The News Tribune reported last week that the Minnesota statewide firearms deer harvest recovered after a slow opening weekend with registrations ending up 4% over 2019. Even the 100-numbered deer management areas that include all of Northeastern Minnesota were up 2% over last year.
But in the eastern portion of the 100-numbered areas, in the deep-snow winters Arrowhead region north of Duluth, the deer harvest was down yet again. It’s likely restricted harvests will be in place for 2021 as well — meaning few, if any, antlerless permits again next year as DNR wildlife managers try to rebuild the herd.
Tom Rusch, Tower area wildlife manager for the DNR, said total registrations were down nearly 16% from 2019 across his work area that includes management areas 117, 118, 119, 130, 131, 132, 176, 177 and 178. Part of that drop was due to fewer doe permits issued. Buck kill, the best indicator of population change over time, was also down 13.6% in those areas.
Antlerless registrations were down 23.6% compared to 2019 in the same areas. The conservative number of doe permits issued this year worked to keep antlerless deer just 20% of the total deer registered in the area, leaving more does in the northern woods to rebuild the herd for future years.
In some parts of the state, where extra antlerless permits are available due to high deer populations, does are more than half the harvest.