Perham mukluk maker last of a dying breed

There aren't many furriers left in the United States. People who make their living crafting art from animal pelts have nearly gone extinct. Hidden in plain sight on Main Street in Perham, Wildlife Minnesota is keeping alive lost arts and preserving centuries old traditions. 
Brian Osterday sits at his workbench in his traditional fur wear shop in Perham, Minn.
Brian Osterday sits at his workbench in his traditional fur wear shop in Perham, Minn.

PERHAM, Minn. — Brian Osterday is the last of a dying breed.

"You tend to feel in today's society you should've been born 2,000 years ago," said Osterday, who describes himself as a 21st century mountain man who was born in the wrong millennium.

His claim to fame is being the last Minnesotan mukluk maker, and he sells his fur products at his store Wildlife Minnesota in Perham, Minn.

He discovered his passion early in life.

"Throughout my teenage years I did all kinds of art, but when I hit fur, something clicked," he said.

After years of honing his craft and more than a decade owning his fur business in Perham, he's earned quite the distinction among furriers in the continental U.S.

Traditional furrier Brian Osterday shows one of his raccoon fur mukluks offered at Wildlife Minnesota. WDAY photo
Traditional furrier Brian Osterday shows one of his raccoon fur mukluks offered at Wildlife Minnesota. WDAY photo

"I'm the only one left in the lower 48 states that still makes the all-fur mukluks," Osterday said. "Otherwise, you have to go to Alaska or Canada."

There are other furriers who craft mukluks, but Osterday says he's the only one left making them out of fur alone.

"I make them out of beaver, coyote, wolf, raccoon. I can make them out of Grizzly Bear," he said.

Osterday doesn't just make boots either, he also makes full-head fur hats, that use an entire head of animals like bears, wolves or bobcats.

Full-head fur hats at Wildlife Minnesota, a traditional fur wear shop in Perham, Minn. WDAY photo
Full-head fur hats at Wildlife Minnesota, a traditional fur wear shop in Perham, Minn. WDAY photo

Osterday also works with traditional tools — he works on antique sewing machines, some more than a hundred years old.

"Anything you buy today will never be an antique," said Osterday, who swears by their quality.

He knows the days of traditional furriers might numbered, but doesn't plan on quitting anytime soon.

"I don't think I'll stop doing it until I can't do it anymore," Osterday said.

To learn more about Wildlife Minnesota, check out its website.