MN: Final deer hunt off to slow start

Muzzleloader tally at 1,300 after first three days of
hunt

St. Paul – As openers go, there seems to be a trend developing:
Slow.

After the opening-weekend firearms kill was off by about 20
percent thanks, in part, to poor weather, opening of the 16-day
muzzleloader season also left something to be desired.

The season opened last Saturday. After the first three days,
hunters had registered 1,300 deer.

“It’s off by quite a bit” from last year, said Lou Cornicelli,
DNR wildlife research manager.

So, too, are muzzleloader license sales. Resident hunters, as of
earlier this week, had bought 12,827 of them, which is about 4,000
below sales at the same time last year; 3,000 below 2009; and
nearly 7,000 below 2008.

Hunters buy muzzleloader licenses throughout the season,
Cornicelli says, and notes the season is weather-dependent.

“When there is snow on the ground and stuff frozen over, the
muzzleloader harvest goes up,” he said.

Many conservation officers across the state noted a lack of
hunters in the field for the muzzleloader opener. And those who
were out may not have stayed all day.

“Many hunters were out early Saturday morning, but high winds
and damp conditions drove them home early,” CO Phil Seefeldt, who
patrols the Moorhead area, reported.

And in the Marshall area, CO Matt Loftness reported, “The
muzzleloader season began the same as the slug season, with high
winds hampering their efforts.”

Unlike the firearms hunt, though, a slow muzzleloader opener
doesn’t necessarily mean the total kill will be down. That’s
because in most years, final-weekend harvest is higher than that of
opening weekend.

The opening-weekend kill this year is similar to 2009,
Cornicelli said. The kill on the third and final weekend that year
was 2,200 deer – about 900 more than opening weekend.

Firearms season

The firearms kill was off by 20 percent after opening weekend,
but hunters did better later on.

“We had a poor opener and we made up for it on that second
weekend, partly, and then it just kind of held stable,” Cornicelli
said.

As of earlier this week, hunters had registered 162,600
firearms-killed deer, compared with about 171,900 last year. The
difference is just more than 5 percent.

“From a harvest perspective, it was pretty close to what we
thought it would be,” Cornicelli said.

Zone 3

Like elsewhere in the state, deer hunters in Zone 3 shot fewer
deer overall this year than last.

During the 3A season, hunters killed 9,845 deer, compared with
9,098 last year. That’s an increase of about 8 percent.

During the 3B season, which ended Sunday, hunters killed 4,909
deer, compared with 6,071 last year. That’s a decrease of 19
percent. (Both 3A and 3B harvest figures include all license types,
but the “vast majority” are deer killed by firearms hunters, said
Don Nelson, DNR area wildlife manager in Rochester.)

Part of the reason for the lower 3B kill this year is fewer
hunters, Nelson said.

“We are seeing a continued shift (of hunters) from the B season
to the A season,” he said.

CWD

Hunters in Permit Area 602 – the chronic wasting disease
management area in southeast Minnesota – had killed about 1,500
deer as of earlier this week.

Of those, 517 were bucks and 536 were adult females.

All CWD test results so far have come back negative.

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