Former Chief Gunner’s Mate Kenneth Felt figures he shot his first deer when he was 13, walking home from grade school in Minnesota.
That one didn’t get any media attention. But the one he bagged 80 years later, using a long gun that dates to the 1870s, has made him a bit of a celebrity.
Felt, 93, has been the subject of multiple media reports since his Nov. 13 hunting trip with a .50 caliber Husqvarna with rolling block action — a favorite of George Custer, among others. Walking on the same 260 acres he bought after his return to northern Minnesota from World War II duty aboard the destroyer Benson, Felt passed up a shot at a doe early on his journey. But he couldn’t pass up a second.
His weapon of choice hadn’t been fired at an animal in this country — it came from his grandfather, who’d used it in Sweden to kill elk and bear to feed loggers, Felt told the Star Tribune. Only in recent years had Felt’s son been able to locate ammunition for it; Felt tested it, and it shot straight.
The doe didn’t have a chance.
“The next evening, I went out on the trail … and I shot a grouse with my .22,” Felt said in a phone interview. “I’m doing pretty good.”
Felt enlisted in the Reserve in February 1942 — his buddy was getting hounded by the draft board, he said, and after a plan to become airmen didn’t pan out, they settled on the Navy instead. He left service more than three years later after seeing more than his share of history aboard Benson: An early convoy of U.S. troops to Ireland; a convoy of troops to participate in the North African invasion; one of the first ships to shell the Italian coast; participation in the invasions of Sicily, Italy and southern France; and eventual reassignment to the Pacific, where the ship anchored alongside the battleship Missouri while Japan’s leaders signed surrender documents.
He would later serve the state’s corrections department and was Clearwater County sheriff for 10 years. After two years as a private investigator and two heart attacks, he retired in the mid-1980s.
He said he attended reunions with his Benson shipmates until about a decade ago, when travel to the East Coast proved too problematic — and less rewarding.
“There aren’t very many of us left,” he said.
He remained in touch with those he served with who lived nearby, but he’s the last from his ship around, he said, adding that he still exchanges Christmas cards with some of his shipmates’ families.
Asked by the Star Tribune about next year’s hunt, Felt said simply, “We’ll see.”