When it comes to ammunition, “people have been on a buying craze,” said Lake Sport Shop employee Marty Kumpula in Detroit Lakes. “We’ve got way more ammo in this year than ever,” but it has gone out the door just as fast, since ammunition sales have been higher than ever, too, he said.

And when it rains, it pours, with certain types of ammunition tending to arrive at the same time.

On Aug. 16, there was a lot of 9 mm ammunition for handguns and target shooting available, but long gun ammunition was scarce.

That shortage of long gun ammo has some folks fearing for the success of the 2021 firearms deer season, which starts Nov. 6 in Minnesota.

“It’s going to be terrible, I have the feeling,” said Nick Adamczyk, owner of Gene’s Sports Shop in Perham. “There’s been a shortage of ammunition, and when it comes in, it comes in big chunks,” he said. “A big chunk of handgun ammo came in last week, nothing else. There’s nothing to sell anymore.”

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Kumpula is more optimistic, because, he said, “I saw the production schedule -- in the next three months there’s lots of rifle ammo coming up.”

That means deer hunters “will probably be able to get something, but maybe not their preferred choice,” he said.

When production is hitting on both barrels, there are all kinds of ammunition options for hunters. But Kumpula said he wouldn’t be surprised to see fewer, more basic ammunition options available for the firearms deer season this year, which ends about a week or two after opener, depending on the zone. (Nov. 14 in Becker, Otter Tail and Wadena counties).

Ammunition is also more expensive than it used to be. Kumpula estimated that the cost is about 30% higher than last year. “That’s back to supply and demand,” he said. “Companies charge us more and we pass it on. They are getting it (higher prices) because people keep on buying.”

Hoarding of ammunition doesn’t seem to be as big an issue now as it was a few months ago, he added. “Hoarding was kind of done in the spring,” he said.

And there’s hope for an eventual return to stability in the ammunition market. He noted that Minnesota-based Vista Outdoor, which makes ammunition and other products, now has a former Remington Outdoor Company factory in Arkansas running at full capacity, with production ramped way up.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in the southern and western portion of Minnesota, including Becker and Otter Tail counties, the only legal firearms for deer are shotguns using slugs, muzzleloaders, and handguns legal for big game. Muzzleloaders can be used throughout the state during the regular firearms seasons.

Legal big game cartridges

  • It is at least .220 caliber and has center fire ignition;
  • It is loaded only with single projectile ammunition;
  • The projectile used has a soft point or is an expanding bullet type;*
  • The muzzleloader (long gun or handgun) used cannot be loaded at the breech (muzzleloading revolvers are not legal for taking big game);
  • The smooth-bore muzzleloader used is at least .45 caliber and
  • The rifled muzzleloader used is at least .40 caliber;
  • Muzzleloaders with scopes are legal during the regular firearms deer season and the muzzleloader season.

Hunters should use bullets designed to humanely take big game. That usually means using either bonded or all-copper bullets, according to the DNR.