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Field reports: What Minnesota deer hunters can expect this season

In northwest Minnesota, there are plenty of deer on the landscape and hunters who do their homework and spend time in the woods and fields should have plenty of opportunities to harvest deer.

A white-tailed deer buck
Paul E Tessier/Paul - stock.adobe.com

Nearly half a million firearms deer hunters are preparing for the firearms deer season that opens Saturday, Nov. 6, which offers opportunity to spend time outdoors with friends and family, find adventure outdoors and put venison in the freezer.

Northwest deer report

The 2020-21 winter was mild, and deer survival was good in most of northwestern Minnesota. The region has been abnormally dry most of the year, but recent rains in some areas are helping put some moisture on the landscape. Barring any major rainfall, access to public land should be better than average due to low water in ditches and wetlands.

Deer populations are stable and generally in good shape. Despite this year’s drought, which lowered the quality of available forage, the condition of deer looks to be pretty good entering the fall hunting seasons. There are plenty of deer on the landscape and hunters who do their homework and spend time in the woods and fields should have plenty of opportunities to harvest deer.

Many deer permit areas in the region have two- or three-deer limits, and hunters are reminded to check the regulations for the permit areas they hunt. Some permit areas have lower, more restrictive limits in place to allow the deer herd to grow — some examples include permit areas 203, 297 and 298 that are among others with one-deer limits, as well as permit area 111 in the Baudette area which is “bucks only” because deer populations are well below goal range.

Crop harvest is well ahead of schedule, so hunters should not expect any corn to still be in the ground during firearms season opener.


Central deer report

Following the summer drought, much of the central region remains dry despite some recent rainfall that has allowed a green-up of vegetation going into fall. Many areas with small bodies of water or wetlands are dry or low, which will improve hunter access. Acorn production has been decent in some areas but marginal to spotty in others, and some of the red oaks are dropping acorns. With the dry conditions, early season hunters are experiencing fewer mosquitos and other bugs compared to previous years.

Deer populations are robust in the central Minnesota and are above to well-above goal levels throughout nearly all central Minnesota deer permit areas. Many permit areas allow a hunter to harvest up to three deer. There are also a few deer permit areas in central Minnesota that are open to the early antlerless-only season from Thursday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 24.

The forecast for archery and firearms deer hunting this fall is very good. Wildlife managers in central Minnesota urge deer hunters to take advantage of bonus licenses to harvest antlerless deer to help manage deer populations.

Crop harvest appears to be continuing on track or even a couple weeks ahead of usual in the central region and it’s anticipated that the majority of the crops will be harvested by the start of firearms deer season.

Conditions are dry, be careful with fire

Hunters help keep deer numbers in line with population goals across the state and deer hunting is the primary tool used to manage deer populations. Managing deer populations contributes to the overall sustainability of Minnesota’s landscapes, natural systems and economy.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife managers report favorable weather so far this year and good opportunities to harvest deer in most areas. Hunters always need to prepare for changing weather conditions. Currently, managers report dry conditions that can improve hunter access due low water conditions in wetlands, floodplains and small water bodies. Dry conditions are also resulting in greater fire danger, and deer hunters are advised to be careful with any heat source that can cause a spark.

Be aware of chronic wasting disease

Hunters need to know the boundaries of the deer permit areas and any chronic wasting disease regulations that apply where they hunt. Detailed information about each permit area and CWD area can be found on the DNR’s interactive deer map . Additional information about CWD areas, carcass movement restrictions and voluntary sampling can be found at mndnr.gov/cwd .

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