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Current State – MN Deer Management

  • jimmysiewert
    Participant
    Posts: 118
    #2158986

    Curious how all view the current state of MN deer management. I hunt 342 and was in stand am and pm every day 1st season and have never seen so few deer. Overall as of last week the deer kill in the state was down 23% and of course being blamed on the weather. However – that is the same excuse I have heard for over a dozen years now by the DNR. On top of, IMO, a big drop of deer population they increased the number of permits to 3 in 342. I am sure there are pockets of decent deer population in our area – but it is the exception not the norm.

    Jimmy Jones
    Participant
    Posts: 161
    #2159013

    Early antlerless has had an affect on numbers but I’m not sure to what extent. And yes the weather the opening weekend and thru the season sucked so that comes into play. I was out every day in 342 too and saw deer every day, shooting two very nice does. The nephew came down on Friday evening and week hit our stands on the second Saturday with snow in the air and 28 degrees which seemed colder with the wind. He took a large 8 point 15 minute into the sit. I saw three does within ten minutes of sitting down.

    By nine thirty the snow had stopped and the sun made random appearances and deer movement came to a screeching halt. We quit at 230 so he could get a start home in daylight and on our trip to my house we saw several deer out in fields.

    The snow qwas exactly what was needed to get deer on the fly again but the snow didn’t last long and that shut the deer down again. There are deer, just not the hunter numbers. On the opening day I heard maybe 20 shots during the whole daylight span…. as opposed to maybe two hundred shots on opening day maybe three years ago. On the Sunday of opener I heard exactly three shots all day. If there are numbers of hunters out, they must be ion stands because the deer are not being moved. Without people in the woodsMOVING around, those bedded deer when it was warmer and windy had no reason to move. I don’t think the deer numbers are down, I think the hunter numbers are down and I think that the covid and cwd scares have people just not hunting since processors are getting fewer and fewer.

    Carter Johnson
    Participant
    Anoka County
    Posts: 889
    #2159020

    Im excited to follow this one!

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7122
    #2159027

    The early antlerless and youth season seemed to have way more participation this season than normal. Whether it’s enough to alter deer habits prior to the season, I don’t know.

    I also think the warm temps and rain severely limited deer movement for a few days this past week. It got up to 60 something degrees with localized down pours where I hunt for multiple days.

    Michael Best
    Participant
    Posts: 232
    #2159034

    I wasn’t in Mn for the first 7 days of gun season.
    I got back Friday from my Ne trip. Decided to scout a 120 acre property that neither I nor anyone else has hunted all year. My goal is to get an after gun season buck with my bow.
    Last night I seen 2 bucks including a giant and a dozen does.
    This morning I seen 6 bucks (one from last night, not the giant) and about a dozen does.
    This was all on the 120 acres I have access to and the neighbors to the south.
    Temps never did get out of the 20’s the last couple days.
    This is in zone 281. Which is a 2 deer unit.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1082
    #2159053

    I hunt in 181 and have for the last 5 years. This is by far the worst year we have seen. There are 5 of us that hunt an old 100 acre farm right on the river, fantastic mixed habitat. We’ve hunted 6 full days total so far and not one legal deer has been seen (bucks only zone).

    On top of harvest pressures, we’ve had a couple tough winters up here as well as a growing population of coyotes, wolves, and cats (have them on camera all year long).

    buckybadger
    Participant
    Upper Midwest
    Posts: 3771
    #2159063

    Own land in 342, hunt sparingly here and more across the river in WI.

    Deer numbers and size in the area seem to be good to great. I’d say the population in some specific areas in this region of MN are too high if anything. Seeing a couple dozen deer on a sit isn’t crazy.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1082
    #2159085

    Own land in 342, hunt sparingly here and more across the river in WI.

    Deer numbers and size in the area seem to be good to great. I’d say the population in some specific areas in this region of MN are too high if anything. Seeing a couple dozen deer on a sit isn’t crazy.

    it’s a whole different ballgame down in your part of the state. Can’t help but have major deer envy of that part of the state

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7122
    #2159090

    I hunt in 181 and have for the last 5 years. This is by far the worst year we have seen. There are 5 of us that hunt an old 100 acre farm right on the river, fantastic mixed habitat. We’ve hunted 6 full days total so far and not one legal deer has been seen (bucks only zone).

