A good start for state deer hunt

St. Paul — After the first three days of the firearms deer
season, hunters appear to be on their way to a quarter
million-animal harvest.

Through Monday, hunters had electronically registered about
91,200 deer, which compares with about 95,000 for the first three
days last year, when the total deer harvest was second-highest in
state history.

“We’re not going for a record deer harvest, anyway,” said Lou
Cornicelli, big-game program coordinator for the DNR. “It’s off 4
percent from the No. 2 harvest ever. It’s still a lot of deer.”

The figures include only those deer registered via the
Electronic Licensing System, and not stations with paper stubs or
hunters who didn’t register their deer right away. With that
factored in, Cornicelli expects harvest the first three days to be
more than 100,000 deer.

Hunters in Zone 1 registered 38,995 deer, which is up 6 percent
from last year; Zone 2 hunters registered 40,055 deer, down about
9.5 percent from last year; 3A hunters registered 4,790 deer; and
4A hunters registered 7,380 deer.

“The only remarkable thing – and it makes sense – is the
antlerless harvest in Zone 4 is off by 40 percent,” Cornicelli
said. “That makes sense because we really cut antlerless
permits.”

Just under 400,000 licenses had been sold through Monday. That
compares with about 404,000 last year and about 397,000 in
2005.

In general, about 60 percent of the state firearms deer kill
takes place the first three days of the season, he said. Bad
weather can hamper harvest during the first weekend, but, in many
areas of the state, that wasn’t a problem.

“We’re set up for another good deer year,” Cornicelli said. “All
in all, it’s shaking out pretty good.”

Following are reports from selected areas of the state, as well
as notes from conservation officers:

  • Registration at Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle in Duluth – more
    than 400 deer as of Sunday night – was about the same as last
    year.

Hunters have reported seeing a lot of deer and have shot some
big ones, though none of them in particular stick out, according to
Sue Chalstrom.

“We’ve been so busy registering them that it’s hard to see all
of them,” she said.

  • Aitkin Outdoor Sports had registered 66 deer as of Monday
    afternoon. Hunters reported seeing plenty of does and fawns, but
    bucks were another matter, according to Justin Turner. Still, there
    have been some nice bucks registered, including three over 200
    pounds.

“We’ve got some nice bucks coming through here,” he said.

  • Hunters were registering deer steadily at Buck’s Hardware Hank
    in Grand Marais on Monday afternoon, and through the weekend had
    registered 134 deer.

The biggest deer was 255 pounds and had a 19.75-inch spread,
while another weighed 220 pounds and had a 22.5-inch spread. That
deer had 12 points, according to Buck Benson.

Hunters are seeing plenty of deer in the area, and Benson, who
normally doesn’t see many deer on the road during the hunting
season, saw lots of them on Sunday night.

“There were deer everywhere on the highway,” he said. “It’s a
good time” to be deer hunting.

  • Registration at Delaney’s Sport Center in Park Rapids stood at
    about 85 on Monday compared with more than 120 last year.

Hunters also reported hearing a very small amount of shooting,
according to Kevin Lempola, who predicted the hunting would be
better next weekend.

“It was a little slower, and I don’t know what to blame it on –
the weather was decent and it wasn’t overly hot,” he said. “There
are deer, no doubt about it. The harvest for some reason was off
this weekend around here.”

  • Hunting seemed to be better in the Red Wing area than last
    year, and hunters shot a lot of deer, including some big ones,
    according to Four Seasons Sports.
  • Hunting was slow in the New Ulm area, according to Francis
    Rieger, of R & R Bait and Tackle.

Hunters looking for does had a hard time finding them, and there
don’t seem to be many fawns around, he said.

“It was a lot slower than last year, and there are a lot of
people who said they didn’t even see a deer,” Rieger said. “They
got some bucks down here, but it’s kind of slow.”

  • Hunters in the Warroad area had limited success, and deer
    weren’t moving real well.
  • Hunters had some success around Thief River Falls, though many
    were passing on does and hoping for a buck.
  • There were many hunters in the Bemidji area, but the overall
    success rate was low.
  • Hunters had good success in the Perham area, especially with
    antlerless deer.
  • Deer hunters in the lottery areas around Moorhead saw fewer
    deer, and many agreed with the lottery designation.
  • Deer populations seemed low in the Glenwood area, and hunters
    had limited success. One party of 16 hunters had one deer in two
    days of hunting.
  • Deer hunters in the Wheaton, Elbow Lake, Morris, and Fergus
    Falls area reported seeing fewer deer.
  • There weren’t as many hunters as usual around Cook, and the
    deer kill seemed down.
  • Hunters enjoyed a lot of success around Grand Rapids, and took
    a lot of antlerless deer.
  • Hunters in the Isle area were asking: “Where are all the
    deer?”
  • Harvest was fair to poor in the Marshall area, and hunters said
    they didn’t see many deer.
  • Hunters had success in the Slayton area.
  • Pressure was lighter than usual around Willmar, and hunters
    reported seeing fewer deer.
  • Hunting success was down in the Kellogg area, perhaps because
    of the mild weather.
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