Firearms season off to warm start

WILLMAR -- Deer hunters participating in the opening weekend of the firearm season in this area enjoyed success roughly matching that of the year before, with one exception.

WILLMAR -- Deer hunters participating in the opening weekend of the firearm season in this area enjoyed success roughly matching that of the year before, with one exception.

Trophy boards at local sporting good shops aren't quite as crowded with photos of big bucks.

The overall harvest appears on a close par with last year, but there weren't as many reports of trophy bucks, said Jeff Miller, assistant wildlife manager with the Department of Natural Resources in Willmar.

A 13-point buck taken by Blake Johnson and posted at Pete's Surplus, New London, holds the crown in Kandiyohi County.

Jon Dahlvang, DJ's Sporting Goods in Montevideo, said there weren't quite as many big bucks registered there either. That's not to say there weren't some very big bucks taken. A dandy, 12-point buck shot by 13-year-old Joe Mitlyng of Watson holds all the bragging rights.


Statewide, the first weekend deer harvest was up by about 4.5 percent, according to Miller.

Locally, a check with registration stations on his part suggested that the harvest number were below those of 2005, which was considered a good year.

n At Pete's Surplus north of New London, there were 176 deer registered as compared to 209 on the first weekend last year.

n At Mel's Sporting Goods in Spicer, there were 190 deer as compared to 234 registered one year earlier.

n And at DJ's Sporting Goods, the first weekend registration tally was 140, as compared to 170 last year.

Yet there were other registration stations that saw increases. Dave Soehren, wildlife manager in the Appleton area, said registration numbers showed a modest increase.

True to the spirit of the sport, there are conflicting opinions on what the first weekend's harvest tells us. Some believe that the harvest should have been greater since virtually all of the corn in the area has been harvested.

But many others believe that mild weather conditions and a full moon worked against hunters. Miller said the deer herd came into the season well fed and able to take advantage of the mild weather to "sit tight'' and avoid the hunters. A full moon aided nocturnal feeding by the deer, also helping to keep them out of the sights of hunters in the day.


Those conditions certainly benefited the mature, trophy bucks. "They don't get that way by being stupid,'' said Soehren. He believes that hunters heading to their favorite spots this weekend will have a good opportunity to find big bucks.

Many also believe that more than the weather was at play in the numbers and quality of the deer registered on the first weekend. The growing popularity of all-season licenses and the increased opportunities for deer hunting appear to have spread the hunting pressure out over a longer time period, noted Miller.

Also, more hunters are endorsing quality deer management and refraining from harvesting "basket" bucks. Dahlvang said it's much more common among hunting parties to voluntarily restrict the harvest of bucks under eight points.

There are two post scripts from the season:

Three escaped deer harvested

As of this writing, three of eight game farm deer that had escaped from a Kandiyohi County deer farm near Svea earlier this season have now been harvested.

The first deer had been taken prior to the firearm season by a bow hunter. It was harvested nearly 10 miles away from Svea.

The other two harvested deer were taken during the firearm season. One was taken about one-half mile from the farm and the other was six miles away.


All of the deer have ear tags. It can only be guessed at what words were said when the hunters approached their newly-killed deer and discovered the colored tags. Five remain at large and are considered fair game.

Testing for CWD, TB underway

Due to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in a confined deer in northern Lac qui Parle County earlier this year, the DNR is sampling deer taken in the area for CWD. Soehren said the goal is to sample 400 deer. Nearly 300 samples were obtained on the first weekend of the hunt.

A 10-year-old female deer was diagnosed with the disease on March 14, and 21 other deer and two elk at the farm were tested. None of the other animals had the disease. The testing is being conducted to ensure that the disease had not spread to the wild deer population.

In conjunction with the CWD testing, the DNR is also sampling some of the harvested deer in the area for bovine TB to determine if the disease has spread beyond the northwestern corner of the state where it was detected.

Earlier this fall, a deer that appeared ill was spotted on Rosemoen Island in the Lac qui Parle refuge. A hunter participating in the special hunt for those with disabilities shot the animal at the request of wildlife officials. It was sent in for testing as a precaution.

What To Read Next
Get Local