The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 19, 2012

The hunting nun: Sister Joyce Kolbet at home in woods and stream

MANKATO — Not surprisingly, the walls of Sister Joyce Kolbet’s office on Good Counsel Hill, where she serves as a vocation minister for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, are decorated with the things that bear wit­ness to her faith and serv­ice to God.

But the fanned tail of a wild turkey, a big bluegill mounted on a piece of driftwood hanging on one wall and photos of friends and family decked out in blaze orange dispersed among the more conven­tional decor bear witness to yet another passion.

Sister Kolbet, who has served with SSND since professing in 1973, loves to hunt and fish.

“I grew up in Cresco in north­eastern Iowa,” Kolbet said. “My father was a real estate agent, but he managed farms and owned a farm himself.

“Pheasant hunting was big, and I loved to go hunting with dad and my brothers. Mostly I was the ‘dog’ flushing birds out of the cornfields.”

Another passion is to prowl the trout streams of southeast Minnesota with her fly rod with hunting-fishing partner Sister Lavonne Krebs, who presently is living and ministering in Rome, Italy.

“Lavonne and I started fly-fish­ing together during the years we lived in Winona,” she said. “ The trout streams in southeast Minnesota are some of our favorites.”

Sister Kolbet still participates in the Iowa pheasant opener and does a little deer hunting, mostly for the social aspects and to be in the “outdoor cathedral,” she says. But the hunt she enjoys the most is for wild turkeys in spring. Like many other enthusiastic
hunters lucky enough to be drawn in the annual Minnesota spring turkey license lottery — hers is the B Season that runs April 23­ 27 — she is eagerly looking forward to the ritual of the pre­scouting, of putting turkeys to bed the night before the hunt. “I began turkey hunting about 15 years ago with friends in rural Good Thunder,” she said. “I love the way it’s so interactive, hearing that first faint gobble in the morning, the challenge of calling a tom in close enough to shoot.

“I mostly use a box call, a chatter-box call, but I’ve also recently learned how to use a mouth call.”

Like most every other turkey hunter, she’ll take every opportunity to prac­tice

“ The other day, I was driving up the Hill, and there was a big tom strut­ting just a few yards off the road in the flower garden,”
she said. “I pulled over, rolled down the window and started calling with a mouth call ... after I looked around to make sure no one was around to see me.”

Success never is assured in the spring turkey woods, and Kolbet has managed to leave her share of tags unfilled over the last 15 years. “But it’s really more about being in the outdoors, to be out there to see nature come alive,” she said.

Nevertheless, success in the woods is always sweet — and certainly tasty. Kolbet last invited a tom turkey — a handsome 22-
pounder — to dinner with her Benelli M1 in 2010.

Turkeys hunters have been known to offer a little prayer, per­haps put in a request for a bit of divine intervention, when things aren’t going well in the woods.

And hunters of a more secular nature might assume that Sister Kolbet may have better connec­tions in that department.

But perhaps not.

“ There are a lot of sisters around here who pray that I don’t kill anything when I go hunting,” she said. “And they’re all pretty powerful prayers, so I’m kind of

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at .


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