Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - "Feels a little bit like Christmas Eve right now," said John Chalstrom, co-owner of Chalstrom's Bait and Tackle as the lines of blaze orange-toting hunters waited to purchase a big game license.
Chalstrom, whose 32–year–old business does everything from sell deer licenses to processing big bucks, said this year's archery season started a little slower than expected.
But over the last three days "you could really feel the business picking up, and everyone getting in line, and getting their licenses," said Chalstrom, smiling.
...617 licenses by noon on Friday, to be exact, which translates to about $5,500 in sales.
Chalstrom says the timing of this season is going to be perfect.
"In the last few days, it sounds like the bucks are really coming in to rut well," said Chalstrom. "This is going to be a fantastic opener."
But it wouldn't be a successful opener for the 477,000 expected hunters to don blaze orange and perch in their deer stands this weekend if they weren't prepared.
Licenses and firearms aside, Chalstrom says everything from coats to coffee is selling like hot cakes.
And speaking of hot, hand warmer sales are no exception.
"They are flying out the door," laughed Chalstrom, "and I'm going to have to restock for tomorrow."
And whether tomorrow means Saturday, or the coming years, hunters like Brian Rehbein of the 148th Fighter Wing are prepping the next generation for this state tradition.
Rehbein was given a free deer tag for his service in Afghanistan, and he plans to pass the experiences that will come with it to his 17–month–old son, Ryan.
For Rehbein, it's all about "just being able to have him be able to have the right to go hunting," he said, holding an enthusiastic Ryan, "and be able to go do that when he gets old enough."
Someday, little Ryan will be among the ranks of hunters that will spend an average total of $733 million annually in Minnesota.
According to the group 'Hunting Works for Minnesota," when you add the $93 million in state taxes and the $106 million in federal taxes that hunters generate annually, it brings the economic bottom line to $1.3 billion.