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Hunters looking forward to higher deer numbers this season

Firearms deer season opens Nov. 4 in Minnesota and hunters in this area are looking forward to larger deer numbers. File photo

Hunters will have additional opportunities to harvest deer this season thanks to a series of mild winters and conservative hunting regulations, which have resulted in rebounding deer populations across Minnesota.

Firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, and there are 130 permit areas in 2017. Information about each permit area can be found on the DNR's interactive deer map at mndnr.gov/deermap, and includes wildlife manager reports, regulations, and statistics about deer harvest and populations on a local scale.

In northwestern Minnesota, more deer on the landscape should help hunters better enjoy the season and have good prospects for a successful hunt, according to John Williams, northwest region wildlife manager for the DNR.

Another mild winter on top of the previous two mild winters has largely enabled deer populations to be at or near goal levels in most permit areas, he said. Fawn production was also good this year; another indication of does coming through the winter in good health.

Recent rains have filled basins that were previously dry due to drought-like conditions in late summer, and water levels are up on many of the marshes and lakes in the region. Hunters should be prepared to deal with wetter than average conditions if they are hunting in or need to cross lowland areas.

In general, hunters will be able to harvest more deer, Williams said. In several permit areas the designations changed to allow more overall harvest. Some permit areas moved from a designation of lottery, which requires hunters to apply in advance to shoot an antlerless deer, to a hunters choice designation that allows a hunter to use one license to shoot either a buck or antlerless deer.

Other permit areas changed designations from hunters choice to managed. In permit areas designated as managed, hunters can harvest two deer through use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Permit areas that did stay in the lottery designation this year may have more permits available than in previous years.

When Minnesota's deer season ends Sunday, Dec. 31, it is quite likely the harvest will be in the 200,000 range.

This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources projection is above last year's harvest of 173,213, below the 2003 record harvest of 290,525 and similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959. Prior to 2000, deer harvests in excess of 200,000 occurred only four times.

Deer harvest totals typically relate to the size of the deer population and to a lesser degree to weather conditions immediately before and during the hunting season.

Register your deer

Hunters are reminded to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Deer registration provides information that is essential to our ability to manage deer populations," said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager. "Hunters are required to register deer and it's a fairly simple process."

Hunters register deer with a phone call, online or in person. Before registering a deer, hunters must validate their site tag. The validated tag must be attached to the deer when the deer is placed on a motor vehicle or an ATV, a vehicle or a trailer being towed by an ATV or brought into a camp, yard or other place of habitation.

Register deer via phone by calling 888-706-6367. Directions are printed on each deer hunting license. Have a pen or permanent marker ready. A confirmation number will be given; it must be written on the license and site tag.

Register deer via internet at mndnr.gov/gameregistration. Directions will be similar to phone registration, and a confirmation number must be written on the license and site tag.

When phone or internet registration is not possible, hunters must take their deer to a big-game registration station. The person whose name appears on the license must be present at the registration station with their deer. They will receive a big-game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached. A list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

During registration, the hunter must use the permit area number where the deer was harvested; using the wrong deer permit area for registration is illegal. Registration instructions for all methods are available at mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.