Minnesota deer hunters picking up the pace

Grand Rapids, Minn. — The state’s firearms deer hunters kicked the deer kill into high gear following opening weekend, according to DNR harvest data.

Through Sunday – the close of the season in the 200 series of permit areas, as well as the A season in the 300 series – hunters had registered 145,054 whitetails, which is more than double the number killed opening weekend and 10 percent higher than the number they’d killed at the same point in 2016.

“It looks like things picked up after a somewhat disappointing first weekend,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “It probably helped that there was more corn that had been harvested and it didn’t rain as much, so people got out there.”

Through the first weekend of the firearms season, which kicked off Nov. 4, hunters had killed 70,724 deer, a figure that was essentially the same as it was in 2016. Before the season, the DNR had estimated the 2017 kill would be around 200,000 – up from the total harvest in 2016 of 173,213 animals.

“We aren’t there yet, but we’re moving toward that,” Merchant said.

The season in the 100 series of permit areas runs through Nov. 18. The B season in the southeast runs Nov. 18-26, while the muzzleloader season runs Nov. 25-Dec. 10. The archery season continues through the end of the year.

The firearms harvest in the 100 series of permit areas is up 25 percent from last year. It’s up 6 percent in the 200 series of permit areas, and down 12 percent in the 300 series. Of the animals killed during the firearms season so far, 54 percent have been bucks (during the same time period last year, bucks accounted for 63 percent of the harvest).

Of the increase in the 100 series, Merchant said: “Clearly, the deer herd has grown there and we have also liberalized the regulations quite a bit, so there are a lot more people who have an antlerless deer permit in their pocket.”

He said the fact that bucks make up a smaller proportion of the harvest than last year likely can be attributed to the increase in the number of antlerless permits available.

“That’s very typical of what we see when we liberalize the harvest,” Merchant said, noting that “if you have that antlerless permit – even if you are primarily a buck hunter – when it comes to the bitter end and you want some venison, you will take an antlerless deer.”

The DNR believes the deer herd was up prior to the beginning of the firearms season, and Merchant says the numbers bear that out. Likewise, Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said, “All indications are there are more deer.” But he noted the group would have preferred a more conservative approach to harvest in some parts of the state.

Reports from the field

Following are reports from conservation officers throughout the state:

  • Hunters who hunted the forested areas around Warroad tended to have a tougher hunt than those who targeted the agricultural areas.
  • Hunters had moderate success in the Thief River Falls area.
  • Hunters were disappointed with the number of deer they saw in the Moorhead area.
  • Deer hunters had good to great success in the Detroit Lakes area.
  • Hunters reported improved deer numbers in the Pelican Rapids area.
  • Hunters had a slow season in the Henning area.
  • Hunters had limited success in the Longville area.
  • Hunting success in the Cass Lake area was lower the second weekend than the first.
  • Many hunters in the Ely area reported a slow season.
  • Deer hunters maintained steady success in the Hill City area.
  • Hunter success improved the second weekend in the Cromwell area, with more deer moving.
  • Hunters saw and harvested good numbers of deer in the Pequot Lakes area.
  • Cold weather and standing crops limited success in the Sauk Centre area.
  • Hunters reported great success in the Milaca area.
  • Results were mediocre in the Waconia area.
  • Hunters in the Slayton area reported a tough firearms season.
  • Hunter success improved the second weekend in the Albert Lea area.
  • Deer activity picked up through the week in the Faribault area.
  • Hunter success was variable in the Rushford area.
  • Deer hunters had a successful week in the Winona area.
  • There were plenty of deer available to hunters in the La Crescent area.

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