Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Weather good, corn bad: Deer success varies

Staff Writer

Grand Rapids, Minn. True to pre-hunt predictions, a couple
scenarios played out during last weekend’s firearms deer opener: A
deer herd estimated at 1.2 million animals provided plenty of
opportunities to shoot, but standing corn in some areas tempered
hunter success.

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, the
corn harvest across the state is about 59 percent complete for the
week ended Nov. 7. That’s up 14 percent from the week before, yet
many conservation officer reports indicate standing corn was a
major factor for hunters.

“Deer hunting was especially slow with all the standing crops
and the wet fields throughout the area,” wrote Wheaton CO Bob
Marts.

But in the northern, forested part of the state, weather was
something wildlife managers said could derail a good hunt and
reduce the number of deer harvested. By most accounts, the
weekend’s mild weather allowed hunters to spend long days in the
field.

“The deer opener was a huge success with the majority of deer
taken being bucks,” according to Duluth CO Dale Ebel.

Last year at this time, the corn was about 98 percent harvested,
and the five-year average for this time of year is about 92 percent
harvested.

Lou Cornicelli, big game specialist for the DNR, said
preliminary data from a limited number of stations with electronic
registration shows the deer harvest is down about 15 to 20 percent
in southern, western and central parts of the state, Cornicelli
said. Registration appears to be comparable to 2003 in northeast
and southeast zones.

Sales of firearms deer licenses through Monday totaled 400,000,
about one percent below last year’s total at the same time.

“We expect license sales to equal last year’s by the time all
the seasons are complete in late November,” said Tom Keefe, DNR
electronic licensing system coordinator.

One particularly bright spot in the preliminary numbers,
according to Cornicelli, is an increase in antlerless deer harvest
in southeast Minnesota, where the DNR has been trying to decrease
the overall deer population.

“We’re very pleased with the additional harvest of antlerless
deer,” Cornicelli said. “We need hunters to harvest does in order
to effectively manage the deer population.”

The DNR also collected about 9,000 of the 11,000 lymph node
samples to be tested for chronic wasting disease, Cornicelli
said.

Kevin Prodzinski, CO in Zumbrota, reported that many hunters
commented on the amount of standing corn left in the fields.
However, hunters there harvested some nice deer and thought the
deer were in rut.

But reports from places from Moorhead to New Ulm, Pelican Rapids
to Slayton and many points in between show a deer hunt impacted by
corn.

“Hunters are having success in areas where the corn has been
harvested,” according to Rochester CO Mitch Boyum.

Opening weekend also saw its share of sometimes funny, sometimes
dangerous and other times entertaining incidents.

CO Scott Fritz in La Crescent received a TIP call about hunter
harassment from a hot air balloon. The balloon pilot allegedly was
flying tree-top high and hazing deer away from the hunters on the
ground.

CO Julie Olson in Princeton assisted a couple that hit a large
buck while driving on Highway 169. The deer took out the front end
of the car and shattered the windshield to where the driver could
not see. Both were OK, but shaken by the incident. One of the
buck’s antlers broke off and ended up in the front seat. The driver
stated they were coming back from hunting and wanted to get a deer,
but not that way.

Henning CO Tom Campbell reported that a local deer hunter was
making a drive through a cornfield and came nose to nose with a
200-pound black bear. The hunter shot the bear. Standing downwind
from the hunter, a standard smell test confirmed the hunter really
did shoot the bear out of sheer fright.

Governor scores

Gov. Tim Pawlenty had a successful deer-hunting opener.

Pawlenty said he shot a small, four-point buck at the opening of
Minnesota’s regular firearms deer season on Saturday morning.

The governor said he was on a stand when two deer came over the
rise, into a low area. Pawlenty says a shot from a nearby hunter
caused the deer to freeze, so he shot the larger of the two.

Pawlenty held the first official governor’s deer opener near
Brainerd last year, but he didn’t even see a deer. This year, he
held the opener near Grand Rapids.

For more details on the Governor’s Deer opener, see Tim
Lesmeister’s column on Page 14.

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