Deer harvests are down in Minnesota and Wisconsin compared to last year, though license sales in both states remain relatively flat year to year.
Total harvest for Minnesota's firearms A season was 131,068 as of Wednesday morning, which is down 8% from last year and 10% from the five-year mean.
The state's 100 series region — generally the northeast — is off 6% from last year and a whopping 35% from the five-year mean.
The archery season harvest is also down significantly from 2020, off 20%. And the opening weekend harvest for the Firearms B season in the southeast was down 25%.
Department of Natural Resources big game program leader Barbara Keller said that while license sales are only off 1% from a year ago, "perhaps hunters have less time on their hands to dedicate to hunting given the unique situation with the pandemic last year.''
Keller noted that opening weekend was unusually warm, which is not ideal for hunting, and that might have affected the harvest during the season's initial days.
Additionally, she said, deer populations in the northeast and north-central parts of the state are struggling to recover from severe winters, and the DNR has initiated stricter harvest regulations in those regions.
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, 85,860 deer were registered last weekend during the first days of the state's nine-day regular firearms season, a 14% falloff from last year.
Only Wisconsin's northern forest region showed a harvest increase from 2020, rising 9%.
License sales in Wisconsin were down 1.5% from last year.
Given the availability of extra time last year to hunters due to the pandemic, as Keller noted, the relatively slight license-sale falloff this year in the two states is considered by some observers to be less than expected.