Minnesota deer hunting restrictions will be eased this fall thanks to herd growth, but state wildlife managers are still acting cautiously in issuing tags to hunters.
Licenses for the 2016 deer season went on sale Monday and hunting by bow is only 47 days away. One-deer limits remain in place for much of the state, but this year there are nine fewer zones where hunters can only harvest bucks.
“I don’t want to over-generalize, but we’ve had a couple of mild winters and we’ve stayed conservative on the harvest,” said Adam Murkowski, big game program leader for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Now we can give hunters more chances while doing it in a way that still allows growth.”
Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said the new hunting regulations reflect the practical notion that more deer are on the state’s landscape. Statewide, the whitetail herd is estimated at 1 million strong. Last year, hunters harvested 159,343 of the animals.
“I haven’t gone into great detail into every deer permit area, but it seems solid, reasonable,” Engwall said of the new set of regulations.
The DNR on Monday also announced two moves to keep chronic wasting disease (CWD) out of Minnesota. For the first time, hunters can no longer bring whole deer, elk, moose or caribou carcasses into Minnesota from anywhere in North America. They must leave behind parts of those animals known to become highly concentrated with CWD.
In addition, the agency will accelerate CWD testing in southeastern Minnesota’s deer herd because of its proximity to a large outbreak area in Wisconsin. Unlike many other states, Minnesota’s whitetail population is CWD-free and the new regulation was agreed to by the State Board of Animal Health.
Here are some of this year’s hunting changes under the new regulations: Hunters in 67 permit areas must be chosen in a lottery to harvest an antlerless deer (down from 70 areas last season). Only bucks can be hunted in five areas (down from 14 areas). In 32 areas, hunters have the choice of harvesting a doe or a buck (up from 29 areas). Bonus permits allowing hunters to harvest more than one deer may be used in 24 permit areas and for some special hunts (up from 12 areas).