Hunters take fewer deer during firearms season but harvest is on track
Minnesota's firearms deer harvest is down 11.6 percent from 2008 but on track with expectations, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Since the season opened Nov. 7, preliminary results show that hunters have harvested 151,000 animals, 20,000 fewer than last year following the third weekend of hunting. The decrease reflects fewer opportunities for hunters to harvest antlerless deer in about half of the state's deer management areas.
"The strategy for 2009 is to allow deer populations to build and stabilize by reducing opportunities to take antlerless deer," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator. "We expect hunters to harvest about 200,000 deer, or one-fifth of the state's wild deer population. We're on track to do just that once the final numbers are in and counted for all deer seasons."
Hunters have harvested about 19,000 fewer antlerless deer than last year, accounting for the majority of the decline. Harvest of bucks is only about 1,200 animals behind last year. Hunter numbers are nearly identical to last year.
"The harvest of bucks is the most stable indicator of deer population," Cornicelli said. "Nearly the same number of bucks has been harvested, which suggests that deer are still there to be taken. Since fewer hunters have the option of harvesting an antlerless deer, the overall numbers have decreased."
Cornicelli said hunters also have been especially cooperative in the DNR's efforts to sample deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in southeastern Minnesota and Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) in northwestern Minnesota.
DNR-staffed stations in southeastern Minnesota have sampled 2,350 deer for CWD. In northwestern Minnesota, 1,468 deer have been sampled for Bovine TB. Minnesota hunters harvested about 222,000 deer last year. The highest recorded harvest was 290,000 deer in 2003.
"Hunters are harvesting more deer than we did historically but not as many as when the deer population reached its peak in the early 2000s," said Cornicelli. "With population goals being met in many areas, harvest numbers are showing that we're beginning to level out to where we want to be."