Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

September 21, 1998

A tribute to Les Kouba

I'm sure many of you have already read or heard that well-known Minnesota wildlife artist Les C. Kouba passed away.

Kouba died in his sleep early in the morning on Sept. 13 at Mount Olivet Home for Seniors in Minneapolis at the age of 81.

He was known especially for his painting of blue bills, but was a master at painting all types of wildlife. Associated press reports stated that Kouba was still painting up until his death.

Originally from Hutchinson, Kouba was extremely popular in our area.

The McLeod County Heritage Society has a gallery displaying his artwork at its center in Hutchinson. All you have to do to see his work is walk into a local bank or restaurant. Several businesses in the area display his work on their walls.

To me, Kouba was an inspiration. I wrote about his adventures and work several times throughout the past five years, and had the pleasure and privilege to work with him on a few occasions.

Later in his career and life, when I got to know him, he was very concerned about making an historical and memorable connection with his artwork.

Prints like the "Mega Storm" depicting a site and noting the inches of snowfall from the 1991 Halloween blizzard, and his print reflecting the flooding in the Minnesota River Valley near Shakopee in 1993 are examples of the connection to moments and events in time that he wanted to create.

He told me one time that he tried to share the greatness of the outdoors with people through his artwork like I tried to with my writing.

With a devoted relationship to the outdoors, a tremendous talent for painting, and an amazing amount of salesmanship, Kouba did that like no other artist ever will.

Kouba was also a masterful fundraiser for the things he loved and believed in. He donated many prints to national, state, and local conservation groups to be auctioned and raffled at fundraising banquets, and quite often was present at those banquets.

A few years ago, I worked with Les, the DNR, and the National Wild Turkey Federation on a wild turkey transplant project in the Lester Prairie area.

Twenty-one wild turkeys were trapped in southern Minnesota and released in a wooded area just off of Co. Rd. 9 about five miles south of Lester Prairie. The release site is marked by a sign that he painted.

Kouba was also a special guest at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club father-son banquet that year, which focused on the turkey transplant project.

Kouba used his paintings, salesmanship, that project and hundreds like it, to help many people develop a relationship with outdoors.

To me, those relationships developed, not just his artwork, but his legacy. I know he helped me develop a very strong relationship with the outdoors.

Outdoor notes

  • The small game and archery deer season opened on Saturday. Small game hunters should be aware of blaze orange requirements.
  • Minnesota's second annual Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day was also Saturday.
  • Local duck hunting could be a bit tough this season. Most sloughs and small ponds are dry and area rivers are very low. When water conditions are poor, ducks move on to areas where conditions are better. A local angler stated it's so dry out there, he couldn't even find an angleworm and was forced to purchase wax worms.
  • Strap on the waders. When fall finally arrives and air and water temps drop, the fishing for lunker walleyes and northerns really picks up. Wading into shallow areas and casting Rapalas to the shoreline at night is an effective way to nab fall walleyes.
  • Quack, quack, they were back. Officials of the Winsted Ducks Unlimited Chapter reported a very successful fundraising banquet Tuesday. Like DU, get out there and share the conservation message.
  • Review and practice the 10 commandments of firearms safety. I am not publishing them here, because if you are a firearms hunter, you should have them written down someplace.
  • The days are getting shorter at a fast pace. Soon, the sun will be setting before 7 p.m.
  • Take a Kid Hunting Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day are slated for Saturday, Sept. 26. Take a kid hunting - you'll have fun and so will he/she.
  • Angus update: Angus had a fairly good week. Although he chewed the plug off the lights on my dog trailer, he is slowly proving to me that he is somewhat smarter than a block.

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