Minnesota's regular firearms deer hunting season is all but done, and the harvest definitely will be less than last year. Harvest was down 13.6 percent from last year as of Monday. Hunters had bagged 145,483 deer, compared to 168,355 deer at this time in 2007. The bad weather on opening weekend is getting most of the blame.

"The bottom line is it is down from last year, but it still probably will be No. 6 [best harvest ever],'' said Lou Cornicelli, Department of Natural Resources big game manager. "We'll be close to harvesting 250,000 deer.''

Last year, hunters killed about 260,000 deer.

Though bad weather likely lowered the harvest opening weekend, hunters last week in several areas reported slow hunting.

"Deer hunters are reporting seeing fewer deer this year,'' reported conservation officer Stacey Sharp of Bemidji. Near Moorhead, more of the same. "Massive amounts of standing corn provided lots of habitat for the deer to hide,'' reported officer Phil Seefeldt.

More deer tales

The deer season might be winding down, but the stories keep coming:

• A hunter in the Pine River area shot a trophy 10-point buck, then got down off his stand to track the deer, which was heading toward Hwy. 371.

"As he got closer, he observed a truck pulled over on the shoulder,'' reported officer Nikki Shoutz. "Thinking it was merely car trouble, he thought nothing of it and tracked his deer toward the same spot. The truck then sped away leaving only a headless deer and a bloody knife.'' Call Shoutz at 218-692-3456 or the TIP line at 800-652-9093 if you have information.

• Two hunters were lost in Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge without a compass. Conservation officer David Schottenbauer located them and gave them a ride back to their truck. Reported Schottenbauer: "Problem was, when they handed over their guns to be put into the truck, they were both 30.06 rifles, in the shotgun zone, and one hunter did not even have a deer license. The ride to their truck was free, but the day's hunt was not cheap.''

• A 100-year-old deer hunter was checked near Blackduck.

Farewell, George

George Wahl of Minneapolis, a longtime ambassador for muskies and muskie fishing and producer of the annual Minnesota Muskie Expo, died last week of cancer. Wahl was 65. He was a longtime Muskies Inc. member, past president of the Twin Cities chapter and for years produced and sold his famed Eagle Tail muskie lures.

"The world doesn't owe me anything; I've had a good life,'' he told me in August, shortly after about 160 friends gathered to roast Wahl and celebrate his life.

"You couldn't ask for a better guy,'' said his friend Russ Peterson of Minnetonka. "He had no regrets.''

Wahl caught hundreds of muskies but stopped counting around 400. His biggest was a 56-incher. Over the years, Wahl donated $70,000 of his Muskie Expo proceeds to Muskies Inc.

Wahl's favorite spot to fish muskies was Whitefish Bay of Lake of the Woods in Ontario, and he made one last trip there in the fall.

Among his survivors are his wife of 39 years, Marlene, and his daughter, Julie Anderson of New Hope. Services are noon Monday at First Baptist Church, 1021 Hennepin Av., Minneapolis. Visitation is 4-7 p.m. today at Washburn-McReavey's Glen Haven Chapel in Crystal.

Duck season fades

Minnesota's duck season is skidding to a halt; most shallow lakes are frozen and larger ones are freezing, if not frozen. Very few hunters are pursing ducks and duck numbers remain low in most areas, according to Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. The best duck hunting opportunities might be field hunting for mallards in west-central and southern Minnesota.

Did you know?

A Cass County trapper might have bagged a huge coyote. The canine weighed 53 pounds (the largest on record is 42 pounds, says the DNR's website). DNR officials took tissue samples and will do DNA tests to determine if it is a coyote or a crossbreed.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com