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Deer hunters set to hit the woods

Bluewater Outdoors employee Patrick Wichmann sells licenses to Jaime Johnston and Jack Geller. The business had a steady stream of local deer hunters purchasing licenses Thursday morning. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Hunters are buying their licenses and ammunition, and behind local butcher shops, parked refrigerator trucks stand ready for the influx of carcasses.

The signs are clear for the opening of rifle deer season Saturday in northern Minnesota.

Mark Cook, owner of Bluewater Outdoors, said he thinks he's been busier than normal. He said he sold about 500 rifle deer licenses earlier this week. He said he expects to sell 400 today when the out-of-area hunters arrive in town.

"They know there will be lines," Cook said. "It's kind of a tradition. They actually enjoy waiting in line. It's fun. People are in a good mood."

Cook said he also plans to take some time to hunt this weekend, and he hopes the weather dries up.

Peter Rogers, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., said Cook is likely to get his wish. Rogers said Saturday morning offers a slight chance of snow. Saturday afternoon and Sunday should be dry, he said, with highs both days about freezing with wind out of the north.

"Not real big wind - 10-15 mph," he said, adding that hunters should dress for wind chills in the teens and low 20s.

Jaime Johnston avoided today's expected lines at the sporting goods stores by buying her license Thursday at Bluewater Outdoors. She said she also hunted during bow season this year, but "they didn't come in close enough for me."

Johnston said she doesn't hunt from a deer stand.

"I prefer pushing the woods - walking, definitely," she said. "That's the way we did it back home in Louisiana."

She said she is 13 years out of Louisiana, but this is her first hunting season since 2003. Her studies at Bemidji State University prevented her from hunting the last four years.

Matthew Chamness, 12, of Sioux Falls, S.D., was shopping at Gander Mountain Thursday with his mother, Brenda Chamness, and grandmother, Connie Gross of Blackduck.

"I'm excited to go out," Matthew said. "This is going to be my first year.

He said he completed the Hunter Safety Course in time for his first pheasant season this fall in South Dakota.

"He's a sure shot," said Gross.

Rod Anderson, owner of Rod's Meats, said deer season is hard work for the meat cutters. He said he and his crew will process up to 400 deer.

Corey Stittsworth, owner of Nymore Food Mart, agreed, saying it means 10-hour days seven days a week to process about 300 deer.

"I don't know if it's something you can claim you look forward to, but it's good business," he said.