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Opening weekend deer harvest off slightly from last year

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High winds. Low harvest.

That's the story at the start of this year's firearms deer hunting season, which opened Saturday, Nov. 5.

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Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said hunters registered approximately 73,000 deer after three full days of hunting. That compares with about 91,000 last year, or a 19-percent decline.

"When the wind is up deer activity greatly declines," said Cornicelli, who noted deer move less and are less predictable when their hearing and scenting ability is adversely affected by strong winds. "The lower than expected harvest is linked to tough hunting conditions due to the high winds across much of the state on opening weekend."

Cornicelli said other factors - hunter numbers, percentage of crop harvest and antlerless permit availability - are all similar to last year. The archery harvest, he said, is comparable to last year.

"High winds are the most plausible explanation," said Cornicelli. "It's likely that the harvest will bounce back a bit in the days ahead, but we won't make up the 19 percent difference between now and the end of the season."

Closing dates for the firearms season vary depending on the area. During the entire 2010 deer season, hunters harvested 207,000 deer.

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