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Hunting opener quiet in 2013

An unknown hunter mans his deer stand northwest of Emmaville over the weekend. He was among many hunters who bundled up against the cold wind. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

The 2013 deer firearms opener was quieter than expected.

But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a success.

“It’s been good. It’s been fun,” said Sue Hosler, new owner of the Two Inlets Country Store.

In the good old days, when registration stations were significant clues in the measurement of a good whitetail season, merchants could keep a pretty accurate track of what was going on in the woods.

Not so today, when hunters can register deer online.

“We’ve had about 75 so far,” Hosler said.

Now the tales come anecdotally.

Tanner Freeman shot a doe Sunday. He was in a large group from the St. Cloud area. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

“You know, a lot of the regulars around Two Inlets Lake haven’t seen anything or have seen them and haven’t taken a shot,” she said. “They said it’s down this year. We’ve registered a buck at 239 (pounds) and that’s the largest one we’ve seen.”

Saturday, the first day of the season, more than four dozen hunters registered deer, Hosler said. “Now they’re kind of trickling in. They’re still out there.”

Hosler said from the way locals talked, she, husband Craig and son Eric braced – and staffed – for the worst.

She laughed at the remembrance of owning a Twin Cities liquor store during the holidays.

“It wasn’t quite like what we thought,” she said with a chuckle, comparing the two businesses.

“But they (the locals) said a lot of the traffic was down.”

Even though the deer hunting season runs through Nov. 17 or 24, depending on which area you hunt, Hosler is already looking forward to snow and snowmobilers.

“It went pretty well,” said DNR Conservation Officer Sam Hunter. “We had our usual stuff.”

Officers were called for baiting violations, some hunter harassment calls, trespassing. That’s a fairly normal season, she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of nice bucks, more than does, which is unusual, but other than that, I don’t have a lot to add,” she said.

But she, too, thought numbers might be down. So did Kevin Lempola, owner of Delaney’s Sports Store.

“Friday was busy,” he said. “It was kind of business as normal. I think overall the deer hunting has been tough, from talking to other people. It sounds like they’re all in hiding. You’d hide, too.”

An estimated half million hunters were projected by the DNR to sprinkle the Minnesota woods orange.

“Overall it’s been normal but the hunting hasn’t been real great,” Lempola said.

“Here, we’re registering about the same” number of bucks as does.

A large encampment of hunters from the St. Cloud area moved into the Gulch area Thursday. They are planning on staying through the week.

The hunters, all distantly related, have been coming up here for 31-41 years to set up camps south of Lake George.

“We haven’t moved a quarter mile from when we started hunting up here,” David Fischer said. His party had shot a doe by Sunday morning.

The Mauer camp next door had filled several tags, one with an eight-point buck.

Fischer was philosophical about the hunting prospects.

“Some years you do and some years you go home empty-handed.”

One bad year doesn’t discourage the group, mostly from Palmer and South Haven, from returning.

High winds might have been the culprit, spooking deer into staying put.

“We know they’re out there,” Fischer said. “We see their tracks every morning.”

Hope, when it comes to deer, springs eternal.

Sarah Smith

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

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