Minn. firearms deer season opens Nov. 5

Published 10:11 am Sunday, October 30, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota tradition, the firearms deer season, opens Saturday, Nov. 5. Here’s a look at the prospects for the season and other happenings on Minnesota’s deer scene:

Season outlook

Minnesota’s deer population has grown thanks to two straight mild winters and harvests that were kept low to help rebuild the herd. The Department of Natural Resources says that may mean more deer sightings and slightly more harvest opportunities, though one-deer limits remain in place for much of Minnesota. The numbers of permits available, whether antlerless deer can be taken, and bag limits vary across the state’s 128 permit areas. The 2016 regulations remain conservative in northern Minnesota. They’re looser in west-central and southeastern Minnesota, as well as areas surrounding the Twin Cities. The DNR projects the total harvest at 165,000 to 185,000 deer, up from a little more than 159,000 last year.

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Other regulations

The DNR reminds hunters that they need to register their deer. It has to be done within 48 hours after taking the animal, before processing and before the antlers are removed. Deer can be registered by phone, online or in person at big game registration stations. Directions are on the back of deer licenses. In-person registration is required in southeastern Minnesota so the DNR can take samples to test for chronic wasting disease. Hunters who participate in the voluntary sampling will be entered into a drawing for a bow and muzzleloaders. The DNR urges hunters to buy their licenses early. More than 145,000 hunters waited until the Thursday and Friday before the opener last year, leading to long lines in some places.

Management plan

The DNR is beginning the process of developing its first-ever statewide deer management plan. It’s meant to be a big-picture approach in contrast to the agency’s traditional focus on setting local population goals without an overarching strategy. Some goals include setting a statewide harvest objective while addressing regional differences in deer habitats and populations. Hunters and other members of the public will get to provide input through a statewide deer advisory committee, public meetings, focus groups and online. The committee of up to 20 members will be put in place in December and will function until the plan is completed in the spring of 2018.

Governor’s deer opener

The town of Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point Resort are hosting this year’s Minnesota Governor’s Deer Opener. It’s a tradition that started under Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2003. Gov. Mark Dayton has kept it going, even though he’s not a deer hunter. He plans to attend the Youth Expo at Breezy Point on Thursday and speak at the banquet that evening, but won’t head into the woods to hunt. The Pequot Lakes area of central Minnesota, north of Brainerd, touts its mix of forests and public hunting land, and its healthy deer and grouse populations.

Hunting factoids

Minnesota has nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters, though not all of them hunt every year. About 70 percent of the state’s firearms deer harvest typically takes place within the first three or four days of the season. The average Minnesota hunter spends five days afield during the season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says all hunting-related expenditures in Minnesota total around $725 million annually, including $400 million for equipment and $235 million for trip-related expenses such as food, lodging and transportation. The DNR says deer hunters, along with other hunters and wildlife watchers, contribute more than $1.3 billion to the state’s economy annually.