With Minnesota’s deer season winding down, the whitetail harvest is 22 percent below this time last year — likely because of the early winterlike weather, fewer antlerless permits and a smaller deer herd.

Hunters have harvested 115,000 deer so far, compared to 147,500 at this time in 2013. Department of Natural Resources officials earlier had predicted a total harvest of about 120,000, a level not seen since the 1980s.

“I thought the early onset of winter might tamp down our harvest,’’ said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “I’m surprised.’’

Firearms hunters have killed 102,000 deer so far, down 23 percent from this time last year. Archers and special hunts account for another 13,000 deer.

Meanwhile, deer license sales (442,058) are down 17,600, or about 4 percent, from last year.

The deer season ended in much of the state last Sunday, but the northern rifle zone continues through this Sunday, and the late southeastern season runs from Saturday through Nov. 30. The muzzleloader season runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 14, and the archery deer season continues through Dec. 31.

Duck freeze-out

The below-normal cold also has all but ended the waterfowl season, even though the season technically continues until Nov. 30 in the central zone and Dec. 6 in the south zone. But most water in the state is frozen, sending ducks and geese south.

“We just don’t have much open water left,’’ said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “We’ve had 10 days of way below normal cold — it put a quick nail in the coffin.’’ Heavy snow also has ended many field-hunting opportunities, he said.

“I suspect our duck harvest will be down,’’ Cordts said. “It certainly wasn’t a great season. It just got so cold so fast.’’


Did you know?

• Hunters at their cabin near Aurora told authorities that when they left for a short time someone drove into the yard and stole a 7-point buck from the meat pole. It was the second stolen deer reported this fall.

• Anglers already are venturing out onto ice in parts of the state, and some ice fishing houses are popping up, too, including on smaller bays of Lake Vermilion. “Ice thickness varies greatly, so check the ice often and don’t venture out alone,’’ advised conservation officer Brad Schultz of Cook.

• Three Minnesota hunters now have died in deer-hunting related incidents. The latest occurred Saturday in Norman County in northwestern Minnesota, where a hunter was found with a gunshot wound to his chest.