Despite statewide drop in deer harvest, Mower, Freeborn area up

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deer hunters in local zones 254 and 255 may have had a little better luck than other areas of the state this year.

Excluding the statewide muzzleloader season, which began Thanksgiving weekend and ends Dec. 15, hunters in zones 254 and 255 — from Austin to the LeRoy area, and Albert Lea to Austin, respectively — saw a few more deer than last year as of mid-November. Zone 254 was up 15 percent, and zone 255 was up 13 percent, according to DNR area wildlife manager Jeanine Vorland.

“Overall, it was a pretty decent deer season, and I’m still seeing fairly good deer numbers across the landscape,” she said.

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Of course, with frigid temperatures, fewer hunters during muzzleloader season could bring the numbers closer to average. But Vorland said some muzzleloader registrations are trickling in, as well.

“We do have a strong muzzleloader tradition, and particularly in the Austin and Albert Lea areas,” Vorland said.

Across the state, firearms hunters killed about 148,400 deer from when the season opened Nov. 9 until a late season closed in southeastern Minnesota on Dec. 1, the Department of Natural Resources said. Excluding the late season, hunters killed about 144,000 deer during the main season, down 6 percent from 153,000 in 2012. Southeastern hunters took 4,400 deer in the late season, down 600 from the 5,000 last year.

Overall, Minnesota’s firearms, muzzleloader and archery hunters have registered 164,500 deer as of last Wednesday. Before the season, the DNR had expected hunter success would be similar to 2012, when they killed about 185,000 deer.

Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife population and regulations manager, said a lower deer population is likely the main reason hunters haven’t fared so well, though the weather was a factor, too.

The statewide muzzleloader season remains open through Sunday, Dec. 15. The archery season closes on Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Deer harvest numbers are calculated using data provided by hunters when they register a deer.  A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be released at the end of January.