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DNR: Deer season looks good

Deer hunting in 2011 is expected to be good but it would be tough to beat this: Last year, Jim Boyd of Cloquet killed two deer with one shot during the Minnesota firearms deer opener. The two deer were directly in line with one another, and Boyd saw only the closest one. Photo submitted by Jim Boyd

Hunters who venture into fields and forests for Minnesota's firearms deer season can expect a good deer season and ample hunting opportunities, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"We can't guarantee harvest success," said Steve Merchant, wildlife programs manager. "But we can assure hunters that good deer hunting opportunities exist throughout Minnesota."

Nearly 500,000 people are expected to participate in the firearms deer season, which opens Saturday, Nov. 5, throughout Minnesota.

Minnesota's whitetail deer population is about 1 million. The DNR, which manages the herd based on population goals established with public input, expects this year's harvest to be similar to the 207,000 deer harvested in 2010.

During the late 1990s, deer populations were at high levels in many areas due to a succession of mild winters. DNR enacted liberal hunting regulations to reduce the population, resulting in Minnesota's deer harvest peaking in 2003 at 290,000.

"Throughout most of Minnesota, deer populations are now at goal levels," Merchant said. "Bag limits have been reduced in some areas, but the deer population remains strong."

Most corn, which provides ample standing cover and can significantly impact deer harvest, likely will have been harvested, and last winter wasn't so severe that deer populations were significantly affected.

The firearms deer season concludes in the northern Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 20, and Sunday, Nov. 13, in all other parts of the state. A late season in southeastern Minnesota that stretches from Watertown in the north to Caledonia in the south opens Saturday, Nov. 19, and closes Sunday, Nov. 27.