REGIONAL— “More wolves than deer.” That’s been a common refrain from hunters across northern St. Louis County, where the pace of the regular firearms deer season is running …
REGIONAL— “More wolves than deer.” That’s been a common refrain from hunters across northern St. Louis County, where the pace of the regular firearms deer season is running about seven percent behind last year’s disappointing numbers. Back-to-back winters with deep snow has also affected deer numbers in some areas, adding to the problems facing hunters in the region.
The latest pace of registrations has actually improved since opening weekend, when registrations were off by 19 percent. Wildlife managers say the recent mild weather has likely prompted hunters to spend more time in the field.
Overall, deer registrations are down nine percent over the five-year average across northeastern Minnesota, but that obscures the fact that numbers have fallen steadily over the past five years.
The results aren’t a surprise to area wildlife managers, who had predicted lower hunter success after last winter, which set snowfall records in some areas, particularly in eastern parts of the Arrowhead and along the North Shore. While snowfall is certainly a factor driving lower registrations in the Arrowhead, the decline in deer hunter success in the region has been building for the past several years.
As recently as 2018, hunters in Permit Area (PA) 177, which encompasses Lake Vermilion west into the farm country of the Littlefork Valley west of Cook, registered 1,459 deer. Through the second weekend of the 16-day deer season this year, hunters had registered just 413 deer. While the hunt runs through Sunday, Nov. 19, hunters typically register the vast majority of deer in the first ten days of the season. Other permit areas have seen similarly steep declines in deer registrations.
Hunters in PA 176, located just south of 177, registered 1,709 deer just five years ago. So far this year, hunters had registered just 410 deer as of Tuesday with just five more days of hunting yet to go.
In PA 130, which begins just south of Tower and runs southeast nearly to the North Shore, hunters registered 420 deer in 2018. So far this year, hunters have registered just 81 deer. In PA 119, hunters registered 457 deer in 2018, but only 178 so far this season.
The DNR has issued fewer antlerless permits in recent years, which accounts for some of the difference in registrations since more hunters are limited this year to bucks only. Even so, the buck harvest appears to be down sharply across the board compared to five years ago.