Last weekend’s storm effectively shut down deer hunting across much of northern Minnesota. Nearly 20 inches of snow fell in parts of the region, limiting travel and reducing access to the woods.
Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Troy Fondie of Orr said the storm brought 2½ feet of snow to his area and that hunters who disregarded the forecast found themselves digging through many feet of the white stuff. Their ATVs were “useless” in the maelstrom’s aftermath, he said.
“The deer are belly deep in snow and numerous trees are down making woods travel only possible by snowmobile and snowshoe,” Fondie said. “A good old fashioned Minnesota winter is upon us, with more snow forecast for the upcoming week.” Area lakes, meanwhile, remain wide open.
Meanwhile, conservation officer Marc Hopkins of Tower said the large storm made some forest roads impassable and stranded some hunters in their cabins.
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The heavy snow last weekend prompted some snowmobilers to fire up their machines. But the DNR cautioned that most trails aren’t fully operative.
Several conditions must be met, the DNR said, before trails are ready for travel:
• The ground must be frozen to allow for crossing wet areas.
• About 12 inches of snow must be on the ground to allow for packing and grooming.
• Trails must be cleared of fallen trees, signs put in place and the gates opened. Snowmobile club volunteers and DNR staff are working on these tasks.
“While the early snow is encouraging, it acts as insulation that slows the freezing we need in order to work on brush clearing and other trail maintenance in wet areas,” Grand Rapids area supervisor Guy Lunz said. “Crews are out removing brush from trails where they can, and that pace will pick up once cold weather helps freeze the low-lying areas.”
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The preliminary total for the Minnesota deer harvest to date is 155,947, compared to the 147,006 animals killed a year ago. Harvest is significantly up in Zone 1, stable in Zone 2 and down in Zone 3 — 14,786 this year to 16,868 last year.
The buck harvest, meanwhile, is up in Zone 1, 33,008 this year to last year’s 27,718. Buck kills are down slightly in Zone 2, 53,603 this year to 54,567 last year. In Zone 3 the buck kill is also down, 7,057 this year to 7,896 a year ago.
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In Wisconsin, 575,363 gun deer licenses were sold by opening morning last Saturday, compared to 591,783 in 2015. Hunters in the Badger State killed 64,311 bucks opening weekend, compared to 62,903 in 2015. In total, 115,640 deer were registered in Wisconsin through opening weekend, compared to 120,276 in 2015.