Preliminary figures indicate that Minnesota’s statewide deer harvest through the second weekend of the firearms season is up 10 percent from last year, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said.
In Zone 1, across Northeastern Minnesota, total firearms harvest was up 25 percent. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, harvest was up 6 percent. Registrations in Zone 3, in southeastern Minnesota, were down 12 percent.
Minnesota firearms hunters registered 145,054 deer through Sunday, nine days into Minnesota’s 16-day season.
“It appears as though deer harvest improved substantially since the first weekend,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “Getting more corn out of the fields and a bit drier weather likely helped.”
Part of the increase in the deer harvest so far is an increase in the number of antlerless deer taken. The DNR made more antlerless deer permits available to hunters this fall. Through Sunday, 54 percent of the deer taken by hunters were bucks, compared to 63 percent for the same period last year.
“The ratio of bucks to does has changed,” said Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “The antlerless harvest is now 46 percent of that Zone 1 (Northeastern Minnesota) harvest. (The harvest) is up overall, but it’s all antlerless, so it’s hard to know what that means. Until we get the final numbers and see what the overall buck harvest is, we don’t know.”
Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2017 total deer harvest to be around 200,000. The 2016 total harvest was 173,213.
In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Nov. 12. The season in Northeastern Minnesota continues through Sunday. A late southeast season runs from this Saturday through Nov. 26. Minnesota’s muzzleloader season begins Saturday and continues through Dec. 10.