ST. PAUL — Nearly half a million firearms deer hunters are preparing for the season that opens Nov. 9, and offers opportunity to spend time with friends and family, find adventure outdoors and put venison in the freezer.

In southwest Minnesota, a deep snow pack in late winter resulted in reports of deer mortality — mostly fawns — over a large portion of southwest Minnesota. As such, wildlife managers took a more conservative approach in setting antlerless permit numbers.

“We have learned through experience that tough winters do negatively affect deer even in southern Minnesota where deer food is not considered a limiting factor,” said David Trauba, southwest region wildlife manager.

In years following severe winters, managers take a more conservative harvest strategy. By being conservative in antlerless permit numbers, deer densities can be kept stable.

“The good news is that overall, most deer densities remain at goal level across the region,” Trauba said.

The conservative strategy meant that 2019 antlerless permit levels remained the same across most deer permit areas as in 2018. Only two permit areas offered fewer antlerless permits (275 and 294) as managers felt the overall population trend was moving downward. Two permit areas offered a modest increase in antlerless permits (289 and 291) and cited an increasing population trend along with a good habitat base as reasons to be more liberal in permit numbers. Three deer permit areas remained as hunter choice (281, 290 and 230) due to abundant deer habitat — especially in the Minnesota River corridor along with most land in private ownership.

The true wild card entering the firearm deer season will be the continued trend of abundant rainfall and river flooding, Trauba said. Hunters will encounter and notice hundreds of thousands of acres of unplanted fields across the southern region. In addition, many traditional food plots on state WMAs did not get planted or were planted to alternative crops. This has the potential to shift deer use especially later in the year.

All major river systems have flooded out multiple times. This has had an impact on the floodplain habitat base that is often viewed as the best habitat corridors. Because the habitat base has changed this year, hunters are going to need to scout and adapt to altered habitat conditions. This is true in all years, but more so in 2019.

Hunters help keep deer populations in line with population goals across the state, and wildlife managers report good opportunities to harvest deer.

Detailed information about permit areas and CWD zones can be found on the DNR’s interactive deer map at mndnr.gov/deermap. Information about CWD zones and sampling requirements can be found at mndnr.gov/cwd.