NE Minnesota Deer Harvest Down Nearly 20 Percent In First Three Days

Down again.

Minnesota’s firearms deer harvest across Northeastern Minnesota was down almost 20 percent from last year through the first three days of the season. And the 2012 harvest was down about 6 percentcompared to 2011 for the same period.

The buck harvest for the first three days of this fall’s season was down 14 percent across the northeast, and the antlerless harvest was down 28 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The DNR had issued fewer antlerless permits to hunters this fall in hopes of increasing the deer population in the future.

Minnesota’s firearms deer season opened Saturday and continues through Nov. 24.

Statewide, the deer harvest is down 8 percent for the first three days of the season, said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. Hunters had taken just more than 77,000 deer.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said he wasn’t surprised by the decline in Northeastern Minnesota’s deer harvest so far.

“We did have a tough winter last year,” Johnson said. “We’ve had lots of wolves across the whole region. We saw that the harvest was low last year, and I haven’t anticipated we’d see any increase in harvest.”

Angela Aarhus-Ward, DNR assistant regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids, said multiple factors may be causing this year’s harvest decline in the northeast.

“Obviously, it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on,” she said. “We would expect the harvest would be going down because we have a conservative harvest strategy. In a lot of areas. we’re slightly below or approaching (population) goals. We can expect we’re not going to be taking as many deer in those areas, so the population can grow.”

The weather, wet and breezy on Saturday’s opener and cold in the following days, could have been a factor. When the weather is tough, hunters spend less time in the woods, and their chances of shooting a deer decrease.

“It’s been bone-chilling, downright ugly sitting on a deer stand,” said Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower. “Saturday was humid with wind. Once you’re wet, you’re (finished).”