September 29, 1955 - March 30, 2006
Ken was a man of many passions. Here are stories from people who knew him:
DOC SANDERSON'S STORY:
I understand that you were looking for some stories about Ken from the hunters who have hunted with him. Well, I thought about this and several stories came to mind ... some tellable - some not!!
I will tell you one story ... the first time I hunted with Makwa River Outfitters was in 1999. (I came with Bruce Hawkinson, Dennis LaFaive and Louis Krolickowski). My trip in 2014 will be my 10th time that I will be hunting there.
We had just arrived and met Kathy and Ken and then went to the cabin and were unloading and getting settled in. Within the hour Ken came into the cabin and a cribbage and smear card game was started. Ken, Bruce, Dennis and Louis were playing. I decided to take a quick shower after the long ride. I was in the shower maybe only maybe 30 seconds when a bucket of ice cold water was thrown over the curtain. I tell you that was quite a shock. After thawing I went in search of the guilty party. The card game was still in play and they all claimed innocence! I knew for sure that two of my friends would not do such a thing which left one of my friends plus this Ken guy who I just drove over 1500 miles to hunt with ... I started wondering "what did I get myself into?"!!
After completing a most enjoyable week of hunting and observing all the fun activities with fantastic owners and staff - I knew who had thrown the water! I hunted with Makwa River Outfitters for 8 straight years....OUTSTANDING MEMORIES!!
As a side note ... Kathy, the 7th year was the year Ken and I were both diagnosed with cancer. We had many man to man talks about life in general. I am proud to call him Friend - a man I still talk about often and greatly respect.
- "Doc" Sanderson - Michigan
TOM TISANO'S STORY:
I was walking down one of the aisles at the Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA many years ago when I heard a person call out my name. I turned to see Pete Corey sitting behind a booth with another man, whom I was about to find out was Ken Dopko, smiling at me. I walked over and Pete said to me if I wanted a great Saskatchewan deer hunt that Ken was the outfitter who could get that done. I shook Ken's hand and asked about the operation at his outfit. After hearing what he was doing and his type of hunting I wrote out a deposit check for that upcoming fall season. I decided I wanted to hunt with my muzzleloader and Ken suggested I come the last week of October. He assured me that I would have a very good opportunity at a 150 class buck! Well with that said, all I could do was count the days until October.
I arrived in Saskatoon with my friend John, who also booked with Ken. We rented a car and drove north to Meadow Lake where we stayed for the night. We got up and drove the remaining short distance to Makwa and Makwa River Outfitter's Lodge on Sunday morning. Lodge was an understatement! The "bunkhouse" was a beautiful log cabin with all the amenities of home. Meals were served in Ken's house with his lovely wife Kathy preparing them. By the way, if you leave there hungry or skinny it was all your fault. The meals were nothing short of fantastic!
We went to the "shop" where all the discussions about hunting, skinning, caping, etc went on. Ken looked a little dejected when we started talking about the upcoming hunt. I asked whe he looked a little "down" and he said that the area I was to hunt was just ruined by a particular kind of local hunter. He shot a beautiful 12 pont buck two days before I arrived and left it there to rot! Ken told me that if the deer doesn't drop at the shot this particular local kind of hunter just keeps driving and shooting until one does drop! Ken proceeded to then show me the antlers of the beautiful 12 pointer which scored in the mid 160's!!! Ken said not to worry, he had other great areas and he assured me again that I would have a great hunt. It was great that Pete Corey was also in camp for that week. My friend John decided to archery hunt so he was as pumped as I was.
Monday morning came and off to the stands we went. After a 4 wheeler ride I was dropped off. Upon the breaking of dawn there were already three bucks on the bait. There was none that I wanted to shoot. The day went on with no shooters sighted. Upon returning to camp Pete Corey said that he passed a decent buck but he wanted bigger. Pete pulled out his video camera and played it back for all of us to see. When the footage started rolling Ken jumped up and shouted to Pete that he had passed up a true "booner" ... how one passes up a Boone and Crockett whitetail was beyond my realm of though! The next two days brought much of the same hunting. A hunter from Pennsylvania was in camp and shot a marginal 8 pointer which he thought was a "monster" by Pennsylvania standards. He was estatic. My friend John was not prepared for the cold weather arrowed a very nice 130 8 pointer! And I was still searching for my dream buck.
