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Minnesota deer season 2020: What you need to know

Statistics, resources, rules and more for the upcoming opener.

A big whitetail buck appears to look around a tree to see who is taking his photograph. Minnesota's 2020 firearms deer hunting season starts Saturday, Nov. 7. ( News Tribune / file )
  • The 2020 Minnesota firearms deer season for northeastern Minnesota — the 100 series permit areas — runs for 16 days, from Saturday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 22.

  • Shooting hours each day are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.

  • Minnesota sells about 520,000 deer hunting licenses each fall, including firearms, muzzleloader, youth and archery. Of those, about 450,000 hunters are expected to be afield statewide during the firearms season.

  • About half the deer shot during the season are shot opening weekend. This year, that will likely be about 100,000 deer, depending on the weather. (Warmer, drier weather means hunters stay outside longer and shoot more deer.) About 70% of the season harvest occurs in the first four days of the season. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has set an annual goal of 200,000 deer shot and hunters — firearms, muzzleloader and archery combined.

  • Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 pounds on average and males weigh about 170 pounds. The biggest white-tailed deer recorded in Minnesota was a 500-pound buck.

  • A whitetail's home range is about 1 square mile.

  • Last year, 36% of all Minnesota hunters successfully harvested a deer (including archery and muzzleloader) but the success rate was 32% during the firearms season and only 27% for the 100-series management area during firearms season.

  • The average hunter spends five days afield during Minnesota's firearms deer season.

  • A legal buck is a deer having at least one antler 3 inches long. Buck fawns, sometimes called button bucks or nubbin' bucks, are not legal bucks.

  • Resident firearms deer licenses are $35 in 2020.

  • Resident hunters 84 years old and older can shoot a deer of either sex in any permit area.

  • A deer license purchased after the opening day of the season is valid starting the next day after it is issued, but not on the day it is issued.

  • Share your stories on social media using #Deer-CampMN.

Source: Minnesota DNR

deer harvest by year.jpg

Be safe out there

The DNR reminds hunters to follow the three tenets of safe firearms handling:

  • Treat each firearm as if it is loaded and keep your finger off the trigger.

  • Always control the muzzle of the firearm.

  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond.

Tree-stand accidents are the leading cause of injury to hunters, so it's always important to wear a safety harness and unload your gun before going up or down in your stand.

Questions? DNR operators standing by

Hunters can find deer hunting information at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer. Hunting season questions can be fielded by the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. To report a violation in progress, call the Turn in Poachers line at 800-652-9093.


Ask DNR deer hunting questions during Nov. 2 webinar

Anyone who has deer hunting questions may register and participate in a virtual “First Day of Deer Camp” conversation from noon-1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2.

During the webinar, a variety of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff who specialize in education, wildlife and enforcement will answer questions to help hunters prepare for the firearms deer season that begins Saturday, Nov. 7. Registration for the webinar is required and available online . Participants are encouraged to submit questions when they register. A recording of the webinar will be posted online.

Top 10 Minnesota deer season violations in 2019

  1. Uncased/loaded firearms in vehicle

  2. Failure to register deer

  3. Failure to validate registration

  4. Hunting over bait

  5. No license

  6. No license in possession

  7. Untagged deer

  8. No/not legal blaze orange clothing

  9. Lend/borrow license or antlerless permit

  10. Trespass

A whitetail buck in fall. More areas of Northeastern Minnesota are bucks-only hunting this year due to a stirng of deep snow winters that have held deer numbers down. ( News Tribune / file )

Regis ter your deer online, by phone or in-person

Hunters who harvest deer, bear or turkey must sign into the Minnesota DNR's electronic license system when registering a harvest online at mndnr.gov/gameregistration . Deer can also be registered by calling 888-706-6367 or in person at designated registration stations. For a list of those locations go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/stations.html .

For more information, go to mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting .

How to tag your deer

Your deer license and site tag comes as a two-part form. The upper half is the site tag for tagging the deer in the field . The lower half is the deer license and registration slip. Hunters must do the following:

  • Detach the site tag from the deer license/registration slip.

