Minnesota hunters harvest fewer deer in 2008 (January 27, 2009)
Minnesota deer hunters harvested nearly 222,000 deer in 2008. This is a decline of 38,000, or about 19 percent, from 2007, but the ninth consecutive year the harvest has exceeded 200,000.
"Bad weather opening weekend, lower deer populations in many permit areas and more lottery areas all had a role in the lower harvest," said Dennis Simon, wildlife section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Still, hunters found success and we were able to lower deer populations in some areas."
Overall, the statewide firearm harvest was down 15 percent from last year. The archery harvest was down 7 percent and the muzzleloader harvest down 25 percent. Firearms hunters harvested 190,100 deer, archery hunters 22,550 and muzzleloader hunters 9,300. Hunters who participated in the early antlerless season, which was expanded to 30 areas in 2008, tagged 5,250 deer.
Despite the decrease from 2007's harvest total of 260,604 and the lowest total harvest level in five years, 2008 ranked as the eighth-highest Minnesota deer harvest ever recorded.
"The majority of our deer harvest comes during the first weekend of firearms season," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "When the weather is bad like it was, we never fully make up the difference the next weekend."
Deer populations in many permit areas also were lower than previous years, which is a direct result of aggressive antlerless deer management.
"In many deer areas, we've allowed hunters to take up to five deer each, which by design has likely lowered populations toward our established goals," Cornicelli said.
Final population estimates will be completed after the winter ends and the DNR will re-evaluate populations relative to established goals. Additional significant winter weather in some parts of Minnesota this year could reduce deer populations in some areas.
"Many hunters will see lower bag limits and, in some cases, placement of their hunting area into lottery designation," Cornicelli said. "It's important that hunters pay close attention to the hunting synopsis when it comes out in late July."
Looking ahead to the 2009 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 3. Archery deer hunting will begin Sept. 19 and the early antlerless deer season will be the weekend of Oct. 10. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Nov. 7 and the muzzleloader season will open Nov. 28.