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Brush with greatness

Nicole Larson’s favorite project was this four-feather painting of running wolves. Larson said she sometimes paints based off of a photo, but usually creates her own designs from memory. Submitted Photo 1 / 3
Nicole Larson started painting feathers from turkeys she shot during season. She prefers doing individual feathers, but also paints multiple feathers or full fans. Submitted Photo2 / 3
Nicole Larson’s biggest deer yet is the mule deer she took while hunting in Standing Rock Indian Reservation, N.D. this fall. “I think he was part cow,” said Larson. The field-dressed buck weighed 330 pounds and its antlers scored 155 inches. Submitted Photo 3 / 3

It’s been a chaotic but great year for Nicole Larson.

The avid hunter and wildlife artist got married in August, and then went on to set two personal hunting records for largest game shot, one of those also setting a state record.

Larson’s extreme love for the outdoors comes from within; hunting was not a tradition in her family.

“I’d go out, when I was little, and draw deer and stuff,” said Larson. “Then, I decided one day that I wanted to try to hunt them. I begged my dad to take me out.”

Finally, he did.

“He wasn’t really into it, so I just took it from there and started bow hunting,” Larson said.

Since then, she hasn’t stopped hunting.

 “All of my time outside of work is spent painting, or hunting and filming,” said Larson. “There’s no off season for us.”

She and her husband, Brent, hunt turkeys, deer, ducks and geese.

When out hunting, the Larsons usually work together to film footage for their website, Field of Dreams TV, and Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV.

 “I’ve been doing TV since I was 18,” said Larson. “Brent had done TV and wasn’t really pushing for it, but I really wanted to do it. So, we started working with a couple of companies and people started liking us.”

Even with the publicity, Larson insists she is not a professional, just an avid hunter.

“I also have a lab that’s trained to find sheds (antlers) in the spring,” said Larson.

Over the summer, the Larsons go out to fish and prepare for deer season by maintaining food plots.

They even chose where to call “home” based on the outdoors. They moved to the Battle Lake area several years ago from the Twin Cities, “so that we could get off work and jump in the lake,” she said. “Plus, there are plenty of turkeys up here.”

Turkeys are one of Larson’s favorite animals to hunt. She hunts them by using a “reaping” technique.

This means, instead of sitting in a blind, Larson crouches behind a large turkey decoy and entices the bird to approach. When it’s close enough, she will stand and shoot it with her bow.

“He has no idea I’m there,” said Larson. “You try to peek through the (decoy’s) tail feathers … but you never know where they’re going to pop out.”

 “I had one jump over the decoy and right onto my lap,” said Larson. “When he looked at me, I don’t know who was more scared: me or the bird!”

It was while using this approach that Larson shot the National Wild Turkey Foundation’s largest Minnesota bird for 2013.

Over all, that turkey ranks third in the state for “typical” birds shot with a bow. Larson is the only woman in Minnesota’s top 10 for that category.

Another great moment, said Larson, was her first mule deer hunt in the North Dakota portion of Standing Rock Indian Reservation. She got a big buck that weighed 330 pounds, field dressed, and had to be carried out of a canyon.

“I think he was part cow,” Larson said.

Whether or not it was a bovine, the massive buck had antlers that scored 155 inches (personal record) and was Larson’s heaviest deer yet.

Larson also paints tail feathers from the turkeys she shoots over the season.

The painting process takes a lot of attention to detail.

Larson said that brush strokes need to go in the same direction as the feather’s barbs. Sometimes, the brown color in a feather will bleed into the paint and need to be redone.

A single feather usually takes more than seven hours to paint, said Larson. Bigger fans of feathers take even longer.

Sometimes, Larson said, she will decide to shoot a turkey based on the quality of its feathers, just like judging a deer by its antlers.

“Art goes hand-in-hand with my hunting,” said Larson. “I just didn’t want to waste these pretty feathers.”

To keep up with the Larsons’ hunting adventures, follow their Field of Dreams Productions page on Facebook.