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Brainerd area hunters expected to find deer this weekend

Hunters in Zone 604 must submit samples because this is a chronic wasting disease management zone this year.

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Whitetail deer surprised coming up out of a swamp. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.
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The Minnesota firearms deer season opens in the early morning Saturday, Nov. 6, and one state Department of Natural Resources official predicts hunters will have a lot of success this season.

"I would expect the deer came out of last winter in pretty good shape," said Christine Reisz, DNR Brainerd Area Wildlife supervisor. "We didn't have a harsh winter or anything like that. I would expect the population had good production and there should be more out there. I've noticed that the deer are starting to move around more, so I would expect by next weekend that things are going to pick up even more."

Zones 259 north of Backus and 172 east of Highway 371 near Backus are under stricter regulations than during the 2020 season, both having antlerless lotteries. This was because of some signs that the deer populations in those zones were on the verge of declining.

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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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"Looking at our harvest data, it's pretty consistent on the amount of antlered males harvested," Reisz said. "If the population is stable, then that number is stable. What we've seen is it's been decreasing over the past few years."

Reisz said the DNR uses male numbers to estimate deer populations because the numbers don't fluctuate as much as the antlerless numbers, which the DNR restricts or unrestricts to control population. As a result, when they see a decrease in antlered deer, it is a sign that the population is likely decreasing.

Hunters in Zone 604 , a chronic wasting disease management zone this year, are asked to be cognizant of mandatory sampling during the firearms opener.

"Last year was voluntary sampling during the entire season," Reisz said. "This year it's mandatory testing (in 604) during just the opening weekend of firearms season."

Reisz said the disease was detected in one wild deer in 2018, which someone found dead following an outbreak at a deer farm within Zone 604. Reisz said if no samples from wild deer come back positive this year, Zone 604 could return to normal in 2022.

"We need to get enough samples that we feel 95% confident that we don't have CWD in the wild," Reisz said. "That relies on getting enough samples from hunters, and they've been great so far. If we don't have any more positive cases in the wild, then this should be the last year we do testing."

There will be several sampling stations in Zone 604: at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pine River, Emily Fire Department, Cuyuna Country Recreation Area in the Croft Mine parking lot, the DNR offices in Brainerd and Aitkin, and at the eastern public water access on Gull Lake in Nisswa.

More information from the DNR

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Minnesota’s firearms deer season begins half an hour before sunrise Saturday, Nov. 6, and the DNR expects about 400,000 hunters to participate, a news release said.

Season dates vary depending on the deer permit area (DPA) where a hunter is located in Minnesota. Permit area maps and season dates are available on the DNR deer hunting page .

  • Firearm (A): 100 series DPAs, Nov. 6-21.
  • Firearm (A): 200 and 300 series DPAs, Nov. 6-14.
  • Firearm (B): 300 series DPAs, Nov. 20-28.
  • Metro deer management zone (DPA 701): Nov. 6-28.

Firearms deer season is one of several seasons for deer hunters. Archery deer season opened Sept. 18 and lasts through Friday, Dec. 31. Muzzleloader deer season is from Saturday, Nov. 27, through Sunday, Dec. 12.
Hunters are advised to plan ahead this year - not only to buy their licenses in advance, but also to determine where they will hunt, where they can provide a sample for chronic wasting disease testing, and how they will process their deer.

Find more information on the DNR website on the deer hunting seasons information page .

Weather forecast

The area weather forecast for the firearms deer hunting opening weekend shows temperatures in the low to mid 50s, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth.

  • Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high near 54. Southwest wind around 5 mph.
  • Saturday night: Partly cloudy with a low around 33. Southwest wind around 5 mph.
  • Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high near 52. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph in the morning.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

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Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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