After Brad Yliniemi’s recent victory at the MN State Championship Offhand Match, many have been wondering how he got his start in shooting. Here’s an article written by a local Shooting Historian that’s accurate and impressive!
Not many people outside the great North Woods know the true story of how Brad got started in shooting. I feel that it is important chapter in the history of our sport, so I am going to tell it here. Make of it what you will.
Brad was born into a simple Amish family in the woods outside of Duluth, MN. They had a good life, living off their land, and making the best with what they had. When Brad was 5 years old, his family was massacred by a one-eyed grizzly bear that had developed a taste for human blood. Brad only escaped his own certain death by hiding under his father’s body while the bear feasted on the bones of Brad’s mother and 9 siblings. After what seemed like forever, the beast finally shambled back off into the moonlit woods from whence he came. As his father lay dying with blood filling his lungs, he motioned for Brad to come close. “What is it, Papa?” Brad whispered, his little eyes filling up with tears as he watched his father lay dying. The old man’s shaking hands passed little Brad his trusty .30-30 carbine and a single cartridge and whispered “Avenge me, son.” Brad choked back the bitter tears and vowed that he would do just that, even if it was the last thing he ever did. For the next 9 months, Brad tracked that bear across the nightmarish frozen wasteland of northern Minnesota. Over hills, through fields, and across icy lakes, Brad was always one step behind. He learned to live off the land like his family had before him, catching fish with his bare hands, and felling birds and deer with thrown rocks and sticks. He grew strong. He always had the .30-30 and that one fateful shell close at hand. Knowing better than to waste his only round, Brad dry-fired the old levergun day and night – taking aim at reduced-course HP targets that he painted on the wall of his ice cave with berries and bird droppings. He knew that the day would come that they would meet again. And come it did.
Late one night, as he lay in his cave listening to the north winds howling off of Lake Superior, he heard a faint grunt outside. Instantly, his blood ran as cold as the waters locked beneath that frozen lake. He didn’t need to see the bear to know he was the one. Brad leapt out of his ice bed and grabbed the old .30-30 and his homemade hardback shooting coat that he had fashioned from animal skins. As he broke through the mouth of the cave, he could see the old one-eyed bruin silhouetted against the full moon. He was huge, even bigger than Brad’s memories and all too-frequent nightmares had made him. He looked into the bear’s one eye. For an instant, their souls were locked together as one, and he knew that only one of them would live to see daybreak.
Brad screamed and the bear roared as they charged headlong across the icy clearing. Brad brought the rifle up to his shoulder, but the bear was faster. One swipe of his massive paw sent the rifle skidding across the icy ground. Terrified and defenseless as the bear stood over him, Brad’s hands frantically grasped at the forest floor for anything that he could use as a weapon. Being still only 5 years old, he was no match for the bear’s strength, and his 45-pound frame may as well have been a rag doll to the bear. His tiny fingers finally came across a broken branch, and as the bear lurched forward, he drove the stick with all of his strength right into it’s gaping ear hole. The bear howled in fury and confusion – this was the first time he had known pain since the hunter had taken his eye so many years ago. That was the first human he’d ever eaten, and he still remembered the taste like it was yesterday. Brad grabbed another stick and holding it high above his head shouted; “That’s for my Dad, you dick!”
The bear had never seen such fury from any man or beast, and the fight left him when he saw the look in Brad’s eyes. He knew that he was facing a 5-year old man of death, and he wanted no part of him. As he crashed across the clearing, Brad scrambled in the snow for the .30-30. The bear stopped at the edge of the woods exactly 200 yards away and let out a final roar, as if to say; “Screw you, Brad!” Brad took a deep breath and exhaled as he let the rifle settle into his NPA, just like he had done so many times in the cave. The words “Sight picture, sight alignment” were on his lips as he worked through his shot plan and the sights settled on the one good eye of the old grizzly. Every creature in the North Woods was perfectly still for a split second before Brad’s Dad’s carbine barked fire and lead into the night sky. The bullet found it’s home in the dead center of the iris of the bear’s eye, right where Brad sent it. Justice was finally served. Exhausted, he inserted his ECI, set the rifle down on his shooting stool and collapsed into the snow.
When he awoke, strangers with red faces and feathers on their heads surrounded him. He was frightened at first, but could se no malice in their eyes. A wizened old woman gave him something warm to drink, and sleep took him once again. “Strong medicine” he thought he heard her say as he drifted away…
When he awoke again 3 days later, he was brought before the strongest man he had ever seen, with the most ornate headdress of all the people there. “I am Chief Standing Wolf, leader of the Chippewa Nation. You have saved my people”, said the man. “What are you called?” Still groggy from the old woman’s potion, Brad croaked out “I am Brad.” “That will not do.” said the chief sternly. “You saved our tribe from great bear spirit. From now on, you will be called ‘Yliniemi’. In our language it means ‘Wind of Death.’” “No!”, Brad shouted. “I am Brad. That is what my father named me, and that is who I am.” “Very well, then Brad Yliniemi you shall be.”
As reward for Brad’s great bravery, the chief offered Brad 2 gifts of his choosing. After careful consideration, Brad made his choices. The first was a barreled rifle action that had been forged by the chief himself in the deepest pit of Minnesota’s only active volcano. The elders say that the barrel’s steel is so hard, it won’t need to be set back until 1 million rounds have been fired through it. The second was the finest horse ever seen in the Great White North – as black as coal, with eyes as red as fire. Brad took the action and dropped it into a snow white R5 chassis from Gary Eliseo, and still rides the horse to the range, and uses it to haul his gear between yard lines at OTC matches. The Chippewa people say that if you go out into the woods on the coldest night of the winter and you listen very carefully, you can still hear that old bear howling; “Screw you Brad!”…
*Artist rendition only. May not be indicative of actual bear from story.
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