Deer hunting success down slightly


March 8, 2024

Hunters in Minnesota harvested 158,678 deer during the 2023 hunting season, a lower total harvest than in recent years, down 8 percent compared to the 2022 season and 14 percent less than the five-year average.

The greatest decreases were in the northern part of the state, where deer harvest compared to 2022 was 21-percent lower in the northeast region.

But the numbers also reveal fewer hunters. The success rate for firearms season hunters was 28 percent across the state. The average the past five years is about 31 percent. There has been a drop in licensed firearm season deer hunters each year since 2013. In 2023, there were 60,000 fewer licenses issued than in 2013.

“In recent years, deer populations have been lower in northern Minnesota, particularly following the severe winters of 2021-2022 and 2022-2023,” said Todd Froberg, big game program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Several factors can drive these declines, resulting in fewer deer on the landscape during subsequent hunting seasons.”

B&B Market, Catering and Quality Meats, On top of big lake hill in Cloquet.

The DNR said deer suffer during prolonged severe winters, especially in areas with deep snow or insufficient winter habitat. In these conditions, deer must expend more energy to acquire food, making them more vulnerable to predators. Wolves play a large role as a predator of deer, especially in winter, “but there is little evidence to suggest that northern Minnesota’s low deer numbers are directly due to wolf predation,” the DNR said.

“The influence that wolves play in influencing deer populations likely changes over time and space, and can be exacerbated in response to other changing conditions, like poor quality wintering habitat.”

Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, also hit hard by severe winter, saw similar declines in deer harvests in 2023.

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