Lakes area hunters registered roughly 6,600 deer in the first weekend of the firearm hunting season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The harvest - covering permit areas 172, 242, 247, 246 and 249 - is an increase of nearly 22 percent from the approximately 5,200 deer harvested in the first weekend of 2016.
"We expected the harvest to be greater," said Christine Reisz, area wildlife supervisor for the Brainerd DNR office. "A lot of those permit areas went from lottery to hunter's choice - although 242 went to "management" this year - so we liberalized the season, and folks could take either a doe or an antlered deer.
"We are within the goal population for those permit areas - based on goals we set in 2015. To keep it within that range, we needed to liberalize the hunting season and allow hunters to take more adult does. Given the mild winters we have had the past few years, we are well within our population goals."
Reisz indicated that about 60 of the deer harvest in the area were antlered deer.
While results from the area's mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease testing sites are incomplete at the moment, Reisz indicated the DNR has received more than 7,500 samples throughout all testing areas.
"We well exceeded our goals," Reisz said. "We have really good compliance from hunters, so that's a positive thing."
The DNR anticipated complete results from the season later in the week.
Through the second weekend of the 2017 season, hunters registered 145,054 deer statewide. Preliminary results through the second weekend show that the number of deer registered was up 10 percent from 2016. Of the deer harvested, 54 percent were bucks, compared to 63 percent during the same period in 2016.
Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2017 total deer harvest to be around 200,000. The 2016 total harvest was 173,213.