profile of bud grant i wrote in 2005 for outdoor news (THIS IS THE FULL AND ORIGINAL VERSION)
By Ron C. Hustvedt Jr.
The record books prove that having Bud Grant on your team automatically gives you an advantage.
It worked for the Minneapolis Lakers when they won two NBA titles with him on the team.
It worked for the Philadelphia Eagles who drafted Grant and used him as one of their premier receivers. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team found this out with Grant the player and then Grant the coach. In both cases he accumulated twice as many wins as losses.
Almost every Minnesotan knows it worked here when he took the Vikings from a cellar dweller into a dynasty going to four Super Bowls and collecting 11 Division Championships in 18 years of coaching.
There is so much more to the man than being an excellent player and coach. Grant is a natural leader who has used his skills and talents both on the football field and in the outdoors field. He has been critical in getting large numbers of people, who would be otherwise disorganized, aligned on a common purpose.
In the outdoors field, Grant has been a critical team member for numerous conservation organizations.
He is a charter member of Pheasant’s Forever and helped get the organization off the ground. He was one of the visionaries behind Turn In Poachers (TIP) and was a key player in getting the organization formed. He also helped lead the charge when the Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) folks took the fishing and hunting rights treaty issue all the way to the Supreme Court.
The court case ended up about as bad as the Super Bowl appearances, but just getting there in all those cases is an incredible feat that requires a strong leader to carry out.
A lot of people know Bud Grant the spokesman or coach but to fully understand him one must consider where he came from.
Squeezin’ in time
Grant was born May 20, 1927 in Superior, Wisconsin and was well into his second year when the Great Depression hit. His youth was spent in the clutches of this economic catastrophe and his high school days were spent during World War II. “Those were tough times; everybody I knew was poor including us,” he said.
He always had a roof over his head and the family had a vehicle that worked most of the time, but there was a severe lack of material goods. When he had the chance, he’d take a bus to the end of town or walk the railroad tracks out of town hunting rabbits and grouse. His first gun was a .22 and he later upgraded to a single barrel, 30-inch, 12-gauge shotgun with tape around it.
The conservation movement was just beginning to emerge nationally though Grant was not aware of it at the time. He remembers going down to the shore of Lake Superior and seeing the sewage being dumped into the lake. “We’d go down and shoot rats at the dump which was right on the lake,” he said.
Grant joined the Navy upon graduating high school in 1945 and was stationed in San Francisco. He was on the way to Japan when the country surrendered ending the war and ending his duties.
He returned to the Midwest and began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. He was a nine-letter athlete in baseball, basketball and football. Grant went hunting and fishing when he could but was limited because he had no automobile and his student-athlete duties kept him pretty busy on campus. “We’d leave town after the Saturday game and go west to hunt ducks and pheasants all day Sunday,” he said.
Football season finished just in time for deer hunting. Summertime was when he spent most of his time outdoors back in northern Wisconsin where he even did some guiding. “I’d sit in a tavern with a button reading ‘guide’ which meant for $20 I’d take somebody out fishing,” he said.
It was true back then just as much as it is now—Bud Grant loves the outdoors and considers hunting and fishing merely an excuse to be out there.
Besides being a student-athlete, fishing guide, and avid hunter, Grant met a woman who would become his future wife. They graduated together in 1950 and soon were married. This August the pair will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. One of her first gifts to Bud was a Labrador Retriever, his favorite breed, and the only kind of dog he’s ever owned, even today.
Grant was the first-round draft choice of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1950 but he chose to stay in Minneapolis to play basketball with the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers. He stayed with the Lakers for two years winning the NBA title each year.
In 1951 he joined the Eagles as a defensive end. In 1952, he switched to offense and caught almost 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns making him the number two pass receiver in the league.
Grant then moved to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and led the CFL in receptions three times in four seasons. He was named Winnipeg’s head coach in 1957 and took the team to four championships in 10 years. He said his wife accuses him of moving to Winnipeg to play football strictly for the duck hunting. When asked his take on that, Grant simply said, “She’s half wrong and half right.”
In 1966 he took moved to Minnesota becoming the head coach of the Vikings where he stayed until 1983, though he did return to coach the 1985 season. His record as a coach in the CFL was 102-56-2 and his NFL record was 168-108-5 making him one of the elite coaches in the sport of football. In 18 seasons with the Vikings, he produced 11 Central Division championships, won the NFL title in 1969, and took the NFC Championship in 1973, 1974 and 1976.
Grant never took home a Super Bowl ring, though he is only one of a handful of coaches to go there four times. As almost every Minnesotan and football fan is aware, Grant is one of the best football coaches ever and rightfully has a place in Canton at the Football Hall of Fame.
Grant has been accused of retiring from his coaching duties so that he could do more hunting and fishing which he said is also half wrong and half right. “I have six children and a wife who put up with years of me being gone seven days a week 26 weekends in a row,” Grant said.
He retired so that he could make up for all that lost time though he admits he’ll never live long enough to make it all up. “I’m going to try,” he added.
Being a football coach was tough with four sons and numerous dogs that liked to go duck hunting. Even with his crazy coaching schedule, Grant would wake up every day in October at 5 a.m., run down to the river bottoms with his dogs and one of this sons, get in about 80 minutes of hunting, and then be home again by 9 a.m. “It sounds a little paranoid I guess but it allowed me to keep my sanity. It allowed me to see the sun come up and see the blackbirds fly around,” he said.
