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DNR predicts deer firearm season will be a good one

Not since the drought year of 1988 has virtually 100 percent of the corn been removed from the landscape at the start of deer hunting season. Tribune photo

WILLMAR -- All the stars are aligned to make the 2011 deer firearm season a big one.

"In a nutshell, it's looking really good,'' said Jeff Miller, assistant wildlife director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Sibley State Park.

The brightest star of the hunt is the early harvest. Not since the drought year of 1988 has virtually 100 percent of the corn been removed from the landscape at the season's start, said Leroy Dahlke, wildlife manager with the DNR.

When the deer have no place to hide, hunter success rates should be high, he said.

There are plenty of other reasons to anticipate a big harvest in the region, one of them very much unexpected. Although there is no doubt that last winter was hard on the deer herd, it appears that spring reproduction was good.

Dahlke said there were many more reports of twin fawns than he would have ever expected.

The deer population is good in much of the area, and as a result the number of antlerless permits has been increased significantly. Antlerless permits were increased to 1,200 in area 276 west of Willmar and to 2,400 area 277 to the east and north.

As a general rule, the best hunting will be found north of U.S. Highway 12. The deer population in much of the area is at the desired density of six deer per square mile, Dahlke said.

Deer will be harder to find in the area to the southwest of Willmar, where deer numbers are believed to be below target levels.

There's yet another factor to add to the prospects favoring a big, overall harvest in the region. Mild weather is forecast for the start of the season. Hunters are likely to spend more time in the field as a result.

Last year, roughly 450,000 firearms hunters harvested just over 207,000 deer in Minnesota. Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the Minnesota DNR, is predicting a similar or slightly better harvest at 210,000 deer, according to information from the DNR.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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