Drier weather and less standing corn helped Minnesota hunters register 145,054 deer through the second weekend of the gun season. The harvest surged after a slow start, reaching a mark 10 percent higher than last year’s showing.
Steve Merchant, wildlife populations manager for the Department of Natural Resources, said the agency expects the 2017 total deer harvest to reach about 200,000 whitetails — a potential 15 percent increase over 2016.
“It appears as though deer harvest improved substantially since the first weekend,” Merchant said.
In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Sunday. But there’s still a northern rifle zone season, a late season in southeastern Minnesota and, finally, the muzzleloader season. The last muzzleloader shots will be fired Dec. 10.
The biggest increase in deer harvest was in northeastern Minnesota, where greater deer abundance and fewer restrictions against shooting antlerless deer led to a 25 percent spike in filling tags. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, the deer harvest was up 6 percent. In southeastern Minnesota, where wildlife officials are battling an outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer, this year’s harvest stands 12 percent lower than a year ago.
Carcass import not allowed
Wisconsin’s traditional gun deer season opens Saturday, prompting the Minnesota DNR to remind hunters that any big game animals harvested outside the state can’t be brought home without special handling. In short, whole carcass importation is banned.
The restriction was imposed in recent years to minimize the chance for CWD to become established in Minnesota. In Fillmore County, the DNR is fighting an outbreak of CWD that officials believe was detected last fall in its early stages. The carcass importation ban potentially affects at least 20,000 Minnesotans who hunt deer in Wisconsin.
Only the following parts of deer, moose, elk or caribou may be brought into Minnesota:
• Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
• Meat that is boned-out or that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).
• Hides and teeth.
• Antlers or clean (no brain tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached.
• Finished taxidermy mounts.