Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Archery harvest: Down a quarter from last year

St. Paul — Could this be the first season since 2002 that bowhunters don’t kill more than 20,000 deer?

It may be shaping up that way.

Through last week, archers had killed 9,891 whitetails, which is down about 24 percent from the 13,085 they’d killed at the same time last year. They ended the year with a total kill of 21,605.

“It’s a long season,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “But just looking at the numbers, I don’t think we’re necessarily going to catch up.”

The season got off to a tough start, when opening-day archers killed 500 fewer deer than they do normally. And the kills on most days have been down from last year, as well.

So what’s going on?

Could be any number of things. Slightly fewer people have bought archery licenses this year. As of earlier this week, the DNR had sold 99,126 archery licenses. Through Oct. 25 of last year, the agency had sold 100,158 licenses. At the same time, youth license sales – 11,277 as of earlier this week – already had surpassed last year’s total.

And then there’s the weather, which, especially on weekends, hasn’t been ideal. Weekend archery harvests have been down from last year between 35 percent and 40 percent, McInenly said.

The crop harvest, too, is behind that of last year.

But one thing DNR officials say isn’t contributing to the slow archery season: the state’s deer population, which they believe is up from last year.

“I haven’t had people calling me and saying, ‘Where are the deer?’” McInenly said.

But Brooks Johnson, president of Minnesota Bowhunters Inc., doesn’t believe there are as many deer as last year.

“The general feel I get – I’ve talked to nobody who says they have too many deer – is that the numbers seem like they are down a little but more than we would like to see,” he said.

Last week, Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, bowhunted for a week near Finland. Neither he nor the others he hunted with saw a deer.

“There was about the same number of moose tracks as deer tracks,” he said.

But many of the people he’s talked to say they’re seeing and shooting deer. They’re also seeing fawns, he said.

“I’ve heard more complaints about the weather than anything else,” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and McInenly say they’re interested to see how this week and next play out.

“The rut is starting to get under way,” Johnson said.

There tends to be a bump in the archery harvest during the seventh week of the season, which, in typical years, is the week before the firearms deer season begins. But this year, the firearms opener is a week later.

“Just driving around, it looks like the corn is really being harvested,” McInenly said. “It will be interesting to see how much of a bump we get in the next couple of weeks.”

The archery season runs through the end of the year.

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