Regardless of when spring finally arrives in northern Minnesota — assuming it does — the winter of 2022-2023 will go down as another severe one for deer in the top half of the state.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted its most recent Winter Severity Index map Thursday, and its news isn't good for whitetails.

Vast parts of the map, especially in the northeast, indicate that deep snow, cold temperatures, and the length winter has prevailed in the region are taking a toll on deer.

What's more, the map doesn't tell the entire story, said Barb Keller, DNR big game program supervisor.

"The way the map is set up, it only counts one point for snow over 15 inches,'' Keller said. "But if you look at a snow-depth map, most of northern Minnesota is covered with at least 18 inches of snow. That extra snow isn't good for deer, and isn't reflected in the map.''

The map also doesn't fully convey winter's severity in parts of north-central and western Minnesota. Wildlife managers in both areas are seeing some deer mortality, Keller said.

March and April are crucial months for stressed whitetails. Weakened by deep snow and long periods of cold, they need food, and their best chance to recover is to chomp nutrient-rich green grass and foliage.

Especially weakened at this time are bucks, particularly older bucks, followed by young deer. And pregnant does won't do as well in a tough winter as does that didn't get bred last fall.

Deer have been suppressed for years in many parts of northern and especially northeastern Minnesota due to periodic severe winters and wolf depredation.

Keller and other big game managers will consider this winter's potential deer losses, along with wildlife managers' and the public's observations, when they set whitetail hunting seasons and bag limits for the fall.