Hunters who venture into field and forest for Minnesota's firearms deer season can expect a good deer season and ample hunting opportunities, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"We can't guarantee harvest success," said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's Big Game Program coordinator. "But we can assure hunters that good deer hunting opportunities exist throughout Minnesota."
Nearly 500,000 people are expected to participate in the firearms deer season, which opens Saturday, Nov. 6, throughout Minnesota. Last year, 32 percent of Minnesota's firearms deer hunters were successful.
Minnesota's whitetail deer population is about 1 million. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s. Rebuilding the deer herd began in 1970s and concluded in the 1990s. Now DNR is managing the herd toward population goals established with public input.
"We are at or nearing those goals throughout most of the state," Cornicelli said. "As those population goals are met, particularly in areas that were overpopulated, hunting regulations move from liberal to conservative and are adjusted based on deer management needs."
During a time of liberal hunting regulations, Minnesota's deer harvest peaked in 2003 at 290,000. DNR continues to issue fewer either-sex permits than it did seven years ago and Cornicelli expects the harvest should be similar to the 194,000 deer harvested in 2009.
The one big difference this year compared to last is the majority of standing corn will be cut by the time the deer season opens, Cornicelli said. Last year, 80 percent of the state's corn crop was still in the fields on the deer opener. Corn provides ample standing cover and can significantly impact deer harvest.
The firearms deer season concludes in the northern Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 14, in all other parts of the state. A late season in southeastern Minnesota that stretches from Watertown in the north to Caledonia in the south opens Saturday, Nov. 20, and closes Sunday, Nov. 28.