2017 Minnesota Deer Forecast
September 19, 2017
The overall white-tailed deer harvest in Minnesota has increased now for two seasons in a row, and there's little evidence that would suggest the trend won't continue when the state's half-million or so hunters head into the fields and woods this fall. Following a decades-low kill of fewer than 140,000 deer in 2014, the total kill rose in both 2015 and 2016 — a trend that state deer managers expected as a result of relatively mild winters as well as conservative deer-hunting regulations that were meant in most parts of the state to increase the numbers in the whitetail herd.
The state's firearms deer season kicks off Saturday, Nov. 4. It runs through Nov. 12 in the 200 and 300 series of permit areas, and through Nov. 19 in the 100 series. The 3B firearms season in the southeastern part of the state runs Nov. 18-26, and the statewide muzzleloader season is Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. Wildlife officials don't have a specific estimate of the number of deer our hunters will kill, but they believe it will be higher than it was in 2016, as long as the weather cooperates.
"I suspect it will be a good fall for Minnesota's deer hunters," said Adam Murkowski, big-game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "Hunters did well last fall and harvested a good number of deer. If you look at individual permit areas and aggregates of permit areas, it becomes clear that the harvest strategy last year still allowed for deer-population growth. It's important going into this fall that we take steps to manage deer in a way that keeps the herd healthy. That's going to result in increased opportunities for hunters. It's in everyone's best interest to have an appropriate number of deer out there on the landscape."
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Following high harvests in the early to mid-2000s — including in 2003, when hunters killed more than 290,500 whitetails, which remains a record-high harvest for Minnesota — severe winters played a role in holding down the deer population, especially in the northern part of Minnesota. The total kill in 2014 was less than half what it was in 2003. (It's worth noting, however, that even following that record-setting 2003 season, DNR wildlife officials said a harvest that high wasn't sustainable.) While the statewide deer population currently is trending upward, there are some concerns, too, Murkowski said.
<blockquote>"The loss of (Conservation Reserve Program grassland acres) and other habitat is very concerning, especially in the farmland portion of the state," he said. "If you look just at the cover, there's already not a lot of cover available in some of those permit areas (in western and southern Minnesota), so if you take away even more, that's a tough spot to be in. That doesn't translate into more hunting opportunities. There are a lot of concerns with some habitat issues that's gone — or is about to go — and what they mean for deer and deer management going forward."<blockquote/>