Archery, Muzzleloader Records Push Deer Harvest Above 300,000

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Record harvests by archery and muzzleloader hunters pushed the total number of deer harvested during 2003 hunting seasons above 300,000 for the first time in history, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.

The total of harvest 301,000 includes deer taken by firearms, archery and muzzleloader. The previous record harvest of 243,000 deer was set in 1992. The 2002 harvest was 222,000 deer.

Archery deer hunters took 28,000 deer in 2003, a 75 percent increase over the previous record of 16,000, set in 2002. Muzzleloader hunters harvested 8,800 deer in 2003, nearly doubling their previous record of 4,548, set in 2000.

"Archery hunters responded very well to the new system," said Lou Conicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "It's clear they bought and used intensive harvest tags to put venison in the freezer, which is exactly what we were hoping for."

Although the 2003 harvest is above expectations, Cornicelli said the numbers were welcome news.

"Our deer population is healthy across the state," Cornicelli said. "This year's harvest will help us continue to provide excellent hunting opportunities while maintaining a strong deer herd."

So far, wildlife managers in northern Minnesota say this winter's snow and cold haven't had much effect on deer populations. Except in the Arrowhead, where snow depths exceeded three feet, deer have not been restricted in their movements this winter.

Barring a late winter blizzard, wildlife biologists say this winter will likely rank with the winter of 2000-2001, the last time snow depths exceeded 15 inches in northern Minnesota. That winter was considered moderate.