Deer Population Goal Setting

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Welcome to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources online engagement tool!


Watch the short introduction video above to learn about deer population goal setting including what population goals are, how the DNR sets population goals and how population goals influence annual deer management. The DNR sets deer population goals – how much of an increase or decrease is desired in a deer population in a particular deer permit area – as part of managing the state’s wild deer herd.

This is the second year of goal setting and it focuses on areas of southwest and northeast Minnesota.


Comment on draft population goals

Follow this link to complete the public comment questionnaire.

Stay informed

Sign up for our Deer Notes newsletter to get the latest updates on this project and stay informed about deer topics and input opportunities all year long.

Ongoing: Question & answers. In this tool, ask your questions as you would in an in-person meeting! Throughout the goal-setting process, we will prioritize responding to questions that increase understanding of deer management.

Thank you for providing your input!

Helpful information

Participation guidelines

We encourage your participation in deer population goal setting and look forward to an active and positive exchange of ideas. Questions and comments that will most effectively shape the goals should constructively explain the “why” behind your thinking and share solutions/alternatives. All comments will be incorporated with other public input received during the goal setting process, and DNR staff may respond to comments or questions if the subject matter is broadly applicable.

Comments are independently moderated by Bang the Table; read more about Forum Etiquette & Moderation. For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Terms of Service for Social Media and Community Guidelines.

What is a deer permit area?

Wildlife managers use landscape features such as rivers and roads to divide Minnesota into more than 130 areas that have similar habitat, land uses, deer populations and deer hunter distribution. These deer permit areas enhance management by grouping similar characteristics on which management decisions are based within a specific area. The DNR is asking for input at the deer-permit-area level to tailor management strategies to local interests.

This map shows all of the deer permit areas in Minnesota.

Welcome to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources online engagement tool!


Watch the short introduction video above to learn about deer population goal setting including what population goals are, how the DNR sets population goals and how population goals influence annual deer management. The DNR sets deer population goals – how much of an increase or decrease is desired in a deer population in a particular deer permit area – as part of managing the state’s wild deer herd.

This is the second year of goal setting and it focuses on areas of southwest and northeast Minnesota.


Comment on draft population goals

Follow this link to complete the public comment questionnaire.

Stay informed

Sign up for our Deer Notes newsletter to get the latest updates on this project and stay informed about deer topics and input opportunities all year long.

Ongoing: Question & answers. In this tool, ask your questions as you would in an in-person meeting! Throughout the goal-setting process, we will prioritize responding to questions that increase understanding of deer management.

Thank you for providing your input!

Helpful information

Participation guidelines

We encourage your participation in deer population goal setting and look forward to an active and positive exchange of ideas. Questions and comments that will most effectively shape the goals should constructively explain the “why” behind your thinking and share solutions/alternatives. All comments will be incorporated with other public input received during the goal setting process, and DNR staff may respond to comments or questions if the subject matter is broadly applicable.

Comments are independently moderated by Bang the Table; read more about Forum Etiquette & Moderation. For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Terms of Service for Social Media and Community Guidelines.

What is a deer permit area?

Wildlife managers use landscape features such as rivers and roads to divide Minnesota into more than 130 areas that have similar habitat, land uses, deer populations and deer hunter distribution. These deer permit areas enhance management by grouping similar characteristics on which management decisions are based within a specific area. The DNR is asking for input at the deer-permit-area level to tailor management strategies to local interests.

This map shows all of the deer permit areas in Minnesota.

Do you have any questions about deer population goal setting?

DNR staff will do their best to answer your questions related to deer population goal setting! We will prioritize answering questions that are broadly applicable and specific to goal setting. 

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    White-tailed deer were historically uncommon in NE Minnesota, and are linked to both increases in wolves and declines in moose. Why doesn't DNR allow a more liberal deer season in NE Minnesota to reduce wolf numbers and, hopefully, increase moose numbers?

    smit4155 asked 8 months ago

    Thank you for your question! The DNR considers many species and ecosystem impacts when managing populations. The deer permit areas in the Moose range will undergo goal setting early next year. Please consider participating in those critical conversations. 

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    Using deer harvest numbers to drive population figures seems the easy way around doing the science. Why not do scat counts, cameras, aerial counts, or some other method to increase accuracy of deer and wolf numbers?

    Jeff K asked 8 months ago

    The DNR determines population estimates using a model that includes information that we know about how the population grows or declines. That information has been derived from scientific research studies. We have used aerial survey counts in some deer permit areas to verify model results and we will continue to evaluate the potential for camera-based surveys and road-based surveys to be used in the future. 

