Deer hunting should be good when Minnesota’s firearms hunting season opens November 3, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Minnesota’s deer population is up from last year, in part, because of the mild winter,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research manager. He estimated the deer population at about 1 million.
Cornicelli said one difference between this and last year is there are fewer areas where hunters can harvest more than one deer. This change, he said, reflects the agency’s interest in rebuilding or maintaining the deer herd in certain portions of the state by managing the harvest.
“Hunters in about half of the state had to apply for a limited number of antlerless permits,” said Cornicelli. “Moreover, there are fewer places where hunters can take two or more deer.” These harvest reduction changes, he said, were implemented based on hunter input and also addressing the interests of private landowners, agricultural growers, automobile drivers and others. They also reflect the fact that antlerless and bonus deer permit availability decreases as overly abundant populations are brought into line with agency goals.
Last year, Minnesota’s nearly 500,000 deer hunters harvested 192,300 deer.
Minnesota’s deer harvest has varied widely over the past half-century. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s, forcing the closure of the deer season in 1971 and a rebuilding of the deer herd through the 1970s, '80s and '90s. The highest deer harvest occurred in 2003 when 270,000 deer were taken as part of an effort to reduce the deer herd. Today, the DNR manages the deer population based on goals established with public input.
“The state’s deer population has gone from too low to too high to fairly close to what people are willing to accept,” said Cornicelli. “I don’t envision spectacularly high or low harvests in the years ahead but rather moderate harvests ... harvests that reflect the herd being managed responsibly and responsively.” Cornicelli said deer hunters play an important role in deer management by helping control deer numbers.
The firearms deer season concludes in the northern Minnesota on Sunday, November 18, and Sunday, November 11 in all other parts of the state. A late season in southeastern Minnesota that stretches from Watertown in the north to Caledonia in the south opens Saturday, November 17, and closes Sunday, November 25.