Kevin Hinrichs of Bloomington has been hunting whitetails for 31 years — a span he describes as successful but lacking in trophies. Others in his hunting party have harvested prized bucks on land north of Osakis that he manages for the benefit of wildlife.

This year on opening morning of the firearms deer season, Hinrichs was perched in the same deer stand he's occupied for the past 12 years. He braced to shoot when he saw a doe moving in a field of prairie grass.

As he contemplated the shot, another deer popped into the corner of his eye along the field's woodland border. It was a good-sized buck, trotting in the doe's trail, 20 to 25 yards behind her. Hinrichs shouldered his 20-gauge pump shotgun and fired a slug that hit the buck high in the lungs. The deer fell, then tried to get up. Hinrichs shot high and missed on his second try, but the deer remained on the ground. "I was a little excited,'' he quipped. "I calmed myself down and got out of my stand.''

At 61 years old, he said, he stood over the dying buck and realized he had taken down a "monarch.''

The experience made him reflect on mortality and vitality.

"I had mixed emotions knowing that we both had seen a lot in our lives, and hoped he considered me a worthy and ethical foe.''

Here are some other stories of opening weekend hunters afield: