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2018 Deer Hunt: Cooler weather, strong deer numbers expected for opening weekend

A white-tailed buck stands in an enclosure at Sunnybrook Park in Wadena safe from hunters this season. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Those hoping to harvest a white-tailed deer this weekend should have a better chance as area residents and wildlife officials say the population looks to be on the upswing.

The increase in the deer population is attributed to less severe winters in the past few years. And as that deer population rises, so do the amount of permits allowed per hunter in the region for the 2018 deer firearm season.

Hunters in portions of permit area 241 will see intensive harvest, allowing hunters to take up to three deer. This includes areas north of Hwy 10 from Detroit Lakes to Motley. Erik Thorson, acting Minnesota big game program leader said this region has historically been a very good area for those looking for deer. He noted that those hunting to the east towards Nimrod and Huntersville will still only have a one deer limit, with hunters allowed to take a buck or doe.

Some noticeable differences between these locations is a change from mostly private agricultural lands in 241, to public forested areas like that in Huntersville Forest, Thorson said.

Thorson said the Minnesota DNR has been listening to what area residents, hunters, farmers and conservationists have been saying and the state tries to set goals to manage that population. And at least based on the number of deer harvested in the last few years, as well as spring estimates, our region is slightly above the goal.

That may not be good news for farmers trying to avoid crop loss, but it's good news for hunters looking to take more deer, or at least seeing more while afield. Of course, it's still up to the hunter to be successful, which is difficult in some of our region, where there are often up to 12 hunters per square mile, Thorson said.

If archery season is any indicator of the deer population, things are looking up there too as Thorson has seen a 15-20 percent increase in archery harvests this season statewide.

"That's a pretty good indicator," he said.

Of course seeing deer may be difficult as the season starts about as early in the month of November as it can this year. A slowed crop harvest means a great deal of corn remains in the field.

"We need a good harvest," Thorson said. "If we have a lot of standing corn, it will be a little tougher."

Thorson reminds hunters heading to the fields that they should review the regulations first. Make sure you understand what and how many you can harvest for your area as those details have been changing from year to year across the state.

If you get the big one

Showing off your deer to friends and family is a long-standing tradition and that's still the case for hunters in and around Verndale who are continuing to bring their deer out to the Verndale Lions Big Buck/Big Doe Contest now in its seventh year. This event allows anyone with a $10 ticket to weigh in their deer, big or small for a chance at $10,000 in prizes.

Organizer of the event, Scott Werk, said the event had over 700 people buy tickets and about 160-175 deer were registered and weighed at the Verndale Community Center. The event has grown with about 31 businesses now sponsoring the event and providing prizes. Tickets for the event are available from any Verndale Lions member or from select businesses. Check out the groups Facebook page for more information.

While the biggest bucks and does do win prizes, random prizes and youth prizes mean any deer brought in has the potential to win a prize including about 17 guns. Just buying a ticket earns you a chance at some of the prizes.

Werk said the many chances to win is what makes the event unique. It also offers a free-will donation spaghetti feed after the season, Nov. 17 at the Verndale Lions Community Center, to announce the winners and allow for even more time to brag about the hunt to all that come out.

While it's fun to see all the deer and hear the stories, Werk said the event is a community builder as well.

"We want to promote the communities and raise money for community projects," Werk said.

Werk reckons there are plenty of deer out and about this year and with a cool down expected, he thinks the deer should be on the move, making an even better opener for the 500,000 hunters heading out for the first weekend.

If you go

What: 2018 Minnesota deer firearm season

When: Opens Saturday, Nov. 3 a half hour before sunrise (7:35 a.m. in Wadena) Remember to turn your clocks back an hour Saturday night so you can start shooting around 6:36 a.m. Sunday.

Weather: Temperatures are expected to reach near 40 degrees Saturday and Sunday with lows in the upper 20s. Both days are mostly cloudy with chances of rain and snow. Saturday and Sunday wind is light around 5-10 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.