Saturday’s firearms deer opener in Minnesota looked and felt more like the first day of winter with cold, snowy conditions in many areas — a big change from last year’s shirtsleeve weather.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sent out a news release late this afternoon showing that hunters registered 70,724 during the first two days of the hunting season. That’s essentially the same as last year, the news release said. Bucks comprised 57 percent of the opening weekend harvest, compared with 67 percent during the first weekend last year.
The Zone 1 harvest in northeast Minnesota was up 16 percent, while Zone 2, which includes most of northwest Minnesota and a majority of the state from Canada to Iowa, was down 5 percent. The Zone 3 southeast Minnesota harvest was down 20 percent, the DNR said.
Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager, speculated standing corn had a negative impact on the areas that saw a decline, and hunting should improve as more corn is harvested.
Saturday’s snowy opener also could have have affected hunter success in some areas, I suspect, although that doesn’t explain the harvest increase in northeast Minnesota. Much of northwest Minnesota got anywhere from 2 inches to as much as 6 inches of snow, and I heard of areas in the northeast that received a foot of snow. Also, it seems among the hunters I know, many of them aren’t interested in shooting anything but a buck and are holding out for that to happen.
I was off Monday, but Monday’s weekly report from Department of Natural Resources Division of Enforcement showed conservation officers were busy before and during the opening weekend handling the usual assortment of baiting, trespass and failure to tag violations.
Here’s a look at a few of the more noteworthy encounters included in the reports from DNR officers in northwest Minnesota:
- CO Ben Huener (Roseau) had a busy week leading up to and including the deer season opener. Charges are pending for an archery hunter who wounded a trophy buck with an arrow; the next day and still only in the archery season took a rifle and jumped and shot the deer multiple times with the rifle. Multiple deer baits were investigated and enforcement action was taken on hunters for hunting deer with the aid of bait. A hunter harassment complaint was investigated and charges are pending. Another buck was seized from a hunter who shot down a road at the deer and enforcement action was taken. More enforcement action included hunting deer without a license on a hunter who first claimed to be “hunting coyotes” with a .270 and to a hunter transporting two loaded firearms.
- CO Nick Prachar (Baudette West) reports a busy firearms deer opener. Enforcement action was taken for transporting loaded firearms, driving after cancellation, hunting while intoxicated, and operate a snowmobile while intoxicated. Remember to wear your blaze orange into the woods.
- CO Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls West) worked the firearms deer opener in northwest Minnesota. Inclement weather led to moderate success on opening morning, but a few nice deer were taken. Enforcement action for the week included no blaze orange, take deer without license, take deer with waiting for license to be valid, unlawful party hunting, transport untagged deer, and multiple violations of transporting loaded firearms in motor vehicles.
- CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) worked a busy opening weekend of firearms deer season. Several complaints were taken regarding target shooting the day before the season. CO Vollbrecht did an interview with a local radio station. Complaints were taken and investigated of individuals hunting over bait. He observed two individuals driving their truck on a small gravel road late one full moon night without headlights. After following them several miles they were observed shining fields with spotlights. The individuals were observed shooting a deer from the truck. The individuals were surprised to see who had been following them after they had drug the deer back to the truck. Charges are pending in the case.
Deer season in much of northwest Minnesota continues through Sunday, Nov. 12, and until Sunday, Nov. 19 in 100-series permit areas, most of which are in northeast Minnesota.