DULUTH, Minn. — With Minnesota’s firearms deer opener just six days away, hunters are beginning to see some deer movement in the woods.
“It had been really slow until the last three days,” John Chalstrom of Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle north of Duluth said Wednesday. “Some of the archery guys, instead of seeing a deer every two or three days, are getting two deer a day coming in. People are talking about seeing a lot of scrape activity.”
That will be good news for both bow and firearms deer hunters, and the first week of Minnesota’s deer season should coincide nicely with the peaking of rut activity.
Minnesota’s firearms deer season opens Saturday and continues through Nov. 20 in 100 Series units, which includes all of northeastern Minnesota.
After some recent lean seasons, hunters are hoping to see a few more bucks in the woods this fall. Wildlife managers say that should be the case, especially in the southern part of the Northland and to a lesser degree farther north.
“We think in the transition (southern) part of the region, there should be a pretty good harvest,” said Dave Olfelt, Department of Natural Resources regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids. “In the far north — the International Falls and Orr area — we still have conservative seasons, and I think it’ll be not a lot different than last year.”
Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower, reminds hunters why that’s the case.
“The last two winters have been very mild as measured by the DNR Winter Severity Index,” Rusch said. “Fawn production has been good, with twin fawns common in the better areas.
“Conversely, five of the previous nine winters have negatively impacted the deer herd and fawn production in the Tower area.”
Some hunters across the north will go afield this fall with something they didn’t carry the past two deer seasons — antlerless deer tags. Doe tags were available in a lottery drawing across most permit areas in northeastern Minnesota this fall.
Archery hunters, whose season opened Sept. 17, are beginning to tag some bucks both in the Duluth city hunt and in outlying areas, Chalstrom said.
“People have been tagging out on forkhorns (four-point bucks) and young bucks,” Chalstrom said. “The young bucks are getting active out there.”
“The rut should be kicking in in the next two or three weeks, and that should get deer moving,” said Phil Flesch of Fisherman’s Corner in Pike Lake.
Breeding activity among deer should peak during the middle of Minnesota’s 16-day season, Rusch said.
“I think we’re going to see more deer than in the last few years,” Chalstrom said, “but it will be a lot of young bucks and a few big ones that made it through the gauntlet.”
Hunters may find that getting to their hunting camps and stands is challenging because of wet conditions.
“Summer and fall have been extremely wet,” the DNR’s Rusch said. “Standing water is common. Normally accessible spots in low terrain will be difficult to access. Logging-road and trail access is difficult in lower areas. Swamps, low areas and crossings are inaccessible for wheeled vehicles in many areas.”
— The season: Opens Saturday and continues through Nov. 20 in 100 Series units (Northeastern Minnesota)
— Shooting hours: One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset
— The outlook: Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say the deer population is rising after two mild winters. This year, the DNR has offered antlerless deer permits in many permit areas across Northeastern Minnesota (deadline to apply was Sept. 8).
— Licenses: Resident adult deer license (ages 18 and over), $30; resident youth license (ages 13 to 18), $5; resident youth ages 10-12 must obtain a free license; nonresident adult deer license, $165. License agents may add a $1 service charge.
— Registering your deer: Registration may be done in person, by telephone or by internet. Consult regulations (mndnr.gov) for details.
— Baiting: Hunting deer with bait is illegal. Check regulations (mndnr.gov) for baiting definitions.
ATV/snowmobile use: To minimize disturbance during hunting hours, licensed hunters may use ATVs and snowmobiles during deer season only before or after legal shooting hours, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
— Muzzleloader season: Nov. 26 to Dec. 11
— Wisconsin gun deer season: Nov. 19-27