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Hopes high for firearm deer season

Jim Nelson of Lakes Sports Shop in Detroit Lakes helps Kelly Smith of Detroit Lakes find his deer hunting permit area to buy a 2013 deer hunting license Tuesday afternoon. The Minnesota firearms deer opener is Saturday morning. Brian Basham/DL NEWSPAPERS

Get out your rifles and blaze orange: The Minnesota firearms deer hunting season opens a half hour before sunrise Saturday morning.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expects a good 2013 deer hunt.

“There’s nothing that beats Minnesota’s firearm deer hunting season,” Detroit Lakes DNR Area Wildlife Manager Blane Klemek said. “I’ve got blaze orange fever right now. It’s a good time, it’s a festive time, it’s important to Minnesota’s economy, and it’s just a great, great family activity.”

While Minnesota’s deer population remains strong at around 1 million deer, Klemek said the DNR in recent years is looking at increasing that population. The DNR used input from many different sources in the early 2000s to set up an intensive harvest management plan.

“Committees of people who had no affiliation with the DNR back in those days decided what populations our deer should be at within each permit area,” Klemek said. “So we took citizens’ input and were looking at reducing numbers at that time. And now, the DNR’s actually in a sort of population growth mode. We’re looking at increasing numbers in some areas.”

Hunters in the Detroit Lakes permit areas will see these changes this year, as some areas have become a permit only area. Permit area 241 south of Detroit Lakes is a managed deer area where a hunter need not apply for an antlerless permit. A deer of either sex can be taken with the initial deer license.

Areas 266 to the west of Detroit Lakes, 297 and 298 to the north, and 251 which is Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, are now lottery permit areas, which is a change from recent years. A hunter in those areas needed to apply for an antlerless permit by Sept. 5 to be eligible to take a doe.

“Deer populations were high,” Klemek said. “We had several back-to-back winters that were real mild and you know, you get deer in the soybeans, you get deer in the corn, you get deer on the highways and pretty soon a lot of people are complaining about it.”

“It’s not a perfect science, this deer management thing, but that’s how we do it.”

Klemek said the amount of crops in the field may have an effect on this weekend’s hunter success, too. More crops mean fewer deer in the woods and more in the cornfields.

“Corn harvest is probably at about 50 percent,” he said. “Hunter success is generally less when there’s more corn standing. Deer find food and shelter in cornfields. But for guys that have access to those cornfields, a well-organized, safe deer drive sometimes pans out for them pretty well.”

Minnesota deer hunting facts from the DNR

Deer: the animal

  • Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 pounds, males 170 pounds – the average weight of female and male humans.
  • The biggest white-tailed deer ever recorded was a 500-pound Minnesota buck.
  • A whitetail’s home range is about one square mile.
  • Minnesota’s deer population is about 1 million deer. Texas is No. 1 with 3.5 million deer.

Deer: hunting

  • Last year, 31 percent of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer. About 52 percent were antlered bucks.
  • 70 percent of Minnesota’s firearms deer harvest typically occurs during the first three or four days of the season.
  • The average hunter spends five days afield during Minnesota’s firearms deer season.
  • Last year’s total deer harvest was 186,000.
  • License options allow hunters to buy individual licenses for all the seasons and give hunters choices in where and when they can hunt deer.
  • Hunters can take two-to-five deer in many parts of the state where populations allow.
  • Minnesota has averaged a deer harvest of 200,500 deer during the last five years. The Midwestern state with the largest deer harvest is Michigan at 425,000.
  • The largest typical whitetail buck ever taken in Minnesota had a Boone & Crockett score of 202; shot by John Breen in 1918 near Funkley.
  • Minnesota’s No. 1 non-typical whitetail buck had 43 points and a Boone & Crockett score of 268 5/8; shot by 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch in 1974.

Deer: licenses

  • More than 725,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2012.
  • 98 percent of deer licenses are sold to Minnesota residents.
  • The DNR Information Center remained open two hours later on the day before last year’s deer opener to answer more than 2,000 telephone inquiries, most of them related to the firearms opener.

Deer: economics

  • Nearly 500,000 deer hunters in Minnesota.
  • Direct retail sales of $234 million.
  • Salaries, wages, business owner income – $127 million.
  • State and local tax revenue – $28 million.
  • Number of directly supported jobs – 3,760.
  • Economic impact is greatest in outstate Minnesota.