With nearly a half-million Minnesota hunters taking to the field over the 2021 Minn. deer hunting firearms season opener this past weekend, hopes ran high for a successful hunt.

According to Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen, they were expecting strong harvest numbers in most parts of the state.  Strommen believed hunters would see a lot of deer.

Strommen told 5 eyewitness news last week “We’re expecting strong harvest numbers in most parts of the state,” she said. “We’ve had mild winters, so deer numbers should be good; populations are good. I think the far northeast is one exception to that where we had a little bit harsher winters. And so the populations aren’t as robust. But overall, we’re predicting good conditions, good deer hunting.”

She was not far off the mark. Although it was a good opener for a lot of hunters, the overall harvest was down 11% from last year and down 15% from the five year average according to statistics from the DNR.

Statewide, The DNR said hunters registered 58,370 whitetails during the first two days of the firearms season. The biggest dip in the numbers came from the North central and Northeast sections of the state (permit areas in the 100 series). Those numbers were down 20% over last year and 22% from the five year average with 13,222 deer registered.

The rest of the state (permit areas in the 200 series) except the Southeast corner, were down 10% from 2020 and 16% from the five year average with 38,545 deer registered. The small Southeast corner of the state (permit areas 300 and 600) was the bright spot and was up 10% from last year and the five year average with 6,603 deer registered.

Breaking that down into regions, according to the DNR the Northwest region was down 12% from 2020 and 19% for a 2 year average with 18,423 deer registered. The Northeast was also down 12% and 22% for the same time frame with 12,768 deer registered.

The central region where 18,208 deer were registered was also down 10% over last year and 15% from the two year average. The Southwest region fared better with 8,971 deer registered and that was very similar to last year and only down 1% from the two year average.

Note that these numbers are just for the opening weekend so far.

Overall views of the opening weekend sounds like it was slower, partially to blame is the above average temperatures Minn. has experienced this past fall. This usually factors into overall deer activity. Although according to the DNR there was a Covid bump in the deer harvest last year, this year license sales were down 1%.  But the crop harvest was ahead of schedule from last year, and last winter was not too harsh. 

The DNR also noted deer hunting is big business in Minnesota with retail sales exceeding 850-million dollars per year.

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