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Oh dear! Deer population in Northeastern MN lower ahead of firearm hunting season

Oct 26, 2022 10:02AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Clyde He

By Mitchell Zimmermann - Northern News Now - October 25, 2022

Deer firearm hunting season starts November 5 across Minnesota, but here in the Northeastern region, the deer population is low.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), harsh winter conditions are to blame for a decrease in deer population in Northeastern Minnesota.

So far this year, 19,722 deer have been harvested throughout the archery and youth hunting seasons across Minnesota. In 2021, 157,384 hunters statewide harvested at least one deer.

However, this year, could be a bit slower.

Just outside of Duluth, Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle processes deer and permits for hunters. Jordan Mannon has worked on and off at the shop.

“I’ve been working here since 20, 2018,” she said.

The shop has an archery range in the back, but sells ammo to hunters who are gearing up for the firearm season. When the season finally begins each year, they get busier.

“We do processing,” Mannon said, “so we have a lot of deer coming in and the license sales, a lot of that.”

Mannon said the shop adds an extra register to the front of the store, in order to keep up with hunters passing through to get permits. The Minnesota DNR separates he state into 130 different permit areas with “similar habitat, land uses, deer populations and deer hunter distribution.”

Mannon said she planned to join in on the firearm season.

“This year, I actually have time to do it and I have have a rifle that’s been sighted into me,” she said.

The DNR has already started issuing permits in some portions of the state, including the Northeastern region, more specifically north of Highway 210.

“Deer populations are still struggling a little bit, in some places quite a bit,” Chris Balzer, a Wildlife Manager for the DNR, said.

Balzer has worked for the department for around 25 years, and is a hunter himself. He attributes the low deer population to “really, really bad” winters in 2013 and 2014. Since then, winters in the region have been moderate or harsh, something that keeps population low.

“We just haven’t had a lot of mild winters mixed in and that’s really impacting the herd,” he said.

Balzer said some people may choose to go to other regions of the state in order to hunt. In regions towards the central part of the state, hunters can harvest two or three deer.

“People might consider going to other areas,” he said, “so some of the numbers may drop in some of those permit areas in the far north where deer numbers are pretty low right now.”

Opening day kicks off in just a week and a half. Balzer himself said most people already have their blazing orange outfits ready to go.

“Very few hunters miss opening day,” he said.

Balzer said the DNR will also conduct random sampling of deer throughout opening weekend for Chronic Waste Disease (CWD). According to the DNR, the disease is in eight areas of the state.

Balzer said he doesn’t expect CWD to be an issue for this hunting season.

To read this original story and more news, follow this link to the Northern News Now website.