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Brian Basham/TRibune Time to thin the herd? A whitetail doe peers across a road in the Toad Lake area last week.

Hunting fever sweeps area -- Firearms deer season now open

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The firearms deer season opens today, and it brings a lot of preparation for hunters and plenty of business to area sporting goods stores.

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Lakes Sport Shop in Detroit Lakes was full at times on Friday with last-minute hunting licenses still to be bought, along with the requisite ammunition and other gear needed to take down a deer.

Marty Kumpula of Lakes Sport Shop said that hunters have been coming in at a steady pace for a week.

"It started out last Sunday, but Friday is the coup de grace," he said.

Kumpula said that's it's the same every year, especially since Detroit Lakes is considered an intensive area for deer and permits can be bought through the season. Other area's in the state are on a lottery system.

Brothers Aaron and David Hestekin spent most of their time in line to make a couple of last minute purchases

David Hestekin said he bought his hunting license a few weeks ago, but Aaron still needed one as he came up from Wisconsin for a new hunting experience.

"It's my first time here," Aaron Hestekin said. "I wanted something different. A change in scenery."

He added that he's used to hunting cornfields and relatively flat areas in Wisconsin.

This deer season brings with it several major changes that affect every license holder.

Hunting licenses are now statewide and hunters aren't limited to one specific area.

Numbered deer hunting areas still exist, though. Hunters will have to be mindful if they are in a lottery, managed or intensive area.

Joe Stattleman, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said that the changes were designed to make things easier for hunters.

"Things aren't going too bad," Stattleman said. "We're not overwhelmed with questions."

He said that the changes give hunters more of an opportunity to hunt because they aren't limited to choosing between archery, firearm or muzzleloading licenses. Hunters can purchase all three and just have to be mindful about bag limits.

One reason for the elimination of area restrictions was that the DNR said that most hunters usually went back to the same areas year after year. A preferred hunting location still will be asked of hunters, but just for statistical purposes.

For hunters using traditional firearms, the difference is as follows:

? Lottery area: Hunters may take a buck in the deer area without going through a lottery, but must apply for an either-sex permit through the lottery system if interested in taking an antlerless deer. The application deadline for the lottery passed in early September.

? Managed area: Valid for a deer of either-sex in any managed deer area. Firearm hunters may also purchase a bonus permit for one-half the cost of the regular license, valid for one antlerless deer in any managed deer area within that zone. Firearm hunters cannot use more than one bonus permit in one managed deer area during the season.

? Intensive area: Valid for a deer of either sex in any intensive deer area. Firearm hunters may also purchase up to 4 bonus permits for one-half the cost of the regular license. Bonus permits are for antlerless deer only in any intensive deer area for which they have a valid license.

Complete info on the new hunting regulations and updated maps are available at the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/

hunting.

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