Each fall hunters across Minnesota venture out into the woods to harvest the elusive whitetail deer. While the archery season has been under way since mid-September, the most popular hunting season – firearms – officially opens Nov. 4.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), there are nearly 500,000 deer hunters in Minnesota, and one year ago 32 percent of those firearm hunters who purchased a license to hunt harvested a deer. 

Of that harvest number 61 percent were antlered bucks.

In a recent article regarding deer facts in Minnesota, the DNR stated “deer are the number one hunted species in Minnesota, and each year hunting brings $1.3 billion to the state’s economy.”

Jeff Zajac, DNR wildlife manager for this area, said there are a lot of deer this year, adding it should be a good year for hunters.

David Trauba, a DNR regional wildlife manager for southwest Minnesota, recently indicated deer numbers in this area of the state are in the rise.

“Two consecutive mild winters coupled with past conservative harvest strategies have allowed deer numbers to increase throughout southwestern Minnesota. In addition, wildlife managers reported good fawn production,” Trauba reported.

Trauba went on to state that river flooding as well as the amount of standing crops will have an impact on the outcome, especially as the first weekend opens.

Overall, the DNR is predicting a high deer harvest for 2017, indicating expectations are that the number of deer taken this season will be in the 200,000 range.

One year ago, there were 173,213 deer harvested, and the record harvest in Minnesota occurred in 2003 when 290,525 deer were taken.

The season officially gets under way one-half hour before sunrise Nov. 4, and the DNR is encouraging those who plan to be out that early get their hunting license early.

“Buying a deer license early gives you more time to pack that tater tot hot dish for deer camp and do everything else associated with your deer hunting tradition,” said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director in a recent press release. “Every year people do wait until the last minute.

Zajac offered a couple of reminders for those who plan to hunt this season.

First of all, he reminded hunters that baiting is illegal, adding leaving anything out that is a food derivative is against the law. He said even some mineral blocks have some of those food derivatives in them, so it is important to read the labels before putting them out in the woods.

One of the issues the DNR has focused on is the importance of deer stand safety, said Zajac. When hunting safety must always be a priority, and when it comes to deer stands that means good planning.

According to Zajac, tree stand accidents are the leading cause of injury to hunters.

The DNR reports one in three people who hunt form a tree stand will fall resulting in serious injury.

“When you climb into a tree stand always wear a safety harness,” said Zajac, adding it is also important to use a haul line to pull up one’s gear rather than trying to carry it when climbing up to the stand.

Zajac also reminded hunters that they must be aware of what they are shooting at.

“Don’t shoot at a movement or a sound. Shoot at a deer,” he said.

The firearm season continues through Nov. 12 giving hunters plenty of days to get out and harvest that trophy buck. Another issue hunters need to be aware of as they are out is chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Hunters are also reminded to register deer before it is processed, before the antlers are removed and within 48 hours of harvest.

“Deer registration provides information that is essential to our ability to manage deer populations,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife population and regulations manager. “Hunters are required to register deer, and it’s a fairly simple process.”

The DNR, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), annually offers a program through which hunters may donate deer carcasses to food shelf organizations and other feeding programs.

To learn more about whitetail deer hunting, hunting safety and other rules and opportunities, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.