Hunt small game in Minnesota this winter

Hunting pheasants, ruffed grouse, squirrels or rabbits offers opportunities to enjoy the Minnesota outdoors as temperatures fall and snow blankets the landscape.
Explore more about hunting a variety of species on the DNR learn to hunt page at
* Pheasants – hunting is open through Jan. 2. On Dec. 1, the daily bag limit increases to three roosters, with a possession limit of nine roosters. Tip: Pheasants that found cover in crops now congregate in tall grass or marshes. Be safe around thin ice.
* Grouse – hunting is open through Jan. 2. Tip: Wintertime grouse hunters may find success during the golden hour, that last hour before sunset when ruffed grouse move out of their snow roosts to feed.
* Squirrels and rabbits – hunting is open through Feb. 28. Tip: Squirrels can be particularly active in the winter because they are in their breeding season. For rabbits, be ready for action around thick cover, such as brush piles, thorn tangles and briars.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Submit spruce grouse feathers for a research project

If you harvest late-season spruce grouse in northern Minnesota’s boreal forests, please consider submitting feather samples for the final year of a genetics research project.
Hunters who would like to assist with the project should collect three to five large wing or tail feathers along with the GPS coordinates of the harvest location.
For more information on how to submit feathers, go to

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

2021 Wisconsin gun deer kill drops almost 8%

MADISON, Wis. – The 2021 nine-day gun deer hunt in Wisconsin kicked off the holiday season with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, put delicious, wild-harvested protein on the table and make memories with family and friends.

Preliminary Registration Totals
Preliminary figures show that hunters registered 175,667 deer during the 2021 nine-day gun deer hunt, including 84,952 antlered and 90,715 antlerless deer. Since archery seasons opened Sept. 18, hunters have registered 270,046 deer statewide, showing the growing influence of earlier seasons on cumulative harvest.
Compared to 2020, the total firearm deer harvest was down 7.9% statewide, with buck harvest down 1.3% and antlerless harvest down 13.2%.
The Northern Forest management zone showed harvest increases from 2020 for both antlered and antlerless kills, while the other three zones showed declines in harvest. The Central Forest (-3.0%) and Central Farmland (-8.9%) had similar declines in total harvest from 2020 levels, while the Southern Farmland showed a larger decline in total harvest of 17.0%.
Adams County’s Central Farmland led the state with over nine deer registered per square mile. Vernon County led the Southern Farmland Zone with almost six deer registered per square mile. Oneida registered the most per square mile in the Northern Forest Zone at 4.5, and Eau Claire’s Central Forest registered almost 3.5 deer per square mile.
While opening weekend saw mild temperatures throughout the state with some snow in the north, DNR staff across the state reported good weather throughout the season. Snow cover and frozen wetlands would have improved visibility and access for hunters.
For the firearm deer hunt, the 2021 regional harvest breakdown by deer management zone included:
Preliminary 2021 Nine-Day Season Harvest Totals
Deer Management Zone - 2021 Nine-Day Deer Harvested - Percent Change from 2020
Northern Forest Zone - Antlered: 19,602, 14.9%; Antlerless: 12,595, 1.7%
Central Forest Zone - Antlered: 3,307, -1.7%; Antlerless: 2,460, -4.7%
Central Farmland Zone - Antlered: 44,610, -1.8%; Antlerless: 54,909, -14.0%
Southern Farmland Zone - Antlered: 17,433, -13.8%; Antlerless: 20,751, -19.5%
Total Preliminary Harvest Registrations - Antlered: 84,952, -1.3%; Antlerless: 90,715, -13.2%
Total:  175,667: -7.9%
Hunters are required to register harvested deer before 5 p.m. the day after recovery at or by calling 1-844-426-3734. Any hunter who failed to follow mandatory registration rules should do so now, despite having missed the deadline.
More information about preliminary registration totals, including county-level numbers, is available on the DNR website at
A 2010-21 comparison of preliminary nine-day gun deer season registration totals is also available online.
Harvest numbers will climb as hunters enjoy additional hunting opportunities:
* Nov. 29-Dec. 8: Statewide muzzleloader hunt.
* Dec. 9-11: Statewide four-day antlerless-only hunt.
* Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 2022: Nine-day antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland Zone counties.
* Now to Jan. 9, 2022: Remaining archery and crossbow seasons.
* Jan. 10-31, 2022: Extended archery and crossbow seasons in select Farmland Zone counties.
Hunters may use any unfilled antlerless harvest authorizations during any of these hunts, but they must be used in the zone, county and land type designated on the harvest authorization. More information regarding hunts offered in each county and an interactive deer map is available on the DNR website at

