REGIONAL— With a still-depleted whitetailed deer population across northern St. Louis and Lake counties, hunters will want to take steps to give themselves the advantage when the regular …
REGIONAL— With a still-depleted whitetailed deer population across northern St. Louis and Lake counties, hunters will want to take steps to give themselves the advantage when the regular firearms deer season gets underway a half hour before dawn on Saturday.
“Scouting will help you,” said Jessica Holmes, Tower Area DNR wildlife manager. Buck movements can seem random, but they’re often working a route in their hunt for does and hunters who take the time to read the signs and predict buck movements can give themselves the advantage.
Time in the stand is also key, notes Holmes. While deer are known to be crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), they often have periods of activity in the middle of the day, particularly during the rut, which is now underway. That’s especially true, notes Holmes, when moonlight allows deer to remain active at night. Deer that have been up during the nighttime hours will often bed down to rest around dawn, but typically become active again around midday.
Remaining on your stand during lunchtime hours, when many deer hunters are typically back at camp to warm up and refuel, can also give you an advantage.
“You should sit all day if you can,” said Holmes.
Hunters will need to take such steps if they hope to improve their odds in a season when most are likely to come up empty. A low deer population following back-to-back severe winters in the region, along with the resulting restrictions to bucks-only for most hunters, is going to reduce hunter success, predicts Holmes. “It will probably be similar to last year… maybe down even a little bit,” she said.
On the more hopeful side, Holmes and other local observers have noticed a remarkable increase in deer activity in the past couple weeks after a summer when deer seemed to be all but absent in many areas. “It’s like someone just turned the light switch on,” said Holmes.
The onset of the rut along with unseasonably cool weather the last week or so has probably prompted that increased movement, said Holmes. Temperatures are expected to return to a more seasonable pattern by opening weekend, with lows in the 20s and highs in the mid-to-upper thirties and chances of mixed precipitation.
With the region’s deer population running below goal for most of the past decade, Holmes said hunters are beginning to express increasing frustration. While the past two winters, which both saw a deep and dense snowpack, have impacted winter survival of deer, many hunters are also pointing to the region’s high wolf population as another factor.
DNR biologists say winter conditions and the lack of good winter cover in some parts of the region remain the primary source of mortality for deer in northeastern Minnesota, and generally downplay the impact of wolf predation.
Whatever the reasons, hunting success has been down in recent years in the region and hunters have noticed. “I’ve had a lot of phone calls from hunters locally,” said Holmes. “They’re tired and fed up.”
But Holmes said a change in perspective can make a difference. “For me, it’s still about the family time,” she said. “The time sitting around the wood stove after you’ve been out all day is what makes the memories.”
The season gets underway officially at 7:28 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 19. The moon will be a week past full, which will begin to brighten the nighttime woods beginning around 2 a.m.
Don’t forget that those times will change by an hour beginning Sunday, Nov. 5, when we revert to Central Standard Time.
Hunters will have the choice of registering their deer online (mndnr.gov), by phone (888-706-6367) or at traditional walk-in registration stations. You’ll need to include the harvest registration number that appears on your license to complete your registration.