Lower deer populations and a windy first weekend of the firearms season resulted in Minnesota’s deer harvest dropping 7 percent in 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Minnesota hunters harvested 192,300 deer during the 2011 season, a drop of 15,000 from the 207,000 deer harvested in 2010.
In 2011, firearms hunters harvested 164,800 deer, while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 20,200 and 7,300 deer, respectively. Overall, the statewide archery and firearm harvest was down 6 percent for both seasons and the muzzleloader harvest declined 19 percent from last year.
“Upwards of 50 percent of the annual deer harvest occurs during opening weekend,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “The high winds hunters experienced opening weekend hindered deer activity and the associated harvest.”
Deer densities were lower in many areas because of hunting regulations designed to bring populations to goal levels, and because of a harsh winter in 2010.
Now that many areas are at the established goal levels, there is a general dissatisfaction among hunters with the current deer population. As a result, the DNR will develop a process in the near future to reassess deer population goals. Although that process may not be complete for several months, DNR staff will examine population densities and trends in all permit areas and begin making adjustments in time for the 2012 season.
Cornicelli said hunters should pay close attention to the hunting synopsis, which comes out in mid-July, to see if they need to apply for a lottery either-sex permit.
For the 2012 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 6. Archery deer hunting will begin Saturday, Sept. 15. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Saturday, Nov. 3. The muzzleloader season will open Saturday, Nov. 24.
The final deer harvest number is calculated using information provided by hunters when they register their deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online in the coming weeks.