Hunting for adventure

Stock up early on your fall and winter sporting gear. Credit: Photo by Linda Koutsky

We know that Minnesotans love art — Art-A-Whirl is the largest open studios in the country, the State Fair Fine Art Show is actually resume-worthy, and art centers are scattered throughout our landscape. Last week I was in Aitken at the Jaques Art Center and saw original work by the center’s namesake, Francis Lee Jaques, one of Minnesota’s finest painter/naturalists who also created the Bell Museum’s stunning dioramas. Art and nature go hand in hand in Minnesota.

Minnesota ranks second, only behind Alaska, in resident fishing participation. Waterfowl hunting season just opened and with it, the 2016-17 Federal Duck Stamp art competition winner was announced. Plymouth, Minn.’s Joseph Hautman took first place — for the fifth time! His brothers Robert and James took second and third place. Between the three of them they’ve won first place 11 times! For those uninitiated to waterfowl hunting, the duck stamp is a hunting license but the beautiful stamps are also bought by birders and collectors. Joseph’s miniature portrait of a pair of trumpeter swans flying with a hint of sunlight on their wings will be available for purchase next June. See all the entries at

So what does all this have to do with your weekend plans? Whether you hunt and fish or not, there are three stores in the northwest corner of Brooklyn Park that any outdoor adventurer, Minnesota enthusiast, or creative artisan would enjoy. So head up Highway 169, and get ready for Minnesota’s approaching seasons.

You’ve probably seen one of their orange-checkered silos on the outskirts of the metro area or Up North, but Mills Fleet Farm’s history goes back to 1922 when Stewart Mills Sr. began selling Chevys and Hupmobiles in Brainerd. Today the third generation of family runs 35 stores selling hunting, fishing, and sporting goods; farm and garden supplies; clothes; toys; military surplus; electronics; equipment rental; and plenty of beef jerky. Plan to get lost in the aisles at Mills Fleet Farm.

(8400 Lakeland Ave. N.; Sunday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday; 8 a.m.–8 p.m.)

You would never find this store in a million years unless someone told you about it. That’s mostly by design. JR’s Tackle Outlet is predominantly a wholesaler and manufacturer. Tucked in the way back side of an industrial park building, the store’s door practically opens onto highway 169. JR owned a resort on Mille Lacs and when a local fishing lure maker wanted out of business he took over. JR and his son have now been making spinners and lures for 44 years. In fact, they make many of their own products right there. They’re stocking up now for their best sellers — glow in the dark, glitter, ice fishing tackle. They invented it! Colorful metal fishing lures with stripes and polka dots covered with waterproof glitter. Fish love them! So did I. Folk art carved wooden spear fishing lures are very collectible but I don’t understand why spinners aren’t more appreciated. I bought a beautiful black and red and white one that’s as lovely as a Calder mobile. JR made it yesterday! Their products are sold in stores, but why not make a trip to the source?

(8823 Zealand Ave. N.; Hours are a little in flux with the season, call ahead (763) 424-8001)

SR Harris Fabrics

“A fabric store?” you’re wondering. Yes, there are sporting goods here. Or soon-to-be-assembled ones. Floor to ceiling shelves in this Home Depot-sized warehouse are filled with camouflage fabrics. I never knew there were so many kinds. From illustrations to photos to abstract designs, the patterns are both practical for a hunter and really beautiful and odd for anyone who likes to make things. Printed on the bolts themselves are the pattern names: Farm Land, Evasion, Real Tree, Corn Field, and Mossy Oak Break Up. There are leaves, grass, swamp reed, corn, wheat, bark, and snow. The rest of the 30,000 foot store is filled with polar fleece, flannel, outdoor fabrics, upholstery, linen, chenille, leather, embroidered silks, fringe, braid, bins of zippers, and cotton prints in every conceivable color and pattern. Open since 1966, this fabric outlet has to be one of the largest fabric stores in the country. (8865 Zealand Ave. N.; Sunday, noon–5 p.m.; Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.) 

Know of a hidden gem in the metro area? Send your tips to [email protected]

 LUNCH TIP: Luna’s Bakery and Cafe makes homemade treats to go with their strong coffee in downtown Osseo (319 Central Ave.)