Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Not a record, but 2006 deer kill will rank high

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul — Deer hunters in the state are on track for another
banner year. They may not reach the record, set in 2003, but
harvest certainly will be among the highest ever. So far this
season, hunters have registered 238,097 deer, according to the
DNR.

That number reflects the number of deer registered
electronically to date by firearms, archery, and muzzleloader
hunters. Paper registration could add another 15 percent to that
total, and two seasons remain open.

Hunters in 2003 harvested about 290,500 deer. The harvests in
2004 and 2005 – 260,604 and 255,736, respectively – round out the
state’s top three kills.

All firearms seasons have closed, ending with closure of the 3B
season and metro zone on Nov. 26. The muzzleloader season opened
Nov. 25 and ends Dec. 10. The archery season, which began Sept. 16,
closes at the end of the year.

Muzzleloader hunters last season killed a record number of deer,
harvesting about 15,400.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association, expects muzzleloaders to have another good season.

“As soon as the regular firearms season ended the deer were out
in force again,” he said. “They’re running around, and within a
couple of days of the end of the season, the does were out feeding
in the fields during the middle of the day again.”

A storm Tuesday that was dropping rain on the state, followed by
forecasted cold weather, likely will force deer to be on the move,
he said.

“They’re going to be bunched up pretty well,” Johnson said.
“Muzzleloader hunters should have a good hunt (during the remainder
of the season).”

Judging by anecdotal reports, as well as the experiences of
conservation officers checking deer hunters in the field, success
during the firearms season was hit and miss.

In the Rochester area, for example, CO Mitch Boyum reported that
“the 3B deer season came to a close on Sunday with positive
results. One large group of hunters had a great year, harvesting
over 50 deer for their group.”

On the other hand, Morris CO Tony Anderson reported that
“muzzleloader deer season has been pretty quiet so far. Deer
hunters still all (are) complaining about a big lack of deer.”

Throughout the southern part of the state, deer hunters
generally were successful, aided by good weather and harvested
crops, said Ken Varland, DNR regional wildlife manager in New
Ulm.

“It was a pretty good hunt,” he said. “We had a very good
season.”

Statewide, the harvest of antlerless deer is up from last year,
said Steve Merchant, who managed the DNR’s wildlife program.

“We are harvesting a lot of antlerless deer,” he said. “That’s
encouraging because in many parts of the state we are trying to get
a handle on that population.”

Many firearms deer hunters were hindered by a full moon – which
caused deer to move after dark – and warm weather during the early
season. The deer were looking for cooler areas, and the dry
landscape also had them trying to find moisture, Johnson said.

That meant looking in swamps and conifer cover.

“There were more deer in tamarack and spruce bogs this year than
there has been for a long time,” Johnson said. “They were in the
water, if they could find it.”

Other CO reports:

  • Hunter numbers in the Baudette area dropped through the end of
    the season, but the hunters who were out continued to see
    deer.
  • Muzzleloader hunters were having some success in the Crookston
    area.
  • Registration in the Moorhead area during the first weekend of
    the muzzleloader season was similar to last year.
  • Hunters in the Fergus Falls area aren’t seeing many deer.
  • The muzzleloader opener in the Wheaton area was like the
    firearms opener – there were hunters in the field, but success was
    low.
  • The number of deer observed and harvested was down in the
    Glenwood area.
  • Hunters in the Long Prairie area said they saw plenty of deer
    sign, but few saw animals.
  • Hunters were having limited success in the Albert Lea
    area.
  • There was a slower-than-average conclusion to the 3B season
    around Wabasha, where some hunters did well but others
    struggled.

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