Antlerless deer driving Northeastern Minnesota deer harvest
Preliminary figures indicate that Minnesota's statewide deer harvest through the second weekend of the firearms season was up 10 percent from last year, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said.
In Zone 1, across Northeastern Minnesota, the total firearms harvest was up 25 percent through that period. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, the harvest was up 6 percent. Registrations in Zone 3, in southeastern Minnesota, were down 12 percent.
Minnesota firearms hunters registered 145,054 deer through this past Sunday, nine days into Minnesota's 16-day season, which closes today. The DNR had forecast a total deer harvest of about 200,000.
Part of the increase in the deer harvest is due to an increase in the number of antlerless deer taken. The DNR made more antlerless deer permits available to hunters this fall. Through Sunday, 54 percent of the deer taken by hunters were bucks, compared to 63 percent for the same period last year.
"The ratio of bucks to does has changed," said Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. "The antlerless harvest is now 46 percent of that Zone 1 (Northeastern Minnesota) harvest. (The harvest) is up overall, but it's all antlerless, so it's hard to know what that means. Until we get the final numbers and see what the overall buck harvest is, we don't know."
The total Zone 1 harvest through Monday, including deer taken by archery (less than 5 percent of the overall total) was nearly 49,000 deer, according to Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower. Of that total, 30,571 were bucks and 18,258 were antlerless deer. The buck registrations were down 7 percent from last year in Zone 1, Rusch said. The antlerless harvest was up 138 percent. Total registrations were up 27 percent.
Rusch said he suspects that the weather during opening weekend and through the first week of the season prevented hunters from sitting in stands as long as they might have.
"It started with snow and turned to drizzle on opening weekend," Rusch said. "Then, during the week, we had unseasonably cold weather. It's hard to sit in that weather. The bottom line is, if hunters are sitting, they're going to kill more deer."
In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Nov. 12. A late southeast season runs from this Saturday through Nov. 26. Minnesota's muzzleloader season begins Saturday and continues through Dec. 10.