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Deer harvest not far behind last year’s pace

The second weekend of the firearm deer season was much better than the dismal first weekend.

Better weather and a Friday holiday for some were the likely reasons the deer harvest climbed to within 7 percent of last year’s harvest (including archery season) at this same time of the season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Around Austin, hunters have taken about 2.7 percent more deer in zone 255 and about 23 percent less deer in zone 254 thus far this year, according to Jeanine Vorland, DNR area wildlife manager. That’s nearly 716 deer taken in zone 255 and 862 deer taken in zone 254.

Statewide, hunters have harvested 143,000 deer so far in 2011, down 7 percent from the 2010 to-date harvest of 153,000. But during the second firearm weekend, hunters harvested approximately 27,000 deer, compared with about 22,000 last year.

“That’s where the vast majority of deer are harvested,” Vorland said about the firearm season.

“Veterans Day usually falls during the week, meaning many hunters have only Saturday and Sunday to hunt,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “With the holiday on Friday this year, hunters had an additional day to spend in the field, and the wind was more favorable.”

High winds, which tend to limit deer movement because they adversely affect a deer’s hearing and scenting ability, resulted in a 19 percent decline during the first weekend of the season.

Cornicelli said he expects the final season harvest to be comparable to last year’s total of 207,000 — provided weather cooperates in the northern rifle zone, where the season ends Sunday, Nov. 20.

Additional deer will be harvested during the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 27, and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 26, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 11.

In addition, none of the 1,300 deer tested in and around the Chronic Wasting Disease management zone in southeastern Minnesota have shown signs of the disease, according to the DNR.

Hunters have harvested 780 deer so far within the CWD management zone, which stretches from Wanamingo, Zumbrota and Zumbro Falls southward to Kasson, Byron and Rochester. Negative results have been returned for 638 deer.

In the areas adjacent to the CWD zone, 671 of 1,053 deer harvested during the now-concluded first season have tested negative.

Results on the remaining deer in both areas are pending.

Deer harvest

Total number of deer harvested at this time in:
2010 = 153,000
2011 = 143,000

Deer harvested during second weekend of firearm season
2010 = 22,000
2011 = 27,000

Total 2010 Harvest: 207,000
Total 2011 Harvest: Pending

Deer taken in Mower/ Freeborn area in 2011
Zone 254: 862, down 23% from 2010
Zone 255: 716, up 2.7% from 2010

—Source: DNR