Minnesota hunters edge closer to 200,000 whitetail harvest

Park Rapids, Minn. — With all of the regular firearms seasons having come to a close – and archery and muzzleloader seasons still under way – deer hunters had killed and registered more than 186,000 animals through Sunday.

By the time the archery season comes to a close at the end of the year, hunters will have killed more deer than in any season since 2011 or 2010, when total kills were 192,331 and 207,313, respectively. Last year’s total harvest was 173,213 whitetails.

“We’re still on track for that 200,000 (pre-season DNR harvest projection) by the time it’s all said and done,” said Erik Thorson, the DNR’s acting big-game program leader.

The preliminary final tally for the B season in the 300 series of permit areas, which ran Nov. 18-26, was 4,162 deer – similar to last year’s take. The buck harvest during 3B was up 6 percent from last year, while the antlerless harvest was down about 10 percent.

The muzzleloader season, which runs Nov. 25 through Dec. 10, got off to a bit slower start than last year. Through the first two days of the season, muzzleloader hunters had killed and registered a preliminary total of 1,624 deer, which is down about 8 percent from the same time last year. The buck harvest is up slightly from last year, but the antlerless harvest is down, Thorson said.

“Since we’ve harvested so many deer up to this point, maybe people are just interested in harvesting a buck, or don’t want to put more meat in the freezer just yet,” he said.

Reports from conservation officers around the state also indicated a slow start to the muzzleloader season:

  • In the Pelican Rapids area, CO Bill Landmark reports that, “Fewer muzzleloader hunters were found in the field than past years and those that were hunting saw few deer.”
  • COs in Park Rapids, Sauk Centre, St. Peter, and International Falls found relatively light muzzleloader hunting activity.
  • In the Slayton and Montevideo areas, the weather was warm but hunters reported little in the way of deer movement.
  • In the Wabasha area, CO Kevin Prodzinski reported that, “An uptick in the deer harvest was observed this weekend with more hunters in the woods and less corn in the fields.”

During last year’s muzzleloader season, hunters killed just more than 8,000 deer. Given that in some areas corn will have been harvested just before the muzzleloader season commenced, and the fact that in northern Minnesota there are more frozen wetlands this year than last – which gives muzzleloader hunters better access – Thorson expects this year’s harvest to be similar to last year’s.

“I would think we should harvest as many or more deer during the muzzleloader season this year,” he said. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”

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