Kurt King, Lake City MN

Kurt King

The man who made Terry Helbig smile!

“I am glad I told Margo before we were married that I love hunting and fishing. She says now that she heard me but didn’t understand quite how involved it would be,” said Kurt King.

Kurt does love to hunt. A life member of Safari Club International, two of Kurt’s favorite trips were to Africa with his two sons. On one of those trips, Kurt obtained a giraffe skull which he’s hung on the wall of hunting cabin. “I love asking guests to tell me what kind of animal it’s from,” he says. “Only one person has come up with the correct answer.”

Kurt and Margo live in Edina. Their four children, two daughters and two sons, are grown with families of their own. After 48 years in his profession, Kurt still works three days a week. He is a dentist specializing in children with special needs.

Kurt’s love of hunting led him to look for a land back in 1970. He found 80 acres that straddle the Elk River near the town of the Elk River. “I just wanted to hunt, plant some trees and enjoy the outdoors,” Kurt says. But, by the mid-1990s, his land was surrounded by housing developments so he decided it was time to sell and look for something more rural.

Kurt found 140 acres three miles southwest of Lake City. It is an odd-shaped parcel that follows a ravine so most of it is pretty hilly and not good for farming. Terry Helbig, DNR forestry supervisor in Lake City who is legendary in southeastern Minnesota said, “Kurt was the first person I knew of who paid more than $1,000 per acre for woodland.” It may have been a high price to pay but it is worth more than three times that today. Kurt, however, has no intention of selling because the land is perfect for the hunting and tree planting he loves.

Right after he purchased the land, Kurt asked Terry Helbig to come out and update a Stewardship Plan. Kurt recalls that as they were walking over the land, Terry asked him, “What do you want to do with the land?” Kurt said he wanted to improve the woodland, especially the oaks. Terry said, “Oaks take a long time to grow.” Kurt said, “I know but that’s o.k. I still want to improve the oaks.” With that, Kurt says Terry got a big smile on his face and shook his hand.

One piece of advice Kurt would pass to other woodland owners is something he follows himself: Get to know the professionals in your area. The DNR forestry people, soil and water people and others can be a big help in deciding what should be done, how and if there are any cost sharing funds available. One of the professionals he has worked with is local consulting forester, Jon Alness, Zumbro Valley Forestry. Because of his work schedule, Kurt can’t spend as much time working on the land as he’d like. As a result, he has contracted with Alnes and his crew to actually carry out several timber stand improvement projects.

Another piece of advice Kurt follows is advocated by Mike Reichenbach, U of M Extension educator. That is to keep a journal. Kurt records everything – what was done on the land, when, how, how much time it took, etc. He also records all expenses. All of this information could be of value in supporting tax deductions. It will also make for interesting reading by future generations and help them understand Kurt’s love for the land and the wildlife.

Now, 16 years after purchase, many management practices have been carried out. A dozen acres of prairie have been restored, three ponds that help prevent erosion have been installed and the oaks and other hardwoods have been improved.

Recently, Kurt teamed up with a neighbor who owns 500 acres next to his to promote quality deer management which emphasizes leaving the young buck go to grow up. They have trail cameras installed and can see more and bigger bucks after just a couple of years.

As we get older, all of us begin thinking about who in the next generation might be as interested in the land as we are. Kurt has a 15-year old grandson, Mark Gertner, who is an Eagle Scout and interested in woodland and wildlife. In fact, one of his many merit badges was earned by developing a wildlife food plot on the land. Mark is thinking of going to college at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, for forestry or wildlife management. With either major, he would be well-equipped to carry on the management of those oaks that make Terry Hebig smile.