    On top of harvest pressures, we’ve had a couple tough winters up here as well as a growing population of coyotes, wolves, and cats (have them on camera all year long).

    The northern 1/3 of the state is rough on the deer herd. Tougher winters, wolves, and very little natural agriculture. Its just the nature of the beast, and often why its either a “choice” or “bucks only” in many zones up there.

    I would say that if you are at least seeing antlerless deer, the population is where it should be. The carrying capacity for a deer herd up there isn’t going to be nearly as high as it is down south.

    CaptainMusky
    Participant
    Posts: 8424
    #2159093

    Where we have hunted for around 20 years the deer herd is nothing like it used to be. Its now zone 604, but used to be 240 something. It was not uncommon to see dozens of deer in one sit for me in the early years. Now we are lucky to see anything. We were lucky to see 5 deer the second afternoon of the early anterless/youth hunt, but I think they were spooked by something as they came bounding in. Back in the day it was either or for harvest. Now its been intensive harvest for going on 10 years at least. I dont think the population supports that type of hunting but since its a CWD zone they keep in on I am guessing. I find it ridiculous that they keep that designation when there wasnt a wild deer tested positive for CWD this entire time and the private herd has since been destroyed.

    TheFamousGrouse
    Participant
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts: 9323
    #2159238

    Hunting in 159. Deer numbers are high and every hunter on my property sees multiple deer every day. During the summer, the time-lapse trail cams show large numbers of deer in every field, so overall the heard size is large and probably near optimal.

    As always with Northwoods hunting within 90 miles of the metro, our #1 problem is the shortage of mid-range bucks because simply put, hunters kill them all. It’s a hunter’s choice area, but when I go into the processor’s place, it is overwhelming the number of small bucks that are killed in the area.

    Casual hunter observations during the deer season, IMO, don’t really indicate much as far as being an accurate gauge of deer population. Mainly, because:

    1. Disturbed deer in many areas will go nocturnal and depending on moon phase, they may ONLY move/eat at night if they are pressured.

    2. Hunter kill rates also can’t be used as an accurate gauge of deer populations because they go up and down depending on hunter participation (MN says license sales are down 3% this year) and overall hunter effort.

    In 159, participation and effort seem to be way, way down. Camps near us that used to be full of 4-15 hunters, now have 1-2 people hunting and they are not spending nearly the amount of time hunting that they used to 10-20 years ago.

    Driving north on I35 the evening before the season opens in Zone 1, the traffic this year was about the same as any other Friday night. It used to be holiday weekend mayhem on I35, but over the past 5 years, I’ve noticed a huge drop.

    3. More properties are now managed for wildlife, so deer will gravitate toward these properties and if the cover is good, they don’t go wandering around the neighborhood.

    I can easily see where neighboring properties assume there are no deer when in reality there is a lot of deer that are all holed up in a sanctuary area on a managed property where they have plenty of cover, food, and water such that they don’t have to go walking around the section getting shot at.

    The best info on the local herd size is to have time-lapse cameras out on fields and food plots in October. The deer are undisturbed and they are feeding aggressively due to cooler nights. Waiting until November when there are guys in orange crashing around everywhere isn’t going to show the real picture.

    M F
    Participant
    Posts: 14
    #2159251

    Where we have hunted for around 20 years the deer herd is nothing like it used to be. Its now zone 604, but used to be 240 something. It was not uncommon to see dozens of deer in one sit for me in the early years. Now we are lucky to see anything. We were lucky to see 5 deer the second afternoon of the early anterless/youth hunt, but I think they were spooked by something as they came bounding in. Back in the day it was either or for harvest. Now its been intensive harvest for going on 10 years at least. I dont think the population supports that type of hunting but since its a CWD zone they keep in on I am guessing. I find it ridiculous that they keep that designation when there wasnt a wild deer tested positive for CWD this entire time and the private herd has since been destroyed.

    Like most people (myself included), your memory of how long ago “back in the day” was is skewed.
    That area has only been intensive harvest since 2018, and intensive harvest was a 3 deer limit then. It’s still a 3-deer limit even with the CWD restrictions.

