Greater deer abundance and wider permission to shoot antlerless deer led to a 15 percent increase in Minnesota’s deer harvest through all seasons as of Sunday, the Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday.
Deer hunters have taken 190,000 deer statewide starting with the archery season, continuing through the regular firearms season and now into the muzzleloader season. The muzzleloader harvest, up 4 percent over a year ago, continues through Sunday. Scopes are allowed on the guns this year for the first time. Archery season runs through New Year’s Eve.
“The overall harvest suggests pretty good hunter success,’’ said Erik Thorson, DNR’s acting big game program leader in Park Rapids. “It’s a combination of more deer and more liberal regulations.’’
He said participation was down about 2.5 percent from a year ago, when the DNR sold 446,323 licenses for the regular firearms season. In southeastern Minnesota, where the DNR is managing the state’s largest-ever outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer, license sales declined 6 percent, Thorson said.
Across the country, states are struggling to attract young hunters, and 2017 was no exception in Minnesota. Thorson said the state sold 4 percent fewer youth deer licenses this year, down from 61,138 sold last year in the state.
Thorson said the total harvest of 190,000 whitetails was the result of greater permission to shoot antlerless deer — a privilege that wildlife managers restrict when the deer population is struggling. Thorson said all 25,000 additional deer harvested this year compared to 2016 were female deer or buck fawns. Hunters shot 98,500 Minnesota bucks this year, same as a year ago.
Thorson said Minnesota deer hunters will have a special opportunity to hunt in early January as part of the DNR’s attempt to thin the wild deer herd in southeastern Minnesota. The boundaries of the CWD-related hunt, along with other details, have yet to be announced. The dates will be Jan. 6 through Jan. 14.