Preliminary License Sales Totals
As of 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 808,224. Of that total, 564,440 were for gun privileges, including gun, patron and sports licenses. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 1.5% from the same time last year.
Of the licenses sold to date, 60% of licenses were purchased online. The remaining 40% were sold in-person through transactions at DNR license agents locations. Deer hunting license and harvest authorization sales will continue throughout the remaining deer hunting seasons.

Nine-Day Season Hunting Incidents
At the time of this news release, the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement reports five firearm-involved injuries and one fatality for the entire 2021 nine-day gun deer season.
* Door County, Town of Brussel: On Nov. 20, 2021, at approximately 6:45 a.m., a 40-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand. The victim had placed his hand on the muzzle after pulling the hammer back on his firearm. The victim believed he pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck his left pinky. He sought medical attention, was treated and released.
* Door County, Sturgeon Bay: On Nov. 21, 2021, at approximately 7 a.m., a 10-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound. A 45-year-old male shooter was hunting from his residence when he shot at a deer. The shooter attempted to unload his firearm, at which time it discharged inside of the house and struck the victim. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated.
* Waukesha County, Town of Ottawa: On Nov. 21, 2021, at approximately 6:21 a.m., a 30-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. The victim was in a tree stand when he tried to hang the gun on a hanger. The gun discharged, striking him in the right leg. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated.
* Juneau County, Town of Seven Mile Creek: On Nov. 22, 2021 at approximately 4 p.m., a 57-year-old male was the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. The victim had a loaded firearm, and it discharged in the proximity of his ATV. The victim drove to the hospital and was treated.
* Iron County, Town of Saxon: On Nov. 23, 2021 at approximately 4:28 p.m., a 65-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest. A second 65-year-old male shooter was moving and knocked over his firearm, causing the firearm to hit the ground and discharge. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
* Marathon County, Town of Rib Falls: On Nov. 26, 2021 at approximately 5:15 a.m., a 65-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The victim was loading a pistol when his finger slipped off the hammer, causing the gun to fire and strike him in the ankle. The victim was transported to the hospital for treatment.

Hunters Encouraged to Submit Deer for CWD Sampling
Hunters can find CWD sampling options throughout the remaining deer hunting seasons. Find a sampling location near you at
Thanks to generous contributions from numerous partners, the Adopt-a-Kiosk and Adopt-a-Dumpster programs gave hunters additional options to submit their harvested deer for CWD sampling and safely dispose of carcasses.
The cooperation of hunters and private businesses has become increasingly vital to the success of our sampling process. DNR staff would like to thank all those who continue to assist with CWD surveillance.

Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey Remains Open
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey at will remain active until all deer seasons have ended, and wildlife managers ask that hunters submit a report of what they observe during their time in the field. This information provides valuable data to improve population estimates for Wisconsin's deer herd and other species. Additional information is available on the DNR website at
First Harvest and First Experience Certificates
Hunters of all ages who head out for their first hunt are encouraged to mark the occasion by creating a first harvest and first hunting experience certificate at

