Mild weather slowed deer movement as area hunters, on opening weekend, had a slower than normal start to the 2005 firearms deer season.
Most area registration stations reported fewer deer checked in compared to opening weekend of last year. Oars-N-Mine in Crosby registered 215 deer, including three bucks that tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds. But co-owner Sam Blum said he saw the usual run of spike bucks brought in for registration.
"Not unusual for the opener," Blum said. "Those are always the first deer to go down. The warm weather didn't help, as far as getting the bigger bucks moving. The fog Sunday morning didn't help either. But overall people seemed to be excited to be out hunting again."
Redding's Sports and Spirits in Emily registered 90 deer on Saturday and 150 on Sunday, down about 100 from last year. Again the bulk of the registrations consisted of spike bucks, though some decent eight- and 10-pointers also came through.
"The hunters I talked to said the rut isn't quite as profound as it might be on opener," said Pat Redding, owner. "But the deer are chasing. The weather made it a little harder to find them, but it sure was nice sitting in the stand."
At Tutt's Bait and Tackle in Garrison, registrations were pushing 200 as of sundown Sunday.
"By the end of tonight we'll be over 200, which isn't down a whole lot from last year," said Matt Scott, manager. "It's been very spotty. We've had some really nice deer brought in. The biggest today was a 14-pointer. We've seen a lot of 10s and a lot of healthy, big-bodied deer."
Pillsbury Junction in Pillager registered 130 deer on Saturday and 110 on Sunday, which is down from opening weekend of last year.
"Nothing too big as far as bucks go," said Shawn Pearson, cashier. "I heard there's plenty of movement, but the warm weather and the fog have been a factor."
The annual big buck contest at the Bear's Den in Leader is being led by a 210-pound 10-point buck. The biggest doe so far weighed 125 pounds.
"But we haven't really seen a lot of does," said Gary Dauer, owner of the Amoco station in Leader. "The bucks seem to be in full rut. They're following the does. It was a little warm this weekend, but generally it was a pretty good opener."
At Roosevelt Lake Service in Outing 280 deer were registered during the weekend, down from last year. The station's big buck contest is currently led by a 205-pounder.
Last year, hunters in the Brainerd lakes area shot 17,300 deer. In 2003, the total harvest was 20,000.
"I expect this year we'll take between 15,000 and 17,000," said Gary Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager. "We've handed out a lot of antlerless permits the past few years. That will start showing up. Our harvest will start going down a little, which is what we planned for. We've had high deer populations in recent years. We've been trying to get that growth curve to flatten out a little."
New this year for all deer hunters is registration through the Electronic Licensing System. Hunters are reminded to have their drivers license with them when they register deer.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862
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