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Deer harvest rose sharply in lakes area

Whether it was due to an increased population, amiable weather or a combination of the two, lakes area hunters bagged more deer this year.

According to preliminary reports from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), deer harvest registrations between Backus and Nisswa increased by 18 percent over the 2015 season.

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"The numbers look pretty similar to our harvest in 2013," said Aitkin and Brainerd Area DNR Wildlife supervisor Christine Reisz. "Then we had a pretty hard winter and, in 2014, we implemented a pretty conservative season."

The reason for that increase could be a rebounding deer population that decreased during the winters of 2013 and 2014. Area 242 - encompassing Nisswa, Lake Shore, Breezy Point and Crosslake - and Area 247 northeast of Brainerd were hunter choice areas (no lottery required for antlered or antlerless deer) this season because according to DNR models, the areas had reached their "goal populations."

"We wanted to try to maintain (the deer population) at that level," Reisz said. "The increase in those two permit areas - though the increase was in both antlered and antlerless deer, there was a greater increase in antlerless harvested because it was a more liberal season and people could harvest either sex."

Area 172, east of Backus and Hackensack, is open for another weekend, but at the moment is sitting at a 3.5 percent increase over the 2015 season.

Throughout the nine-day season, temperatures remained unseasonably high, barely reaching the freezing point overnight. According to Reisz, however, that may not have played a role in the increased harvest.

"It is hard to say," Reisz said. "Certainly, it is more enjoyable to sit out in the woods when it is 50 or 60 degrees than it is when it is -10 or colder, but deer probably moved around a bit less. I haven't spoken to many hunters yet to see if they changed their tactics based on the weather, but I imagine they had to ... They probably had to do more driving and things like that. The numbers speak for themselves though."

Though the harvest has increased in each of the past two season, there is little reason to suspect that would change for the 2017 season, assuming this winter is reasonable.

"It is going to hinge on how this winter fares for us, but seeing how the population had rebounded after two tough winters ... I would expect that we would have an even more liberal season, possibly taking those areas in lottery this year and either bumping up their permits significantly or going to hunter choice, giving hunters many more options," Reisz said.

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879