A hands-on deer experience

While life science classes may read or see pictures of whitetail deer, Steve Porter offers students the opportunity to observe tame whitetail bucks from five feet away.

The close encounter has a way of making learning exciting.

"What really got their attention was being able to see live, monster whitetails," said Jeff Olson, a science teacher at Roseau High School who arranged for Porter to present to his classes in October 2006.

"Anytime you do something in a classroom where they can see and do is a real bonus," Olson added.

Porter, who has about 50 deer enclosed on 100 acres in Lake Bronson, Minn., will bring a trailer of trophy bucks to Lake City on Tuesday. He is scheduled to conduct sessions at Lincoln High School and Bluff View Elementary during the school day.

That evening there will be a free public event from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Frontenac Sportsman's Community Center. Porter will conduct a presentation at 6:30 p.m.

"I don't know anybody (who sees) a nice buck along the road that don't get excited and say, 'Hey, slow down there's a nice buck out in the field,' " Porter said. "Kids and people in general enjoy large whitetails and they enjoy seeing whitetails up close and personal."

Porter, 42, tailors his presentations to fit the age of his audience.

For the elementary school children the sessions will be hands on. They will get to feel velvet antlers as well as larger antlers. Porter said he makes sure the students understand that the tame bucks were bred and raised just for educational purposes.

"We just want to spike their interest in whitetail deer," Porter said. "We want to get them interested in antlers and the bucks and the does and the fawns."

Middle school children learn deer facts and about antler development. If the audience is age appropriate, Porter also will talk about genetics and provide hunting tips.

The Lake City-based North American Deer Farmers Association hopes students in attendance will be motivated to turn off the computer and put down their cell phone.

"The main objective is to get the youth into the outdoors, to educate them, helping them make informed decisions," said Shelly Burns, the association's office administrator.

The North American Deer Farmers Association's research and educational foundation, the Cervid Livestock Foundation, will provide each school Porter visits with a grant to cover 70 percent of the cost. He is scheduled to attend 24 Minnesota schools in September and October.

Locally, the Lake City Sportsman's Club is paying the remaining 30 percent. The Frontenac Sportsman's Club is sponsoring the public event in the evening.

Porter, the chief deputy for the Kittson County Sheriff's Department, has been a long-time deer hunter and years ago purchased land to hunt on.

"I would choose to do quality deer management and I would let little bucks walk and not harvest them," Porter said. "A lot of times I was disappointed because my neighbors would harvest them too young and all the little bucks were getting shot."

That prompted Porter to to raise whitetails. What started in 1992 as a hobby farm with one deer has blossomed into Steve Porter's Trophy Whitetail, a family business that sells genetics from the deer heard and frozen doe urine for hunters.

As a hunter, Porter had two or three minutes at a time to observe a whitetail. Now he can eye them daily. The increased exposure has provided Porter with some knowledge about whitetail body language, as well as what makes the deer happy and upset, that he will share with the public.

"We're gonna give them insight into the mindset and mentality of a mature whitetail buck that should aid them in becoming better hunters, (but) you don't have to be a hunter to enjoy the presentation. You can just be an outdoor enthusiast and enjoy whitetails," said Porter, adding, "If you're hunting with a camera or a gun there's the thrill of getting closer."