Few people have managed to take full advantage of the opportunities the lakes area provides for outdoorsmen the way Hank Ebert has.
A resident of the area for the past 43 years, Ebert recognized it as the ideal location to take advantage of his passion for the outdoors.
“I think it was just inherited,” Ebert said. “Every uncle I had was an outdoorsman - hunting, fishing, whatever - and it is just in my blood. Give me a gun or a fishing rod, and put me on the water or in the woods. Don’t put me in downtown Minneapolis or New York City.”
Those passions have been a key part of his life’s story, as he has served as an area fishing guide for decades and he has won nearly 70 medals - many of them in trap shooting and archery - at various national wheelchair games. He was injured in a motorcycle crash in 1970 and has been wheelchair-bound since then.
Recently, Ebert brought home four gold medals and one bronze medal at the 39th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It was hot there,” Ebert said. “The range was very nice - old, but very nice - and the people were very friendly.”
In the trap shooting portion of the event, Ebert exceeded his own expectations, connecting on 98 of 100 targets, including 50 straight.
“My average at these games is 92 to 94,” he said. “It was better than I was hoping. This time, it really just clicked.”
Additionally, he earned gold medals in archery, shot put and discus, while earning a bronze medal in the javelin. He said exceeding his own expectations and finding success on such a national level was “a good feeling.”
He said his most memorable part of the event was partaking in the “water bottle challenge” in exhibition. The challenge saw some popularity online - particularly with action movie stars and mixed martial artists - and calls for an individual to attempt to kick the cap off of a water bottle without knocking the bottle over. In Ebert’s competition, he and his fellow archers attempted to shoot the cap with an arrow. Ebert managed to “just kiss” the cap with an arrow, and watched the cap unscrew itself without the bottle falling.
“I don’t think I could ever do it again,” he said. “It was just one of those shots.”
Next season’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games will take place in Portland, Oregon, and Ebert plans to be there, just as he has for the past two decades.
As a fishing guide, Ebert has been a part of many people’s memories of their time on the lake, and he has made plenty of memories of his own. Through guiding, he has met and befriended several members of the racing community, notably funny car driver Jim Head.
“Drag racers love to fish,” Ebert said. “They would come up and hire guides. One year, Jim Head got in my boat and the rest is history. We became friends and he has been sponsoring me for a long time for the wheelchair games.”
Ebert and his girlfriend, Sandy, have also been Head’s guests for a number of races, fishing trips and other adventures across the country.
Locally, he is active in a number of charitable events. He is a member of the Minnesota Paralyzed Veterans of America and will take part in the group's fun shoot Sept. 14 at the Lakeshore Conservation Club. He also serves as a fishing guide on the Trolling for the Troops event at Camp Ripley, as well as for the Fishing Has No Boundaries event, which will take place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24, on Gull and Sylvan lakes. The event provides an opportunity to fish for people with disabilities.
“It is probably the most gratifying thing I have ever done,” Ebert said. “These kids usually fish once a year, and they just love it … It is just awesome.”
When those events are done for the year, Ebert will go back to hunting, fishing and enjoying the lakes area.