Deer Harvest Likely to be Among Highest on Record

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The number of deer harvested during the 2004 firearms season will likely be among the highest on record, according to preliminary estimates from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Using preliminary data from the electronic registration database, the 2004 harvest is down about 8 percent compared with 2003, the highest harvest on record. The harvest may exceed 2002, when 197,000 deer were registered during the firearms season, the second highest total on record.

"The nice weather this past weekend apparently made some difference," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "We had lots of hunters in the woods and many took advantage of permit options that allowed them to harvest multiple deer."

Sales of firearms deer licenses through Monday totaled 420,321, slightly below last year’s total of 422,376 at the same time. License sales in 2002 were 412,913 following the second weekend of the season.

Cornicelli said this season’s deer harvest, when fully totaled, will likely be lower than the 2003 record of 290,525 but ahead of 2002 total of 222,050. "We didn't expect to set a new record this year," he said. "We're very pleased with the number of deer harvested."

The DNR completed collection of lymph node samples to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The samples were collected from harvested wild deer this year at more than 130 big game registration stations in 60 permit areas located in parts of the northwest, north central, east central and southwest portions of the state.

Hunters who allowed DNR staff to sample their deer were entered in a raffle for 30 guns and bows. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will conduct the drawing and winners will be announced in December.

This is the third and final year of DNR testing for CWD in Minnesota's wild deer population. During the 2002 and 2003 deer hunting seasons, the DNR collected and tested 14,450 deer, none of which tested positive for CWD. Testing results for deer harvested in the 2004 season will be available at the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us as results for each permit area are completed.

Deer hunting season remains open from Nov. 20-28 in southeast Minnesota. Muzzleloader season will be held statewide from Nov. 27-Dec. 12 and archery deer season continues through Dec. 31.