Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Corn crop disappearing fast on eve of deer hunt

Sauk Rapids, Minn. — For hunters across the state’s farmland region, one of the wild cards every deer season is the crop harvest. In a sea of standing corn, whitetails have more places to hide, and that means more challenging hunting.

With wet and cooler-than-normal weather conditions during much of October, the state’s corn harvest was behind schedule through the third week of the month.

It looked as though the front end of the firearms deer season would be a challenge, but farmers have been busy the past couple of weeks, and it appears as though deer hunters will only find pockets of standing corn when the season begins on Saturday.

According to the latest crop report issued on Monday by the Minnesota Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 73 percent of the state’s corn used for grain had been harvested. That actually was ahead of normal and marked the first time all season that corn progress was ahead of the five-year harvest average.

Just a week earlier, less than 50 percent of the state’s corn had been cut. As a result, wildlife officials with the DNR are confident that standing corn will have minimal effect on this year’s deer harvest.

“The later start to the firearms season should allow farmers to get most of the corn out of fields by opening day,” said Fred Bengtson, DNR area wildlife manager in Sauk Rapids. “They’ve been really getting at it in the central part of the state, so I don’t think it will be an issue for deer hunters.”

In southeastern Minnesota, there seemed to be more corn standing earlier this week than normal in the days leading up to the deer season.

Approximately 50 percent remained in the fields throughout the counties of Winona, Wabasha, and Olmsted based on observations by Jon Cole, DNR wildlife manager at the Whitewater WMA.

Cole noted that there’s always some corn left within the WMA, basically via bigger food plot sections, at the start of every deer season. But he says corn harvest outside the WMA appeared a bit behind schedule as of Monday.

“There’s adequate cover outside the WMA that could provide escape facilities for deer, but we’re expecting a good harvest even with the standing corn,” Cole said. “You have to remember that there’s a lot of hunting pressure down here, especially within the WMA, so deer will be on the move.”

Across the farmland-rich region of western Minnesota, hunters should only encounter localized pockets of standing corn. Farmers made up a lot of ground with the corn harvest the past two weeks in Chippewa, Swift, and Big Stone counties.

Dave Trauba, DNR wildlife manager of the Lac qui Parle WMA, estimated that just 10 to 20 percent of the corn was still up early this week in this area. He says farmers were making quick work of what was left.

“I’m not seeing the corn as being a big factor out here,” Trauba said. “Locally, around the WMA, we should be in good shape.”

Farther north, about half of the corn had been harvested at the beginning of the week in western Becker County, Norman, and Mahnomen counties. Blane Klemek, DNR wildlife manager in Detroit Lakes, says area farmers should be able to remove quite a bit more by this weekend if weather conditions were favorable.

Given how it looked on Monday, Klemek believed there would be some corn standing on opener. It just wasn’t coming off as fast as normal, again due to poor weather conditions.

“There’s enough corn still in the fields to undoubtedly provide deer with food and shelter and to possibly affect the success of some deer hunters,” Klemek said. “Even so, every year there are hunting parties that do very well making safe, well organized deer drives in standing corn.”

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