Hunting at 100: Wes Libbey ready to look for his buck
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. -- Wes Libbey can still remember the first buck he shot at. A big 12-pointer, he recalled.
"I pulled up the trusty .38-55," Libbey said. "Thirty-five yards. Broadside."
He missed the buck cleanly, and the Grand Rapids hunter still thinks about it 84 years later.
At 100, Libbey is still hunting deer. He plans to be out there Saturday morning when Minnesota's firearms deer season opens.
He will hunt from a knoll on 80 acres of land owned by his son, Richard Libbey of Grand Rapids, near Pokegama Lake.
"Richard has a plastic chair sitting on top of a hill," Wes Libbey said. "I can see 100 yards down the hill."
And, yes, he'll drive himself over to his hunting spot. It faces south, and it ought to be pretty comfortable with temperatures predicted to get near 50 on the opener.
"I'll have to take an alarm clock along to keep from falling asleep," he joked.
Libbey is a healthy centenarian. He's slim and gets around well. He and his wife, Lucille, 96, still live in their own home on Pokegama Lake. He can't hear as well as he once did, but his mind is sharp and his sense of humor intact.
He was asked if, at 16, he ever thought he'd be deer hunting at 100.
"Well, I wasn't sure I'd be here," he quipped.
Through the years, he and Lucille raised six children. Wes operated the Libbey Funeral Home and has always been active in conservation issues.
Most of the hunting Wes did was with his family and Lucille's. They hunted for a number of years in the hardwoods near Remer and later on in hardwoods near Sugar Hills.
Libbey sat in his den on Thursday talking about those years. Three sets of antlers lay on the coffee table, one a nine-point set with wide beams. He picked up those antlers and read the words on the main beam.
"WES -- '77 -- 130."
"That was 1977," he said, pausing. "Thirty-two years ago. He dressed out at 130 pounds."
Wes has hunted every year, Richard said. He shot his most recent deer, a buck, in 2005.
"Sometimes it happens so fast you don't even have time to get excited," Wes said. "The last one I got came up behind a clump of birch. Stuck his neck out. Thirty-five yards away. That's where he dropped."
"Shot it through the heart," Richard Libbey said.
Lucille says she doesn't worry about Wes deer hunting alone.
"You can't worry about it," she said, "because he does it anyway."
Lucille has taken a few deer herself through the years, although she prefers her whitetails alive. Wes remembers leaving her on a stand one day and walking away.
"Pretty soon -- BANG!" he said. "She yells, 'Wes, I shot a big buck. What do I do now?' I yelled, 'If he gets up, shoot him again.' BANG! Two holes in the neck, 3 inches apart at 40 yards."
Wes did wonder when he was younger whether he would want to keep deer hunting as he grew older, he said.
"I think it's a lot like my experience with ice cream," he said. "When I was a kid, I was afraid when I got older I wouldn't like it as much."
Does he still like ice cream?
A big grin spans his face and his eyes brighten.
He'll be out there, waiting for a buck Saturday morning.
Sam Cook is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.