Northeastern Minnesota's firearms deer season turned out to be less successful than anticipated, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported Tuesday, with the 16-day harvest down 14.1 percent.
The preliminary total harvest for the 100-numbered deer management areas, which includes all of Northeastern Minnesota, hit 49,303 this year compared to 57,363 last year.
Statewide preliminary numbers show the harvest down from 160,962 last year to 148,019 at this year, an 8 percent drop. The statewide buck harvest was down 8 percent as well.
So far Minnesota archery hunters have taken 15,688 deer, up 7.1 percent from last year. With all seasons combined hunters have killed 169,727 deer this year compared to 181,216 at this time last year.
Hunters in southeastern Minnesota have a few more days to hunt, and Minnesota muzzleloader season is still to come but, even with those deer added in, it's not likely the total harvest will top 200,000 deer as wildlife managers had predicted.
It's still not clear why the harvest was down, especially for the first weekend of the season, when most deer are taken. License sales were off about 2.4 percent by the end of the season, said Erik Thorson, interim big-game program leader, which would explain some of the drop in harvest.
"We have heard from hunters in the northeast and some wildlife managers that deer were not moving much, especially early on. It was the earliest opener we could have so maybe the rut hadn't started yet," Thorson said. "But it's a little perplexing, really. I'm not sure why it's off."
It's also possible that some deer were shot but not registered because of changes in the online and phone deer registration system that required a new login effort by hunters.
"We understand some people were having problems getting that done, but it's hard to know if that was an influence on the total (harvest) or not," Thorson said.
Wisconsin opening weekend harvest up
Wisconsin's opening weekend deer harvest was better this year than in 2017. A total of 118,670 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the Wisconsin gun deer hunt compared to 105,216 in 2017. A total of 65,388 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 60,380 in 2017.
As of Saturday morning of the opening weekend of Wisconsin's 167th gun deer season, over 545,000 hunters had purchased licenses.