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Interest in deer season may be up this year

Don't be too surprised if you see more hunters out today than in recent years.

Minnesota's firearms deer-hunting opener is today, and Mark Cook, owner/manager of Bluewater Outdoors, said he would estimate that there are more hunters this year than in the past.

"I would say there is more interest," he said. "I've seen some (hunters) who haven't hunted in 20 years.

He attributed the increase to nice weather and a large deer herd.

John Wilson, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' assistant regional wildlife manager in Bemidji, said the actual numbers of licenses sold for this area and number of area deer taken will not be available until after the season's end.

"(Friday) is the busiest license day there is," he said. "I think people are looking forward to a good season. There's a lot of excitement. It's going to be a beautiful week here -- lows in the mid-20s, highs in the mid-40s; just right for hanging deer."

Deer hunting helps to control the number of deer in Minnesota, Wilson said.

"We're very hopeful our deer population in the Bemidji area is in decline," he said.

The pre-fawn goal is 20 deer per square mile, he said. According to DNR modeling, the Bemidji area now carries about 26 per square mile. The deer herds peaked during 2003, Wilson said.

For Gander Mountain, one of the local big-game registration sites, the store stayed open until midnight yesterday to accommodate hunters needing last-minute supplies and licenses, said Keith Dahl, the assistant store manager.

"It started months ago," he said. "(Friday) is one of our busiest days of the year."

Of the hunters coming in, Dahl said he has seen a mix of local people seeking licenses and several from out of town, including a group from California.

"They come from all over the place," he said. "It's a big deal in northern Minnesota."

Editor Molly Miron contributed to this story.