2017 DEER OPENER: Officials say 'fantastic' deer season ahead
BEMIDJI—Protecting antlerless deer is a key ingredient to successfully managing a population but, if you want to see the numbers increase, you also need help from Mother Nature.
Fortunately, the Bemidji area has been able to employ both components in recent years.
"We've been conservative in our antlerless harvest the past few seasons and that has enabled us to maintain our adult does," said Bemidji Area DNR wildlife manager Dave Rave. "We've also had a couple of mild winters in a row."
That combination has resulted in strong adult deer which have taken full advantage of favorable breeding and rearing conditions.
"The deer have produced like crazy in the Bemidji area," Rave said. "And I anticipate that it will be a fantastic deer hunting season."
The 2017 firearms deer hunting season in the Bemidji area (permit area 184) begins Saturday, Nov. 4, and continues through Nov. 19. Last fall, hunters had to apply for one of 5,000 available antlerless permits in 184 and, according to the DNR website, 1,510 of those hunters put venison in the freezer. Another 2,939 hunters shot their bucks.
This fall, all hunters in 184 will have the option to shoot any deer they want.
"We have moved to hunter's choice this season," Rave said. "Last year, the deer population was at goal so we increased the number of lottery permits from 2,000 to 5,000. This year we are above goal so we went to hunter's choice to stabilize things.
"I think hunter's choice is a good hunting regulation. When we can offer hunter's choice, it means that we have a deer population above goal or at goal. It means that there are deer around for hunters but not enough deer to hear many (depredation) complaints."
DNR officials estimated this spring's deer population in the Bemidji area between 21 and 28 per square mile. The goal figure is 18 to 24 so there appears to be excess animals roaming the forests and fields.
"If we can keep the population at 21 to 24 per square mile, it would be perfect," Rave said. "As we get more and more into goal, we can be more and more liberal with the harvest. Prior to last year, we were below goal and last year we were at goal. This year we are above goal so we are offering a hunter's choice regulation."
Rave is among the many Bemidji area hunters who welcomes the more liberal option.
"Personally, I usually shoot the first legal deer that walks past me," he said. "If that deer is a giant buck, I get more meat. If it is a fawn, I get better meat.
"As a hunter, I would like to see a 'managed' (regulation) because I'd like to shoot two deer. But a hunter's choice season also is good," Rave added.
With the increase in the population, hunters should see more deer this fall and some nice bucks could come into shooting range.
"There seemed to be many young bucks in the population last year so there should be some nice 2-year-olds this season," Rave said. "I also think hunters should see lots of fawns, does and yearlings.
"The deer numbers, at least in the Bemidji area, are high and I think this will be a good year to put a deer in the freezer."
Speaking of freezers, this year's opener is sure to be a bit chillier than 2016. According to Intellicast, the extended forecast in Bemidji calls for a high of 35 degrees and a 60 percent chance of light snow for Saturday's opener.
Here's a look at dates for Minnesota's firearms deer season.
• Nov. 4-19: 100 series permit areas.
• Nov. 4-12: 200 series permit areas.
• Nov. 4-12: 300 series Season A.
• Nov. 18-26: 300 series Season B.
More info: mndnr.gov.