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    we live and hunt in an antler point restriction zone. The deer numbers have been reduced to as few deer on the landscape as possible due to CWD and APR has been removed. Prior to this, APR had been in place for several years with no noticeable change in trophy bucks. With CWD being spread by bucks more than does, why does the DNR sell bonus anterless tags for $2.50 but continue to charge $27.50 for bucks in the archery, gun, and muzzle loader seasons? Why does the DNR limit buck to 3, only 1 for each season? Why does the DNR value opinions of small numbered bowhunting groups invited to the table and not consider the larger general hunting opinion?

    tdaddy asked 8 months ago

    We currently have the least restrictive buck harvest regulations in our CWD areas, as you note we allow hunters to harvest three bucks per year, 1 on each license, compared to the remainder of the state where hunters can only harvest one antlered buck. Further, during the late season CWD hunts (Dec 26-27 and Jan 2-3 this year) we allowed an unlimited number of antlered bucks to be harvested and the use of the low-cost disease management permits to harvest antlered bucks. The primary purpose of the disease management permits is to encourage antlerless harvest to reduce deer densities and thus reduce deer to deer contact. A shift of harvest from the antlerless portion of the population to antlered bucks would be counteractive to the disease management objectives. We will be revising deer population goals for the southeast CWD management zone next winter and there will be further public input opportunities on deer management in these areas at that time.

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    Research from the DNR has shown that transmission of P. tenuis (brainworm) from deer to moose is one of the prominent factors impacting the state's moose population. Given that, does the DNR have any plans to more aggressively manage the deer population in moose habitat, or, at the very least, take the moose population into consideration when drafting deer population goals in the northeast?

    Quinton D asked 8 months ago

    Indeed, we do manage for moose as the priority species in moose range. In our current Moose Management Plan, we set a goal to maintain pre-hunt deer densities in moose range to below 10 deer/square mile. Current deer densities throughout much of moose range are estimated to be well below this, typically in the 3-4 deer/square mile range. Certainly, those are just estimates and the actual densities will vary within those permit areas, and can be affected by migratory and winter yarding behavior. The current goal isn’t to completely eliminate the deer population in moose range, so when it does fall well below population goals, management is aimed at growing the population. We will be revising the deer population goals for the permit areas within moose range in 2022.

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    Why don't we manage the MN deer herd like some of the premier deer hunting states in the country? Don't hunt with firearms during the rut. This will provide more quality deer.

    Ryan K asked 8 months ago

    The timing of the firearms season in Minnesota has occurred in early November since at least the 1950s. Thus, the tradition of hunting deer during the rut is strong in Minnesota, and it’s easy to see why as this is the most exciting time to view deer. However it does result in a higher antlered buck harvest, and it’s likely that moving the season later in the year would result in a higher antlerless harvest which in some cases would be beneficial to meet population goals. It’s also likely that harvest success would go down with a later season. While some of our hunters value the opportunity to take large-antlered males, others are more interested in filling the freezer and would oppose regulations reducing the potential for them to be successful. In a time where retaining and recruiting deer hunters is a major priority for our agency, such a significant change in the deer hunting regulations needs to have broad support by our hunting public. This is an issue that tends to be divisive within the hunting community – and at this time we are not hearing broad support for moving the season later in the year but it is something that we continue to monitor. 

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    I own 100 acres in 173 and butt up against 200 acres of state land. We just do not see the number of deer the last two years as we have in the past several years. We typically do not shoot does and buck 8 point or larger. Now this last year I have grandson's hunting now and disappointing for them not to even see a deer. I We manage a 1 plus acre food plot to attract the deer. I would like to see the end of doe permits for a couple years except youth hunters to bring the population back. I know some areas have numerous does but not in our area. The question is why? Could it be the wolf population as we have them on camera?

    Mark A asked 8 months ago

    Thank you for your question. Deer densities at the local level are quite variable and that is most noticeable in DPAs that have relatively low deer densities as the norm. DPA 173 has pockets of good habitat but also a number that would be considered poor to fair. There are many things that can “move” deer into and out of local areas. The presence of a wolf pack is certainly one of these but other things are likely factoring into the lack of deer at your specific location.

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    Has anyone been in an area where there were antler restrictions? If so what differences can you see in poaching, actual growth of population, etc. From other areas without it.

    Jay S asked 8 months ago

    Typically antler-point-restrictions increase the age structure of bucks by protecting the yearling segment of the population. In some situations, these restrictions will also increase antlerless harvest as hunters must pass on non-legal bucks and may be more likely to take the first legal antlerless deer they encounter. Antler point restrictions were in place in southeastern Minnesota since 2010, but have gradually been phased out as the CWD management zone has expanded. There are currently no permit areas in Minnesota under an antler point restriction. Hunter support is a major consideration of whether we would implement an APR elsewhere in the state. Another consideration is the effect on antlerless harvest, specifically, we would not want to implement the regulation in an area where increased antlerless harvest was not desired. Certainly violations of the regulation occurred when it was in place in southeastern Minnesota, but we are not aware of significant amounts of poaching.

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    I know that when making this decision you can't always do as the public asks. So how much weight as a percentile will the public have on this decision?

    Jay S asked 8 months ago

    Thank you for your question. Public input is a large percentage of what is considered in the decision making. The DNR collects many sources of public input including the hunter and landowner attitude surveys, online public engagement, and local knowledge shared with DNR staff throughout the year. This information is balanced with other criteria, for example, if the landscape and habitat can support the desired change. 

Page last updated: 16 March 2021, 08:18