Local deer harvest down 18 percent from last season
Friday, December 02, 2005
By Frank Swendsen, DNR Area Wildlife
Deer seasons are always interesting to predict. This year, I anticipated a drop in deer harvest because we had a little worse than average winter in the northern part of the work area. I was anticipating a 10 percent drop or less.
The total harvest in the area from the Ash River Trail to Northome was 3,306. This is a decrease of 18 percent from last year's harvest of 4,012. It is also a 29 percent decrease from the record of 4,683 in 2003.
Here is a comparison from different parts of the area for the last three years.
The most significant change between this year and last was in the buck harvest. There were 528 or 23 percent fewer bucks shot, but only 199 or 11 percent fewer antlerless deer were shot. This is a very interesting change, and somewhat unexpected.
The weather this year was a significant factor in the harvest. It was warmer than average for the first week of the season, including a record setting 60 degrees on Nov. 11. The second weekend had heavy rain Saturday afternoon followed by some snow and then very strong winds on Sunday. The third weekend was good for hunting with moderate temperatures and snow on the ground. This allowed those who do hunt the third weekend an opportunity to get out and have one more opportunity.
Warm weather does allow hunters to be out for extended periods. However, the lack of snow and warm temperatures counteract some of that benefit. Having no snow definitely decreases visibility, which decreases opportunity. Logging trails and grassy areas still had tall grass standing and brushy areas did not have the white background, so hunters could not see deer coming as quickly. This gives the advantage to the deer. Also, more deer were wounded and lost because tracking is much more difficult without snow.
The warm weather has an impact on deer movement during the day even though the rut is on. I talked to many hunters, and noticed myself, that buck movement during the day on the opening weekend was not very good.
The overall deer harvest is most heavily influenced by what happens on opening weekend. That is the time when we have the most hunters and deer are not quite as wary. It appears this year that we just did not have a fast start to the harvest and could not make it up in subsequent days