After the first 10 days of Minnesota’s 16-day firearms deer season, the deer harvest in Northeastern Minnesota was down 44 percent from last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The buck harvest in the region — all Series 100 deer permit areas — was down 28 percent from last year. The antlerless deer harvest was down 82 percent, largely because so many deer permit areas were restricted to bucks-only hunting this fall.
DNR wildlife officials reduced the number of antlerless deer permits significantly this fall after a severe winter in 2013-2014 in hopes of rebuilding the deer herd.
Statewide, the harvest was down 23 percent overall through Monday, 10 days into the season. The firearms season will end Sunday.
After the first three days of the firearms season this fall, the harvest was down 52 percent in Northeastern Minnesota and 36 percent statewide. As the peak of the rut came on and bucks started moving, hunters took advantage of that.
In Series 100 areas, hunters had taken 23,087 deer this fall through Monday compared to 40,873 last year, DNR officials reported.
Statewide, firearms hunters had taken a total of 102,168 deer through Monday, down from 133,000 last year.
Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager at Grand Rapids, said despite the slow start to the season, hunters were able to take more deer through the remainder of opening week and into last weekend.
“We’ve historically said that the first three days (of the season) determine the harvest, and once we’re down we’re not climbing out,” Lightfoot said. “But recently (2012) hunters really put in the effort through that first week and into the second weekend, and we made up some ground. This year looks like the same thing was going on.”
Some factors worked in hunters’ favor, he said.
“We had snow on the ground, and people like that,” he said. “They can see tracks. It keeps you a little more engaged. But with some of the wind and the cold mornings, I was surprised to see the relative difference (between this year and last) get a little better.”
The DNR had predicted a steep decline in the deer kill this fall, with an overall harvest estimate of 120,000 deer. Through Monday, including the archery harvest, hunters had taken about 115,000 deer this fall, said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader in St. Paul.