Listen: Deer hunting season is big business

Mainstreet Radio’s Rachel Reabe reports on the big business behind deer hunting in Minnesota. Reabe interviews various businesses, local officials, and traveling hunters in Brainerd, Minnesota.


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RACHEL REABE: Tom [? Haugin ?] of Brainerd is preparing for the weekend's deer opener at [? Bach's ?] Rifle Range east of Brainerd. He says that even though he does his hunting in his own backyard, the deer season will still cost him.

TOM: By the time you buy the gloves you lost over the year and the fluorescent blaze orange hat and everything else-- about $50 a year, I suppose, plus the ammunition-- that is, if you don't buy a new gun.

SPEAKER: Yeah, that's got one of them--


RACHEL REABE: Things are jumping here at [? Bach's ?] Gun and Sports Shop. People are elbow to elbow in the small store, looking at the hundreds of rifles Vernon [? Bach ?] has displayed on racks from floor to ceiling.

SPEAKER 2: Do you have any that you can see under them or--

VERNON: Yeah, we got lots more 100s, of course. But like I say, that one wouldn't be conducive to you. That's a hell of a high-grade piece of equipment on there, but it don't turn you on, see.

RACHEL REABE: Bock, who runs one of the busiest gun shops in the state, says he's sold more than guns this fall. One of those guns went to 15-year-old William Hicks of Pillager, who said he sold a heifer to finance the purchase.

WILLIAM HICKS: I spent $350 with the shells here for [INAUDIBLE] pump.

RACHEL REABE: Not every hunter will buy a gun this year, but Terry Simon of the Department of Natural Resources Brainerd office says hunters will spend a considerable amount of money.

TERRY SIMON: We take this area-- for instance, Crow Wing County. We've been harvesting around 3,000 deer a year. So we're looking at about 9,000 deer hunters, and each deer hunter spends approximately $167 per year on deer hunting. So that gets to be quite a large industry.

RACHEL REABE: Judy Smith, the executive director of the Brainerd Area Chamber of Commerce, says hunters don't spend their money in the places that tourists do.

JUDY SMITH: Hunters are different breed, so to speak. They come up and they stay in campers. A lot of people own their own hunting land, and they'll stay on their hunting land. They'll stay with relatives. Does not mean that they don't have a good economic impact on the area. It's just that it comes about in a different way.

RACHEL REABE: Smith says the chamber spends no money promoting Brainerd as a deer hunting spot. The hunters just come year after year. One popular stop for hunters on their way through Brainerd is the SuperAmerica gas and convenience store on the south end of town. Store clerk Dorinda Palmer describes the scene the day before the hunting season opens.

DORINDA PALMER: Just people, pumps are full, all kinds of people buying their last minute goodies and shells and hunting stuff. It's really exciting. You meet a lot of nice people. It's the biggest weekend of the year.

RACHEL REABE: A couple of hunters who stopped into the store were Gilbert [? Fankin ?] of Watkins and Chad Weber of Saint Cloud. They were on their way to Hill City to meet the three other members of their hunting party.

SPEAKER 3: Well, we get bacon, eggs, bread, butter, milk, just the plain necessities, and that's it. We don't go through no trouble. Whatever we need at home for breakfast, we have up there. And we have chili-- hot dish of some kind when we get up there, maybe hamburgers or something like that for our evening meal, and that's it.

SPEAKER 4: We don't go into town, like, a lot of guys are running into town and stuff. But just the cost alone for you got to figure your gas and your food and everything, it's probably at least $100 a piece through the season.

RACHEL REABE: Business is also brisk over at Rainbow Foods Grocery Store. Manager Jeff Nowak says he gets as many as 150 hunting parties in the store each week of the deer season.

JEFF NOWAK: I'd say the average group of hunters spend between $50 and $75. They buy the typical munchie-type foods, you know, that they can carry out in the woods with them, and, of course, steaks for the unlucky ones.

RACHEL REABE: Steve Esser, owner of a warehouse liquor store in Brainerd, says deer hunting season is one of his busiest times of the year, right behind Christmas, New Year's, the 4th of July, and the fishing opener.

STEVE ESSER: There's a lot of alcohol consumed and a lot of getting together. Let's face it, they go deer hunting from maybe 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon, and then the rest of the time, they're playing cards or getting together in their shacks and in their trailers.

RACHEL REABE: DNR officials say that by the time deer hunting season is over later this month, the state will have 130,000 fewer deer, and deer hunters will have about 67 million fewer dollars. With John [? Bewin, ?] I'm Rachel Reabe in Brainerd.

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