jim Hunt, who was the head of archery at Cabelas, organized the trip. He knew his stuff." 

The group was picked up by a taxi driver and quickly ushered to their overnight accommodations. Armed guards and razor wire surrounded their safe haven. "If you are an American and out after dark with money in your pocket you are not going to live to see the morning. I was spooked!" he exclaimed. 

"Ben and I hired Benito, who was a professional bow hunter, and lived in Africa. We hunted twelve days. It was super good and super bad at the same time." He remembered, "Ben got in a conflict with a Cape buffalo, which is Africa's black death. Ben was sitting in his blind when that bad boy came and stuck his nose in and started eating the tent. The buffalo was also knocking over small trees in the area. Ben thumped him with an arrow and then the chase began. It was on for three hours. The Cape buffalo is known to circle back."

Ben radioed their hunting guide, Benito, for assistance. Patzner reported, "By the time Benito and I arrived there were 14 scared guys and one gun." 

Local trackers were brought in to assist the hunters. "Those local trackers are so good they can track an ant," replied Patzner. "They were on the track and they realized the bugger was behind us. Benito shouted, 'Head to the truck! He's behind us!' The locals left us in the dust climbing into that truck. I got in the back. I was so scared!" he laughed.

The two trackers located the Cape buffalo lying under a tree. "Ben and Benito snuck around behind him and Ben shot him in the heart with an arrow. That adventure ruined it for me. I hunted one more day and decided that was enough." He added, "Many African villages are surrounded by 50,000 volt fences to keep the Cape buffalo out. They can be pretty nasty. The camaraderie I shared with my son on that trip was great. I am not ashamed to say there were a few tears shed around the campfire that night."

Argentina

A trip to Argentina turned into a family vacation. "My wife, and Ben's oldest daughter, Candace, went along. I mainly wanted to go wing shooting, Ben wanted a red stag with a bow." He reported, "Eleven-year-old Candace shot a black buck – the nut doesn't fall too far from the tree there." 

Ben shot an impressive red stag on his first night of hunting. Patzner asked his son, "Now what are you going to do for the next four days?"

Ben continued hunting and shot a water buffalo that weighed 2800 pounds with his bow and arrow. "It was the best hunt I ever had with family. We met great people, had beautiful scenery, great staff, and super animals. I can't wait to do it again!" he said with a smile. 

Canada

"We have been to Quebec to fish lake trout and hunt caribou. Hunting is currently shut down. Native Americans own the land. Laws have been put in place to restrict hunting to natives only," said Patzner. 

Greenland

Ben and an outfitter from Pennsylvania organized the Greenland hunt. "They just opened up the bow hunting season for musk ox for the first time. As far as I know Ben was the first person to kill a musk ox with a bow and arrow. I got the whole thing on film with an $80 camera. It was awesome!" he said. 

In Greenland, Ben's guide was a 24-year-old Inuit named Nuka. He was considered the best hunter in the Inuit village. "Nuka showed us a video that he filmed while onboard a pretty good-sized boat. He captured two forty-foot whales and a two-ton walrus, which was enough to feed his whole village for a long time. It was an impressive video. We spent five days living with the Inuits. It was very interesting,” he recollected.

Newfoundland

The father son duo headed to Newfoundland to hunt moose, caribou and bear. Patzner looked back, “We drove from Guttenberg to Nova Scotia, and then took a 13-hour ferry ride to Newfoundland. We hired a guide to take us out. We got a caribou and bear, but didn’t get a moose.”

Texas/Idaho/South Dakota

A Texas hunt for feral hogs, bobcats and coyotes, and an Idaho hunt for elk proved to be a challenge for the elder Patzner. “I love to cook so I got invited along to be the camp chef – and that’s the way I like it. I am getting too old to climb those hills!” he said with a chuckle. 

Patzner concluded, “I will hunt whenever I possibly can. We are planning another trip once I get my passport renewed and the country opens up for travel.” 

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