By DAVID KRIER
After a “brilliant” deer hunting experience last week in the Muscoda area, Steffen Pedersen and his seven Danish friends are already looking forward to next year.
“We had a brilliant trip, that’s for sure,” said Pedersen, who graduated from Riverdale High School in 1995 as a foreign exchange student from Denmark staying with the Dan Bomkamp family. “We’ll come back next year and shoot more deer.”
Pedersen was speaking at Joni’s Food & Spirits in Avoca over dinner with his friends Friday night. Joni’s had become a quasi after-hunt headquarters for the Danes, who had become small-town celebrities over the past week and a half. The group had flown into Madison from Copenhagen on the Thursday before opening day.
“I came here alone last year and shot four deer by myself,” Pedersen said. “This year I brought seven guys and turned down 15 more. We didn’t shoot so much, but what we didn’t do in shooting we made up for in making friends. Hunting is very much a social activity.”
Hunting on public land between Avoca and Blue River, as well as the Bill Trumm farm east of Blue River, the group shot four deer and missed two. They also passed on two does in hopes of bagging a big buck.
“I was one of the lucky ones, I got a doe,” said Soren Josefsen. “We gave it away to the locals, which we did with all our deer. The EU (European Union) isn’t too good about bringing fresh meat back.”
“The weather wasn’t good for anyone,” added Pedersen, “so it was definitely harder.”
Still, the group had a “marvelous time,” according to Pedersen. “We stayed at Andy Walsh’s Rivers Edge Cabin on the Wisconsin River. It has a brilliant view and beautiful sunsets. It was really, really nice.”
A trip to Cabela’s in Prairie du Chien was a special treat for the guys. “It was like a candy shop for us,” Pedersen said.
All of the guys hail from Middle Jutland, located in the center of Denmark’s main peninsula, and they couldn’t say enough about the local hospitality.
“It’s a great state, Wisconsin, because everyone says ‘hello,’ like Danish people,” said Karsten Jensen, who acquired the nickname the Danish Danny DeVito during his visit. “The people are very, very friendly.”
“John and Vicky Bomkamp were wonderful. What I didn’t know they helped me out with,” added Pedersen. “The people here are so wonderful. We’ve been nothing but welcomed here.”
So wonderful that they even lent the eight Danes rifles to hunt with for the week.
“You can bring guns over here, but it’s a lot of paperwork and a huge hassle,” Pedersen said. “Their generosity made it so much easier.”
When Americans think of Denmark they might think of high taxes and Hans Christian Andersen, not hunting. But according to Pedersen, hunting is very popular in the small Scandinavian country of 5.6 million people—about the same as Wisconsin.
“Hunting is big in Denmark,” said Pedersen, “mostly drives with dogs.”
Pedersen said Danes hunt four variety of deer: Roe, red, fallow and sika—as well as wild boar and traditional small game like rabbits and pheasants. And he would like to share that experience with Americans.
“I’ve been talking to a bunch of American guys about hunting in Europe, particularly wild boar and red stag in Denmark and Poland,” Pedersen said. “It’s sort of in the brainstorming phase right now, but I’d like to get something going.”
The American experience of Thanksgiving dinner was one the Danes shared last Thursday at Joe Trumm’s mom’s house outside Blue River, turkey with all the fixings.
“It was a huge experience for us,” said Jesper Kilstrup. “As Danes, we only see it in the movies. To actually see it and be a part of it was so good. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Denmark. It was so nice, the food, the friendship.”
And they can all thank Dan Bomkamp for getting it started, when he hosted the first of 33 foreign exchange students in 1992.
“I started with a boy from Norway, then a Dane, and another Dane,” explained Bomkamp. “The only bad thing about hosting a foreign exchange student is they get to be your own kid and then you have to put them on a plane back home, but I always say it was the best thing I ever did in my life.”