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Deer hunters prep for opener

As owner of Home of the Brave Outdoors in Austin and a volunteer firearms instructor for Mower County's gun safety training classes, Travis Stayton isn't exactly your average hunter.

However, he'll be just another guy in a blaze orange this weekend for Minnesota's deer hunting opener.

Half a million hunters across the state are expected to sit in deer stands this weekend, though most of the prime spots are located in the blufflands east of Mower County's rich agricultural land. The Governor's Deer Opener is being celebrated this fall in Winona, while Stayton plans to hunt near Eagle Bluff in Lanesboro, for example.

Many will still prowl the local land in search of large bucks. Stayton said most of the crops have been harvested early, which will push the prey into small copses of trees found throughout the region — and could increase visibility for those on the prowl.

"I've seen quite a few more deer this year," Stayton said. "I've also heard from other hunters that the harvest rate should be up since we had a pretty mild winter. According to the (Department of Natural Resources), they're expecting around 500,000 hunters."


According to the Minnesota DNR website, 382,668 resident firearm licenses have been issued for 2012, along with an additional 59,384 muzzleloader licenses. Another 90,252 archery permits were issued, with that season having begun in Sept and running through December.

Given the crossover between those three groups, it remains to be seen how many total hunters will take to the field this fall. The DNR counted a total of 497,995 hunters in 2011.

That demand is one of the reasons Stayton opened his shop in 2009, though he also offers gear for fowl and fishing.

"Right now, I just have a few basic scents and a few deer calls — I don't get too big into the gizmos and the gadgets," Stayton said. "Sales are a little bit slower this year. I'm guessing because of the economy, but I'm still getting some sales."

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