Deer season opportunities stay on par in west central Minnesota
Deer hunters in west central Minnesota will see opportunities equal to last year, and better in some cases as DNR announces 2022 season rules and quotas
WILLMAR — Deer hunters in west central Minnesota will find their opportunities this year to be very similar to last year, if not better.
Commissioner Sarah Strommen and her staff with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the new regulations and opportunities for the upcoming season on Aug. 1 as license sales opened. The new rules, lottery and quota opportunities for each Deer Permit Area are now available on the DNR’s website, but the printed rules book is not expected to be available until Aug. 8.
“So overall, this looks pretty similar to what it was last year,” said Kelly Straka, wildlife section manager, after displaying a list of the Deer Permit Areas in the state and hunting opportunities in each. Straka reported that the harvest quotas were increased in 28 Deer Permit Areas, decreased in 12, and kept the same in 90 others.
Hunters in northeast Minnesota will see conservative quotas due to the impact of severe winter weather on the deer population.
The deer herd in the west central area remains stable and may be growing slightly in some areas to the west. This has allowed wildlife managers in the region to continue to offer opportunities matching those of last year and in a few cases, expanding them.
Deer Permit Area 277 north of Willmar remains one of the state’s best in terms of deer density and opportunities. It will be offered this year with a three-deer limit, as compared to five last year, but it will continue to offer an early antlerless season. It hosts anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 hunters each season.
Last year, hunters harvested 4,374 deer in Deer Permit Area 277. The quota was increased last year to encourage a greater antlerless harvest, and last year saw an uptick in the number of does taken.
Deer Permit Area 283, east of Willmar, will continue as a hunter’s choice area, with hunters allowed to harvest one deer of either sex.
Deer Permit Area 282, south of Willmar, keeps a one-deer limit, but will offer a lottery of 25 tags for antlerless deer.
Hunters in the Deer Permit Areas west of Willmar will see an increase in hunting opportunities. Although the harvest was down in Deer Permit Area 278, which includes the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Area, hunters will see an increase in the quota. The area will continue with a one-deer limit, but there will be 600 antlerless tags available in the lottery.
Deer Permit Areas 274 and 275 also will offer more opportunities with 300 antlerless tags available in 274 and 450 in 275.
CWD zones grow
Emphasizing that the health of the deer herd remains a top priority for the DNR, Strommen said the state is also at a pivot point in managing chronic wasting disease. The state is transitioning to more of a statewide approach, she said.
The state has now defined eight distinct areas where infected deer have been confirmed. Two infected deer confirmed in Grand Rapids and an infected, adult male harvested near Climax in northwestern Minnesota have resulted in new CWD zones.
Hunters must submit samples for CWD testing when hunting in designated zones during the opening weekend of the firearm season, Nov. 5-6.
This year, hunters can also submit samples for testing on their own. The state will be making available 2,000 kits.
The state will make it possible to order 1,000 of the kits online, according to Erik Hildebrand, health plan supervisor with the DNR. Another 500 kits will be made available at wildlife offices across the state. Another 500 will be distributed by partner organizations, he said.
CWD continues to be a top-of-mind concern for the state’s hunting organizations. Ted Wawrzyniak, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Deer Hunters Association, was among those participating in the Aug. 1 conference to announce the new regulations. “We see CWD as one of the largest threats to the future of deer management,” he said.
Denis Quarberg, president of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said he is concerned about the loss of hunters that the state has experienced and will continue to see as the disease progresses through the state.
Deer hunting has an annual economic impact of $465 million for the state, according to the DNR. Deer hunters play a major role in helping the state manage the deer herd.
The Aug. 1 conference also highlighted two other changes of note:
- Permits will no longer be required for the early antlerless season. Hunters can register a harvested deer during the season on their parent license. Hunters continue to have the option of purchasing an early antlerless permit ($8.50) or a bonus tag ($18) if they wish to harvest additional deer.
- This year, hunters participating in special hunts allowed in state parks and Scientific and Natural Areas will be required to use nontoxic ammunition.