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Snowy conditions may delay some hunters

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

With winter storms hitting much of North Dakota as the state's annual deer hunting season begins, Roger Johnson has some advice for an expected 150,000 anxious hunters.

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"There is still plenty of time to get a deer," said Johnson, big game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. "They don't have to get it all done in the first day."

North Dakota's deer season, an annual rite since 1931 when 2,061 licenses were sold, opens today at noon.

The 149,400 hunters who purchased deer-gun licenses this year might have trouble getting to their favorite hunting spot in time for the official starting time.

A winter storm warning for Dickey, Foster, LaMoure, Pierce, Rolette and Stutsman counties wasn't expected to expire until

6 a.m. today. A winter storm watch in Barnes, Grand Forks, Griggs, Kittson, Nelson, Pembina, Ransom, Sargent and Steele counties wasn't expected to expire until noon today.

Roads were already closed or blocked on Thursday in southwest North Dakota, where up to a foot of snow fell in some parts. Some roads in northwest and north-central North Dakota are icy and snow-covered.

"I suspect it will make for a little tougher travel," Johnson said. "And getting around the back roads of Badlands country could be difficult. Those are tougher to navigate than normal anyway."

Johnson remains confident this week's winter weather won't affect the deer hunt. He said hunters usually fill their tags, despite the weather - especially since North Dakota expanded the deer season from nine days to 16½ days more than a decade ago.

"With the lengthened season, it kind of helps that the hunters don't have to feel pressured to get it all done on that first day," Johnson said. "But deer hunters are a pretty hardy bunch. Deer hunters aren't going to let things like weather interfere too much with their activity."

The weather is expected to improve by Saturday - which is when the Minnesota deer hunting season opens.

Unlike in Minnesota, where the Department of Natural Resources sells deer licenses over the counter, North Dakota allocates its deer tags by lottery - confining hunters to a specific area. Only hunters with buck tags can take antlered deer and only hunters with antlerless tags can shoot does.

Johnson said deer numbers look good in north-central and northeast North Dakota. The numbers have reduced slightly in southeast North Dakota, but are maintaining well in the Ransom County area.

Johnson also said it could be a slow opener in those areas because the recent wet weather prevented farmers from harvesting row crops like corn.

"There is still a lot of corn left in the state and the deer like those fields," Johnson said. "They move out of those cornfields later on. Like I said, there is still plenty of time to get a deer."

Weather forecast

Today: Periods of snow, Rain gradually changing to light snow across Minnesota. High near 35. North winds 20 to 35 mph. Overnight low near 25.

Saturday: Mostly cloudy with flurries. High 30.

Sunday: Colder. High 28.

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