Fishing resources

The Department of Natural Resources expects fewer hunters this deer opener

BLAINE, MN — Thousands of hunters will head outdoors this weekend for the opening of the gun deer. Next to the fishing season, it’s the busiest time of the year at Capra’s Sporting Goods in Blaine.

“Guys are buying their license, getting their deer scent. They can’t find their orange hat or gloves or this or that,” Dean Capra said.

Since the early 1980s, the store itself has been closed on Saturdays to allow employees to continue their own hunting traditions. Something new owner Sam Oftedahl plans to continue.

“The real Capra will remain the same, but we’ll just make it bigger and better,” Oftedahl said. “It was crazy crowded. It’s fun to see all the people showing up at the last minute. It’s not just me always going last minute, the customers too.”

The Department of Natural Resources would like Capra’s and other stores to be even busier. They say the number of deer hunters is dropping about 3% every year, and the average age is now 57.

To appeal to hunters young and old, Oftedahl said it plans to market more online and add more categories to the store, such as women’s clothing and meat processing, as high prices for meat are a concern for some people.

“I let the deer go because my kids have shot so many. This year I’m shooting one, because I need the meat now,” hunter Tim Gisborne said.

The DNR said adding more hunters would help with deer numbers. And license fees go towards conservation efforts. The hunt itself contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.

“We talk about hunting all week. We feel like going out and doing it,” Oftedahl said.

The hope is that about 200,000 deer will be harvested this year, but the DNR does not believe the state will meet that goal. While chronic wasting disease currently affects only about 1% of Minnesota’s deer population, hunters are advised not to eat meat infected with the disease.