The cool temperatures and light snowfall on the ground provided ideal conditions for local deer hunters during the Minnesota firearms season.
According to preliminary statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a total of 23,608 deer were harvested in the Park Rapids area after the second weekend of the firearms deer season. That's compared to 20,545 deer harvested last season.
Hunters had more success in almost every deer permit area this fall with Area 241 leading the way with 7,396 deer harvested (compared to 7,094 in 2016). Area 246 had 4,498 deer taken (compared to 3,634 last year) while Area 259 saw 3,707 deer harvested (compared to 2,772 in 2016). Area 172 had 3,579 deer registered (compared to 2,771 last season), Area 258 had 1,701 deer harvested (compared to 1,642 last fall), Area 298 saw 1,201 deer harvested (compared to 921 last season) and Area 197 saw 1,179 deer taken (down from last year's total of 1,378). Area 287 had 228 deer taken (compared to 207 last season) while Area 251 saw 119 deer harvested (down from 126 in 2016).
"Overall it was a pretty decent season. We received good reports from hunters. A lot of hunters were out and a lot of deer were harvested," said Erik Thorson, Park Rapids DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor. "It was more of a traditional deer season with some cold and some snow. It was a little cold and wet, but the weather was decent and the deer were moving. Folks had a good firearms season."
Preliminary numbers statewide showed the number of deer registered after the second weekend of the firearms season at 145,054, which was up 10 percent from 2016. Of the deer harvested, 54 percent were bucks. Last season, 63 percent of the 173,213 deer registered were bucks.
In Zone 1 in northeastern Minnesota, total firearms harvest was up 25 percent. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state running from Canada to Iowa, harvest was up 6 percent. Zone 3 in southeastern Minnesota saw a decrease of 12 percent.
"It appears as though deer harvest improved substantially since the first weekend," said Steve Merchant, a DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. "Getting more corn out of the fields and a bit drier weather likely helped."
In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Nov. 12. Additional deer will be harvested during the northern rifle zone season, which continues through Sunday (Nov. 19), and the late southeast season, which runs through Nov. 26.
Ample opportunities still exist for area deer hunters as the archery season runs until the end of December and the muzzleloader season runs from Nov. 25 through Dec. 10. Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2017 total deer harvest to be around 200,000.
"The firearms season is the traditional deer season for hunters, but there are a lot of good deer hunting opportunities left if hunters want to brave the cold," said Thorson. "We have high deer hunter numbers and a healthy deer population in this area. The Park Rapids area is a go-to destination for deer hunters. This is a great time of the year for archery and muzzleloader hunters who still want to get out and hunt."