Minnesota deer hunters again this fall will be governed by what the Department of Natural Resources calls a conservative season — meaning one in which antlerless permits will be relatively few.
The intent, the DNR says, is to restrict the harvest of does while continuing to build whitetail numbers, an effort boosted last winter by fairly mild weather.
“Like last year, hunters in over 90 percent of the state are going to be restricted to only one deer this season,” DNR big game coordinator Leslie McInenly said.
Wildlife officials project a fall kill of 140,000 to 155,000 animals. Last season, hunters killed 139,442 whitetails, the fewest in at least 25 years.
Many hunters have complained they haven’t seen a deer in two or more seasons. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr feels their pain: He said he has gone four years without bagging a deer.
Fawn sightings statewide this summer point to a population uptick, McInenly said.
“Hunters should be seeing more deer in many parts of the state this fall,” she said. “We’ve got good reports coming in for fawn production and deer conditions.”
In 70 of 128 deer permit areas, hunters must be chosen in a lottery to shoot an antlerless deer. Only bucks can be hunted in 14 areas. In 29 areas, hunters can shoot a doe or a buck. Bonus permits allowing hunters to shoot more than one deer will be available in only 11 permit areas and for some special hunts.
New this year is a law allowing either-sex harvest by hunters age 84 and up or by hunters who are residents of veterans’ homes.
Another change is the return of youth-only antlerless harvest for a few areas in southwestern Minnesota. The rule is designed to boost deer numbers into goal range where antlerless harvest under the lottery system hasn’t been restrictive enough to achieve that goal.
Hunters can buy deer licenses and apply to the lottery for antlerless deer permits starting Saturday. The deadline to apply for the lottery is Sept. 10.
All hunters who purchase licenses by the deadline are automatically entered into the lottery if they declare a lottery deer permit area. Those who do not wish to harvest an antlerless deer are encouraged to purchase licenses after the lottery deadline.