Three years of "conservative" deer hunting regulations together with three relatively mild winters will mean lots of deer to hunt this fall in Minnesota, state conservation officials said Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expects hunters to likely kill about 200,000 deer this fall through Dec. 31. That would track close to the most recent 20-year average and be significantly more than the 173,213 killed last year, although still far below the 2003 record of 290,525, the agency said.
The favorable deer numbers this year means more antlerless permits are available, and hunters in many parts of the state will have "additional opportunities to harvest more deer because of other more liberal season framework changes," Paul Telander, the DNR's wildlife chief, said in a statement.
Minnesota's bowhunting deer season began in September. Typically, though, it's the firearms hunting season that draws many into the woods. That begins Nov. 4.
Minnesota has about 500,000 deer hunters, and many have been frustrated in recent years by DNR rules that have kept deer kills relatively low. Some have blamed the agency, though DNR officials have said the decline was caused largely by several aggressive hunting years established in the early 2000s to reduce the size of the state deer herd, along with back-to-back severe winters in 2013 and 2014.
"Deer numbers are at or have exceeded population goals over most of the state. Some northeast and southwest permit areas are slightly below goal," Telander said. "Parts of central Minnesota and southeastern Minnesota are above goal. From an overall, statewide perspective, we're not far from where we believe Minnesota should be."
The DNR on Monday also released its regional advisory reports on the hunt.
"Many deer permit areas in the region have met or are above population goals, meaning more permits will be available this fall," wrote Jami Markle, assistant wildlife manager for the DNR in central Minnesota. "'Deer are everywhere' is a common refrain across the central region this fall."