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Deerly departed: Hunters bag 30,000 fewer deer in opening weekend

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State officials warned this year's deer harvest would be down, and they weren't wrong.

Hunters bagged 54,000 deer in the first three days of this year's firearms deer season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is 30,000 less than in 2013.

This represents a 34 percent drop in the last 12 months, but some areas suffered more than others, with the Duluth News Tribune reporting that the harvest fell 51 percent in Northeastern Minnesota.

When taking into account special hunts and the archery season, the total deer harvest stands at 67,000, the Star Tribune notes, compared to 100,000 in 2013.

The DNR had expected – and planned for – this year's deer numbers to drop, as a result of the combined impact of last winter's frigid weather and a bumper harvest in the 2013 season. It's resulted in stricter controls on the number of deer hunters are allowed to kill, a move made in order to boost the animal's numbers.

"Comparing this year to harvests in previous years doesn't necessarily reflect hunter opportunity or the number of deer on the landscape in 2014," the DNR's Leslie McInenly told the Pioneer Press.

"This year's lower harvest is by design because regulations were implemented to place more deer – particularly does – off limits to increase Minnesota's deer population."

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