Deer hunters in northwest Minnesota killed more deer than last year during the recent firearms deer season, despite summerlike weather early on and a storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in eastern parts of the region late in the season.
According to John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, hunters in the northwest region shot about 52,000 deer, up from 48,000 last year, an increase of about 9.5 percent.
The northwest region encompasses roughly the northwest quarter of the state as far east as Lake of the Woods, Beltrami and Hubbard counties and extending as far south as Alexandria and Glenwood, Minn.
The firearms deer season ended Nov. 13 in most of the northwest region and Nov. 20 in eastern parts of the region that fall in the “100-series” of deer permit areas.
The deer kill was up across the region, Williams said, with the exception of the far northwest corner in Kittson and parts of Marshall and Pennington counties, where the harvest declined about 5 percent.
“I really don’t have a good reason for that,” Williams said, adding he hunts in that area. “We didn’t see as many deer as we have. I attributed that to the weather we were having, but everybody had that weather — it wasn’t just the northwest.
“I don’t know if there were just less deer or what. Kittson has been heavily impacted by water this year and Marshall to a lesser degree.”
Williams said the harvest was down from last year after the first weekend of season, but success increased after that.
Temperatures opening weekend soared into the 70s.
“I firmly feel it impacted deer movement, particularly in the afternoon,” Williams said. “It didn’t seem like deer moved until minutes before the close of shooting hours.”
Bucks comprised about 61 percent of the harvest, he said.
Statewide, the deer harvest through Nov. 29 was 161,624, up 7 percent from last year, the DNR reported. Harvest tallies for specific permit areas aren’t yet available.
In Zone 1 — northeast Minnesota — hunters registered 44,696 deer, up from 36,208 last year. The Zone 2 total to date is 95,367, compared with 92,439 last year. In Zone 3 of southeast Minnesota, the harvest is 17,239, down from 18,719 last year, the DNR said.
The buck harvest is up more than 20 percent in Zone 1, off about 2 percent in Zone 2 and down nearly 8 percent in Zone 3. In a news release, the DNR said the preliminary harvest numbers suggested the deer herd in the northern forest region has rebounded substantially from lows after the winters of 2012 and 2013. Populations in the ag portions of the state are relatively unchanged, while numbers in the southeast appear to be down, the DNR said.
North Dakota doesn’t require hunters to register deer so no harvest information will be available until the Game and Fish Department compiles results from a mail survey it sends to a random sample of deer hunters after season. Game and Fish offered 49,000 deer gun tags this year.
Muzzleloader seasons in both states continue through Dec. 11.