Tougher rules deliver fewer deer in MN firearms hunt

Deer
In this Feb. 17, 2014 file photo, a deer bounds into a ditch in Lake Shore, Minn.
Steve Kohls / The Brainerd Daily Dispatch via AP file

Deer hunting season ended for many hunters last weekend, and it's looking like many of them didn't have much luck.

Nearly 500,000 hunters went into the woods for firearms season knowing the state had stricter rules for this year's hunt. So far, they've taken only 102,000 deer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. That's down from last year's 133,000 animal harvest to date.

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Counting special hunts and early bow hunting, 115,000 deer have been taken this year, and the number won't grow much. Most hunting zones closed with the regular season Nov. 16.

In Minnesota's northeast corner, the season will stay open through Nov. 23, but late season hunting is often less productive, and fewer people head into the woods.

The smaller deer kills are right on track with what the DNR wanted. In 95 percent of the state, hunters were only allowed one deer, and most antlerless tags were on a lottery system. The goal was to cut this year's deer harvest to as low as 120,000, 50,000 fewer than last year and down dramatically from the peak of 290,000 in 2003.

"The numbers look like they're just about where we expected them to land," said DNR big game program leader Leslie McInenly.

The smaller harvest will give shrinking deer herds a chance to recover from two harsh winters, McInenly added. "We're expecting to see more deer next year. I'm hoping the winter isn't too harsh on the deer up north."

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