Living on Pelican Lake

On a recent July day, as Furtman fished for largemouth bass on Pelican Lake near Orr, he talked about his life in the outdoors and the television shows that make him a household name among Northland anglers and hunters. They camped and fished from Lake Superior to Lake Winnibigoshish to the Gunflint Trail. Furtman learned to shoot at an early age. In scratchy 16 millimeter film shot by his dad, Butch holds stringers of lake trout and northern pike and practices with a single shot shotgun. In one scene, he comes walking toward the camera with his shotgun and a pack, from which he pulls four ruffed grouse. "He takes it to a level beyond most folks. It's native to him. Yes, there's a lot of learning and practice, but there's something about it to where he's in tune with the environment around him. There's a level that is deeper than the conscious mind. Some people have it and some don't. Butch has it."Francisco remembers joining Furtman on a fishing trip to a large lake in Canada. Furtman had never fished there before."I said, 'Where do you think we're going to fish?' " Francisco asked Furtman. "He said, 'Over there.' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Because that's where the fish are.' He has this uncanny sense to look at the topography above the water and know what's under the water."

It has been a good time, Furtman said. And hard work."As far as the television shows, people don't realize how much work it is," he said. "The biggest challenge is all the preparation and logistics, the planning and travel time, keeping the boat clean. And weather is a big deal, too. You can spend five days in North Dakota with the wind blowing, or go to Canada for ice fishing and have it be 30 or 40 below with the wind blowing."Mergers and acquisitions in the fishing industry have made securing sponsorships more difficult, Furtman said. And the proliferation of outdoor television shows has created more competition for sponsorship dollars. Still, he has managed to maintain solid partnerships with Rapala, Northland Fishing Tackle, Alumacraft boats, Honda outboards and others."We've always been Butch Furtman fans," said Northland's Peterson. "We feel he's provided us with a good bang for the buck. He's very loyal. He won't jump ship for a few bucks."He's deserving of the Hall of Fame recognition he's received, Peterson said."He's Men Canada Goose Ontario Parka Spirit Melbourne devoted his life to the outdoors and to promoting fishing and hunting," he said. "He's done it for the love of the sport."Dale Kilby Sr. of Rice Lake Township has been Furtman's videographer full time since 2007. Working with Furtman has been a joy, he said."It's always a relaxed atmosphere," Kilby said. "Him and I just click in the boat. Everything goes smooth. There's lots of time to chat. How to rig a worm or hook a minnow. How to fish a particular lure. Furtman always has time to teach others, he said."We were up at Orr, at the restaurant," Kilby said. "A couple of young boys approached him. He went on and on answering their questions, letting his meal go. He was more than willing to give them all the information he had. He's a teacher, that's for sure."On Pelican Lake a week ago, Furtman pulled a half dozen largemouth bass from the weeds, the largest two of them 19 inchers, plump 4 pounders. It was an easy day for Furtman no cameras rolling, no pressure to put a show together. He was fishing not far from his new log home on the lake."My nearest neighbors are timber wolves," he said. "There's a pack of five around here."Although still going strong, Furtman hinted that he may be nearing the end of his career in television."I'm getting toward that last cast," Furtman said. "Maybe next year or the year after. It's been a good run. If I had another life to lead, I'd never change a thing."

Early years

Part of what makes Furtman so good in the outdoors is that he is tireless and determined to be successful. He is driven to catch fish and take game, even when he's in the field to do a show."I don't think he's preoccupied with the show as much as he wants to make sure he hits what he shoots at," said WDIO's Couture. "It's important to him."Couture remembers a goose hunt with Furtman in Saskatchewan."He shot a Canada goose that fell into a pond," Couture said. "An otter went after it, and Butch got into a tug of war with the otter. Anybody else would have said, 'Give the otter a meal.' "Michael Furtman told of a time when Butch and their dad were hunting at a deer camp near Cook one November. It had been a tough year. The season was ending, and the eight hunters had taken just one deer. Things looked bleak."Butch went deep into a cedar swamp," Michael said. "There had been an early, heavy snowfall. He was still hunting (moving slowly and pausing often). In one day, he ended up filling all but one tag for the entire party."For all of that intensity, Furtman is easy to be around, say those close to him."Butch is fun loving when you're out with him," said Northland Fishing Tackle's Peterson. "He likes to talk, especially after hours or getting ready for the hunt. He's a really enjoyable person to have in camp."

After growing up in Duluth, where he earned a name for himself as an excellent steelhead fisherman, Furtman attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, working summers as a guide at Tuscarora Lodge on the Gunflint Trail. They came to pick up tips from veterans like Jim and Elsie, Furtman and other local anglers."People came from all over the Midwest," Furtman said. "And, of course, steelheaders came from all over the area."It was during his time at Jim's that WDIO first asked him to do tips on a local outdoor show. After earlier hosts Wally Pease and Joe Schillinger moved on, Butch took over. For years, he did 52 shows a year at WDIO. More recently, he has cut back to 26 and now 13 shows a year. Throughout his career, Furtman has fished with everyone from hometown friends to leaders of the fishing industry. He has traveled widely across Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Canada producing his shows. Fishing with Weber in Quebec, he once caught a 25 pound Atlantic salmon on a dry fly.

Determination to succeed

A natural in the outdoors

Not always easy

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businessHeadlinesLake Country Power may raise ratesBankruptcy court approves settlement that will end Magnetation operationsWhole Foods Co op names new GMPipeline now 87 percent complete in North DakotaPita Pit coming to downtown DuluthsportsHeadlinesBulldog Hockey Blog Postgame: Bulldogs Tie River Hawks In What Can Only Be Described As A Dumpster FireScoreboardUMD stonewalls Mankato in women hockeyPrep summaries College men's hockey: Deery debuts in goal, backstops Bulldogs to "interesting" tie at UMass LowellfeaturesHeadlinesAttics can make for affordable expansion spaceColorful 'happy house' inspired by movie 'Up'Theater review: 'Ball' an evening of laughter, learning Prince fans get a glimpse behind the curtain at Paisley ParkPick pears early, let them fully ripen off the treeobituariesHeadlinesHeidi Lee KnutsenRose L. (Kochaver) MaynardLindsay Marie VoltzThomas J. BaudekMichael D. 3, 2016Lakewood Township teen squeezes in goose hunting before schoolCrews hope to have Duluth ski trails cleared before wintercommunityHeadlinesHoroscopes for Oct. 8Ask a Trooper: Funeral procession protocol Horoscopes for Oct. 7Horoscopes for Oct. 6Pets of the week for Oct. 4, 2016ON PELICAN LAKE, NEAR ORR Butch Furtman was just 5 years old when his dad plopped him on the Two Island River on Minnesota's North Shore. He had a fishing rod and some worms. Then his dad took off up the river."I remember him putting me on a rock and telling me, 'Don't move,' " Furtman said. "I didn't think my dad was ever coming back. He was probably only gone for an hour. But I still remember those brook trout biting."The experience is telling for a couple of reasons. It speaks to Furtman's tenacity for fishing that he never budged from the rock. For his contributions to the sport of fishing, Furtman, 71, has received recognition at the highest levels. This past spring, he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame based in Hayward. "There's not a lot of hype to it. He's an honest and straightforward guy. You couldn't invent that character."On camera, Furtman is unassuming, direct and down to Earth. His shows are unlike many in today's fast paced, highly produced outdoor TV genre."Butch is a real outdoorsman. He's a doer instead of a talker," said John Peterson, founder of Northland Fishing Tackle in Bemidji and one of Furtman's longtime sponsors. "He comes across as a regular guy that a lot of people can relate to."