DNR: Firearms deer harvest down

Minnesota hunters harvested 128,814 deer through the second weekend of the 2013 firearms season, according to preliminary numbers announced Nov. 20 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The season ended Nov. 17 for all but 100-series permit areas in the northeastern part of the state, where the season concludes on Sunday, Nov. 24. A late 3B firearm season in southeastern Minnesota runs Nov. 23- Dec. 1.

Firearm harvest to date is down 6 percent from last year at this time. Overall, antlered buck harvest is down 7 percent and antlerless harvest is down 5 percent.

“Based on our population estimates, the decrease in buck harvest was not anticipated and may reflect hunting conditions more than population,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “Based on the preliminary numbers, our opening and second weekend harvests from Saturday to Monday were down 4 and 13 percent, respectively, and we experienced windy conditions the first weekend and both wind and rain the second weekend.”

Weekend harvests, particularly opening weekend, drive the total harvest numbers. McInenly stressed that these numbers are preliminary.

Much of the change in statewide antlerless harvest can be attributed to decreased harvest in the northeastern portion of the state, where antlerless harvest is currently down 25 percent.

Much of northern Minnesota experienced an extended, moderate-to-severe 2012-2013 winter, likely impacting overwinter survival and fawn numbers this summer. In response, the DNR reduced bag limits and the number of either-sex permits available in many northern permit areas. Also, antlerless harvest continues to be reduced around the former bovine tuberculosis management zone in far northwestern Minnesota to allow the deer population in that area to rebuild.

Ample hunting opportunities remain. In addition to the continuing firearms season in northeastern Minnesota and the late firearms season in southeastern Minnesota, the statewide muzzleloader season runs from Saturday, Nov. 30, through Sunday, Dec. 15. The archery season closes on Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Hunters are reminded that deer must be registered online, via telephone or through an in-person visit to a big game registration station within 48 hours of harvest.

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