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Deer opener turns the forests and fields orange

Randy, left, and Shawn Collette, pack it in Sunday afternoon on the Halvorson Forest Road, where they'd set up an encampment. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Charlie Moorhouse shot this 17-point buck in a field Monday morning north of the Park Rapids Walmart store in area 241. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

It was a beautiful weekend to set up deer camp.

Above normal November temperatures made Minnesota's firearm deer opener positively balmy.

And how was the hunting? It was a beautiful weekend to set up deer camp.

Actually, hunters reported mixed success during an opening weekend that only saw a few minor accidents throughout the state.

"There aren't as many standing cornfields as last year," said Richard Klemz optimistically. The Maple Lake man's brother Jerry bagged a 6-point buck south of Osage Saturday morning.

"Evenings are always better," Richard Klemz said. "We got out here at 6:15 (a.m.) If the deer are bedding down you spook 'em."

The party of six were taking a midday break and heading back out in late afternoon.

The state Department of Natural Resouces estimated 500,000 hunters would harvest 200,000 deer this year and have better luck because last year's corn harvest was halted by wet conditions. Many hunters blamed those conditions, the standing cornfields, for poor results when deer hid in the corn.

John Shepersky's party of nine deliberately set up near a standing cornfield, hoping to catch deer grazing.

"I've only shot at two," he said Saturday afternoon. "There's nothing around that we can find. We figured they'd been feeding near this cornfield."

Shepersky's party on the Hubbard/Becker County line was walking the fields near Becker County 47.

Registrations were markedly down this year because hunters could, for the first time, register for tags online or by phone.

"We're way down this year" in registrations, said Debbie Lempola, co-owner of Delaney's Sports Center in Park Rapids.

"We registered 36," over the weekend, she said. "Normally by now we'd probably have 60. A lot of guys won't come out of the woods if they can do it online."

But Lempola said store employees had seen "some real nice deer."

The DNR said 700 registration stations still exist around the state for hunters who want to bring their deer in the old-fashioned way and retain bragging rights.

But John Roberts at the Wolf Lake Co-op said he doubted that business would see many tags come through because of the added registration convenience.

Halvorson Forest Road in "the gulch" section of northern Hubbard County was peppered with its usual number of campsites.

"My daughter calls this 'camping with a gun,'" laughed Albert Lea hunter Ken Jackson, whose group was set up near a small lake on the trail.

"We should have brought the fishing poles," he said looking toward the lake. "But we drag enough stuff around already."

By noon Sunday you could have heard a pin drop in the forest as most hunters retreated to their shacks or vehicles to watch or listen to the Minnesota Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals in overtime.

"What station are the Vikings on?" asked Mark Polk, a Richfield hunter in the woods north of Lower Bottle Lake. Polk and Don Kieser of Blaine were hunting on Polk's sister's property. They, too, were ready for a midday break Sunday.

"When it gets nice they don't move around a lot," said Polk of the deer movements.

They weren't discouraged. They were staying into this week.

Randy and Shawn Collette were packing up during halftime of the Vikings game, Randy to return to his Park Rapids home and Shawn to the Twin Cities.

Randy lifted up the tarp on his trailer and pointed to the "spike buck" he'd shot earlier. "It was 75 to 100 yards away," he said. "The only clean shot I had, was to the neck."

He lifted up the deer's head to show a shot clean through the neck area.

Like most others in the gulch, the Collettes have been hunting that area for the past 15 years with mixed success.

But it was Charlie Moorhouse of Park Rapids, who got really lucky in the woods north of the Park Rapids Walmart store Monday morning.

The 17-point buck he shot drew the attention of strangers when he brought it through the Enterprise parking lot.

"Wow, who shot this?" a man asked seeing the deer on top of an SUV. "It's a beauty."

Moorhouse, 25, has been hunting since he was 12. He was out alone in a ground blind when he got the deer just before 7 a.m.

Area 241 was brimming with deer.

Sarah Smith

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

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