Dennis Anderson
See more of the story

Game Fair promises to be bigger and better than ever this year when it opens today for a six-day, two-weekend run in Ramsey.

Except Gary Clancy won’t be there.

Clancy, 68, a prolific, knowledgeable and widely respected outdoors writer, died July 27 at his home in High Forest, in southeast Minnesota.

Clancy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma 12 years ago and throughout much of his illness remained active, productive and upbeat. In 2008, suffering nerve damage to his left arm and shoulder from the disease, he hunted pheasants with a 20-gauge using only his right arm, with his left arm in a sling.

The same year, while fishing alone on a cold day in northern Minnesota, he fell out of his boat and feared he would drown.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s it — I guess I drown,’ ” Clancy told the Star Tribune in 2009. “Then a thought came to me as clear as could be, and it was that Lucas, my 4-year-old grandson, wasn’t going to understand why Grandpa drowned. I was just suddenly on the surface again. ... I made it the last 15 feet to shore. I don’t know how I did it. It was God, I think ... or dumb luck.”

At Game Fair each year, Clancy spent most of each day near where I spent most of each day. Though extremely knowledgeable and experienced in the field as a hunter and angler, he carried no airs while leading well-attended seminars. Easy to talk to, he was humble and friendly.

The author of eight books, most on deer hunting, Clancy became a regular columnist for the weekly Outdoor News in the 1990s. His stories also appeared in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Outdoor Life and other national publications.

Clancy served in the Army in Vietnam in 1969-70. His tales about his time there are among reader favorites, and he credited his survival at times to his ability to shoot a rifle both left- and righthanded.

Clancy had learned from his father as a boy how to hunt ducks ambidextrously so he could target the birds regardless of their approach to decoys.

“I enjoyed grouse hunting with him most,” said a son-in-law, Lee Clancy, who married Katie, the youngest of three daughters born to Clancy and his wife, Nancy. “As soon as he got into the woods, he was a different man. It seemed like that was where he belonged.”

Gary Clancy will be memorialized at Game Fair with an effort to raise $100,000 to help build a state wildlife management area in his name. Pheasants Forever and Outdoor News are spearheading the effort.

Want to help?

• Outdoor News subscribers can bring their paper mailing labels to Game Fair and receive a $2 discount on a daily ticket while contributing $2 to the campaign.

• Anoka County Pheasants Forever gun raffle proceeds at Game Fair will fund the campaign.

• Individual contributions can be made via Pheasants Forever’s Build A Wildlife Area program. Donate online at pheasantsforever.org/clancy.

Finally, a snippet from an Iowa archery deer hunting story by Clancy published in 2007 on the Outdoor Life website:

Three, maybe four steps from [my deer] decoy, the buck stops. I know what he’s doing: He’s giving the decoy one last chance to turn tail. But Rufus never runs from a fight. I draw my bow, but it’s too dark. To fling an arrow now would be just that, a fling and a prayer. I let down the string and in a blur the buck makes his charge, hitting poor Rufus right on the point of his shoulder. My decoy goes airborne. Its head flies off. The big buck whirls and runs 20 yards out into the stubble. He stands and stares at his decapitated adversary for a minute and then starts pawing the ground and snort-wheezing. I’m shaking like a Friday-night poker player suddenly playing no-limit Texas Hold ’Em with the big boys in Vegas. All I want the buck to do is hang around a few more minutes and I’ll have the light I need to make the shot. So I snort-wheeze back at him. He doesn’t like that. He snorts back and paws the ground all the harder. For two, maybe three minutes, we trade insults. Then he tires of this game, turns and walks away.

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com