Deer kill lags as hunters forced to pass does

St. Paul – Firearms deer hunters had killed and registered
128,766 deer as of earlier this week, which is nearly 12 percent
fewer deer than at the same time last year.

The antlerless deer harvest is lagging by about 20 percent
(59,574 this year compared with 74,256 last year), while the buck
kill is down about 3 percent (69,192 this year compared with 71,227
last year).

There is another weekend of hunting in Zone 1 – as well as a
late season in Zone 3 – but this year’s firearms kill will come in
lower than last year, according to Lou Cornicelli, DNR big-game
program coordinator.

“It’s pretty much what we thought,” he said. “My guess was in
the 200,000 or slightly less than 200,000 ballpark, and I think
that’s what it will be.”

The decline in antlerless harvest can be attributed to an
increase in the number of lottery areas (about half of them, as
opposed to one-third last year), fewer permits available, and some
areas in the southwest that are bucks-only for most hunters,
according to Cornicelli.

The buck harvest is “about right,” he said.

“Given the amount of standing corn in the fields, I’m not
surprised that buck harvest would be a little bit down,” Cornicelli
said. “If the corn would have been down, we probably would have had
an increase in buck harvest.”

As of earlier this week, 43 percent of the corn in the state had
been harvested, which is up from 23 percent the week before.
However, at this time last year, 79 percent had been harvested; the
five-year average is 91 percent.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association, said the reports he’s heard have been “really
patchy.”

“People aren’t seeing a lot of deer, but it seems there have
been a fair number of deer harvested,” he said. “It seems like
people are doing pretty well. Of course, with the nice weather
they’ve been spending a lot of time in the woods.”

Johnson says there have been some large bucks taken across the
state.

“I have heard reports of some really super nice bucks being
taken – and just a lot of bucks being taken,” he said. “I would
imagine that’s partially due to last year’s harvest being down
because of the weather. A lot of those bucks that survived last
year just got bigger for this year.”

The standing crops have hampered deer hunters to this point, but
that could bode well for muzzleloader hunters. Also, they could
play a role in winter survival, Johnson said.

“Any deer that are out there at the end of the season are going
to go into winter in such good shape because of the crops,” he
said. “They have unbelieveable amounts of food. They are going to
have a good winter no matter how hard the winter is in farm
country.”

Harvest totals

The largest dip in harvest has been for antlerless deer in Zone
1, where many permit areas went to lottery this year. Hunters there
have killed and registered 22,416 antlerless deer, which is 30
percent below the 32,174 they had killed at the same time last
year. Buck harvest in Zone 1 is down about 5 percent from last
year.

The only place where harvest has increased over last year is
Zone 3, where hunters killed about 5,500 bucks, which is 14 percent
more than last year. Antlerless harvest was up nearly 40 percent,
to 4,483.

The number of deer hunters is down just more than 1 percent from
last year; the largest decline – 8 percent – was from the area that
used to be Zone 4.

“We sold a fair number of licenses after the season opened,
which tells me people were kind of holding out (perhaps to see how
the crop harvest progressed),” Cornicelli said.

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