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DNR anticipates good hunting season

Deer hunting should be good when Minnesota’s firearms hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 9.

That’s the word from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), whose biologists report deer populations are stable across much of the state.

“Minnesota’s deer population is largely stable in the southern half of the state because of mild winters and generally conservative deer management,” said Leslie McInenly, the DNR’s big game program leader. “Mild winters result in more survival of adults, more fawns being born, and more deer in the state’s fields and forests the following hunting season.”

Winter, which is a significant source of mortality in Minnesota deer, ranged from moderate to severe in northern Minnesota. As a result, permit area designations across most of northern Minnesota are either lottery or hunter choice.

Hunters may find farmland conditions more challenging due to this year’s later corn harvest, which results in a substantial amount of standing corn.

Last year, Minnesota’s nearly 500,000 deer hunters harvested 186,000 deer. A similar harvest is expected this year.

McInenly said deer permit management designations that limit hunters to one, two or five deer largely are the same as last year. The limits reflect the department’s interest in rebuilding or maintaining the deer herd in certain portions of the state by managing the harvest.

Based on 2013 population estimates, almost 80 percent of permit areas are at population goal.  Antlerless and bonus deer permit availability decreases as overly abundant populations are brought into line with department goals.    


Minnesota’s deer harvest has varied widely over the past half century. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s, forcing the closure of the deer season in 1971 and a rebuilding of the deer herd from the 1970s through the 1990s. The highest deer harvest occurred in 2003, when 290,000 deer were taken as part of an effort to reduce the deer herd. Today, the DNR manages the deer population based on goals established with public input.

Minnesota deer facts

Deer: the animal

  • Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 lbs., males 170 lbs. – the average weight of female and male humans.
  • The biggest white-tailed deer ever recorded was a 500-pound Minnesota buck.
  • A whitetail’s home range is about one square mile.
  • Minnesota’s deer population is about 1 million deer. Texas is No. 1 with 3.5 million deer

Deer: hunting 

  • Last year, 31 percent of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer. About 52 percent were antlered bucks.
  • 70 percent of Minnesota’s firearms deer harvest typically occurs during the first three or four days of the season.
  • The average hunter spends five days afield during Minnesota’s firearms deer season.
  • Last year’s total deer harvest was 186,000.
  • License options allow hunters to buy individual licenses for all the seasons and give hunters choices in where and when they can hunt deer.
  • Hunters can take two-to-five deer in many parts of the state where populations allow. 
  • Minnesota has averaged deer harvested 200,500 deer during the last five years. The Midwestern state with the largest deer harvest is Michigan at 425,000.
  • The largest typical whitetail buck ever taken in Minnesota had a Boone & Crockett score of 202; shot by John Breen in 1918 near Funkley, Minn.
  • Minnesota’s No. 1 non-typical whitetail buck had 43 points and a Boone & Crockett score of 268 5/8; shot by 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch in 1974. 

Deer: licenses

  • More than 725,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2012.
  • 98 percent of deer licenses are sold to Minnesota residents.
  • The DNR Information Center remained open two hours later on the day before last year’s deer opener to answer more than 2,000 telephone inquiries, most of them related to the firearms opener.

Deer: economics

  • Nearly 500,000 deer hunters in Minnesota.
  • Direct retail sales - $234 million.
  • Salaries, wages, business owner income - $127 million.
  • State and local tax revenue - $28 million.
  • Number of directly supported jobs – 3,760.
  • Economic impact is greatest in Greater Minnesota

“As the state’s deer population has been reduced to meet goals, more consistent and moderate harvests are anticipated,” McInenly said. “That said, population goals in some places were established nearly 10 years ago and the DNR is initiating a public process to revisit goals for permit areas statewide during the next few years.”

The DNR will be working with hunters and other stakeholders this winter to evaluate deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota. 

The firearms deer season concludes Sunday, Nov. 24, in Series 100 permit areas, which cover much of northeastern Minnesota. In Series 300 permit areas, which cover the southeastern corner of the state, the first season ends Sunday, Nov.17, but a late season opens Saturday, Nov. 23, and concludes Sunday, Dec. 1. Firearms season ends Sunday, Nov. 17, in Series 200 permit areas, which cover the remainder of the state.