Minnesota deer harvest dips in 2022, DNR says in sharing harvest report and CWD update
CWD was detected in 26 hunter-harvested deer, with 73% from the southeast, a region that continues to see persistent CWD infections in wild deer.
ST. PAUL – Hunters in Minnesota shot about 170,000 deer during the 2022 deer hunting season, a lower total harvest than in recent years, the Department of Natural Resources reported Tuesday. Total harvest was down 7% from 2021 and 10% less than the five-year average deer harvest for Minnesota, the DNR said.
“Lower deer numbers in northern Minnesota and poor weather during opening weekend in some parts of the state likely contributed to lower firearms A-season harvest,” Barb Keller, DNR big game program leader, said in a statement. “Hunters struggled with rain and wind in some parts of the state during early November, but weather was better during later seasons including firearms B and muzzleloader seasons.”
Favorable CWD news
There was some good news in the DNR’s ongoing efforts to manage chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. Three consecutive years of sampling efforts in deer permit areas 157, 159, 213, 225 and 273 yielded no detections of the disease in wild deer. Consistent with the DNR’s CWD management plan, these zones were established due to the detection of CWD in captive deer facilities. Following these three consecutive years of no detections in wild deer, successful hunters in the five DPAs will no longer need to submit samples for testing.
“This is great news for deer and deer hunters,” said Erik Hildebrand, wildlife health program supervisor. “We greatly appreciate hunters’ help monitoring these areas over the past few years.”
CWD was detected in 26 hunter-harvested deer through the 2022 fall seasons, the DNR said. Of those, 73% were from the southeast, a region that continues to see persistent CWD infections in wild deer.
CWD was detected in two hunter-harvested bucks in DPA 184 in the Bemidji area. DPA 184 is part of a CWD surveillance zone established due to the detection of CWD in a captive deer facility and illegal dumping of infected captive deer carcasses on public land.
After the discovery of this past fall’s CWD detections in wild deer, the DNR held a late disease management hunt to learn more about the presence of CWD in the area. Hunters shot an additional 102 deer, with no additional CWD detected.
These results, along with the fact the two deer in which CWD was detected were both bucks, led to the DNR’s decision to not conduct targeted agency culling in DPA 184 this winter.
“We use targeted culling in areas within two miles of a known CWD detection in deer, particularly does,” Hildebrand said. “We know an adult doe has a smaller home range and a tight social group. If a doe has CWD, the likelihood that her social group also has it is high. When we find a doe with CWD, that serves as an anchor point for our culling efforts — we can apply it to very small, specific areas to fight the disease.”
Conversely, bucks have larger home ranges, and detecting CWD in two bucks does not allow the DNR to establish an effective anchor point for a culling effort.
The fall sampling effort didn't find any new cases of CWD in DPA 661, an area along the Red River extending roughly from Oslo in the north to Beltrami, Minn., in the south, Hildebrand said. DNR staff collected 191 samples in 661, Hildebrand said, as part of efforts that began after a single whitetail buck shot in October 2021 near Climax, Minn., unexpectedly tested positive for the disease.
Culling efforts in the southeast started Jan. 23 and will continue through late March. Targeted culling will take place in the city of Grand Rapids (part of DPA 679) and the south metro (DPA 605) from Feb. 27 to March 10, focusing on locations where CWD has been detected in the past. All deer culled are processed, and the venison is frozen until test results are received.
Venison from deer with a not-detected result is distributed to cooperating landowners and those signed up through DNR’s Share the Harvest program at mndnr.gov/cwd/share-harvest.html .
Muzzleloader harvest up
In related news from the 2022 deer season, the number of deer registered during muzzleloader season was the highest reported since 2007 and was 10% higher than 2021, the DNR said. Archery season harvest was down about 1% from 2021. Most archery season harvest occurred before the firearms season and peaked in late October and early November.
Analysis of the 2022 deer harvest is still underway. A final deer harvest report will be available in March. Past season harvest reports are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/mammals/deer/management/statistics.html.
The release of the final 2022 season harvest results will coincide with opportunities for public input. The DNR will offer walk-in office hours at area wildlife offices across the state from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2. Local wildlife managers will be available to talk one-on-one with anyone about deer and other wildlife, hunting and habitat topics, specific topics that the DNR’s deer advisory committee should be aware of, or thoughts and feedback about deer population management.
Those unable to attend office hours in-person will also be able to share their thoughts through an online questionnaire at mndnr.gov/wildlife/talk-about-wildlife.html , available March 2. Written comments may be submitted to Barb Keller, Fish and Wildlife Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. Comments will help inform season-setting decisions this spring for the 2023 fall deer hunting season.
For more information about deer hunting in Minnesota, visit the DNR deer hunting page at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer . CWD information, test results and more can be found at the DNR CWD page at mndnr.gov/cwd .