2011 opener finds happy hunters
Hunters throughout the Hubbard County and adjoining regions reported mixed success after the weekend's firearms deer opener.
But it was the youth who stole the show - and the deer - locally.
Convenience stores and grocery stores reported brisk sales that started Thursday.
"We've sold hunting licenses, pop, chips and cigarettes," said a clerk at Ortons in Park Rapids, pausing for a breather.
The DNR estimates deer hunters add $458 million to the state's economy annually with $260 million of that in retail sales.
Because hunters can now report deer taken via interactive phone response or on the DNR website, many walk-in deer registration stations said they only have anecdotal evidence of how the 2011 season is going.
"We're hearing it's a mixed bag," said Debbie Lempola of Delaney's Sports Center in Park Rapids.
But the store had a very good weekend, she reported.
"We've registered quite a few and we've seen some nice deer," she said.
The Woodland Convenience Store in Lake George did likewise. Employees hadn't had time to do a run-out of data from the reporting line by Monday. All they knew was that it was busy, a clerk said Monday.
At closing time Sunday night, Melanie Spry was dog-tired, having just completed two 18-hour workdays.
Monday she was back at it, serving breakfast at the Emmaville Café. She and husband Mike, the proprietors, are in their first season of operation catering to hunters. The café, store and campground had been closed nearly two years before reopening late last year.
"It's been great," a weary Melinda Spry said Monday, running around with a coffee pot.
That reporting station had likewise not run a printout of its registered deer either. They were just too busy.
"Two of five," said Jeremy Christenson, tallying up harvested deer to tags in his party. Son Cody, 8, brought his BB gun along on the hunt near Big Mantrap Lake, shooting at smaller prey.
'We let the grandkids do the shooting," grandpa Larry Johnson laughed. "I'm sleeping in the stand with the heater going."
But 13-year-old Taylor Strenge of Buffalo got a spike buck on his second year of hunting and was grinning ear to ear.
"He outdid me," dad Randy said.
Grandpa Rod Strenge said the family has been coming up to the Big Mantrap Lake area to hunt for 45 years.
Relatively high winds had fire officials worried about campfires at deer camps. One grass fire was reported near Pine Point/Ponsford, but it was quickly extinguished.
Numerous incidents kept emergency personnel busy over the weekend.
A 72-year-old St. Paul man died in Beltrami County Saturday after being found deceased near his deer stand by members of his hunting party. It was determined that Gene Arthur Berthiaume died of natural causes, not a fall from the deer stand, Beltrami County authorities said.
A 51-year-old Sartell man died after accidentally shooting himself after falling from his deer stand. The victim was found near the deer stand Sunday morning by a Cass County search team.
Sebeka First Responders were called to the scene of a woman injured Saturday morning when she fell out of a deer stand.
Hubbard First Responders were called to First Crow Wing Lake Saturday noon, where a man had fallen out of a deer stand, suffering back injuries.
But mostly the opener was a success story as it was for 12-year-old Nick Selseth.
Up visiting his grandparents from Nevis, the Cokato youngster had bagged his first deer ever, a 3-point buck, by 9 a.m. on public hunting grounds north of Dorset.
"I don't know if they were more excited or I was," said dad Steve Selseth. "It took me 12 years to shoot a deer this big."
Nick and brother Jack, 11, lugged the heavy animal several hundred yards out of the woods.
"I want them to know this is hard work," Steve Selseth said, pitching in to help drag the deer when the boys seemed spent.
Despite the effort, Nick couldn't stop grinning. Jack was anticipating good luck of his own.
Kevin Rugroden, 11, of Park Rapids, also bagged his first deer while hunting with grandfather Jack Smythe, in the region.
Ryan Peterson, 18, of Park Rapids, shot a 12-point deer Saturday five miles from town.
Andy Waller, 17, of Park Rapids, shot an 8-point buck west of town Sunday.
Evan Booge, 11 of Park Rapids, shot a 6-point buck just minutes into the season Saturday. It was his first outing.
See a gallery of hunting photos in Saturday's Park Rapids Enterprise.