REGIONAL— Those North Country hunters who failed to get their deer this year apparently had plenty of company. With final registrations now in for the 2020 firearms deer season, hunters tallied …
REGIONAL— Those North Country hunters who failed to get their deer this year apparently had plenty of company. With final registrations now in for the 2020 firearms deer season, hunters tallied a total of 4,544 deer in the DNR’s Tower work area, which includes deer permit areas 117, 118, 119, 130, 131, 132, 176, 177, and 178.
That’s down 16 percent over season totals in 2019. While a lower harvest was expected given the reduced number of antlerless permits issued by the DNR this year, the buck harvest was off as well. Hunters in the Tower work area registered 3,607 bucks this year, compared to 4,173 last year. That’s down 14 percent.
“The buck kill is the best indicator of population change over time,” noted Tom Rusch, Tower DNR wildlife manager. Recent severe winters, with months of deep snow cover, have affected both winter survival of deer as well as limited the reproductive potential of female deer, according to wildlife managers. Many area hunters also put the onus on heavy predation from gray wolves as a factor in their lack of success.
Rusch noted that the buck harvest is down most sharply in permit areas on the north and east sides of the Tower work area, reflecting the impact of deeper snow in recent years than experienced in areas to the south and west. Even so, the declines were found across the board, with lower buck registration numbers in every permit area in the Tower work zone.
Meanwhile, the antlerless harvest was down 24 percent compared to last year, most likely reflecting the reduction in the number of antlerless permits issued this season as well as fewer deer overall.
The record-setting warm temperatures over opening weekend likely impacted hunter success, by limiting deer movements, which typically peak in early-to-mid November as part of the annual rut. Bucks are typically highly active during that period, but they risk overheating in the kind of temperatures the area experienced opening weekend, which likely reduced their activity.
But temperatures in the 60s were quickly replaced by the fourth day of the season with sub-freezing highs and 5-9 of fresh snow around the area. The colder temperatures increased daytime buck activity and provided hunters better visibility in the woods as well as tracking snow that remained for the remainder of the season.
On a statewide basis, hunters had registered 175,536 deer as of Monday, including 93,395 bucks and 82,141 antlerless deer. The latest numbers remain preliminary until the DNR has an opportunity to review them for accuracy and include the additional deer harvested during the muzzleloader season, which continues into December. The department will issue final numbers on the season in February.