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Mixed results for opening hunt

Jerry Brandenburg hikes down Hubbard County Road 40 Sunday noon. He was optimistic that his group of four would see more deer. The group had already harvested a six-point buck on his 500 acres. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

Hubbard County’s Gulch region, a haven for deer hunting, had some prime empty camping spots over the weekend.

That’s almost unheard of during opening firearms season for deer hunting.

The Gulch, south of Lake George, is a heavily wooded area that’s prime public hunting land for deer.

A conservative hunt orchestrated by the Department of Natural Resources due to bad winters back-to-back in the north country had a big impact on local coffers this fall.

“It’s been slim pickins’” said Melanie Spry, co-owner of the Emmaville Store and Café, Monday morning.

“A lot of ‘em headed out yesterday when that storm was predicted,” she said of a snowstorm forecast to dump a foot of snow on the Twin Cities.

But the café did a brisk buffet business Sunday morning, sending many hunters off with full stomachs.

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Sunday Jerry Brandenburg walked along County Road 40. He was optimistic the season would go well.

“We’ve seen a lot of deer this morning,” he said. “Of course that all depends on if you get on state or private land.”

Brandenburg’s party of four “got a small six” (point) buck.

Brandenburg said he owns 500 acres south of Island Lake in Hubbard County.

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Justin McCutcheon and Aaron Opp of Minneapolis, were also optimistic.

They were taking a breakfast break in their warm vehicle Monday.

We’ve seen five does and a spike buck,” Opp reported.

The pair hjad not shot anything yet.

“It feels like it’s up from last year,” McCutcheon said.

“But a lot of deer have been displaced by all the logging,” Opp added.

Logging in the Gulch has cleared large areas of land that used to be forested.

“It’s been slow,” said Donnie Maurer, who was hunting with his father Rudy.

“Without a doubt” logging cleared what used to be a heavily-deer populated area, Donnie Maurer said. “We haven’t seen as many deer as usual,” he said, adding that he’s been hunting the Gulch area for 43 years.

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We’ve seen a lot of deer,” said Alan Mondt, who was taking a mid-morning breakfast break at the Emmaville Café.

Mondt has been hunting the area since 1996 or ’97, he couldn’t quite remember.

“I think two years ago was worse,” his hunting partner, Michael Whitney, said. Mondt is from Dent; Whitney is from Richvillle.”

Mondt said he thought logging in the Gulch helped clear deer patches out and spread herds around.

“Wolves are displacing the deer,” he said, not logging.

“We’ve seen a lot of wolf tracks,” Whitney said. “Last year we shot seven-eight of ‘em in one pack.”

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In 69 of Minnesota’s 128 deer permit areas, hunters must be chosen in a lottery to shoot an antlerless deer. Only bucks can be hunted in 14 areas. In 38 areas, hunters have the choice of shooting a doe or a buck, according to the DNR.

Bonus permits allowing hunters to shoot more than one deer may only be used in seven permit areas and for some special hunts.

A goal-setting process is underway in which public input is being sought.

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“It’s been busy here but I’d best characterize the hunting as slow,” said Kevin Lempola, co-owner of Delaney’s Sports Store in Park Rapids.

“They’re restricted to one deer. In this area where they can shoot either (a buck or doe) it’s still been slow.” Lemola said.

He said he no longer keeps track of registrations since many hunters do them online or on smartphone applications.

“Maybe 20, maybe 30,” he guessed.

“There are spots and areas where guys have done OK,” but they didn’t register the deer in the store as in years past, he said.

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“It was cold,” said Hendri Ernst of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store.

“But the cold was good. The animals were moving.”

Bucks in rut made themselves easier targets, Ernst said.

“It was a very successful opening for a lot of people,” Ernst said. “I saw a lot of young hunters get their first animals.”

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364
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