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Hunters report seeing more deer by mid-week

Steve Orr of Lake Belle Taine hunts in period clothing from the 1700s, a hand-sewn wool costume. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Eighty-four-year-old Bud Johanning of Park Rapids tags a deer his party shot Wednesday morning. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

Kids, in a special hunt for youth ages 10-11, took to the woods last weekend like seasoned pros.

Three 11-year-olds are now featured on the Enterprise Web site's "The Game Room" online photo gallery after bagging their first deer.

Charley Walsh, Katelynn Warmbold and Tyler Price all experienced the thrill of a first-ever harvest.

"This really is a neat program," Warren Warmbold said of the weekend special youth hunt.

Katelynn shot her deer on a borrowed .22. Warren said his daughter is an avid angler and is just starting to hunt. He bought her a bow, "but she's not quite strong enough yet" to use it, he said.

Slow opening weekend results gave way to a bountiful harvest by Wednesday morning.

Bud Johanning, an 84-year-old from Park Rapids, was in a party that got four bucks and a doe.

"We left our deer stands and went into the fields," said Bud's son Buzz Johanning. "They're out there. You just gotta stay out in the woods and be persistent. Pack a lunch and a Thermos."

Steve Orr, a resident of Lake Belle Taine, was registering a 200-pound buck Wednesday in Park Rapids, dressed in hand-sewn wool clothing.

He and his hunting party dress in period clothing from the 1745-1770 era. He looked like an extra from "The Last of the Mohicans" movie, flintlock in hand.

He and fellow "period" enthusiasts research journals and history books to conduct their hunts like their ancestors did.

At regional reporting stations the results were mixed.

"We've had about 275 so far, down by a half" from 2008, said Tim Eischens, owner of Two Inlets Country Store.

"We pretty much lost a day Sunday when it was raining. No one wants to sit in a deer stand. They all went home."

Eischens said with "no doe permits this year" and stricter limits of harvests, not as many hunters came to the area.

But "it's been a busy weekend," he said. Hunters stocked up on pop, beer, gas and food.

That was the story at SuperAmerica in Park Rapids, where manager Stacey O'Mara reported 173 tags as of Wednesday morning.

"I couldn't even guess" if it compares to last year, she said.

"Overall it was busier than last year," she said. Checking her computer, she said gas prices were slightly lower this year, by about 8 cents a gallon.

But because convenience store owners don't make much profit off gas sales, she said it was the pop, chips, sandwiches and food items that were big sellers over the weekend.

"Hunters are going to hunt, whatever," she said. Across Highway 34 at Delaney's Sports Center, owner Debbie Lempola reported 85 tags by Wednesday.

"It's less than last year," she said. "It could very well be the permits and low limits; it could be the weather."

Last year opening day cold was blamed for a low turnout of hunters. This year it was unseasonably warm temperatures Saturday that climbed in to the high 50s.

Statewide, the DNR said hunters shot 73,682 deer last weekend, 5 percent less than opening weekend last year when 77,474 deer were harvested during the 2008 opener.

Menahga's Shell Sport and Bait registered 760 deer as of Wednesday, the number slightly lower than last year's.

But employee Marlene Snyder said she has seen more youngsters out shooting deer this weekend because of the new regulation.

"Seems like there is been a big response," she said.

Margaret Abraham at Itasca Junction Convenience said hunters told her they weren't seeing that many deer out in the woods this year.

The station registered 230 deer, about 25 percent lower than last year.

Rock Creek General Store, located at the north entrance of Itasca, registered 390 deer, which is around the same number of deer registered last year.

T&M Express in Akeley reported 164 registrations through Wednesday, down slightly from last year's numbers.

T&M Express in Nevis had registered 319 deer by Wednesday, Gary Holk reporting the numbers down about a third from 2008.

Brian Halik of Northwinds Grocery in Nevis said their count also diminished, but he attributes this to regulations imposed this year. "There were not as many hunters."

Laporte Grocery and Meat registered 75 deer by mid-week, Miller's Gas and Service's 157 deer was on par with last year.

At the Fort Benedict "superstore" owner Vince Picha said he hadn't calculated his numbers yet but "it's been fair, down from last year. Overall we've had a good season but there's always room for improvement."

He invited people up for his "pickled turkey gizzard" special going on. No venison yet.

"We're looking for ice now," Lempola said. "Ice is what's gonna do it for us."

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