Like total deer harvest, blackpowder kill down

St. Paul – Anecdotal reports from around the state suggesting a
slower muzzleloader hunt jibe with actual registration numbers.

As of earlier this week, hunters had registered 8,240 deer. That
compares with about 9,800 at the same time last year. The
muzzleloader season was open Nov. 29 through Dec. 14.

It’s likely that total will rise by about 20 percent once all
the registrations are tabulated, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game
program coordinator.

When it’s all said and done, the year’s total deer harvest
likely will be in the range of about 230,000, he said. That would
be down from last year’s total of about 260,400 and the first time
since 2002 harvest was below 250,000.

Some of the decrease can be attributed to management aimed at
reducing deer populations, some of it likely can be attributed to
poor weather for hunting deer, and some, perhaps, to winter
mortality last year.

“Obviously, we are going to have a long talk about deer
populations going forward,” Cornicelli said.

As of earlier this week, about 220,000 deer had been registered.
The total will rise as paper stubs and late-season harvest is
included. Total harvest in the 230,000 range would put the kill at
the seventh-highest of all time.

Harvest in Zone 3 and the old Zone 4 was about the same as last
year, but the kill dropped in zones 1 and 2.

“In talking to area staff, the consensus is that in some places
populations have come down, and that’s by design,” Cornicelli said.
“In other places, the weather was real bad. Some reductions aren’t
explainable by deer numbers – the weather was terrible.”

The muzzleloader season’s final day, for example, featured
blizzard conditions throughout much of the state. What follows is a
selection of the conservation officer reports that touched on the
muzzleloader hunt:

€ It was a slow final weekend in the Karlstad area.

€ Success in the Fosston and Erskine area was lower than in
previous years.

€ Muzzleloader hunters reported seeing fewer deer in the
Moorhead area.

€ The hunt on Sunday in the Morris area was a “wash out” because
of the snow.

€ Hunters in the Longville area reported little success during
the muzzleloader season.

€ Snow and cold slowed hunters in the Pine River area.

€ Muzzleloader hunters in the Hinckley area reported that deer
were moving during Sunday’s snowstorm.

€ In the Lake Benton area, snow and blowing conditions “made it
impossible to end the season with success.”

€ Muzzleloader hunter groups in the Rushford area had some
success with deer drives.

There also may have been some deer fawn mortality last winter,
Cornicelli said.

“In talking to some of the area staff, the Arrowhead may have
had some, and we got the real cold, crusty snow in the southeast,
so we may have had some fawn mortality down there,” he said.

All along, the goal in many areas has been to reduce deer
populations, Cornicelli said. In areas where deer populations seem
to be down, “we’ll try to figure out where that is and to what
degree,” he said.

Hunters could see changes as soon as next year.

“You may see more lottery and managed areas next year, and
that’s a function of management,” Cornicelli said.

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