The 5 a.m. breakfast rush at the Great Northern Café just isn’t what it used to be, said owner Lance Pritchett.
“We’d open at 4:30 and it would be packed in here until nearly 7:00,” he said.
Then in the good old days when the craft shows ran the same weekend as opening deer rifle season, the café on Highway 34 in Park Rapids would fill up all over again, said waiter Laureen Gitchel.
“We’d be full from 9 until noon, then start all over again,” she said, with hunters stopping by for lunch.
The coffee urns went full steam, full-time to fill hunters’ thermoses, Pritchett said.
“Now they can go through the drive-through and grab a quick cup,” he said of the fast food restaurants. “Everybody’s in a hurry.”
Although opening day of hunting is not as busy as it used to be, Pritchett said the crowds come earlier and stay later in the week.
“We were dead Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but we say it’ll pick up,” he said. “We could see the pickups and four-wheelers rolling into town on the highway. We said, “It’s comin.’”
By Friday, business was roaring again.
Out in the fields of Hubbard County Mitch Rosendahl had bagged his buck by 11 a.m. and had it loaded into his pickup.
He watched in frustration as two does nibbled on the grass just up the road, not even flinching at the gunfire.
Ken Benton by that time had seen 16 does – he was counting – but couldn’t take a shot because he, like most other hunters, had a bucks only permit. His brother was out in a field with a doe permit, one of the chosen few.
Hubbard County dispatchers were busy straightening out hunting disputes in the field.
“They’re not allowed to shoot down or across the trails,” one dispatcher clarified for a caller.
The Park Rapids Enterprise will have more coverage of the hunt in next week’s papers.
Because Wednesday, the day the paper normally comes out, is the Veterans Day holiday, newspapers will be in newsstands as usual Tuesday night, but subscribers will not get their papers until Thursday due to the holiday mail delay.