Minnesota Whitetail Deer Hunting
Whitetail deer hunting in the “State of Hockey” provides many options. Much like Wisconsin, the state has a culture that is rich with deer hunting. Minnesota is a large state and the terrain changes dramatically from north to south. A true Northwoods hunting experience in the north and eastern parts of the state changes over to a mix of woods and farmland and eventually flat and rich soil as you work your way south and east. Nonresident licenses can be purchased over the counter and all three seasons – archery deer season, rifle deer season, and muzzleloader deer season are offered for $185. Minnesota is another great state to introduce a kid to hunting with $5 licenses for hunters aged 13-17 and $0 for those between the ages of 10 and 12. Deer regulations can be a bit confusing as the state is divided into over 100 deer management areas, however licenses are issued state-wide.
Population and Habitat
The deer population in Minnesota tends to hold at about 1,000,000 animals. Fluctuations of 100,000 to 200,000 animals can happen, mostly driven by harsh winters and predation. With a state as big as Minnesota, it’s hard to generalize as weather and predation can vary significantly throughout the state. Typically, the north has tougher winters and more wolves, and the northern herd can ebb and flow more than their southern counterparts. Total deer harvest for 2019 was 181,549. Chronic Wasting Disease awareness and education has been on the rise since 2002 when the disease was first discovered in a deer farm in Aitkin county. Bans on deer feeding and carcass movement seem to have the disease contained to a few zones in the state. The winter of 2019 seems to have been tough on the herd in the north due to early and deep snow, as well as wolf predation.
Minnesota is a mix of lakes and woods in the north, transitioning slowly to row crop and canning vegetable farming in the south and west. The BWCA (Boundary Watters Canoe Area) in the northeast serviced by the town of Ely and surrounding area represents some of the most pristine country in the nation with travel limited to non-motorized boats throughout 1 million acres. As you move south and east from Ely, the ground slowly transitions to farm ground. Deer populations vary greatly depending on the status of the individual deer management area. The southeast corner of the state, often referred to as Bluff Country, holds significant populations of deer and some of the biggest in the state. This is also, however, one of the CWD zones that exist.
Within the Chippewa, Superior and the BWCA, plus state forests, there are lots of acres that can be accessed. Private land can be accessed through leases, asking for permission or through a multitude of outfitters/guides.
Opportunity and seasons
Over the counter tags for every weapon type and season exist without the need for preference points and at affordable prices. Archery, gun and muzzleloader tags can be purchased for $185. Fishing is an important source of revenue in the state which means fishing licenses are sold almost everywhere and, so too are hunting licenses. Bow season starts the middle of September and can provide a great early season hunt. Archery season typically runs through the end of December. Crossbows are not allowed during archery season but can be used during the gun season. Depending on the area, there are either one or two opportunities to hunt with a gun. The gun season typically runs from the first week of November to the first of December. Depending on the series of license you hold, you can hunt either one, two or all three weeks. Muzzleloader season usually starts at the end of the regular gun season and lasts for two weeks, generally December 1-15. Again, youth tags are extremely affordable so make sure to get your kids involved.
The weather can be THE determining success factor in Minnesota. In the north, first frost dates are typically in early October. Most of the lakes will be frozen over by Thanksgiving. Snow can start falling by Halloween and several feet can be in the woods by the middle of November, making travel and hunting in the woods a tough proposition. Access to hunting areas via quad or even snowmobile may be necessary. Having a point of contact that can keep you informed on the current situation is a must.
Where to hunt Minnesota Whitetail!
The hunting options in Minnesota are as varied as the landscape.
If you are looking for a traditional early season or rut tree-stand whitetail hunt, head for the Bluff Country of Southeast Minnesota. The tri-state area can be amazing. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa come together close to a small town called New Albin, just a short drive from Rochester, MN. November is prime time rut hunting and there are lots of folks that if they had to pick one day to be in a tree stand year in and year out, it would be November 7th.
Gun and muzzleloading options abound all over the state, depending mostly on the type of hunt you want to pursue. There are lots of flight options in and out of the state with major airlines servicing Minneapolis, Rochester, Duluth and Fargo, ND.