Hunting season: More than 1,000 deer registered
Area deer hunters reported mixed success during the first few days of the firearms deer season and, overall, the harvest appears to be down about 12 percent.
Among the permit areas reporting the largest declines was 184, which includes Bemidji and the surrounding area. In 184, the three-day deer harvest dropped about 37 percent from 2009, according to the registration figures.
"I didn't expect to see this much of a decline in 184," said DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor Shelley Gorham whose territory includes 184. "Much of 184 is public land and that land usually gets hunted hard. When you hunt in an area with heavy pressure you usually will find fewer deer."
Permit area 184 also was designated as an antlerless permit area this year, so hunters had to apply for a doe permit if they wanted to shoot an antlerless deer.
In 2009 area 184 was deemed a managed area which meant hunters could take up to two deer and did not need to apply for an antlerless permit.
"Overall, our area harvest is down 12 percent, but permit area 184 is what drives the harvest around Bemidji and being down 37 percent is significant," Gorham said.
Among the factors that may have influenced the decline are the unseasonably warm weather and the recent management switch from intensive harvest to managed to lottery.
"I talked to a hunter over the weekend who said that from what he noticed, the people who were successful last year in 184 were successful this year and the ones who didn't get a deer last year didn't get one this year," Gorham said.
While the three-day harvest in 184 dropped, the kill in 110 increased 50 percent.
"I wonder if some people might have switched from 184 to 110 because 110 was a managed area and there is great flexibility with the license," Gorham said. "Area 110 also increased in square miles because it absorbed some of the territory when we eliminated area 167."
This year hunters had the option of registering their deer at the registration stations, by phone or by the internet. Because of the latter options, registrations at businesses dropped significantly, but the quality of the deer that passed their way did not decline.
"Hunters report seeing a lot of deer and we've had some nice bucks come through," said Jim Leuze of Bluewater Outdoors. "We've seen quite a few very nice eight, nine and 10-pointers."
Katie Norenberg of Gander Mountain agreed.
"The largest deer we've registered was 210 pounds and had 21 points," Norenberg said. As of Wednesday morning Gander Mountain had registered 86 deer and Norenberg reported that most of the hunters are happy with what they are experiencing in the stand.
"Hunters are seeing nice deer," she said. "They are taking nice ones but some are also waiting for better deer to come along."
Jon Ross at Timberline Sports in Blackduck said the store had registered 326 deer as of Monday morning. He reported that the number of registrations is down, but the size of the deer is exceptional.
"The quality is way better than ever," Ross said. "We've registered mostly bucks and some with very nice racks."
Among the deer were two that tipped the scale at 243 pounds.
"We've had many bucks that were big and heavy and had 12, 13 or even 14 points," he said. "I have heard that in wet years the deer grow better horns with taller tines. It could be because of the extra minerals that are available. Whether that is true or not I don't know, but this year the hunters are seeing deer and shooting deer and many of the deer are very nice."
In the Cass Lake area Karen Phillips of Froggy's Sports said that the deer hunting is yet to peak.
"The deer aren't running yet, and I think we need some cooler weather for that to happen," she said. "The heaviest we've registered was a 195-pound, 10-pointer and usually we see several that are over 200 pounds."
Among the nicer deer brought to Froggy's was an 11-pointer shot Saturday east of Bemidji by Christine Phillips.