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Park Rapids area hunters report mediocre opener due to cornfields sheltering deer

Ryan Hanisch scans a field and tree line west of Park Rapids Saturday looking for deer while dad Charles looks on. The Eden Prairie men own a seasonal home on Portage Lake and were hunting with relatives from the area. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By dawn Saturday hundreds of orange-clad men and women had fanned out over the fields and forests of Hubbard County in search of deer.

The firearms opener got off to its usual bang even though deer counts are down and permit restrictions mean only getting one deer in the Park Rapids and Osage areas.

Further south in Becker County a five-deer limit was in effect.

Steve Wolsztyniak, a Chicago resident who has a seasonal home on Pickerel Lake in Hubbard County, was already searching for the buck he'd shot around 7:30 Saturday morning.

"I'm hoping it didn't run onto private property or I might have to start knocking on doors" to get permission to retrieve it, he said.

He was hunting off the Lake George Road, southeast of the lake 10 miles north of Park Rapids.

"We couldn't get doe permits this year so we're going after bucks," he said regretfully.

"Last year our party only got two small bucks," he said.

But even though the odds seem against him, he said he will continue to return to the region each fall to participate in the hunt.

Eight-year-old Gage Amundson, sporting a hunting cap that read "12 Gage" and brother Chase, 5, are already veterans of hunting camp. They spent Friday night roasting hot dogs, gathering firewood and hanging out with the hunters in a Hubbard County hunting camp.

The boys, who live near Bad Medicine Lake, are still too young to hunt, but they'll be ready when the time comes.

Rod Kray, a Willmar resident hunting with brother-in-law Paul Peterson, was discouraged four hours after he climbed up into his deer stand southwest of Park Rapids.

"I haven't seen a darned thing since I got up here at 6:30," he said.

His party of hunters did get some doe permits, but not Kray. He was looking for a buck.

The Hanisch party, with six deer stands spread out west of Park Rapids, was likewise having little luck by midday Saturday.

The group had both doe and buck permits.

"Yeah, it's a little tough right now," said Ryan Hanisch, scanning the field and tree line with dad Charles and some high powered binoculars.

The only thing they spotted was Bill Hanisch coming in from his perch.

Many hunters blamed the standing cornfields that pepper the region for their poor opening day results. Wet fields have prevented the corn harvest; standing stalks provide perfect cover for deer.

By midday Saturday, many hunters had returned to Park Rapids to replenish supplies of snacks, chips and ammunition.

"It's been pretty sporadic," said a clerk at L&M Supply.

By afternoon Saturday, when the temperatures climbed to a sunny high 50s, orange-vested hunters were seen on area golf courses and out fishing.

"Thanks for stopping by," Kray said from his deer stand. "It gets lonely out here."