    There’s been 2 positives in the wild in 640. In January 2019 the first one with CWD was found dead in the wild (on a lake if I’m not mistaken), and a hunter harvested another positive in 2021. Because of the hunter harvested one, it’ll be a CWD management zone through 2024. If no more are found over those 3 seasons, they’ll reevaluate the risk to determine if continued surveillance is necessary.

    Gitchi Gummi
    Participant
    Posts: 1082
    #2159254

    As always with Northwoods hunting within 90 miles of the metro, our #1 problem is the shortage of mid-range bucks because simply put, hunters kill them all. It’s a hunter’s choice area, but when I go into the processor’s place, it is overwhelming the number of small bucks that are killed in the area.

    I’d rather have them killing small bucks than a pile of does, at least in my area where the population isn’t as strong as it is down south. Not everyone is on board with or up to speed on QDM and some people just want meat for the freezer. Sure, big bucks are cool and all. But you can’t eat antlers and a big rutted up buck isn’t always the best tablefair.

    CaptainMusky
    Participant
    Posts: 8424
    #2159258

    That area has only been intensive harvest since 2018, and intensive harvest was a 3 deer limit then. It’s still a 3-deer limit even with the CWD restrictions.

    Im not so sure about that. Its been a CWD zone since 2018 or a little earlier, but I seem remember being able to get up to 3 bonus tags in the past much longer ago than that. We never did however. I think it may depend which part of “640” you are talking about. We are on the far West side. This area is comprised with like 3 or 4 areas from the past.

    M F
    Participant
    Posts: 14
    #2159265

    Im not so sure about that. Its been a CWD zone since 2018 or a little earlier, but I seem remember being able to get up to 3 bonus tags in the past much longer ago than that. We never did however. I think it may depend which part of “640” you are talking about. We are on the far West side. This area is comprised with like 3 or 4 areas from the past.

    Nope, the first CWD case was found in 2019, and in fall of 2019 it became 604. It combined part of 246, all of 242 & 247, and small parts of 155, 171, & 172. Of those, only 242 was more than a 1-deer limit in 2017, and in 2018 242 was a 3-deer limit, with 247&155 being 2 deer, and the rest being hunter choice (either sex 1 deer limit).

    Since you aren’t restricted to the area you specify when buying your license, you could always buy essentially an unlimited amount of bonus tags anywhere in the state, they just might not be valid in your preferred hunting area.

    CaptainMusky
    Participant
    Posts: 8424
    #2159275

    I guess it really is like fish stories. As time passes they get bigger and bigger LOL

    jimmysiewert
    Participant
    Posts: 118
    #2159312

    Great discussion by the way everyone!!

    haleysgold
    Participant
    SE MN
    Posts: 870
    #2159318

    Hey Jimmy –
    Something to think about as we hunt the same area.
    Water, water, water. Do have any water source where you hunt?
    The super dry weather dried up every water source around me by about mid Sept. I noticed my camera pics dropping off. Same as last year. The deer moved. Not far but far enuf to get close to water. Beginning of Oct. I put out about 5 tubs of water and within a week I had a lot more deer on cams.
    They were even coming up to t house every night and draining every last drop out of the bucket we keep filled for the dog.
    I know guys that hunt by creeks and the deer had beatin down paths to it. They saw lots of deer and got a couple dandys.

    Anyhow, I have tons of pics of them at the water sources I put put. I was hauling like 100 gallons out every few days. Lots of other critters drinking it too. The pic is a buck that was dogging a doe for hours and then he was exhausted so he laid down and crushed my kiddie pool! That made mud which he slopped in. Looks like I need to build some watering holes for next year!

    Attachments:
    1. Screenshot_20221109-120819.png

    jimmysiewert
    Participant
    Posts: 118
    #2159333

    Hey HaleysGold!! It was all about water water water for sure. I, like you was hauling water multiple times a week to multiple waterholes. I hunt right off Lincoln Church Road if you know where that is. What is crazy was in 18 sits the week, sometimes all day – I saw 2 – yup 2 mature does. I get lockdown and all that – but I also walked probably 10-15 miles of fence line habitat and nothing. Nada deer whereas in he past it was very productive. If you know where I hunt (was never pressured for years but that is starting to change also) it was always a goldmine for hunting. Just REALLY weird

    haleysgold
    Participant
    SE MN
    Posts: 870
    #2159355

    You hunted hard Jimmy and seeing 2 mature does in that area is insane. And there is normally some big boys in all that grass and scraggly stuff. If I’m thinking of the right place. Like Sylvesters from years ago?
    Funny that’s getting pressured too…well I guess every place is.

