Ample numbers of deer greet hunters

Hunting fatality reported near Walker

St. Paul Preliminary reports from around the state on Tuesday
suggested an increase in deer harvest from 1999.

Harvest indexes that the DNR uses following opening weekend each
year showed an increase of 26 percent in Region 2, a slight
decrease in the north metro, and an increase of 12 percent in
southeast Minnesota’s Region 3. Incomplete data from the northwest
indicated a 21 percent jump in the Thief River Falls area.

“It look like that’s the trend, and that’s as we would expect
given the increase in antlerless deer permits this year,” said
Steve Merchant, forest wildlife program leader.

Sue Chalstrom, who has spent every opening day of the firearms
deer season since 1981 at her Duluth sport shop registering deer,
called last Saturday the busiest firearms deer opener she could
remember.

“I’ve never had this many deer come in on the first day of the
season,” she said. “I can’t believe how big some of these deer are.
We saw one buck that weighed 255 pounds.”

In all, 362 were registered at Chalstrom’s over the weekend.
Reports from throughout the rest of the state indicated that
Chalstrom’s wasn’t the only busy registration site.

Deer hunters had a banner weekend in most areas. At most
registration stations, early harvest totals are up or just as good
as they were last year during opening weekend.

With the combination of a strong deer herd, an increase in
antlerless permits, ideal weather, crop removal ahead of schedule,
and a rut that’s nearly peaked, deer hunters had all the right
ingredients for one of the better harvests in recent memory.

“I think it’s really going well,” Merchant said. “Our early
reports are revealing a strong deer harvest, especially on
Saturday.”

In the Sauk Centre area, many deer hunters didn’t get to
experience the second day of the season, according to Denny
Fletcher of Fletcher’s Bait, because many parties had filled their
tags on opening day.

“No question, this was the best opening day we’ve experienced in
many years,” Fletcher said. “There were a lot of groups who filled
out by Saturday night.”

Fletcher said number of bucks harvested impressed him.

“The rut was going heavy,” he said. “It may not have peaked yet,
but there were definitely a lot of hot bucks out there.”

Half the deer registered at Christopherson’s Bait and Tackle in
Alexandria were bucks. Many carried big racks and bodies.

“Our registrations are ahead of last year, and we’ve seen an
amazing number of bucks,” Al Christopherson said. “We’ve seen a lot
of nice 6-to 8-pointers, 10- and 12-pointers have been fairly
common, and we had one 14-point brute as well.”

As far north as Lake of the Woods, where deer numbers were down
substantially as recently as three years ago, conservation officers
reported success at most deer camps.

Officer Larry Milbridge of Warroad reported that deer hunters
did extremely well in this region, even in the northwest, where it
got extremely wet by Sunday afternoon.

Registration sites in the St. Cloud, Little Falls, Annandale,
and metro areas reported harvest totals at, or slightly above,
where they were from last year’s opening weekend.

In the southwestern section of the state, big bucks and numbers
of deer also were registered with regularity. Reports from the
Marshall, Windom, and Worthington areas indicated harvest totals as
comparable to last year’s opening weekend.

Apple Valley man dies

A 51-year-old Apple Valley man was killed while deer hunting in
central Minnesota this weekend, near Walker, the Cass County
Sheriff’s Office said.

The sheriff’s department said it received a call around 1:50
p.m. Saturday that a man had been shot. Stephen R. Gilbertson was
with a group of hunters making a drive in rural Ponto Lake Township
about 30 miles north of Brainerd when he was shot.

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