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Area deer hunters will see more opportunities, and changes in boundaries

The 2021 deer season will offer more harvest opportunities for hunters. Deer hunters in west central Minnesota will also want to take a look at the state's Deer Permit Area map as boundaries in areas around Willmar have changed.

NEW LONDON — Deer hunters preparing for the 2021 season in west central Minnesota should be looking at more than their practice targets now that license sales are open.

“Pay close attention to your deer permit area boundaries because they have changed,” is the advice from Cory Netland, wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in New London.

Along with the boundary changes have come more opportunities to harvest deer in much of the area, especially permit area 277.

More opportunities north of Willmar

Deer Permit Area 277 north of Willmar has some of the highest deer density numbers in the state, and that is making it the focus of a management effort to reduce the herd.

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It means the area will be open for the Early Anterless Season Oct. 21-24 along with the Youth Deer Hunt on those dates.

The area is also being designated for a “five-deer limit.” While Netland doesn’t anticipate there will be many hunters actually looking to harvest five deer this season, the liberal harvest quota should help reduce the numbers of anterless deer in the area.

Netland said the area had a 30 to 46 deer per square mile density when assessed prior to the birth of fawns in the spring of 2021. That is a very high density level, but not a complete surprise. The deer harvest in the area usually ranks among the top 10 or 12 in the state, said Netland.

The wildlife manager said the efforts in recent years to reduce the number of deer in the area with a managed designation have not succeeded. The goal this year is to bring the population down and next year, probably go back to a managed designation.

Boundary Changes

The boundaries of some of the local areas were revised to better conform to the available habitat. For example, Deer Permit Area 283 east of Willmar used to include a large swath of land south of Highway 7 in Renville County. The lack of habitat in that area meant the harvest quota for the area had to be kept down, which limited opportunities for hunters in the northern part of the zone, such as the area from Atwater and Grove City into western Meeker County, where there is more habitat and better deer numbers.

The newly revised boundaries remove the area south of Highway 7 and include it with Deer Permit Area 282, which is also an intensively farmed area with limited wildlife habitat.

Another important boundary change to note is the inclusion of area in the Hawk Creek watershed from Maynard to the Minnesota River. Some 8,000 acres of land in this area are enrolled in permanent conservation, and provide good habitat. With more habitat and better deer numbers, this area has been included in the 281 DPA which follows the Minnesota River Valley.

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Boundaries are changed to the north and west of Willmar as well. DPA 277 has been expanded northwest to Lake Minnewaska in Pope County. This glacial ridge area offers good deer habitat. At the same time, the more intensely farmed area along Highway 12 running roughly from Benson to Kerkhoven in Swift County is now part of DPA 282.

Netland urges hunters to take the time and look at the DNR’s interactive map of the boundary areas. He said hunters in the affected areas are very familiar with the terrain, and he is confident they will appreciate the changes.

The state held public meetings last year to take input from hunters. The input played a big role in the designations for this year.

Change in designations

The DNR has changed the names of bag-limit designations to make the bag limits more clear, it stated in announcing the 2021 season regulations.

The changes are: The one-deer limit categories are “bucks only,” “antlerless permit lottery” (formerly “lottery”) and “either-sex” (formerly “hunter choice”). “Managed” is now “two-deer limit,” and “intensive” is now “three-deer limit.” The bag-limit descriptions remain unchanged, except for the “unlimited antlerless” designation, which has been replaced with a “five-deer limit” designation.

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Hunters submitted over 800 spleens from deer they harvested from locations all across Minnesota, and 61 percent of them contained residuals of neonicotinoids. The widespread distribution in deer from all types of habitat surprised researchers. DNR photo

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Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.
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