Rodd's ramblings: Outdoors gets local boost on YouTube


November 25, 2022

For many families across the state, deer hunting is a tradition that goes back generations. Whether it is the same stretch of land they hunt each year, a shack that has been around for decades, or just jumping into a truck and going to a parcel of public property to hunt, the idea of getting back in the woods is a bit like a kid waking up on Christmas morning.

My first hunting experience was out of an old farmhouse leased by my dad, a couple of my uncles and my grandfather. They hunted from the property off of Hardwood Lake Road for 30-plus years. It was one room with mattresses splayed out on the floor on box springs and a propane furnace in the middle for heat. Kerosene lamps were the only source of light.

I have many memories of that shack, including harvesting my first spike buck on the property when I was 17. I started going to deer camp the year I turned 12 and would sit with my dad in his stand. We wouldn’t sit long because either I would get cold, or Dad would get bored.

Ironically, I never saw my dad shoot a deer. Perhaps it was because he was often opening a thermos with coffee, eating a candy bar, or listening to the Gophers and Vikings football teams on a radio he would hold up to his ear. It didn’t matter; I loved every minute of it. I also hunted with a few other camps during that time and spent myriad hours in the woods and in shacks trading stories of the hunt.

Due to work circumstances I had to quit hunting when I turned 22. I had taken a new job at KDAL Radio in Duluth and my weekends were spent working and eventually doing UMD hockey games. It wasn’t until I decided to come back to work in Cloquet for WKLK that I was able to start hunting again. I didn’t hunt from 1980 to 2004. During that stretch my wife and I had a family, and the children grew up not knowing their dad loved deer hunting.

Now I spend my time all summer getting the deer shack ready with my hunting partners in Cromwell. The Boedigheimer and Durkee crew are always ready to lend a helping hand. Our two shacks, which sit a quarter-mile apart, are always flush with activity.

As part of my ritual leading up to the hunt, I have become obsessed with watching YouTube videos of deer hunting and outdoor camping. I love to see what others are doing and seeing what traditions those camps have each year.

About five years ago I was watching a video of a guy from the Twin Cities area who had a tent somewhere up north. As I was watching the video, I noticed he was driving on Big Lake Road. He drove in from west of town to Super One and went in and did some shopping.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on. After watching tons of his videos on the Joe and Zach Survival channel, I found out he bought a home in Cloquet with his wife-to-be and was fixing it up. Over the next two years I watched with intrigue as this guy chronicled his everyday life from fixing up old wheelers to sitting in his deer stand. Eventually, he moved to Cloquet and now lives here full-time.

Three years ago my wife and I were at Walmart in Cloquet when I turned and saw the guy — Joe Jenson is his name — walking toward me. I told my wife, ‘I have to go talk to this guy. I will explain later what’s going on.’ I introduced myself to Joe and it wasn’t long before the two of us swapped phone numbers. Now, each year the two of us text after the hunt is done on opening day, comparing notes on what we’ve seen or heard at our deer camps.

Joe spends most of his time hunting out of a unique tent that is basically a half-tent and half-wooden structure. The tent has a shower, a bedroom and is heated by a wood stove in the corner. Most of his videos consist of him leaving his home in his truck, then his travels along the highways to an undisclosed location somewhere in northern Minnesota where the tent is located. Unlike other YouTube videos, Joe and Zach Survival videos often feature content much longer in length. Some of those videos are up to two hours long. I can’t imagine how much editing and work goes into such a huge undertaking. I know you can find hundreds of hunting and camping type videos on YouTube, but to be able to find one done locally and has over 100,000 views is unheard of.

If you watch the videos you eventually learn that Joe’s daughter Sarah doesn’t wake up for the morning hunt very easily, and she has a weird tradition of eating a whole can of plums on the night of the opener, You also learn that his son Zach is a gearhead (I mean that in a good way) and can fix anything. He is amazing when it comes to putting anything mechanical together. Joe is a jack of all trades. He is a builder by nature, but he is capable of fixing tractors and even working on a garden.

Joe not only offers the Joe and Zach Survival channel, he also has a channel called Northern Seclusion, which is more about doing things around the house. It features everything from him pushing snow around on his old tractor to building a workshop and a variety of other things. If you sit down and watch the videos, the one thing you notice is the guy has an endless amount of energy. He is constantly on the move and doing something, so once you learn to get over the guilt of knowing you are sitting on the couch watching this guy doing all the work, I believe you’ll get a kick out of seeing a local guy being so successful in the YouTube forum.

If you are into the outdoors, or if you like to just kick back and watch videos which feature northern Minnesota and oftentimes scenery of your own backroads in Cloquet, this is a channel you will learn to love.

Pine Knot News sportswriter Kerry Rodd has been covering Carlton County sports for decades on the radio and in the newspaper. Contact him care of [email protected].


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