What 130 Acres Taught Me About Life and Fatherhood

For Father’s Day last year, Captured Creative’s Taylor Kollman explored his relationship with his dad and how a 130-acre Minnesota hunting property brought them together and seeded a legacy that’s being passed down to Taylor’s young son.

I loved everything about farms while growing up—the tractors, cattle, and rolling fields. The only problem was that I didn’t live on a farm, but that changed when I was about 15. My family purchased 130 acres of hunting land not far from where we lived in Minnesota. I was thrilled. Not only could I do a bit of farming while planting food plots with my dad, but we would be able to hunt the same property year after year. We were excited because the property consisted of open grass along with mature pines and spruces. We had it made—winter cover, edge habitat, food, and water all on the same property.

Or, were we just in over our heads?

Captured Creative's Taylor Kollman and his father on their Minnesota hunting property.

For a couple years, we loved having our own piece of land. The ability to just take off into the woods or pour sweat equity into food plots and stand prep was amazing, not to mention hunting whenever we wanted while seeing deer everywhere. The shine of those early years soon wore off, though, and the number of deer started to drop. It was easy to point at the changing landscape outside the property as a cause. Farm fields are constantly shifting crops—could this have an effect? Maybe it was what a neighboring landowner was doing to improve his land. Maybe we were putting too much pressure on our property.

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It seems so obvious in hindsight, but it took us years to realize what was actually happening. Our 50 acres of pines had become so tall and dense that our understory had vanished into a solid bed of pine needles. Our prime piece of hunting real estate had become just another farm that deer would pass through on their way to better land.

The solution? We logged off 30-40% of the pines, creating openings in the canopy that let sunlight hit the ground and regrow that bottom few feet of cover. We hired a logging company to come in and cut strips perpendicular to the rows we planted to encourage diversity in the landscape. Deer began to return almost immediately.

Captured Creative's Taylor Kollman and his father working on their Minnesota hunting property.

The land wasn’t the only thing changing, though. See, my dad grew up on a dairy farm that practiced a very conventional method of agriculture. They’d plant soybeans one year and corn the next, and they repeated this cycle for decades. But after my dad started to learn more about how logging was improving our property, he decided it was time to get creative on the agricultural side as well.

If you aren’t familiar, regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to farming with an emphasis on minimal soil disturbance and the practice of soil building. After a year of researching these concepts and ideas, my dad was hooked. Every time we’d walk the property, he’d go off on long tangents about what some new (to us) agricultural practice could do for the land, wildlife, and soil under our feet. This spring was our first year of using a no-till drill to plant all of our food sources, and we’ve been thrilled with the results so far. The spring mix is erupting with a wide variety of plants, and the deer are already taking a shine to it.

The onX Hunt App's Area Shape Tool.

This is where the onX Hunt App came into play. The Area Shape Tool isn’t talked about enough, but it’s an invaluable tool for working on food plots. We’ve also used it to mark new openings in the trees and locations where we’d like to plant native grasses and wildflower mixes. When we started to study regenerative agriculture, however, the Hunt App really started to light up. We could quickly and efficiently walk the property and mark out everything from distances to areas with clear, color-coded lines and shapes for easy organization.

Working with my dad over the years has taught me so much about the land and wildlife, and it’s taught me that one must never settle. We’re only here for a short time, and taking care of the land is important for the generations that will follow us. It’s been fun to see my two-year-old son following us around in the woods, and we are both looking forward to the years to come as his passion for the land continues to grow.

Taylor Kollman's father and son inspecting equipment on their Minnesota hunting property.

When we initially purchased the property, we never thought there’d be a day when we’d be cutting trees down—we just thought the woods would provide incredible hunting. Now, we look back and see how the land has grown almost as much as our purpose. So here’s to the continued improvement of our 130 acres and the legacy we can pass on to the generations that follow us.

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Updated May 2021.

Christian Fichtel

Raised in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, Christian Fichtel now resides in rural Montana. He is a father, writer, hunter, and fly fisherman.