Outdoor Notes for Oct. 20
Hackers take top prize in season’s final Northerns Inc. tournament
Northerns Inc. recently held its final tournament of the season, a two-day event Oct. 5-6 on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes.
The team of Kevin and Lucas Hacker took first place with a combined weight of 36 pounds, 6 ounces.
In second place was the team of Rod Barnum and Craig Klimek, with 32 pounds, 6 ounces. In third was the team of Mike and Shawn Franzen, with 29 pounds, 15 ounces; fourth place was the team of Tim and Nick Yeager with 29 pounds, 2 ounces; and fifth place was the team of Jeff and Tracy Wohl with 28 pounds, 9 ounces.
Winter aeration system will be used on Nisswa Lake
An aeration system creating open water and thin ice will be in use Dec. 1-March 31 on Nisswa Lake at the old Nisswa Marina site. Caution will be advised around posted areas.
DNR regional wildlife managers detail what deer hunters can expect
Wet habitat and access conditions make scouting even more important this season
Nearly half a million firearms deer hunters are preparing for the season that opens Saturday, Nov. 9, and offers opportunity to spend time with friends and family, find adventure outdoors and put venison in the freezer.
Hunters help keep deer populations in line with population goals across the state, and wildlife managers report good opportunities to harvest deer. But they also caution hunters that scouting could be more important this year due to wet access and habitat conditions over the spring and summer.
Hunters need to know the boundaries of the deer permit areas and any chronic wasting disease (CWD) zones where they hunt. Detailed information about each permit area and CWD zone can be found on the DNR’s interactive deer map at mndnr.gov/deermap . Additional information about CWD zones and sampling requirements can be found at mndnr.gov/cwd .
NORTHWEST DEER REPORT
John Williams, northwest region wildlife manager
A quick look at the 2019 deer permit area map shows a lot of opportunity for harvesting deer in the northwest region this year. Permit areas designated as intensive in 2018 (a three-deer limit) largely stayed the same in 2019, with the only exception being permit area 287 (Itasca State Park) going to a two-deer limit under the managed designation. Other permit areas have liberal hunting strategies, including increased lottery antlerless permit numbers or a change from hunters choice to managed designations. Only a couple of permit areas had more restrictive hunting strategies selected for the 2019 season.
The recent rains in the northwest will be an issue hunters need to contend with as the landscape is, and likely will be, very wet.
In any year, scouting prior to the season is a wise choice. Deer stands that were in good shape last year could be storm-damaged this year. Areas that were accessible under normal to dry conditions may require a different route in this year. In addition, making sure that your rifle or shotgun shoots true is worth that time on the range to give you the confidence to take a good shot. All this is better done before Nov. 9, and the sooner the better.
NORTHEAST DEER REPORT
Angela Aarhus-Ward, northeast region wildlife manager
In the northeast region, the permit area designation map shows more lottery deer areas compared to last year and fewer antlerless permits for areas that were lottery last year. This represents a more conservative antlerless deer harvest strategy designed to provide hunting opportunities, while helping populations to grow and stabilize around previously established deer population goals for those permit areas.
The more conservative strategy is a result of lingering concerns over the effect of last winter on deer survival and fawn production. The DNR recorded elevated winter severity due to deep snow and prolonged winter conditions that lasted well into April, particularly in the northeastern part of the region where winter conditions were the most severe.
To the south, where winter was much milder, management designations stayed largely unchanged from 2018, allowing for more hunting opportunity in an effort to stabilize and in some cases further reduce local deer populations to goal levels.
New this year: In the middle of the state near Brainerd, disease management zone 604 contains all of former permit areas 242 and 247 along with parts of 155, 171 and 246. Zone 604 was created after a wild deer tested positive for CWD this past winter. Permit area 604 has unlimited antlerless harvest; mandatory CWD sampling during all deer seasons and carcass movement restrictions in effect. Deer feeding and attractant bans are also in place here.
Rain and wet conditions have persisted throughout much of the fall season. Hunters may find water in areas that are typically dry this time of year and forest road access may be difficult or impassable in some locations.
CENTRAL DEER REPORT
Jami Markle, central region wildlife manager
Deer populations are robust across the central region, and deer observations and sign (rubs and scrapes) are picking up considerably as fall conditions set in. Seasonal patterns and movements are sure to increase as the peak breeding time approaches. Fall color and leaf drop varied across the region by early October, from 20 percent at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in the southeast to 70 percent in the north at Mille Lacs WMA.
Wildlife managers are reporting very good fawn production this year. Healthy body weight and condition can make it hard to discern fawns from yearlings in some cases. Hunters will see some does with single fawns as they head afield, and there will be plenty of does out there with two fawns as well.
It has been an average year for acorn production and other important forest nuts and forage. Deer are still focused on abundant natural foods, keeping them in the woods and along the forest edges. With a later frost this year and plenty of green browse to feed on, deer should be healthy going into the winter.
Archery harvest has been slow due to warm and very wet conditions during the early season, but is picking up in October. Saturated soils and flooded field roads have all but halted crop harvest, which could play into opening weekend strategy for hunters.
Opportunities abound for deer harvest in the central region with most permit areas designated as managed or intensive, allowing for the use of bonus antlerless permits. The metro permit area (701) and CWD management zone (600 series) are designated for unlimited antlerless harvest.
In southeastern Minnesota, deer permit areas within the CWD control and CWD management zones have unlimited antlerless harvest; mandatory CWD sampling during all deer seasons; and carcass movement restrictions are in effect. Deer feeding and attractant bans are also in place here.
SOUTHWEST DEER REPORT
David Trauba, southwest region wildlife manager
A deep snow pack in late winter resulted in reports of deer mortality – mostly fawns – over a large portion of southwestern Minnesota. As such, wildlife managers took a more conservative approach in setting antlerless permit numbers. We have learned through experience that tough winters do negatively affect deer even in southern Minnesota where deer food is not considered a limiting factor.
In years following severe winters, managers take a more conservative harvest strategy. By being conservative in antlerless permit numbers, we can hold deer densities stable and maintain an increasing trend across most permit areas. The good news is that overall, most deer densities remain at goal level across the region.
The conservative strategy meant that 2019 antlerless permit levels remained the same across most deer permit areas as in 2018. Only two permit areas offered fewer antlerless permits (275, 294) as managers felt the overall population trend was moving downward. Two permit areas offered a modest increase in antlerless permits (289, 291) and cited an increasing population trend along with a good habitat base as reasons to be more liberal in permit numbers. Three deer permit areas remained as hunter choice (281, 290, 230) due to abundant deer habitat especially in the Minnesota River corridor along with most land in private ownership.
The true wild card entering the firearm deer season will be the continued trend of abundant rainfall and river flooding.