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Deer harvest numbers lagging as season winds down

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This year's deer harvest continues to lag last year's pace as the firearms deer hunting season winds to an end for the majority of Minnesota's 450,000 deer hunters.

MPR News reports that through Thursday hunters have killed a little over 92,000 deer. That number is down about 7 percent from last year. The Department of Natural Resources says much of the decline is due to last weekend's cold, windy weather. The organization says the weather restricts deer movement and tends to limit the time that hunters spend in the field.

Hunters killed 186,000 deer out of a statewide population of around 1 million, last year. This year the deer population has increased by about 4 percent.

The firearms season ends on Sunday in most of Minnesota. It continues through Nov. 24 in the northeastern part of the state. In that region the DNR says the harvest is down about 19 percent.

Mark Johnson with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association told MPR that he believes wolves are partly to blame.

Johnson said, "I think that the wolves have had a big impact on the deer population. Last year the hunting permits for does were knocked down, so it was a more conservative hunting season. But the wolves still take as many as always."

Minnesota is in the middle of its second wolf hunting season, which has been somewhat controversial.

Earlier this week, after the first three days of the deer hunt, the DNR said the harvest was down over 8 percent. At that point about 77,000 deer had been killed.

Deer hunting generates about $234 million a year in direct sales, for the Minnesota economy.

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