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DNR anticipates strong harvest this year

Minnesotans young and old continue to prepare for the annual rite of passage with the 2015 Minnesota Firearms Deer Hunting season opener on Saturday, Nov. 7.

“Many hunters look forward to deer season all year as a way to enjoy nature, the outdoors and reconnect with family,” Minnesota DNR’s wildlife populations and regulations program manager Steve Merchant said in a press release. “Hunters also enjoy seeing deer, and the good news is there should be more deer out there.”

The deer population has increased due to the mild winter in 2014 and ‘15, as well as the restrictive hunting regulations that were in place with the intentions of increasing the deer population.

Hunters harvested 110,000 deer in Minnesota during the 2014 firearms season, down 31,000 from the prior year.

Hunters in the Perham area had success and a season that rivaled the 2013 season. Last year, hunters in Permit Area 241 harvested 6,071, with hunters bagging 2,929 bucks in that area.

Permit Area 240 recorded a slight decrease last year in the harvest. Hunters harvested 3,130 deer, but saw an increase in the buck harvest, with 1,619 being harvested.

Permit Area 239 recorded an increase in the 2014 season. Hunters harvested 2,600 deer, while bringing in 1,300 bucks, which was a 10-percent increase from the season before.

The 2014 season was a good season, even with the restrictive hunt going to a one deer bag to get hunters to harvest less antlerless deer according to Minnesota DNR’s Don Schultz.

The Minnesota DNR anticipates that there will be an increase in the harvest. They are projecting a season that will see 140,000 to 150,000 deer being harvested. Last year, the total was more than 139,000 that was harvested during the full deer hunting season.

“The deer hunt looks like it is shaping up to be a pretty good one especially in that Perham area,” Schultz said. “People are going to see more deer because we had a mild winter last year. We had good production in the spring. It looks like people are seeing more deer in the field and I expect that to be the case this weekend.”

Last year’s mild winter helped with an increased population, part of the Minnesota DNR’s management plan to help increase the deer herd in the state.

The numbers in the Perham area may see a slight increase due to the change in Permit Area 241. Permit Area 241 is now a managed area, allowing hunters to harvest two deer. Permit Areas 239 and 240 continue to be one deer bag, but hunters can take either sex with a regular license in those areas.

Schultz anticipates that Permit Area 239 and 240 may return to the managed harvest, but said that it is too early to tell. He said another mild winter could help that, after the mild winter last year.

“The nature and the habitat of those two lend themselves to fluctuating back and forth from hunter’s choice and a managed situation,” Schultz said.

Last year’s mild winter in Minnesota helped the deer population in multiple ways. Hunters are hoping for another mild winter with the hopes that the deer population will continue to grow.

“The survival is better through the winter and the does come through in better shape. Typically, the older does will have twins or triplets,” Schultz said. “The thing with the mild winter is that the higher percentages of the fawns from the previous spring get bred late in December and that adds to the reproduction increase the following spring. It’s a two-fold thing, that improves survivorship in the winter and reproduction is usually better after a mild winter.”

Hunters and the Minnesota DNR anticipate that the numbers will increase, however several parts of the state are still under restrictive regulations to help increase the deer herd.

“We expect hunters to see more deer when they are out hunting, but they are not necessarily going to be able to harvest a whole lot more deer,” Schultz said. “We expect the harvest to be up this year, but not by a wide margin.”

The weather forecasts project a slight cooling for the weekend, but very desirable weather for hunters. Schultz anticipates that will keep hunters out longer during the day.

“That always leads to a better harvest. I always hesitate to put a whole lot of faith in a weather forecast that is a week away, but it looks like the winds won’t be too bad either and can be a big factor in the harvest as well,” Schultz said. “Weather wise, it looks really good.”

Early reports this year are that hunters are seeing deer out.

“Hunters are seeing deer. People out bowhunting are seeing deer,” Schultz said. “People are optimistic that it will be a better year. Given the weather forecast this year, hunters are looking forward to it.”

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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