  • Before moving the deer, the hunter whose name is on the license validates the tag by using a knife or similar sharp object to cut out the notches indicating the month, date and time of day the deer was killed (AM/PM).

  • If more than one month, date or time is cut out or marked, the tag becomes invalid.

More rules

  • Hunters may not take deer with the aid or use of bait.

  • Ensure you are using legal equipment for taking big game, Rifles must be at least .20 caliber or larger and ammunition must have a soft or expanding tip with single projectile (no buckshot).

  • Antlerless deer are considered any deer without an antler at least 3 inches long.

Blaze orange or pink

All hunters and trappers in the field during an open firearms deer season must display blaze orange or blaze pink on the visible portion of the person's cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves. Blaze orange or blaze pink camouflage patterns are allowed but must be at least 50% blaze orange or pink within each square foot.


United Northern Sportsmen rifle range open all week

The annual United Northern Sportsmen's Club deer rifle sight-in is being held this year with new procedures. Because of COVID-19, the club's rifle range will be observing the social distance rule of 6 feet, using only 7 of the 14 shooting benches.

Only seven people will be allowed to wait their turn under the canopy. The check-in will be outside of the retreat building. Sight-in will be open every day through Friday, Nov. 6. Hours are 8 am to 1/2 hour before sunset.

The cost is $5 for a single rifle range session, or get a full year's membership in the club for $35. For more information go to unitednorthernsportsmen. org.

The rifle range is located on the club's grounds on Island Lake along St. Louis County Highway 4 (7229 Rice Lake Road) about 20 minutes north of Duluth.

No deer stands left overnight on WMAs

Hunters planning to use portable stands on wildlife management areas are reminded to check regulations to know when they need to remove stands after hunting. In most of the state, leaving stands overnight on WMAs is not allowed and the stands must be removed at the end of the day.

DNR: Have your deer tested for CWD in the east-central CWD surveillance area and north-central CWD control zone

As part of the DNR’s COVID-19 response, CWD sampling is voluntary for all deer harvested in the east central CWD surveillance area in southern Pine and Chisago counties — management areas 157, 159 and 225. CWD-positive deer have been confirmed in that area on a deer farm.

It’s also voluntary, but highly requested, in the north central CWD control zone, area 604 west of Aitkin in the Brainerd area where both wild and deer farm deer have tested positive for CWD in recent years.

CWD sampling stations are available during the regular firearms deer season starting Nov. 7 until the goal of 1,000 deer is reached in the east central area and all season in the north central area. When this goal is met, the self-service sampling stations will be removed and a sign will be posted in their place. Hunters who harvest a deer from this area after the goal is met may have their deer tested by setting up an appointment with a wildlife office in this surveillance area.
The DNR highly encourages hunters to help by providing the head of any harvested adult deer (1 year or older) at a self-service sampling station during all hunting seasons.


You will need to provide the township, range and section of your harvest location. Maps are provided at each station, but hunters are encouraged to have this information for their location of harvest prior to arriving.

The time it takes to receive CWD test results will vary depending on the number of samples collected. Process your deer as you normally would. Keep processed deer separate and identifiable until test results are received. Test results for all deer that are sampled will be available online at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.

For more information on how to have your deer tested for CWD go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/cwd/index.html .

What to put in a day pack or fanny pack for deer hunting

  • Sharp knife

  • Headlamp with fresh batteries

  • Thin rope to use as haul line at deer stand, heavier rope and harness for dragging deer out

  • Tree-stand safety harness

  • Compass (know how to use it) and GPS

  • Hunting license

  • Rubber gloves for field dressing deer

  • Toilet paper

  • Small survival kit in quart-size zip-top bag that includes two 50-gallon garbage bags (for emergency shelter), waterproof matches or lighter, whistle and energy bars.

  • Small folding saw for clearing brush

  • Plastic trail-marking tape (for tracking deer in rainy or snowy conditions)

  • Pelvic saw for field dressing deer

  • Water bottle

  • Grunt call

  • Cough drops

  • Cellphone, charged but turned off

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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