    jimmysiewert
    Participant
    Posts: 118
    #2159372

    Haleysgold – you are thinking of the right place. 400 acres is my uncles and then another 320 of the grass. I also hunt all the land next to Robersons (original farm) that was a sanctuary for all those years. Not one mature doe on that 700 acres seen. I can’t make this up!!
    I live right off he new section of 33 and you probably have seen that big grass draw. Nobody hunts that 460 acres where I live and surrounding grass, etc./waterways except my dons and I. Same thing there. Something is goofy

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7122
    #2159398

    A buck harvested on opening weekend in zone 184 near Bemidji has been found with a preliminary positive for CWD. They are conducting more specific testing to confirm.

    This is not looking good. Every time there is a new case, that zone essentially becomes a new CWD zone with carcass restrictions and mandatory testing.

    CaptainMusky
    Participant
    Posts: 8424
    #2159401

    184 already was but yeah you’re right. Sucks but it isn’t going away. There is a new deer farm in that area as well.

    M F
    Participant
    Posts: 14
    #2159407

    write your senators and state reps to pass the bill putting a moratorium on new deer farms. It’s not coincidence that each hotspot is around a deer farm.

    CaptainMusky
    Participant
    Posts: 8424
    #2159414

    write your senators and state reps to pass the bill putting a moratorium on new deer farms. It’s not coincidence that each hotspot is around a deer farm.

    100%, what really irritates me is the one farm by Merrifield which had the one animal test positive however many years ago, if the entire herd was killed it would have spared the public from being subject to CWD regs (or so I read at the time, may not have actually happened though). He refused, then more animals tested positive and then the herd was destroyed and here we are.

    Coletrain27
    Participant
    Posts: 2428
    #2159422

    I hunt 342 just south of zumbro falls and had no issues seeing deer. I’m not a all day hunter and we normally always hunted from sunrise until about 930am then go back out about 230-dark.

    This year was different since our hunting party was a few less people and we wanted to try something different so we hunted from about 9am-noon then would eat lunch and go back out about 230-dark I saw just as many deer this way if not more than hunting early morning personally

    From what we saw the bucks were chasing the does very hard.

    BigWerm
    Participant
    Carver
    Posts: 6349
    #2159425

    From what I saw from spending a decent amount of time this fall in 259, 157 and 183 the deer herd is looking pretty good. Haven’t been back in 342 for a couple years, but reports from friends seemed pretty positive.

    As far as DNR management, I could write a book, and it still wouldn’t be as lengthy as their regs, but there are some…interesting times ahead with CWD management and DNR funding. And the biggest thing no one is talking about is Commissioner Strommen seems intent on totally changing DNR’s funding mechanism, she wants to get away from license sales, and be state funded, which I cannot imagine being good for hunters and fisherman. I don’t think hunters and fisherman are listened to, nor is their input valued by the suits in St. Paul like they should be already, and that is only going to get worse imo.

    John Rasmussen
    Participant
    Blaine
    Posts: 2030
    #2159436

    In 159, participation and effort seem to be way, way down. Camps near us that used to be full of 4-15 hunters, now have 1-2 people hunting and they are not spending nearly the amount of time hunting that they used to 10-20 years ago.

    I hunt 159 also and would agree we did not see as many camps full and less guys in the woods. We did ok but overall saw less deer than average for sure.

    Carter Johnson
    Participant
    Anoka County
    Posts: 889
    #2159437

    And the biggest thing no one is talking about is Commissioner Strommen seems intent on totally changing DNR’s funding mechanism, she wants to get away from license sales, and be state funded, which I cannot imagine being good for hunters and fisherman.

    I would imagine the reason behind this is the face plant that is coming with license sales. Once baby boomers age out of hunting, license sales will plummet. Hunter recruitment is horrible with younger generations. And the average age of hunters is only going up.

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7122
    #2159438

    I would imagine the reason behind this is the face plant that is coming with license sales. Once baby boomers age out of hunting, license sales will plummet. Hunter recruitment is horrible with younger generations. And the average age of hunters is only going up.

    Yep, and the DNR knows their salaries are primarily paid through license sales. No salary, no job.

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