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Minnesota: Early rifle season set for Saturday, Oct. 12 in 30 permit areas

Hunters in northwestern Minnesota and points east and south will have the opportunity to take the field for an early antlerless deer season Saturday and Oct. 12.

Hunters in northwestern Minnesota and points east and south will have the opportunity to take the field for an early antlerless deer season Saturday and Oct. 12.

The early firearms season is open in 14 permit areas in northwestern Minnesota, along with 16 permit areas in east-central and southeastern Minnesota.

According to Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources' wildlife division in St. Paul, the DNR has expanded the early antlerless season from 22 permit areas statewide last year to 30 this year.

Most of that expansion, he said, centers on permit areas that border the bovine tuberculosis management zone in northwestern Minnesota. The DNR this year added five permit areas in the northwest, he said: 105, 111, 208, 267 and 268

The hunt is a tool to try to reduce deer populations in areas where the DNR has offered intensive harvest permits and places where numbers remain too high.


This will be the fourth year the DNR has offered the early antlerless season, Cornicelli said. Last year, 23,000 hunters participated in the early season, killing 7,100 whitetails.

That's not a high number, he said, but surveys indicate hunters use the season to take deer above and beyond what they'd shoot during the regular firearms season.

It adds to the harvest, in other words, but participation is fairly low so the effect isn't dramatic, Cornicelli said.

In addition to the early antlerless season, the DNR is conducting a study in a handful of state parks on the impact of two other alternative regulations on deer populations. Those regulations are "earn-a-buck," in which hunters first have to kill an antlerless deer before they can take a buck, and antler-point restrictions that require hunters to pass up bucks that don't meet the minimum antler-size requirements.

According to Cornicelli, the early antlerless season has been well received among hunters who participate. An unexpected bonus, he said, is that many hunters surveyed indicate they use the season as an opportunity to take their kids afield.

"That wasn't the intent of the early season, but we'll take it," Cornicelli said. "It is a good opportunity to take a kid out."

As part of the early season, hunters can buy special early season tags to take up to two antlerless deer. The early season tags cost $7.50, and hunters first must by their regular deer license, which costs $26 for resident adults and $140 for nonresident adults.

The exception is Permit Area 101, the bovine TB core area, where hunters can buy an unlimited number of disease management tags for $2.50 after purchasing their regular license.


DNR staff again will be on hand at registration stations in the bovine TB area to collect tissue samples from deer hunters shoot, Cornicelli said.

North Dakota offered an early rifle season in units 2C and 2D, which began Sept. 26 and ended Thursday. According to Randy Kreil, wildlife division chief for the state Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, reports from field staff and other people in the area suggest hunter traffic was modest, at best, and spread out to the point where it wasn't really noticeable.

There were no reports of conflicts with hunters afield for other seasons, he said.

Kreil said Game and Fish will know more about whether the early season increased the deer kill after the other seasons are complete and the department conducts its annual harvest survey.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to bdokken@gfherald.com .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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