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Deer hunt was down 7 percent

Smaller deer populations and a windy first weekend of the firearms season resulted in Minnesota’s deer harvest dropping 7 percent in 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota hunters killed 192,300 deer during the 2011 season, a drop of 15,000 from the 207,000 in 2010.

In 2011, firearms hunters harvested 164,800 deer, while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 20,200 and 7,300 deer, respectively. Overall, the statewide archery and firearm harvest declined 6 percent for both seasons, and the muzzleloader harvest declined 19 percent.

Jeanine Vorland, DNR area wildlife manager for Mower, Freeborn and four other counties, expects similar declines in all of these counties compared with state numbers. However, she has not yet tallied the exact numbers for each county.

The wind during the firearms opener was a significant factor in the decline.

“Upward of 50 percent of the annual deer harvest occurs during opening weekend,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “The high winds hunters experienced opening weekend hindered deer activity and the associated harvest.”

While weather hindered 2011’s harvest, much of the reduced harvest was intentional. Vorland said the DNR changes regulations in hunting zones each year depending on the deer population. A harsh 2010-2011 winter caused deer populations to fall slightly below the DNR’s target level, so some hunting zones that had liberal restrictions in 2010 were more strict in 2011.

Now that many area’s deer populations are at the established goal levels, there is a general dissatisfaction among hunters with the current deer population, according to the DNR.

As a result, the DNR will develop a process in the near future to reassess deer population goals. Although that process may not be complete for several months, DNR staff will examine population densities and trends in all permit areas and begin making adjustments in time for the 2012 season.

Cornicelli said hunters should pay attention to the hunting synopsis, which comes out in mid-July, to see if they need to apply for a lottery either-sex permit.

For the 2012 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 6. Archery deer hunting will begin Saturday, Sept. 15. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Saturday, Nov. 3. The muzzleloader season will open Saturday, Nov. 24.

The final deer harvest number is calculated using information provided by hunters when they register their deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online at www.mndnr.gov/deer in the coming weeks.