During the 2016 firearm deer hunting season, nearly 11,000 deer were harvested in the lakes area - an increase of 24 percent over the previous year.
The Department of Natural Resources expects hunting to only get better in 2017.
"I would expect that we are going to see a similar increase this year," said Christine Reisz, area wildlife supervisor for the Brainerd DNR office. "All of those permit areas are more liberal than they were last year. Every one of those areas is hunter's choice, except for 242 where folks can harvest two deer. I expect our harvest to go up across the board in the Brainerd lakes area."
Assuming the weather cooperates, DNR officials expect the harvest to exceed 11,000 with relative ease.
"Our model (for predicting a harvest) is based on the harvest from last year and the expected reproduction," Reisz said. "It also takes into account the winter we had last year. In the spring, we sit down and talk about what we are going to set for seasons in the fall. We had a mild winter last year, and with the harvest we had, we expect the population to continue to grow.
"There are plenty of deer around," Reisz said. "We are seeing does with two fawns, and the population is growing. There should be plenty of opportunity, I think. Time will tell."
Due to chronic wasting disease being found in a captive herd in the area, hunters are required to bring harvested deer to a CWD testing site on the opening weekend of the season to see if the disease has expanded into the wild population.
"That is mandatory," Reisz said. "Folks that harvest a deer on Saturday or Sunday need to take them into one of 19 CWD stations to have their deer tested."
Testing sites in the area include the DNR office in Backus, the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pine River, the volunteer fire department in Emily and the Gull Lake public access in Nisswa.
Those looking to mount a deer may cape their deer out ahead of time or contact a participating taxidermist, but must still have their deer tested for CWD.
"The larger bucks are the ones that wander around the most and come in contact with other deer the most," Reisz said. "They are good ones to test."
Reisz also encourages hunters to remember to give someone an idea of where they will be hunting and when they expect to be home - an overlooked aspect of hunter safety.
"We often forget to tell folks where we are going and when we expect to be out," Reisz said. "It's good to have that safety net of someone knowing when and where you go and when you expect to be back, so if you have a health issue in the field, someone knows to go looking for you."