At home in the wild

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

It’s a jungle in the home of Ann and Gus Maxfield, who live on 223 acres in rural Austin.

Visitors are greeted by a towering Alaskan Kodiak Brown Bear — all 9 feet 11 inches of it — and a Musk Ox from the Arctic Circle.

The guest room is filled with Plains Game from Africa — types of antelope — while the family room includes sheep, a bison, a Grizzly Bear and a Red Fox.

Email newsletter signup

The Maxfields live by themselves — sort of.

Their log home is packed — tastefully of course — with more than 70 animals Ann and Gus have killed over decades of hunting.

Their previous home became too small for their collection, so they built a new one six years ago that was featured on the recent American Association of University Women’s Tour of Homes.

“I started when I met him,” Ann said of hunting. “I can’t say I did like it or I didn’t like it (before), I just didn’t do it.”

But Gus did.

The couple has been married 35 years and are both Austin High School graduates.

Gus, an Austin business owner, said his love for hunting came from his childhood as his dad was big into the sport.

Since then, Gus has been nearly everywhere, from Wyoming to Zimbabwe — shooting animals with a rifle or a bow and arrow.

“Everyone’s got their thing they do,” he said. “Ours is hunting.”

He isn’t kidding.

Both Ann and Gus can claim substantial hunting trophies in their house.

Ann shot the giant Kodiak Brown Bear during an experience she describes as fun and “really cool,” while Gus killed everything in the family room downstairs, including a wolverine.

“I’ve just done it my whole life,” he said.

Ann said that every place is different in terms of hunting regulations.

Some places require tags, some require trophy fees and some require hunters go with an outfitter.

She talks about her Alaskan hunt like an artist might describe a masterpiece.

She said she passed on hundreds of bears before choosing the right one based on coat, size, maturity and sex.

“You don’t want to shoot a female; it takes the breeding stock out,” she said. “Coat is important because of the beauty of it, and maturity because you don’t want to shoot the young bears.”

The two embark on a few hunting trips each year — Gus more than Ann.

Once they have their animal, they bring back the skin, while the taxidermists do the rest.

“These taxidermists are really artists,” Gus said.

Friends of the Maxfields call the house “little Cabela’s” and yes, the couple shops at the Owatonna store quite often.

“Christmas is a blast,” Ann said. “He usually gives me hunting clothing and hunting gifts, and I give him practical things because he buys his stuff on his own.”