Minnesota DNR hunting report forecasts mostly ‘good opportunities’ for hunters across the state

Minnesota’s firearm deer season starts soon, and many areas of the state appear to be providing ideal environments for hunters to harvest deer.

Opening weekend of the deer hunting rifle season is set for Nov. 4 and 5.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said deer populations in the southern part of the state are on the rise because of several years without any major flooding. These conditions also mean large areas of grass that are favorable for deer habitat.

Central Minnesota also has a positive outlook, with the DNR describing the population there as “robust” and “highly productive” after feeding on the bumper acorn crop. The DNR is reminding hunters in central Minnesota that they can harvest as many as three deer in many deer permit areas (DPAs) and as many as five in chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones. Hunters are also encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to harvest antlerless deer to help manage the population.

Hunters should also be aware that DPA 344 was redesignated as DPA 644 after CWD was detected last year on private land near the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area. DPA 643 near Rochester has expanded to include DPA 343 after CWD was also detected in that area.

The deer population in the northeast part of Minnesota, however, is struggling to recover after back-to-back severe winters. Most deer are expected to be concentrated in the southern part of the region in mixed habitats of forests and fields. Hunters in far northern areas will have fewer opportunities to harvest antlerless deer and will only be allowed to harvest bucks in some areas because of the lower population. DPAs 604 and 679 are also CWD management zones.

Deer populations in the northwest part of the state north of Bemidji are considered mostly stable. The DNR said hunters should also have easier access to ditches and wetlands if dry conditions persist. Hunters will only be allowed to harvest bucks in DPAs 111 and 203, and some will have lower limits overall because of population concerns from the last two difficult winters.

CWD testing will be mandatory during the opening firearms hunting weekend in parts of the three areas of the region, including the East Grand Forks-Crookston-Climax area in DPA 661 and the Bemidji area in DPA 684. There will also be mandatory CWD sampling in northwest Minnesota’s elk range in parts of Kittson, Marshall and Roseau counties out of caution, although no CWD has been detected in those areas.

Hunters are also reminded that any deer that is at least 1 year old must be sampled for CWD in all CWD management and surveillance zones during the opening weekend hunt from Saturday, Nov. 4 through Sunday, Nov. 5. The same rule applies to the late CWD hunts set to last from Friday, Dec. 15 through Sunday, Dec. 17.

More information on CWD requirements and sampling options can be found here.

More information on making a deer hunting plan with knowledge of the DPA can be found here.

More on this year’s hunting report from DNR officials can be found here.