Half a million hunters set for deer hunting opener this weekend

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Half a million hunters will descend into Minnesota's wilderness this Saturday hoping to bag a buck when the state's firearms deer season gets underway.

But this year, orange-clad hunters may find the pursuit a little more difficult than in recent seasons, with the Minnesota Department for Natural Resources (DNR) predicting a significant drop in the deer harvest.

Last winter's extreme weather coupled with a successful harvest is expected to reduce this year's harvest to just 120,000 deer, compared to 170,000 in 2013, WCCO reports.

In addition, tighter restrictions have been put in place to limit the impact of hunting on deer numbers, in the hope it will result in a rebound in future years. These restrictions are:

  • Only one deer can be harvested in 95 percent of the state.
  • Hunters must be chosen in a lottery to shoot an antlerless deer in 69 out of 128 deer permit areas. Only bucks can be hunted in 14 areas, and in 38 areas hunters will have the choice of shooting a doe or a buck.
  • Bonus permits that allow hunters to shoot more than one deer can only be used in seven permit areas, and for certain special hunts.

Conditions are expected to be clear but chilly as the season starts on Saturday, though there may be some wintry weather in Northern Minnesota, which is likely to extend to other parts of the state on Sunday.

Short-term pain for long-term gain

Last year's winter was so bad that the DNR took the unusual step of approving $170,000 of spending to feed whitetail deer in Northeastern Minnesota, as the animals were were unable to forage for themselves because of the deep snow.

And while this year's limits may be a pain for some hunters, C.B Bylander of the DNR's fish and wildlife outreach section said the rules will help preserve the state's hunting heritage in the coming years.

"Rules and regulations are a cornerstone of wildlife management," he said in a DNR news release. "They are the tools wildlife managers use to protect species when needed, ensure harvests are within sustainable levels, manage experiences for a half-a-million hunters, and more."

A breakdown of rules for each permit area can be found here, and a DNR map of permit areas can be seen below.

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