Doing this helped him keep his priorities in life straight and he said he managed to shoot a fair number of ducks and geese, though it was still a successful morning if he only saw them. “Football is important but not the most important part of the world,” he said.
Grant still has an office down at Winter Park where he ventures several times a week to get work done like writing letters to the editor and researching issues.
Fully involved outdoorsman
In retirement Grant has a lot of time for hunting and fishing which he takes full advantage of as much as possible. He considers himself a jack of trades when it comes to hunting because he’ll go after anything that gives him an excuse to be outdoors. He ventures all over the country pursuing turkey, upland game, big game and small game. While he won’t admit to being a master of any, his favorite hunting is waterfowling.
When he thinks back over six decades of duck hunts Grant can only come to one conclusion about the state of ducks today, “There are simply very few ducks in Minnesota.”
The conclusion is plain and simple in the typical Bud Grant style, but his beliefs of why this is the case are anything but simple.
Minnesota is the crown jewel of the United States when it comes to the natural resources and Grant believes most Minnesotans are either oblivious to this fact or seem uninterested in preserving that heritage. “Everywhere you go people have nothing but good stuff to say about our resources here but somewhere we’ve gotten off the track and we’re letting it sink,” he said.
Grant said one of the biggest problems with the situation is that too many people are divided on the issue. “You have people who think it’s all a habitat problem, others who think that adjusting the season will fix everything and there are some who just want to blame agriculture—in reality it is all of these things for multiple reasons,” he said.
Also piled into that pit of blame would be predator control, the Minnesota DNR who he says mismanaged the resource, and newspapers who do a good job of pointing out the problems but little to offer concrete solutions. Grant was also critical of the hunting and angling crowd, “They are good at going to dinners and raising money but politicians tell me they don’t have to worry about the outdoors people because they bring no political pressure,” Grant said.
These are not the rantings of a crazed old man, but rather the reflections of a wise man who walks the talk. “People have to approach this issue with an open mind and realize that everybody at the table has something they need to do in order to make things work,” Grant said.
His hope is that the hunting community comes together rather than forming factions of special interest groups.
He is optimistic for the April 2 Duck Rally at the Capitol but said politicians need more than a well attended and well organized rally. “Politicians know that when we’re upset we’ll have meetings; rally and holler; do a lot of talking and such, but they don’t consider us a constituency to worry about and they aren’t worried about us getting them unelected,” he added.
A lot of empty talk is what Grant’s talking about here. He was especially critical of Ducks Unlimited, an organization with a large membership and reputation for protecting ducks. “I started out as a member of DU and their ideas sounded great but when you see how they spend the money of their membership it’s not all about ducks,” Grant said.
He told the story of a complaint he lodged to the leaders of DU saying they were doing a great job of protecting habitat but little else. “They told me that they don’t provide support for ducks, only for habitat that will bring the ducks—I told them they should change their name which they didn’t like too much,” he said.
Grant feels that DU has gotten too big and is too worried about getting controversial to be effective. He is a big fan of Delta Waterfowl, another conservation organized centered around waterfowl, because they actually “have a soul.”
The duck rally is something that could help fix these problems, Grant said. The gathering of so many interests around a common goal is not new to Grant and he’s seen the power of such groupings in the past on many occasions.
“This is not a one shot deal like the Super Bowl or an Election,” Grant said. “This is the kick-off and a chance to hear some answers from the people in charge so we know who to replace and who to keep around,” he said.
One of the biggest problems today is a real lack of well-connected people fighting for the outdoors. “Years ago we used to have people who were businessmen and had a lot of influence. Today, most of them don’t hunt or fish and those who do can afford to go other places where they are guaranteed to shoot,” he said.
Duck Rally Expectations
“I’m not doing this on a stump, I just say what my feelings are when somebody asks me,” Grant said.
At 78 years of age, Grant said he’s lived through all of this and is doing this because he loves the outdoors and sees too many practices changing for the worse. He is worried about what will still be around for his children, grandchildren and especially a great-grandchild born just a month ago.
Grant is hoping for a massive turnout at the Capitol grounds on April 2 at 10 a.m. and has one request for attendees: “I hope everybody wears their camouflage clothing, blaze orange fishing hat, fishing vest or whatever it is that designates them as outdoorsman or woman—that should be the costume of the day.”
In his parting thoughts, Grant re-emphasized the importance of the Duck Rally as a beginning, rather than just another event. “This is not about playing the blame game because there’s enough to go around a few times—I hope this brings the problem into focus and that we make people aware so we can develop some workable solutions,” he said.
With Grant on the team it is going to be tough not to do a good job.
Bud Grant with a monster North Dakota whitetail
Bud Grant with a giant New Mexico elk
Bud Grant with Sharptails in Manitoba in the 1960s
Bud Grant in Argentina
Bud Grant with the southeastern MN turkey
Bud Grant and Annie the black lab after a day waterfowling
Bud Grant with a Northwest Territories lake trout in 1970s
Bud Grant after a waterfowling outing in Winnipeg 1955
Photos from below were used with that 2022 Outdoor News article. Click the button above for the full article.