The Brainerd lakes area saw a pretty successful deer harvest during the 2019 firearm season, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sees little reason why the upcoming season - which begins Saturday, Nov. 7 - should be any different given the number of young deer in the area.

The department also expects more hunters, and more hunters willing to hunt long hours.

“I've seen a lot of fawns and twins, so I would expect that we had pretty good production this past spring,” DNR Area Wildlife Manager Christine Reisz said. “The harvest is probably going to be similar to last year, with the caveat of COVID and maybe people having more time.”

Reisz said there has been an increase both in tags sold and deer harvested in 2020 for both the archery season and the youth hunt in mid-October, and she believes events surrounding the pandemic have allowed hunters to give more of a focus to bagging a deer. In fact, roughly 3,000 more youth hunt licenses were sold this fall than in 2019.

With the temperatures looking to be in the 50s and 60s for the opening weekend, Reisz and the DNR are expecting a greater harvest simply because hunters will likely stay in their stands longer than usual.

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“I think people are starting to see deer moving around more,” Reisz said. “The rut is definitely on. I don’t know if the warmer weather will slow them down at all, but the nice thing about having a good opening weekend in the 50s and 60s is that people will be able to sit out longer. Sometimes our limitation is you get too cold and you don’t want to be out there anymore. I don’t think that will be the case on Saturday.”

With regards to COVID-19, Reisz recommends hunters “do what they feel comfortable with” and follow guidelines set in place by the state government. One change made by the DNR, specifically in Area 604, is a shift to voluntary testing for chronic wasting disease.

“(Hunters) won't have contact with any DNR employee, like they usually would have,” Reisz said. “They can come when they want to and drop off the head and not have to interact with anyone. Just pick up the tag and attach it to their head and throw it in the barrel.”

Reisz said the DNR has found no additional cases of CWD since a wild deer was found in Crow Wing County in 2019, but the department is still looking for as much compliance with testing as possible and encourages hunters to drop off samples.

“I hope everyone stays safe. That’s all we can do.”

The firearm season begins Saturday, Nov. 7.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.