Harvest down as deer hunt wraps up

St. Paul – The firearms deer kill in the state continues to lag
behind last year’s pace.

Through the third weekend of hunting, hunters had killed just
more than 151,000 whitetails, which is about 12 percent below last
year, when hunters had killed about 171,000 deer.

DNR officials say the kill is on track with what they

“The strategy for 2009 is to allow deer populations to build and
stabilize by reducing opportunities to take antlerless deer,” Lou
Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator, said in a release.
“We expect hunters to harvest about 200,000 deer, or one-fifth of
the state’s wild deer population. We’re on track to do just that
once the final numbers are in and counted for all seasons.”

The largest part of this year’s decline is made up of antlerless
deer, which were afforded more protection with many permit areas
going to lottery this year. Hunters have killed about 19,000 fewer
antlerless deer this year than last year; the buck harvest is down
about 1,200 deer.

“I heard a lot of people really got a fair number of deer. Their
harvest wasn’t extremely high, but it was decent – camps going five
for six, or six for nine,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of
the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “They spent more time in
the woods because of the nice weather. Beyond that, they found they
saw many fewer deer.”

The biggest harvest shift came in Zone 1, where hunters shot
29,566 antlerless deer, or nearly 30 percent fewer than last year.
The overall harvest in Zone 1 was 62,575, which is about 18 percent
below last year’s kill.

Zone 2 hunters killed 35,570 antlerless deer, which is about 16
percent below last year. The overall kill in that zone – 75,390 –
was down about 9 percent from last year.

Hunters in the 3A season fared best. They killed 4,743
antlerless deer, which is 45 percent better than they did last
year. The buck harvest during 3A was up, too, from 4,861 in 2008 to
5,736 this year. As of earlier this week, 3B hunters had killed
about 24 percent fewer deer than last year.

Across the state, the buck harvest is down slightly.

“The harvest of bucks is the most stable indicator of deer
populations,” Cornicelli said. “Nearly the same number of bucks has
been harvested, which suggests that deer are still there to be
taken. Since fewer hunters have the option of harvesting an
antlerless deer, the overall numbers have decreased.”

When the hunt is all said and done – the 3B season runs through
Sunday; muzzleloader seasons runs from Nov. 28 through Dec. 13; and
the archery season runs through the end of the year – DNR officials
expect hunters will have killed about 22,000 fewer deer than they
did last year.

“Hunters are harvesting more deer than we did historically but
not as many as when the deer population reached its peak in the
early 2000s,” Cornicelli said. “With population goals being met in
many areas, harvest numbers are showing that we’re beginning to
level out to where we want to be.”

License sales

As of earlier this week, the DNR had sold a total of 371,059
regular firearms deer licenses, which is 4,940 fewer than last year
at the same time. Nonresident firearms license sales – 11,766 – are
down from the middle of this decade, but about the same as last

Total license sales – 451,769 – are down about 10,000 from last

3B season

Hunters in the 3B season were struggling somewhat, according to
reports from conservation officers in the area.

CO Tyler Quandt, of Red Wing, reported “the opening weekend for
the second season was fairly quiet. Lots of hunters were commenting
on the lack of deer movement and they attributed it to the heat and
amount of corn still in the fields.”

Dan McBroom, CO in Rochester, reported that hunters he checked
were having good success, “but the comment heard most was, ‘Where
are the deer?'”

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