Deer harvest down in northwest Minnesota

Minnesota hunters had shot and registered 178,940 deer as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, according to the Department of Natural Resources, a total that includes all seasons except special hunts.

The tally doesn’t break down the statewide firearms deer harvest, but hunters in the DNR’s Northwest Region registered 8.7% fewer deer during this year’s firearms deer season than they did in 2018, said John Williams, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji.

John Williams, DNR Northwest Region wildlife supervisor, Bemidji.
John Williams, DNR Northwest Region wildlife supervisor, Bemidji.

Hunters in the Northwest Region shot slightly more than 53,000 deer during the firearms season, Williams said, compared with more than 58,000 last year.

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The Northwest Region covers the northwest corner of the state from Kittson to Traverse counties in the west and Lake of the Woods to Cass and Pope counties on the eastern boundary.

The harvest in the far northwest and southeast portions of the region were up slightly from last year, Williams said, but other areas were down.

“If you draw a line, let’s say from Baudette down to Wadena, Bemidji through Park Rapids and farther south down there, that seemed to be down,” Williams said. “That’s where we lost most of our harvest.”

The abundance of standing corn in agricultural areas and transition areas between farm and forested country could be a factor, he said.

That area also has some of the state’s highest deer numbers, Williams said.

“I wouldn’t expect it to be down as much as it is, but that’s where we saw the less harvest,” he said.

The biggest decline was in the antlerless harvest, he said; by comparison, the buck harvest was only down 1.4%, a number that’s “hardly even statistically valid.”

“The buck harvest is kind of flat, and generally, it’s the buck harvest you look at to see if there’s been any type of population swings,” Williams said.