Later that Wednesday evening Ken pulled me aside and said he would like me to return to the stand where that 12 pointer had been killed. He said that the sign there was fantastic and he believed another large buck had moved into that area. I agreed to move and went there Thursday morning. When daylight arrived I was very excited as the woods in this area looked fantastic. Heavy patches of spruce and aspen were everywhere. It wasn't 15 minutes later that I saw movement and out steped a huge Saskatchewan buck. It was all over in less than 20 minutes. My Saskatchewan 11 pointer gross scored right at 150! Ken was right ... I will never forget my brief friendship with Ken Dopko. For the rest of the week I hunted grose with Ken, re-baited many stands and had a great time in general. I vowed to return.
I was deeply saddened to learn that my friend Pete Corey, who was a mainstay at Makwa River Outfitters had lost his battle with cancer. Ken called me with the news and I was shocked. I was equally shocked to find out that Ken also had his own battle with cancer. I was also very saddened to learn of Ken's passing. I look often at Ken's picture with his last Saskatchewan buck before his passing. He truly was a one-of-a-kind man, and friend.
I have returned to hunt with Kathy and noticed that Connor was following in his father's footsteps. Walker was also a great hunter who has since pursued a career in Canada's military. Each time I have been there was great. I look forward to returning there in the future to enjoy the complete hospitality that Kathy offers you, and of course the great whitetail deer hunting. Their slogan is so, so true : You come as a client, but leave as a friend!
In closing all I can say is you are truly missed Ken Dopko!!
Tom Tisano - Pennsylvania
The Pete Corey that Tom is referring to is one of racing's pioneers. He was a top Dirt Track Modified star of the 50's and 60's. He did most of his racing in New York state at Lebanon Valley Speedway, Fonda and Albany-Saratoga Speedways. Pete started hunting with Makwa River Outfitters in about 1993 and hunted with us every year until his passing in 2000. As a matter of fact, he passed away on his way to come to our camp in the fall of 2000. Ken and Pete had a wonderful and crazy friendship ... each of them egging the other one on with whatever "language" they could to get a "rise" out of the other! And there was always a "rise"!!! What fun they had!!! ... what special friends they were!!!
1929 - 2000
These pictures are from our 2005 season. These are special pictures because these guys shared Ken Dopko's last deer season. Ken passed away the following spring on March 30, 2006. You all knew that Ken's passion was hunting but when he became an outfitter he no longer had time to hunt himself but he felt the same joy from each of your trophies as he would have if he pulled the trigger himself (maybe even more joy and pride than you yourself felt if you can imagine!). This last season you could see the ravages left behind from chemo and radiation treatments and you could see that he was losing his battle. He no longer had the strength left to go out as a guide and you know how deeply sad he felt about that. The one thing about Ken is that each and everyone of his clients was a special person and he really loved you all. He was like a little boy on Christmas morning every single day of the deer season and he genuinely loved every single second of his time with each of you. So here you all are, sharing his last deer and his last deer season with him.
Randy Sanderson Dave Shute Jack Sutherland Terry Sanderson
Oct 31/05 Oct 31/5 Nov 2/05 Nov2/05
Felix Napolitano Doc Sanderson Phill Napolitano Larry Gagliardi
Nov 2/05 Nov 3/05 Nov 3/05 Nov 4/05
Vincenzo Comarda Alex Glaza Joey Sorbara Tony Martinucci
Nov 7/05 Nov 8/05 Nov 9/05 Nov 9/05
Colby Johnson Larry Murphy Dick Ebling Tony Brogdan
Nov 15/05 Nov 16/05 Nov 16/05 Nov 17/05
Dennis Santini Robert Murphy Ray Bernosky Gerry Bovat
Nov 17/05 Nov 17/05 Nov 17/05 Nov 19/05 Nov 21/05
(Pride of his parents!) Walker Dopko Nov 18/05
(Yes guys this is our son, Walker when he was 13 years old!)
Griffin Corse Kregg Kittell Dana Kittell Jack Corse
Nov 23/05 Nov 23/10 Nov 24/05 Nov 24/05
Calvin Ward Nov 24/05 Dick Kingsbury Nov 26/05
Bob Coleman Ron Bunce Randy Longe Joe Caccamo
Nov 29/05 Nov28/05 Nov 30/05 Nov 30/05
Mike Longe Phil Alotta Ray Schedivy Neil Bandel
Dec 1/05 Dec 1/05 Dec 1/05 Dec 2/05
"THE BOSS", Ken Dopko took home his last deer on Nov 22/05
He passed away from cancer 4 months later on March 30, 2005
His spirit lives on with each hunt here!