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

December CWD hunts offer deer hunters more opportunities

Deer hunters seeking additional opportunities can harvest deer in late season chronic wasting disease management hunts in the southeast, south metropolitan area and along the Minnesota-North Dakota border.
Hunting dates are Friday, Dec. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 19, and Friday, Dec. 31, through Sunday, Jan. 2. Deer permit areas open to these CWD management hunts are 261, 262, 343, 605, 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655. Hunters may participate in both hunts.
A hunter may use any unfilled archery, firearms, muzzleloader or landowner deer hunting license. Unfilled bonus permits and early antlerless permits also may be used. The hunting method used must match the hunter’s deer license. Hunters who have filled their license may purchase disease management permits for $2.50 to participate.
There are no restrictions on the number of deer – antlerless or antlered – that a hunter may take. Unlike other hunts, disease management permits may be used to tag both antlered and antlerless deer. Bonus permits and early antlerless tags can only be used to tag antlerless deer.
CWD sampling is mandatory for both hunts. Harvested deer must be taken to a staffed or self-service station. Staffed sampling stations will be open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the hunts. Stations also will be open from 9 a.m.-noon on the Monday following each hunt. A complete list of station locations and hours is available on the DNR website at
Carcass movement restrictions apply during these hunts in all areas except the northwest hunts along the Minnesota-North Dakota border in permit areas 261 and 262. Hunters there are encouraged to not move whole carcasses from either area. Complete details on carcass movement restrictions and how to comply is available on the DNR website at
Hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private land, but may hunt wildlife management areas and other public lands that are normally open to deer hunting within the designated deer permit areas.
Some public lands where deer hunting is not normally allowed will also be open to hunting during the CWD management hunts. Permits to hunt are required in some of these areas to limit the number of hunters. These permits will be available from any DNR license vendor on a first-come, first-served basis starting at noon on Friday, Dec. 3.
Permits are available for both weekends, but are only valid for the weekend specified. Hunters may only obtain one permit, so they must choose which weekend they want to participate. The additional public lands open to hunting are:
* Rushford Sand Barrens Scientific and Natural Area; no permit required.
* Savage Den SNA; no permit required; archery only.
* Cannon River Turtle Reserve SNA; no permit required; only portions in permit area 605 are open.
* Forestville Mystery Cave State Park; permit required.
* Pin Oak Prairie SNA; permit required.
* Great River Bluffs State Park and Kings and Queens SNA; permit required.
* Beaver Creek Valley State Park; permit required.
* Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area; no permit required; archery only in the Carver Rapids unit.
* Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge; archery only; no permit required; special regulations must be followed.
Vermillion Highlands WMA is closed to public hunting during both late-season hunts.
Complete information about the hunts, which the DNR conducts to help assess potential disease spread and reduce the number of deer to help mitigate the risk of CWD transmission, is available on the DNR website at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DEER TRAILS 11: DNR seeks ethical hunter award nominations

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources  has awarded a hunter for their ethical behavior in the field for the last two decades.
The nominations originate from the public, often another hunter, who sees behavior that goes beyond written rules and regulations.
The award often goes to a deer hunter, but any hunter is eligible to be reviewed by a four-member committee who includes three persons from the public and one WDNR warden.
Last year there were co-winners.
Troy DeLaet (right), of Rosholt in Portage County, and Steven Kahan, of Wausau, in Marathon County, were each awarded a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wisconsin Hunter Ethics Award for actions during 2020.
Kahan, 30, assisted two women who were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with outdoors opportunities along the Ice Age Trail in Taylor County. Kahan was grouse hunting with his father Ray, who nominated Steven.
DeLaet, 39, was nominated by a neighbor in Portage County. Both neighbors had hunting groups on their land during the 2020 opening day of gun deer season.
For the second consecutive year, DeLaet shot a wounded deer that came past his stand and then found the hunters who made the first shot.
In addition to certificates and plaques, the two 2020 winners received a fine product made and sold by Vortex Optics in Barneveld.
Nominations may be made at any time before the Feb. 1, 2022 deadline.  Nominations consist of a written (short) story of the event for which the person is being nominated.
More information about the nomination process can be obtained from any field warden, or Warden April Dombrowski, Ethics Committee Chairperson.
Any Wisconsin hunter, of any age, and hunting any game species, is eligible to be nominated by another individual, regardless if they are a hunter.

Jerry Davis writes daily Deer Trails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the final installment. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112

