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Hunters will find tough opener

WILLMAR -- Prospects for the 2009 deer firearm season that opened today can be summed up very easily.

"It's going to be a tough one,'' said LeRoy Dahlke, the wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources office located at Sibley State Park near New London.

One of the wettest Octobers on record means that fields of corn will remain standing through the entire firearm season no matter how the weather turns.

Also, deer numbers are down in the region. There are still fairly good numbers of deer in the northern half of Kandiyohi County, but numbers to the south are below desired levels. The DNR has been reducing the number of antlerless permits issued to help the deer population rebound.

Like many, Dahlke said his main concern this year is hunter safety. He knows that many hunters will be tempted to drive deer from corn fields.

It is a dangerous practice, he warns. Today's corn fields are too densely planted and too large for groups of hunters to effectively and safely spot and harvest deer.

A safer bet is to hunt the edges of corn fields. The bucks are into the rut and active. They will be leaving the shelter of corn fields to make rubs and scrapes to assert their territories in woodlands and grasslands.

There is a silver lining to the prospect of a reduced deer harvest this season. It will help the deer population rebound and make for better hunting next year, said Dahlke.

He noted that many also welcome the prospect that more of the mature bucks could live to see another season.

He knows the difficulties of this year's season will frustrate some, but he urges hunters to always put safety first. Also, he reminds hunters to respect private property rights.

Quick facts

- Minnesota's firearm season runs Nov. 7-15 in this area.

- Last year's firearm hunters harvested 183,793 deer in the state, a 15 percent decline from the previous year. The total harvest was 221,837 when archery (22,632) and muzzleloader (9,572) harvests are included.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335