2004 Deer Harvest Second Highest on Record

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The deer harvest in Northeastern Minnesota in 2004 is the second highest on record. This year's harvest was 13 percent lower than last year's all-time record, but 11% above the 5-year average.

The large harvest is due to a large deer population. Past mild winters and good habitat conditions allowed the deer populations to increase from low numbers in the mid 1990s. Hunters in most Northeastern Minnesota had the opportunity to harvest more than one deer. "One reason for the decrease over last year may have been the weather," said Tom Rusch, Tower area wildlife manager. "Deer movement on the opening weekend was not as good as last year because of the warm weather. Both does and larger bucks were less active according to many hunters. About 60% of the harvest occurs in the first three days of the season, so what happens on opening weekend plays a big part in the final harvest."

"Despite increased opportunities to take antlerless deer, the percentage of antlerless deer in the harvest in the Grand Rapids area was down from 54% in 2003 to 50% in 2004" said Perry Loegering, Grand Rapids area wildlife manager. This was the trend in many areas.

"With virtually every hunter being eligible to take antlerless deer and with all the bonus permits available, it is a bit ironic that the percent of antlerless deer in the harvest the last two years was less than in 1991 and 1992, at least in Northeast Minnesota," said David Dickey, Aitkin area wildlife manager. "The antlerless harvest was 51 percent in 2003 and 2004, while in 1991 and 1992 it was over 60 percent. In the 1990s, hunters 'won' an antlerless permit in the lottery and because of that, they apparently were more willing to take an antlerless deer. Now with either sex licenses it's not a big deal," said Dickey. "It may be, too, that with higher populations we now have more bucks out there."

"Another reason may be that hunters felt they had too much venison last year, and were more selective in their harvest this year. When hunters become selective, they tend to choose bucks over antlerless deer," said Frank Swendsen, International Falls area wildlife manager.

Wildlife managers agreed that 2004 was a successful and safe deer season. There were excellent hunting opportunities throughout the Northeast region. Most hunters were pleased with the season - the weather was nice and they saw lots of deer.