Deer harvest lags as season winds down

St. Paul – With the vast majority of the firearms deer season
now in the rearview mirror, harvest remains off last year’s pace as
hunters have killed 11 percent fewer deer.

Hunters had killed 167,645 deer as of earlier this week,
compared with 187,949 at the same time last year.

From inclement weather for deer hunting to an abundance of
standing corn to a reduction in the number of antlerless deer
hunters could kill, “there’s a whole bunch of explanations (for the
reduced kill) and they’re probably all contributing,” said Lou
Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator.

But he says he’s not concerned by a kill that, while lower than
last year, likely will be in the top six in state history.

“The goal was never to manage for a record deer harvest (every
year),” he said.

By the time the total kill is added up – there still are paper
stubs to enter, the archery season runs through the end of the
year, the muzzleloader season runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 14, and the
late season in the southeast is open through Nov. 30 – hunters
likely will have taken 250,000 or more deer.

Harvest during the firearms season in the 100 series of permit
areas was off 15 percent, from 89,660 last year to 76,228 this
year. The 200 series of permit areas was down about 4 percent, from
86,398 last year to 83,285 this year. Hunters in the 3A season
killed slightly more deer than last year – 8,132 compared with
8,033 – and 3B hunters, as of earlier this week, had killed about 8
percent fewer deer, from 3,858 last year to 3,561 this year.

The farmland

In permit areas that last year were in Zone 4, the same number
of people hunted as did last year, but buck harvest was up by about
9 percent and antlerless harvest was down by about 13 percent.

The DNR_offered fewer antlerless permits in that area this year,
which explains the antlerless harvest reduction, but the increase
in buck harvest likely means the deer population has come up some,
Cornicelli said.

“The old Zone 4 season was actually better than it was last
year, despite the corn being up,” he said. He wasn’t sure whether
that was attributable to more deer or hunters having an extra three
days in the field.

When the DNR made wide-ranging changes aimed at simplifying deer
regulations, the changes made to the farmland part of the state
drew the most questions.

Some hunters questioned adding three days to the season, while
others worried that a continuous season – rather than an A and B
season – would lead to reduced access or crowding.

Once the season kicked off, Ken Varland, DNR regional wildlife
manager in New Ulm, heard few complaints.

There was intensive use of public land, but “nothing that would
be considered a real issue, that I’ve heard anyway,” he said.

Also, some hunters were out of the field relatively early in the
day, perhaps because of the longer season.

“The idea of a more relaxed hunt probably proved to be true,
which probably in some ways is a good thing,” Varland said.

Youth licenses

One thing that didn’t appear to change in the farmland: parents
shooting deer for their kids and tagging the animals illegally.

“We have extraordinarily high success rates among kids in areas
that have low deer populations,” Cornicelli said.

In an effort to get youths into deer hunting, youth licenses
allow kids to shoot a deer of either sex, even in lottery areas.
But party hunting isn’t allowed with the licenses.

While the majority of hunters abide by the law, some adults do
shoot deer and tag them with an antlerless license, Cornicelli
said. That occurrence is one reason antlerless permit numbers are
so low in some areas, and the only reason some areas weren’t
bucks-only this year is that DNR officials didn’t want a law “to
punish a few people,” Cornicelli said.

“On the flip side, adult permits are reduced because that take
(harvest on youth licenses) comes off the top,” he said. “I don’t
want to do bucks-only. Our goal is to get kids out there and have
them be successful. Unfortunately, they’re too successful in some
cases, and that’s why permit (numbers) are very low.

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