Minnesota’s deer harvest remains down for the season compared to the same time a year ago, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The decline is largest in the northeast, where the whitetail kill is 14 percent off from 2017.

“Our opening weekend harvest fell, we think, due to a number of factors,” said Erik Thorson, DNR area wildlife supervisor in Park Rapids. “Weather was one issue, and the delayed corn harvest in the south was another.”

The state’s opening day kill was down 11 percent, Thorson said, and the harvest on Sunday of the season’s first weekend was off 7 percent.

Another possible factor affecting the deer harvest was the season’s early start Nov. 3, which — depending on various factors — might have been a week or so ahead of the peak of the rut.

Hunters this year who were afield on days typically closer to the height of the whitetail breeding season, for example — Nov. 12-13, which was a Wednesday and Thursday — recorded harvest increases this year over last year of 54 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, a license sales decrease of 2.35 percent, 436,483 this year compared to 446,993 in 2017, likely also has played a role in the harvest decline.

Wisconsin harvest up

Wisconsin’s opening weekend deer harvest was up almost 13 percent from 2017, according to that state’s DNR — even though license sales in the Badger state are running about 2.5 percent lower than last year.

Throughout Wisconsin, the buck harvest last weekend was 8.3 percent higher than 2017, while the antlerless kill rose 18.8 percent.

In the northern forested region, however, slight harvest declines were registered over the weekend. The buck kill fell about 5 percent and the antlerless harvest was down nearly 4 percent, for a combined 2.2 percent falloff.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, more than 774,000 total gun, bow and crossbow licenses were sold in the state by last Friday. The number last year was 824,000.

License sales declines for firearms hunters were more significant, 442,820 sold this year in Wisconsin before the gun opener last weekend, compared to 488,826 in 2017.