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Hunting season means big bucks (greenback style) for outdoors businesses

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Many of Minnesota's 500,000 deer hunters look forward to the start of Minnesota's deer opener like it's Christmas. And so do the outfitters and sporting goods retailers who supply them with gear and guns.

With the firearms season set to begin just before sunrise on Saturday, the Star Tribune reports “Orange Friday” is at hand. It's the hunting world's equivalent to Black Friday, when customers – and profits – come calling in big numbers. Mills Fleet Farm, which holds a large market-share of hunters, noted Orange Friday gets bigger with each passing year.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources anticipates that deer hunters in the state will spend nearly $250 million on the sport this year. Popular items this year include blaze-orange clothing, ammunition, deer urine, callers, tree stands and high-tech updates of traditional products.

The newspaper story said the season for retailers is short and compressed, with last-minute hunters doing the equivalent of waiting until Christmas Eve to start their shopping. Hunters, the story says, are "notorious for waiting until the Wednesday, Thursday and especially the Friday before the deer hunting season opener to buy gear and licenses."

Meanwhile, MPR News reports a new jacket or gun may be all that many hunters have to show for their efforts this year. New rules from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will limit the number of deer hunters can take; in 95 percent of the state, they will be limited to one deer. The changes, designed to rebuild the state's deer herd, will cut this year's deer harvest to as low as 120,000. That's 50,000 fewer than last year and down dramatically from the peak of 290,000 in 2003.

The Duluth News Tribune speculates those projections may lead to fewer hunters on the prowl for deer this year. The story notes that "most hunters aren’t particularly optimistic about their chances of getting a shot at a whitetail buck this fall."

The story adds that license sales are not lagging. Through Tuesday, deer license sales were at nearly 242,000, in line with recent years’ license sales.

Minnesota’s early wolf hunting season also opens Saturday in Northeastern Minnesota.

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