Trophy hunter: Eastern Washington’s Ellis Magnuson spends time off the basketball court as an avid outdoorsman
Feb. 23, 2023 Updated Fri., Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:16 p.m.
For much of the year, Ellis Magnuson practically lives at basketball arenas.
A redshirt junior at Eastern Washington University, Magnuson is a key reserve on a men’s college basketball team that leads its conference and is aiming to get to next month’s NCAA Tournament.
Ever since his grandfather took him out fishing as a child, Magnuson has always had a love for the outdoors, one that grew to include hunting with his dad .
The trouble is, when you’re a basketball player – especially a successful one – it doesn’t leave much time or energy for hunting, since the two seasons overlap so much.
Still, Magnuson makes the time as much as he can.
“It’s good to just get out,” Magnuson said. “It’s all about the experience, about the company you’re in as well. Hanging out with your friends and not having to worry about anything, just being in nature. … It’s always fun to go hunting.”
Eastern’s basketball roster is populated mostly by players who grew up in big cities. Senior Jordan Veening is one of the few who didn’t; he is from Sumas, Washington, which abuts the Canadian border north of Bellingham.
Veening and Magnuson have fished together, and they talk about it around the team. Some, like freshman LeJuan Watts, have gone fishing with them. Others are still angling for a first or second invite.
“LeJuan said we talk about it so much, but we’re not really about it,” Veening said, noting that they haven’t been able to hunt or fish much the last couple of months during the team’s record-long winning streak, which reached 18 games on Thursday. “What are we supposed to do? We can’t go hunting during basketball season.”
Veening and Magnuson like to fish at Thompson Lake, northeast of Harrison. It’s a place Magnuson, who is originally from Boise, has been going to since his high school years, when he would visit his family’s cabin on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
“My friends have an annual camping trip every year,” he said. “We spend a lot of time up there.”
When he was younger, Magnuson mostly went fishing with his grandfather. They would fish in Boise, too, when they lived there. His grandfather died during his freshman year of college.
Magnuson’s dad is the one who showed him the hunting side, something he picked up again when he moved up to Cheney for college. Magnuson and his dad went hunting in December. Magnuson didn’t kill anything, but his dad got a little buck, he said.
The previous year, though, Magnuson’s was successful and brought the deer back to the house he shares with a few teammates. Some of them – like Rylan Bergersen, Magnuson’s longtime friend who was with the Eagles last season – were less than happy about seeing and smelling a deer carcass hanging for a week in their garage.
“I’ll hang it up in the garage and skin it and cut the meat off a week later,” he said. “All my friends were freaking out because they’d never seen anything like it before.”
Veening, whose grandparents own a house near Lake Chelan, Washington, has done his share of deer hunting, too. It’s a place he hopes to take Magnuson one of these years.
For Magnuson, the experience of being outdoors is as much about the company as it is about being in nature, regardless of his success rate.
“More than anything, it’s just the experience, being in good company, even if you don’t catch anything or see any animals,” he said. “It’s always nice to get out there and reset, especially when you’re going through basketball season. If you can get out for a day and hike around, it’s kind of nice.”
That sort of adventure might be more palatable for some of his teammates. Senior Angelo Allegri, who is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, has fished with Magnuson, and he said they have talked about going hunting.
“I definitely think this April we’ll get some tents, set up in the woods,” Allegri said. “I’ve never hunted before, never stayed the night outside in a tent. I want to do that, too.”
Some of Magnuson’s house mates, like sophomore Ethan Price, aren’t lining up to go hunting. Magnuson joked that “they don’t do much hunting over there” in England, where Price is from.
But they are at least willing to take part in one aspect: They’ll eat the venison steaks.
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