The doe trotted across the rural roadway and into the fringe of the forest, where it stood and stared at the pedestrian before kicking up its heels and disappearing into the shadows.
It was Wednesday morning, less than 72 hours before the opening of the 2007 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season. And deer were everywhere.
Not unusual, right? Deer frolic about, teasing hunters in the days leading up to the hunt, then magically disappear the second the season opens.
Or do they?
Recent numbers would indicate that deer numbers are to the point where there's no place for them to hide anymore. This year could be much of the same.
"We're expecting about 15,000 to 16,000 (deer to be harvested in the greater Brainerd lakes area) this year," said Gary Drotts, Brainerd area wildlife supervisor for the DNR. "It's been between 15,000 and 16,000 the last few years. These are the good old days again."
The much-anticipated firearms deer season kicks off Saturday morning, and the days leading up to the hunt have taken on a holiday-like feel. Wednesday was a holiday, so to speak. But many donning orange on the streets and in the stores weren't trick-or-treating. Or dressed like pumpkins.
This was blaze orange. Deer hunting orange. 'Tis the season.
As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mills Fleet Farm in Baxter had sold 310 firearms deer licenses - for the day.
Minnesota deer opener forecast
- Saturday: Clear skies in the morning with low temps between 27-30 degrees and southwest winds at 6 mph; partly sunny in the afternoon with high temps between 43-48 degrees, southwest winds 5-10 mph.
- Sunday: Partly cloudy in the morning with low temps between 28-33 degrees and partly cloudy in the afternoon with high temperatures 45-50 degrees.
"We do a lot on Fridays. The lines will be way back, and the average wait will be about 10 minutes," said Alicia Mankowski, a customer service representative at Fleet Farm. Those in line at the time numbered about eight. Ho-hum.
Across the street, sales manager Ryan Aldrich said Gander Mountain has averaged about 50 firearms deer licenses a day this week, but Aldrich expects that number to climb dramatically Thursday and Friday, too, when out-of-towners arrive and others make a last-minute push for licenses.
It's big bucks, this firearms deer hunting season.
"There are 37,000 hunters in this area," Drotts said. "The average hunter hunts 4.8 days. And studies have shown that the average hunter spends at least $400. That's $14.8 million. But there are quite a few hunters that come up from the Twin Cities and probably spend their money there. It's a short impact, but a high one. It's pretty significant. Think of all the dollars and cents going out right now."
And, according to Drotts, many who hunt in the area he supervises - Crow Wing County and the lower two-thirds of Cass County - will get their money's worth.
"It should be a good opener," he said. "It's early, it's warm. It could be that they're out feeding now. There might be a cold front coming in, but they should be out running around."
The doe population, that is. Bucks are a different story. Particularly big bucks. Seeing one in the days leading up to the opener is rare. Seeing one during the season is even rarer. They just disappear.
"They get big for a reason - they hide," Drotts said of the older bucks. "They become nocturnal and don't move a whole lot. They're smart enough to realize the hunting season is coming, too."
BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.