Published October 30, 2012, 10:29 AM

DNR anticipates good deer hunting season in Minnesota

Deer hunting should be good when Minnesota’s firearms hunting season opens Nov. 3, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

By: DNR, Northland Outdoors

Northwestern Region Outlook

The northwest region expects a good deer hunting season in 2012, barring any adverse weather conditions. This past winter was extremely mild, which resulted in good deer survival and production.

Deer populations in most permit areas are at or near goal densities. To maintain populations or increase them to goal densities, most permit area designations have dropped one level from 2011. Hunter choice areas becoming lottery areas and managed areas becoming hunter choice areas are expected to lower the overall deer harvest from last year although the buck harvest likely will be higher.

DNR will again sample hunter-harvested deer in the bovine tuberculosis management area but at a reduced effort from prior years. Samples will be collected Nov. 3-11 at six registration stations. If no deer test positive, this will mark the third consecutive year of no positives and will be the last year of sampling for bovine TB.

Conditions are very dry this year so hunters should generally find easier access to hunting areas compared to past years. In addition, the crop harvest is well ahead of normal, meaning there will be less cover available for deer as compared to most openers.

Northeastern Region Outlook

DNR wildlife managers in northeastern Minnesota are expecting a good deer season in 2012. Harvest regulations generally are more conservative than in the recent past. Following public input into our deer population goals, harvest changes were implemented that will allow the deer population to grow in most of the permit areas in this region.

The likely result for hunters is that more permit areas will have a lottery or hunter choice designation in 2012. The 2012 harvest is projected to be less than that of 2011 because of these restrictions but hunters should expect to see good numbers of young deer.

Due to the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease near Shell Lake, Wis., the DNR will conduct surveillance in deer permit areas 159, 183 and 225 along the Wisconsin border until 300 samples have been collected from each area. CWD has not been found in those areas; however, the CWD management plan calls for surveillance when a new infection is discovered near Minnesota.

Central/Southeastern Region Outlook

Another mild winter and an early harvest of crops should lead to an outstanding deer hunting season in this region, which stretches from the northern borders of Morrison and Todd counties southeast to the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Iowa border.

The deer population overall is extremely healthy. Most of the region's deer permit areas can be categorized as hunter choice, managed or intensive. This region has traditionally boasted excellent deer hunting with harvest rates per square mile well above average in spite of heavy human development, typically accounting for close to 30 percent of the state’s deer harvest. Considering that nearly three-fourths of the state’s human population lives in this area, it's clear that a lot of people are finding quality deer hunting opportunities close to home.

Hunters in 300 series permit areas (southeast) can legally shoot either a doe or a buck. Bucks, however, must have at least four antler points on one side to be legal and buck cross-tagging is prohibited. The experimental antler-point restriction, aimed at increasing take of antlerless deer and producing older, bigger bucks, is in its third and final year, and will be re-evaluated this winter. It does not apply to youth hunters ages 10 to 17. Deer taken in an antler point restriction permit area must be registered at a walk-in station; telephone or internet registration is not allowed.

The Central/Southeastern Region also includes two no-limit antlerless permit areas that run for a full three weeks: 601 and 602. Permit area 602 northwest of Rochester is a special area where chronic wasting disease was discovered in one hunter harvested deer nearly two years ago. Special rules require hunters to submit deer taken there for lymph node sampling, and they prohibit carcasses from being moved out of the area until a negative CWD test result has come back. Permit area 601 encompasses the seven-county metro region.

Southern Region Outlook

The Southern region, which encompasses much of Minnesota’s prime farmland, anticipates good deer hunting opportunities in 2012. This mostly open, agricultural part of Minnesota is dominated by a lottery season framework.

Corn and soybean harvest is mostly complete. The number of antlerless permits offered this fall under the lottery was decreased significantly from 2011 levels. This will provide protection to the herd and allow for herd growth where desired.

The effects of the relatively mild winter of 2011-12 has helped deer and they are in good condition. Generally, the population goals are to continue to increase the deer population, and the number of permits allotted should do just that.

Finally, the eastern portion of the region will have a block of six hunter choice permit areas where hunters can shoot one deer of either sex without first obtaining an antlerless permit through the lottery process.

Conditions are dry and hunters need to be careful to prevent wildlife fires.