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Deer hunting forecast is sunny for Central Minnesota

This area where the farm fields meet the woods is a welcoming place for deer and those that hunt them. More deer are harvested per square mile right here than anywhere else in the state.

Twelve-year-old Elliana Bahls from Evansville got her first buck opening morning of the youth hunt while hunting SE of Sebeka. Elliana was hunting with her Grandpa Roger Bahls from Verndale. Pictured are Josh Bahls (left), Brock Bahls, Elliana Bahls and Roger Bahls. Submitted photo

Some 400,000 hunters will head to the deer woods this weekend, but it's fair to say that at least a few of them have some preparing to do in the hours before the lead can fly.

The Minnesota deer hunting season officially gets underway Saturday, Nov. 6, at half an hour before sunrise. Locally, it looks like the sun should rise at 8:10 a.m., so you'll want to be in that stand well before 7:40 a.m. Of course, Sunday morning we'll fall back an hour, so plan to rise an hour earlier on the second day of your hunt or your buddies won't let you forget it.

DNR wildlife managers in our neck of the woods of central Minnesota say deer numbers are "robust" and the chance of success is "very good." Many permit areas allow a hunter to harvest up to three deer, one with your regular license and two bonus permits. There are also a few deer permit areas in central Minnesota that were open to the early antlerless-only season from Thursday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 24. This included areas 213, 214, 215, 221 and 604 here in our region. That includes areas from St. Cloud to Fergus Falls north of Interstate 94; and 604 encompasses an area north of Brainerd.

So far, with bowhunting, youth and the early antlerless season, hunters have taken about 1,000 deer from each of the nearby permit areas with those hunts.

DEER HARVEST: Track deer hunter harvest here.


Based on population estimates, which put the herd above the goal for our region, hunters should see similar success as last year. In 2020, about one-third off nearly 600,000 licenses were filled. There were 197,315 registered deer that year.

In our region specifically, hunters hauled in the most hides. The 200 series permit areas accounted for 89,717 deer and hunters had a 35% success rate.

Ranked No. 1 in success rates was area 214 which includes portions of Wadena, Todd and Morrison counties. It's here that hunters took an average of four bucks per square mile and almost six antlerless per square mile. That's about 10 deer per square mile, yet the area remains in intensive harvest. It's truly a deer factory. And that's good news for those that hunt them.

And just across Hwy 10 encompassing much of Wadena County is area 241, which had the highest deer harvest of all permit areas in 2020 with 8,271 deer harvested, and most were bucks. Area 241 ranks No. 3 for deer per square mile. Area 646 hunters came out in the No. 2 spot with nine deer per square mile.

Much of our region benefited from a not-so severe winter. This spring and summer saw drought conditions, but vegetation bounced back considerably after consistent rains this fall. And there's was no shortage of crops to munch on around much of central Minnesota, much of that was even irrigated.

Speaking of those crops, crop harvest continues to be a couple weeks ahead of usual in the central region and it’s anticipated that the majority of the crops will be harvested by the start of firearms deer season. Soybeans have been harvested for weeks already and corn fields are diminishing quickly. That means deer may be traveling new routes to continue to find food sources.

Wildlife managers in central Minnesota urge deer hunters to take advantage of bonus licenses to harvest antlerless deer to help manage deer populations.

Weather outlook

As if the outlook isn't good enough for hunters headed to the woods, weather conditions should also be quite pleasant with highs in the upper 50s and mostly sunny skies. The wind should be light and from the west. Lows will barely reach freezing with Sunday showing a low of 32 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.


Send us your deer photos

The Pioneer Journal will once again publish photos of you and your deer in the next edition. Please email your photos to editorial@wadenapj.com or drop off with us at 320 Jefferson Street South Wadena. Include names of those pictured and where they are from. Add any other good details like if it's the first hunt, first deer, how big, how far, or even tell about the one that got away.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.
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