Hunting in our area has a long lineage. Native Americans prized these lands as an excellent source of small game and waterfowl; the forests were plentiful and the multitude of waterways created an abundance of opportunity. As European-Americans began to settle north of St. Paul in the mid-19 century, their correspondence with relatives back home included accounts of the bountiful feasts enjoyed from the game that lived all around.
In the 20th century, hunting transitioned from a necessity to a sport. Clusters of businessmen and their sons would venture into the “north woods” of Pine City, Moose Lake and other territories to try their luck, and spending some time with one another.
From this tradition came clubs and organizations dedicated to the art of archery or the enhancing skills on the skeet range. The popularity of such pursuits continued to grow, and around the middle of the century, the White Bear Rod and Gun Club proposed a new building their needs for training and meeting, along with other social functions.
In late 1950, a fundraising effort commenced and plans announced to build a clubhouse on the property northeast of today’s intersection of Highway 96 and Interstate 35E. The structure was to include a 50-foot gallery range for rifle teams and, in the basement, a 1,000-inch sighting range for deer rifles. An 1,800-square-foot meeting hall with a serving kitchen and a porch overlooking the trap ranges was also an important feature. The clubhouse opened the following year.
During this same period, the Bald Eagle Sportsmen club was equally active. They hosted shotgun clinics at their rifle range near the north end of the lake and popular children’s fishing contests in the summer. Each club formed a social group, as well as a valuable chance to train youth in the skills and safety precautions to pursue a life of hunting and fishing.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing thoughts on history on our magazine's back page. For more information on the history of hunting in the area, visit their website or call 651.407.5327.