New deer season regulations offer ample opportunities for northwest Minnesota hunters

·7 min read

Aug. 5—ST. PAUL — Deer hunters in many parts of northwest Minnesota will have some of the most generous hunting opportunities in the state this fall, based on the 2022 deer season regulations the Department of Natural Resources announced Monday, Aug. 1.

Despite what seemed like a harsh winter, many deer permit areas (DPAs) in the DNR's Northwest Region will have either a two- or three-deer bag limit, allowing hunters to take either a buck or a doe and then buy bonus permits to take antlerless deer.

The DNR's Northwest Region covers 23 counties from Kittson County in the far northwest corner of the state south to Traverse, Stevens and Pope counties and east to Lake of the Woods, Beltrami and Cass counties.

"Anecdotally, from what our wildlife supervisors up in the far northwest were able to discern through their own observations in the field and from those who live up there, deer mortality wasn't as much of a factor as maybe a lot of us thought going into deer season-setting," said Blane Klemek, acting Northwest Region wildlife manager for the DNR in Bemidji. "And so, those deer permit areas up in the northwest, by and large, are set to have a pretty standard deer hunting season."

Field staff also have reported seeing numerous does with twins, Klemek says.

"That's an indication of, no doubt, a healthy herd, plus the conditions maybe weren't as bad as we thought last winter," Klemek said.

That being said, there are a few permit areas, especially in more ag-dominated parts of the Northwest Region, where hunters will be limited to one deer and must apply for a lottery permit to take an antlerless deer.

Among them are DPAs 269, 270 and 272.

"When we get into that farm country, the habitat just isn't there, and that's a big part of it," Klemek said. "The deer permit areas there are managed, typically, more restricted."

Again this year, Permit Area 111, which includes part of Beltrami Island State Forest in Lake of the Woods and Beltrami counties, is limited to bucks-only with a one-deer limit.

This year, perhaps more than ever, hunters will need to be aware of regulations specific to the DPA they're hunting.

"We're really trying to think about things on a DPA-by-DPA basis for communicating to hunters," Kelly Straka, Wildlife Section manager for the DNR in St. Paul, said Monday in a virtual presentation with the media. "So we really encourage hunters to start there — know your DPA, know the number you're going to be hunting in and look up each DPA on our deer hunting web pages because all your regulations specific to your unit are going to be there."

Barb Keller, the DNR's big game program leader, said deer populations generally are faring well across much of Minnesota, a trend that is reflected in the bag limits and regulations.

"The one notable exception is northern Minnesota," Keller said. "The deer populations here are coming off of a fairly severe winter, so in some cases, we've reduced bag limits or continued with conservative management in order to stabilize deer populations or increase deer populations."

The DNR has increased bag limits or the number of lottery permits available in 28 permit areas, and decreased bag limits or available lottery permits in 12 DPAs, Keller says. Overall, the season looks "pretty similar" to last year, Keller says, with 90 DPAs having the same bag limits as 2021.

Minnesota hunters in 2021 registered 184,698 deer between the various seasons, down from 197,315 in 2020 but up from 183,637 in 2019, DNR statistics show.

The various deer seasons and hunting dates are as follows:

* Archery: Saturday, Sept. 17, through Saturday, Dec. 31.

* Youth and early antlerless: Thursday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 23.

* Firearms: Saturday, Nov. 5, with various closing dates depending on a hunter's DPA.

* Muzzleloader: Saturday, Nov. 26, through Sunday, Dec. 11.

"We're really excited for this upcoming season," Keller said.

For hunters in the Red River Valley, a notable change for the coming season is the creation of a new deer permit area — DPA 661 — which extends from Beltrami, Minnesota, west to the Red River and north to Alvarado, Minnesota, with U.S. Highway 75 as the eastern boundary.

Created to replace DPA 261 after a single whitetail buck shot last fall near Climax, Minnesota, tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the new DPA is classified as a

CWD Management Zone,

the DNR's most restrictive designation, where CWD testing is mandatory during the opening weekend of the firearms deer season and management actions such as a deer feeding ban and carcass movement restrictions are in place.

A similar new unit was created in the Grand Rapids area, where DPA 679 replaces what formerly was DPA 179 after two deer tested positive for CWD within Grand Rapids city limits, said Eric Hildebrand, the DNR's Wildlife Health program supervisor.

In both of the new DPAs, whole carcasses cannot leave the zones until a "not detected" CWD test result is received. The restriction applies to both CWD management and control zones.

Especially in the northwest, where CWD has only recently been detected, hunters in the new 600-series DPAs need to be aware of the restrictions and testing requirements now in effect, said Klemek, the Northwest Region manager.

"Up here in the Northland, it's going to surprise some people," Klemek said. "Hunters are going to have to really pay attention to the Hunting and Trapping Regulations handbook because, most definitely, there are some changes with regard to how we're managing CWD this year, how we are sampling deer this year, compared to other years."

Those sampling efforts this year include more options for hunters to get their deer tested for the brain disease that's fatal to deer, elk and moose.

In addition to DNR-staffed sampling stations, hunters can submit samples through taxidermists who are partnering with the DNR or by dropping off deer heads at self-service sampling stations. The DNR also will offer a limited number of mail-in sampling kits, allowing hunters to collect the lymph node samples from their deer, record some data and drop off the completed kit at a designated shipping carrier.

Each kit will have all of the necessary supplies and shipping materials, and videos posted on the DNR website offer instructions for collecting lymph-node samples and using self-service sampling stations.

The DNR will offer 2,000 of the self-sampling kits, with 1,000 available on the DNR website, 500 at area DNR wildlife offices and 500 through partner organizations, such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to distribute among their constituents.

Hunters also can make an appointment at area wildlife offices within any of the CWD sampling zones at any time during the deer hunting season.

Hunters should visit the

DNR's Make a Plan page

to learn more about self-service sampling station availability for the DPA they plan to hunt.

For more information, check out the

DNR's deer hunting page

at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

Hunters on the North Dakota side of the Red River also will see changes during this fall's deer season because of the discovery of the CWD-positive whitetail buck near Climax, Minnesota.

As outlined in the

Game and Fish Department's CWD proclamation,

baiting now is prohibited in deer hunting Unit 2B, which borders the Red River from Grand Forks to south of Fargo.

In addition to 2B, baiting is banned in units 1, 3A1, 3A2, 3A3, 3A4, 3B1, 3C, 3D1, 3D2, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F, along with any Game and Fish Department wildlife management area.

The Game and Fish Department will post a list of collection sites for CWD sampling before the start of the various deer hunting seasons.

Game and Fish allocated 64,200 licenses for this year's deer gun season, with more than 71,000 people and more than 13,600 gratis applicants applying for a license. As of Wednesday, Aug. 3, 242 any-antlerless tags remained in Unit 3A1, 773 any-antlerless licenses remained in 3F2, 267 antlerless whitetail tags remained in 3F1, 768 antlerless whitetail licenses remained in 3F2 and 216 antlerless whitetail licenses remained in Unit 4F.

North Dakota's archery deer season opens at noon Friday, Sept. 2, and closes Sunday, Jan. 1; the statewide youth season opens Friday, Sept. 16, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 25; the regular deer gun season opens at noon Friday, Nov. 4, and continues through Sunday, Nov. 20; and muzzleloader deer season opens at noon Friday, Nov. 25, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 11.

* More info: gf.nd.gov/hunting/deer.