Deer hunters across Minnesota have about the same chances of bagging a deer or two this fall compared to last year, except in parts of northern Minnesota, where a deep snow winter prompted the Department of Natural Resources to reduce the number of antlerless permits Reducing deer in an attempt to rebuild the herd.
DNR wildlife managers this week released the details of all 2022 deer hunting seasons – the first day that deer hunting licenses went on sale.
“Overall, it looks pretty similar to what we saw last year,” said Barb Keller, DNR’s big game program manager, of both the deer population and the state’s hunting opportunities.
Statewide, the DNR has increased bag limits for 28 deer-permitting areas, with 90 areas having the same limit as last year, and lowered bag limits in 12 areas, mostly in northern Minnesota.
The DNR can reduce the number of deer harvested by hunters by imposing buck-only hunting restrictions in some areas and reducing the number of antlerless permits available in other deer-permitted areas, measures intended to allow for increases in deer numbers in those areas .
“In some areas of northern Minnesota, severe winter conditions have resulted in low numbers of deer, so hunting opportunities in those areas should help stabilize or increase those populations,” said Kelly Straka, chief of wildlife at the DNR.
Deer permit areas 118, 119, 130 and 132 from north of Duluth to the Ontario border will again be buck-only this year, as will area 111 south of Baudette, while most of the 100-numbered deer permit areas are limited antler permits have available this season.
For example, for area 181 for deer, located northwest of Duluth, the DNR reduced the number of antlerless permits available by lottery from 1,500 in 2021 to just 300 in 2022. In area 126 along the North Shore in Cook County, the antlerless permits were reduced reduced from 100 last year to just 25 this year.
Also new this year is that hunters participating in state park hunts or hunts in state science and nature areas are required to use non-toxic bullets.
Deer populations in much of northwest, central, and southeast Minnesota remain at or even above the DNR’s targets, where hunters in many units will be able to take two, three, or in some areas up to five during the season Harvest deer without antlers permit required.
Firearm deer season for all 100-numbered areas in northeast Minnesota runs November 5-20. The season for areas numbered 200 and 300 runs from November 5th to 13th. The national archery season runs from September 17th to December 31st. The nationwide youth deer hunt takes place from October 20th to 23rd. The nationwide muzzleloader season runs from November 26th to December 11th.
Firearm and muzzleloader hunters who want to take antlered deer in a permit area known as a “lottery” must obtain their license by September 8th. You will automatically be entered into the lottery for the permit area or special hunting area you have specified. No application is required to capture antlered deer in either sex, two-deer, three-deer, or five-deer limit permit areas.
EXPAND CWD TEST POSSIBILITIES
DNR officials say they’ve moved to a statewide approach to CWD management following the positive cases in Grand Rapids and other positive deer in northwest Minnesota.
Hunters can submit samples through taxidermists working with the DNR or by submitting deer heads to self-service sampling stations to be tested for chronic wasting diseases. Other options available are using CWD kits by mail (hunters remove deer lymph nodes themselves), visiting one of the DNR-manned sampling stations during the opening weekend of firearms season, or making appointments at local wildlife offices within the CWD zones at any time during deer hunting season.
Hunters cannot remove entire deer carcasses from CWD zones until they receive a negative test result.
HUNTER NUMBERS sinking
Hunters in Minnesota took 184,698 deer on all types of hunts in 2021, up from 197,315 in 2020. This century’s harvest ranged from a peak of 290,525 deer in 2003 after a series of warm, low-snow winters (the largest deer harvest). in state history) to a low of 139,442 in 2014, after consecutive deep snow and cold winters. The DNR has an overall target for an annual deer harvest of 200,000, but has not met that target since 2010.
One of the reasons fewer deer have been shot in recent years is that there are far fewer hunters in the field. The DNR sold 465,4141 deer hunting licenses of all types (some hunters buy more than one licence) in 2021, down more than 28% from the peak of 648,800 licenses sold in 2003.
Although the disease is believed not to be transmissible to humans, CWD remains a problem.
“The biggest concern I have is the loss of the hunters that we have had and will continue to have,” said Dennis Quarberg, president of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “Trying to attract new hunters to the sport when there is a potential disease is not good.”
A SERIES OF HARD WINTERS
But in Northeast Minnesota, the biggest contributor to deer population and deer harvest is winter weather, particularly the deep snow. The winter of 2021-22 was the sixth winter of the last 10 — and three of the last four — to have been unusually snowy in parts of northern Minnesota, a chain not seen since the 1970s. It was the sixth year in the past 10 years that the Department of Natural Resources’ Winter Severity Index climbed into the severe category for much of the North Country.
Deer numbers can recover quickly given a string of several mild or even normal winters in a row. That came after several brutal winters in the 1990s, when a series of very mild winters in the early 2000s resulted in an all-time record number of deer, although wolves also thrived. But that hasn’t happened lately. Repeated snowy winters and steady wolf predation have prevented deer numbers from recovering in the Arrowhead area over the past decade.
Unlike longer-legged elk, deer didn’t evolve to live so far north where the snow gets so deep — they only migrated to the region a century ago after logging and fire.
Studies show that about 10% of deer die during a normal winter in the Northwoods, and mortality increases, in some cases to 40% and more, as snow accumulates and the Winter Severity Index increases. In addition to dying outright in deep snow winters, fawns often do not give birth to fawns or have only one fawn instead of two, a factor that also prevents the population from recovering faster.
Wildlife experts point out that areas with agricultural fields offer faster spring snowmelt and greening, and allow more deer to survive even severe winters compared to heavily forested areas. Therefore, hunters don’t have to go very far south and west of Duluth to find much lower winter severity indexes and much higher populations of deer, even with relatively high numbers of wolves.
GET MORE INFORMATION
For more information on deer hunting, see dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/index.html.