DEER TRAILS 10: Hunters will also learn from deer study

A monumental, five-year deer study was undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources in southwest Wisconsin starting in 2016.
Deer were captured, most by drop netting, collared and studied, beginning that first winter and beyond. Fawns were captured, too..
Hunters were encouraged to ignore the neck collar and take the deer if it were something they would shoot, ignoring the collar.
The five-year field study created mounds of raw information. Now scientists, statisticians and molecular biologists are beginning to filter through the findings, sometimes relying on computer programs as to what it all says.
In short, two research teams in southwest Wisconsin captured fawns and adult deer, took multiple samples and measurements, then affixed a GPS collar to most animals allowing scientists to track and record where the deer traveled, when they died and if found, what killed them.
After a few glimpses at the data, Dan Storm, DNR research biologist, headed up the deer portion of the study. 
“By far, coyotes are the number one predator of fawns,” Storm said. “Hunting holds that place card for the adult deer.”
Other factors included diseases, vehicles, bobcats, lack of food, farming accidents and other lesser agents contributed.
Different signs suggested to the researchers, for example, whether the predator was a coyote or a bobcat. Bears and wolves were not part of this study due in part to the southern counties involved.
Tissue samples taken from many of the animals at the time of collaring were preserved for future analyses.
A quick CWD test during trapping will be compared to the samples taken from the dead animal. Depending on the accuracy of the testing, researchers will be able to tell the public how many of these deer became infected that were clean upon capture.
One interesting fact has already been confirmed. Iowa County’s yearling bucks taken by hunters are the lowest rate in the state. Are hunters passing up on these bucks? Has hunting pressure dropped significantly in this county? Is this leading to more deer in Iowa County becoming infected?
While hunters might have a “quick draw” answer, that may or may not turn out to be the case. That’s one of the advantages of a scientific study: Biases are removed through the scientific method of doing things.
Hunters may talk about bucks going nocturnal prior or during some seasons, but do they? Buck movement was tracked in the study and there are times and dates with that tracking system.
“You might say during the rut, for example, a particular buck is here today and gone tomorrow. Bucks pick up and move great distances, come into new areas and leave often used areas,” Storm said. “Why? Food sources? Are does more plentiful in other areas? They just disappear or re-appear.”
The researchers are going to publish several types of research papers, one being specifically for those hunters, farmers and deer watchers. Deer enthusiasts will not have to read formal research papers to get answers.

Jerry Davis writes daily Deer Trails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the 10th installment. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112

DEER TRAILS 9: ’Tis time to snicker at our hunting

The deer season drags on for some, hunters fatigue from the ordeal and deer appear to have gone south, or even underground.
Neither is true, but with some deer management units showing close to 40 percent reduction in registration one has to wonder. Overall, the state drop in the kill for opening weekend was 14 percent compared to 2020.
These reduced registration figures suggest deer were lethargic, not moving, not willing to walk past hunters’, stands. Single reason explanations, however, are rarely the entire answer. Maybe some hunters weren’t hunting.  Maybe many were waiting for a better buck and what they got was nothing.
Encouragement can come from seeing what appears to be humorous happenings in a deer’s actions.
We’re talking about deer season cartoons and the dialogue bubbles, not serious stuff like registration numbers.
Looking at a few autumn’s images, I can’t change the photo by shopping, but can write dialogue bubbles to fit what’s imagined.
Maybe there’s an image of a man stepping over a fence, but his legs were on the short side of four strands and he proclaims, “I thought it was funny when I saw this happen to a buck who didn’t clear the top wire” or “this takes all the fun out of trespassing.”
Pages of newspaper cartoons were common about this time with hunters and deer taking center stage and a writer’s light-hearted abuse. Most of them were good, but cartoonists have the advantage of sketching a picture with a situation in mind. Photographing animals, including hunters, you have what a digital image gives you.
Here’s a deer doing something normal, but we put the action in our terms, in our lifestyle. It would be nearly impossible to come up with an idea and then go out with a camera to find the deer doing something that fits our thought.
Deer usually lie down to chew after eating a full first stomach compartment of whatever. When they chew, there is a noticeable bulge on the deer’s left or right side of the head where the vegetation is being chewed.
This may remind one of an old-time baseball player with a wad of tobacco in his cheek.
The dialogue balloon then makes that connection by saying, “I’ll probably never make the major league, but at least I’m beginning to look the part.”
Or how about a deer hiding behind a tree and the dialogue balloon could say, “I’m part of the new DNR release program, a deer behind every tree.”
Last gun deer season, I passed on shooting at a deer that was either lying down or coming toward me over the crest. The first things I saw were antlers.
I had to study the image (pictured) to see what was really going on and a year later am writing the dialogue balloon to fit that photograph.
“My father advised me, as you age, if you want to impress female deer, show them your rack first and hide your face.”

Jerry Davis writes daily Deer Trails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the ninth installment. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112