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Northwest Minnesota hunters won't lack for opportunity when regular firearms deer season opens

Several deer permit areas in northwest Minnesota offer the opportunity to shoot up to three deer, for hunters who buy bonus permits in addition to their regular license. Hunting is the DNR’s primary tool for keeping deer numbers within management goals.

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Deer camps are an important part of Minnesota's rich deer hunting tradition. Minnesota's 2021 firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 6. Contributed / Minnesota DNR

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Hunters across northwest Minnesota are sprucing up their deer camps and deer stands in preparation for the Big Event, and lack of opportunity shouldn’t be an issue when the state’s firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 6.

Deer populations across much of the northwest look good, said Blane Klemek, Northwest Region wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji.


Numbers are especially strong in areas that offer a mix of woodland and agricultural habitat. That includes much of northwest Minnesota, which lies in a transition area between prairie and forest that whitetails find to their liking.
A mild winter meant female deer came into spring in good reproductive shape.

“Take a look at this past winter,” Klemek said. “We had two weeks of extremely cold weather, and that was it. And that wasn’t coupled with deep snow. We didn’t have even close to a severe winter last winter.”


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Blane Klemek, Northwest Region wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, celebrates the taking of a trophy buck in this undated photo. Contributed / Blane Klemek, Minnesota DNR

Because of that, several deer permit areas – or DPAs, as they’re commonly known – in northwest Minnesota offer the opportunity to shoot up to three deer, for hunters who buy bonus permits in addition to their regular license. Hunting is the DNR’s primary tool for keeping deer numbers within management goals.

Other DPAs are designated as one-deer limit bucks only, one-deer limit antlerless permit lottery, one-deer limit either sex or even five-deer limit in some permit areas, mainly in the southeast part of the state.

Only DPA 111, which includes Beltrami Island State Forest, is designated as one-deer limit bucks only in the Northwest Region. The Northwest Region covers a broad area from Kittson County east to Lake of the Woods and south to Alexandria and Glenwood.

Multiple options

In Minnesota, deer hunters aren’t restricted to a single permit area but can hunt anywhere as long as they follow the bag limits for that particular DPA. Deer season in northwest Minnesota’s 200-series permit areas continues through Sunday, Nov. 14, while hunters in 100-series permit areas farther east can hunt through Sunday, Nov. 21.

“The beauty of deer season nowadays and what the deer hunter has for opportunity, (is) you could hunt those 200-series DPAs and then if you haven’t harvested a deer or if you’re going to party hunt with somebody, you can cross the boundary into a 100-series DPA and finish the 16-day season there,” Klemek said.

There was some concern that widespread summer drought would reduce forage availability and have a negative impact on white-tailed deer populations, but that didn’t seem to be the case, Klemek says.


“It didn't seem to impact white-tailed deer all that much from all the reports I’ve gotten,” he said. “In my own observations, I'm seeing does with twins. I know of people that have seen and reported seeing triplets right around here in this greater Bemidji area. Deer seem to be doing just fine.”

CWD surveillance

The picture going into opening weekend isn’t all rosy, though, after a captive deer herd in Beltrami County tested positive for chronic wasting disease earlier this year. As a result, the DNR has designated the area as a CWD surveillance zone and implemented mandatory testing for opening weekend in DPA 184 and all or parts of adjacent permit areas 110, 169 and 197.

CWD is a degenerative brain disease that is fatal to deer, moose, elk and other members of the family known as cervids. The finding of CWD in a captive herd in Beltrami County marks the farthest north the disease has been found in Minnesota.

“That’s a game-changer,” Klemek said.

Mandatory sampling in the surveillance zone will be in effect for the next three years for all deer 1 year or older, Klemek said, and the goal is to collect 1,800 samples during the opening weekend.

“That will give us a strong sample size, and we’ll have a high probability of detecting CWD if it exists in the wild herd,” he said. “Hopefully, we will not find CWD in any wild hunter-harvested deer.”

As part of the DNR’s CWD response plan, testing and other protocols would ramp up even further if the disease is found in wild deer, Klemek said.


“We don’t want to go down that road, but if we have to, we will,” he said.

Steeped in tradition

Minnesota hunters last year registered nearly 160,000 whitetails for an overall success rate of 33.1% during the firearms deer season, DNR statistics show. The DNR in 2020 sold 594,014 firearms deer season licenses, between resident, nonresident, bonus permit and youth license sales.

As Minnesota outdoors traditions go, they don’t get much bigger than the firearms deer season.

“For me, the tradition of deer hunting personally is something that actually can get emotional,” Klemek said. “It’s an event that I look forward to – it’s a way of life. It’s family, it’s friends, it’s being in camp. And I know that I can speak for 500,000 other deer hunters out there that it’s a way of life.

“It’s something that people mark on their calendar. It could be considered a holiday to many people and it’s hugely important to Minnesota’s economy.”

Rules of the Hunt

Here’s a look at season dates for Minnesota’s regular firearms deer seasons.

  • Firearm A 100-series: Nov. 6-21.

  • Firearm A 200-series: Nov. 6-14.

  • Firearm A 300-series: Nov. 6-14.

  • Firearm B 300-series: Nov. 20-28.

  • Metro deer management zone (DPA 701): Nov. 6-28.

  • More info:

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