Hunters ready for deer opener
Blaze orange will be the dominant color in the area forests and fields Saturday as Minnesota sportsmen return to their stands for the 2010 firearms deer opener.
The weather forecast calls for near perfect conditions for the hunters as temperatures are expected to reach the 50s during the day and hover near freezing at sunrise. The chance for precipitation this weekend is low, and if those weather predictions come true there should be many happy hunters by Sunday night.
"About half of the harvest typically occurs during the first two days of the season," said DNR Northwest Region Wildlife Manager Paul Telander. "In the rare years where we have adverse weather on opening weekend the total harvest usually is low and we don't want that to happen.
"We want people to go out, have fun and harvest deer," Telander added.
Hunters who have done their homework should have opportunities to fill their tag although the days of seeing dozens of deer in an afternoon probably are over.
Minnesota has been divided into 124 areas in terms of deer management and a few years ago a population goal was assigned to each.
At the time deer were prospering and in the minds of many, including motorists, farmers and gardeners, there were far too many deer for the landscape.
In an effort to solve that dilemma DNR officials implemented liberal deer hunting regulations. In some permit areas hunters could harvest up to five deer in a year and a landowner could take a sixth.
The tactic worked and in most areas the current population is near goal level.
"Certainly there are fewer deer in the landscape now (than a few years ago)," Telander said. "We established goals and worked aggressively to reach those goals. Now we are there, except in areas 209 and 210."
Those two areas are north and west of Bemidji, roughly bordered by Shevlin to the east, The White Earth Reservation to the south, Erskine and Thief River Falls to the west and Hwy. 1 to the north.
Hunters in 209 and 210 may still take up to five deer, but in the other areas surrounding Bemidji, hunters will be allowed only two deer (area 110) or had to apply for an antlerless permit to harvest a doe or fawn (areas 184, 197 and 169).
It is expected that these harvest regulations will remain in place for the foreseeable future but nothing is etched in stone.
"It is tricky managing deer with all of the weather variables that we can get," Telander said. "The weather is unpredictable and if we have a severe winter we can respond by reducing (antlerless) permits. But we will do what we can to maintain (this year's regulations)."
Anyone who has spent much time the past few weeks driving on the area roads knows that the deer are active and that lifestyle will continue through the early days of the season.
"The deer are in their pre-rut activity," Telander said. "They are on the move, have been actively feeding and are putting on their fat reserves."
The main item on the current menu is soft vegetation, according to Telander, and if there is an alfalfa field nearby, the deer probably are utilizing it.
A successful deer hunting season, however, isn't measured by how many animals you tag.
"Safety comes first," Telander said. "Be safe in how you access the stand and how you direct the shot. Make sure you are appropriately geared and don't forget to bring (among other things) matches and a compass."
Hunters who plan to utilize the Skime area north and west of the Red Lake Reservation are reminded that it remains a bovine TB zone. Deer harvested in that area, and surrounding areas, must be registered at an on-site station so they can be tested for bovine TB.
DNR officials plan on sampling 1,000 deer from the zone and they hope to find none with bovine TB.
If no positive deer are found during five consecutive years of testing, TB will be considered to have reached an undetectable level in the state.
For more information on the bovine TB zone or other aspects of this year's deer hunting season, consult the 2010 Minnesota hunting regulations handbook.