REGIONAL— A 168-percent increase in the harvest of antlerless deer during the 2017 regular firearms deer season helped boost the total harvest over last year by 29 percent in northern and central …
REGIONAL— A 168-percent increase in the harvest of antlerless deer during the 2017 regular firearms deer season helped boost the total harvest over last year by 29 percent in northern and central St. Louis County. That’s based on final numbers issued by the Department of Natural Resources this week.
The total number of bucks registered this year was actually down three percent over last year, as more hunters opted to take advantage of additional antlerless tags in most permit areas and the hunter’s choice designation in permit area 177.
Last year, antlerless deer made up just 18 percent of registrations. This year, 39 percent, or nearly four in ten, registered deer were antlerless, and that likely is a reflection of the more seasonable temperatures that greeted hunters this season, as opposed to 2016, when opening weekend featured record high temperatures in the 70s and mild weather continued through the second weekend.
“The 2017 opening weekend was cold with 4-6” of snow and wind followed by sub-zero temperatures mid-week,” said Tower DNR Area Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch. “This negatively impacted hunter effort, and therefore, the harvest,” Rusch added.
Hunters appeared to focus their activities in the three permit areas with the most deer and the most permissive antlerless harvest. Nearly 70 percent of the deer harvested in the region came from permit areas 176, 177, and 178, and all three saw big jumps in the number of antlerless deer registered by hunters. In all three of those permit areas, the buck harvest actually declined. Permit area 176 saw the biggest drop, with 1,123 bucks registered this year, compared to the 1,437 in 2016. Hunters in permit area 177 registered slightly fewer bucks, but harvested 759 antlerless deer, a 253-percent increase over the year before. While bucks still comprised 61 percent of the harvest across the region, that wasn’t the case in permit area 177, where antlerless deer made up 52 percent of the total harvest.
Permit area 118 experienced an even bigger jump in the antlerless harvest. Last year, hunters registered just 73 antlerless deer in the permit area. But this year, with a hunter’s choice designation in effect, hunters took 536 antlerless deer, a whopping 734-percent increase. That was just slightly fewer than the 557 bucks that hunters registered in the zone.
Permit area 178 experienced the largest number of deer registrations in the region, with 2,409 registered, including 1,660 bucks. Permit area 176 came in a distant second, with 1,799 deer registered, including 1,123 bucks.
In the border country, deep snow in some places appears to have hampered hunter success. In permit area 108, hunters registered 180 fewer deer than last year. Permit area 119, located north and east of Orr, fared even worse, with the overall harvest down 24 percent. Rusch said the lack of winter cover, resulting from intensive timber harvesting in those areas, appears to be hampering the deer herd’s recovery.
Across northeastern Minnesota, hunter’s registered 36 percent more deer than last year. Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the total statewide deer harvest to be around 200,000. To date, firearms and archery hunters have harvested about 180,000 deer this year.