By SAM COOK, Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) -- Opening weekend of Minnesota's firearms deer season may miss the peak of the rut this year, as the season opens Saturday.
"The peak of chasing time in the rut is Nov. 6 to 12," said Tom Rusch, area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Tower. "We'll probably see the peak of chasing the end of the first week and into the second weekend."
Bucks probably will be moving on opening weekend, but not chasing, he said.
"It won't be the frenzied period," Rusch said.
Hunters know their chances of shooting a buck improve when deer are at the peak of the rut, or mating season. Bucks are less cautious as they chase does in hopes of perpetuating the species.
But plenty of Minnesota's expected 500,000 deer hunters probably will show up for opening weekend just the same. They'll likely see more deer than last year, after a mild winter and excellent deer survival, Rusch said.
However, hunters won't have as many antlerless deer tags in their pockets this fall. DNR wildlife officials received many complaints from hunters who saw and shot fewer deer last fall. After meeting with stakeholder groups, the DNR has agreed to nudge population goals upward a bit, and that means fewer antlerless deer tags, conserving the number of does in the population so they can breed and contribute more offspring to the population.
"We're going to see more deer and kill less deer," said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association based in Grand Rapids. "The DNR is starting to manage for more deer in most parts of the state."
More deer permit areas in Northeastern Minnesota are designated "lottery" units this fall, meaning hunters had to apply and be selected to receive an antlerless permit.
"That's by design, to grow the population," Rusch said. "Last winter, there was a call for more deer. We did the population goal-setting for a good part of our area. We gave those (permit areas) a bump up. We're not talking 25 or 30 percent, but 10 or 15 percent."
Last winter was good to the deer.
"Every doe has twins (in permit areas 178, 176 and 177, from Meadowlands north to Orr)," Rusch said. "It's very apparent to folks out there."
Hunters closer to Duluth probably will have a hunt similar to last year's, said Martha Minchak, DNR assistant area wildlife manager in Duluth.
Some permit areas closer to Duluth went from more liberal "managed" or "intensive" status to more restrictive ``lottery'' or "hunter's choice" units, she said.
As with areas farther north, those changes were made to preserve more antlerless deer and grow the population, Minchak said.
Minnesota's deer season in Series 100 units, most of Northeastern Minnesota, will run from Saturday through Nov. 18.
In other deer season notes: -- Minnesota's early wolf hunting season will run concurrently with the firearms deer season in Series 100 units, covering most of Northeastern Minnesota. A total of 3,600 wolf licenses were allotted for the early season. A licensed wolf hunter is permitted to take just one gray wolf, and a maximum harvest of 200 wolves is allowed in that season.
-- Deer taken by hunters in permit areas 159 and 183 (Hinckley-Moose Lake-Carlton area) will be sampled for chronic wasting disease as part of routine CWD monitoring.