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Last Updated: Dec, 2011

DNR to upgrade state park reservation service; system will be down for two months during transition

Cougars are rare but confirmed visitors to Minnesota

DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes

DNR offers tips for safer snowmobiling

DNR reminds hunters to not throw away unused either-sex deer permit

DNR warns parents of ice danger to children

Mille Lacs Lake walleye regulation to change Dec. 1

Better weather, Friday holiday increase second weekend deer harvest

Hunters Donate 11 Million Venison Meals

Melby artist wins walleye stamp contest

Opening weekend deer harvest off slightly from last year


DNR to upgrade state park reservation service; system will be down for two months during transition

The Minnesota state parks reservation system is being upgraded and will be temporarily unavailable Dec. 27-Feb. 29, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

“This will create a short-term inconvenience,” explained Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails, “but we know our customers will really enjoy the benefits of our new state-of-the-art reservation system.”

The DNR is encouraging people to plan ahead and, if possible, to make their state park camping reservations for 2012, before the current system temporarily shuts down at 8 p.m. Dec. 26.

Starting March 1, when the new system from US eDirect is expected to be fully operational, it will be easier to plan overnight outings to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The new system will feature interactive maps and show where to find available overnight lodging at a glance.

“We look forward to working closely with US eDirect to launch our new reservation system in March and thank our customers for their patience during the transition,” said Nelson.

Key dates to note:

Now through Dec. 26, 2011:        
Summer 2012 camping and lodging reservations can be made until 8 p.m. online at and by phone at 866-85PARKS.

Dec. 27, 2011-Feb. 29, 2012:      
State parks reservations service will be temporarily unavailable.

March 1, 2012:                             
The DNR expects the new reservation system to be ready to accept online and phone reservations starting at 8 a.m.

From Dec. 27 through Feb. 29, Minnesota state park gift cards, which have been sold through the reservation system, will be available for purchase at Minnesota state parks and by calling the Division of Parks and Trails, 651-259-5600. Online gift card sales are expected to resume March 1. Recipients of gift cards will be able to redeem them without interruption for lodging, ski and snowshoe rental, and the nature-themed books, apparel and other items sold in at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The Division of Parks and Trails has sold more than 5,000 gift cards since it began offering them two years ago.

The existing state park reservation system has been fully user-paid through a state contract since 2007, meaning no state tax dollars are used to provide this government service. The DNR’s contract with its current reservation-system vendor, Active Network (doing business as Infospherix), will expire Dec. 31. The contract is rebid every three to five years.

After carefully evaluating the responses to its official request for proposals (RFP), the DNR awarded a three-year contract to US eDirect, whose product, Recreation Dynamics, best met the criteria for cost effectiveness, flexibility and user-friendly functionality. No Minnesota companies responded to the DNR’s RFP, but as part of its agreement with the DNR, US eDirect, which is based in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., has agreed to operate a call center in Minnesota.

Overnight stays at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas totaled 985,374 in 2010, up from 942,381 in 2009 and 863,075 in 2008.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the new system can be found at

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Cougars are rare but confirmed visitors to Minnesota

Confirmed cougar sightings are becoming more frequent in Minnesota, but evidence suggests the large cats are most likely rare visitors to the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The recent shooting of a cougar in southwestern Minnesota, along with verified observations of the big cats in the state, are raising awareness of cougars in the public and media.

“Within the past several years, we have been able to verify observations of individual cougars within our state,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. “Although rare, we have verifiable evidence such as trail camera photos, tracks and scat, and on occasion, dead cougars.”

Since 2007, the DNR has confirmed 14 cougar sightings. Eleven have been from trail cameras or video. One was road killed, one was found dead and one was shot. Dozens of other, unconfirmed sightings have also been reported.     

Prior to European settlement, cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, ranged across all lower 48 states. Their present-day range is significantly smaller. Confirmed breeding populations are recognized by state game departments in 14 western states. The closest populations are in the western Dakotas, and the only population east of the Mississippi River is in Florida.. 

Why might cougars show up in Minnesota? Cougars are solitary, roaming animals, and as young males reach maturity, they begin to look for new territory and will travel considerable distances. The timing of many of Minnesota’s verified cougar sightings (mid- 2000’s and forward) is not unexpected given the somewhat rapid increase in the cougar population in the western Dakotas that began in the mid-1990s. Extensive research in the Black Hills has documented the changing cougar dynamics that typically lead to increased dispersal of young males.

DNA analysis from cougars in Minnesota and other Midwestern states, along with cougar scat and hair found here, indicates most of the animals are male likely coming from the Black Hills population in South Dakota and western North Dakota.  However, given their long dispersal capabilities, animals could show up from numerous other locations in the western U.S. as well.

In some cases, cougars roaming through Minnesota are leaving a remarkable record. Scientists were recently able to document and track a male cougar via its DNA, through the Twin Cities and three different places in Wisconsin before the same cat was hit by a car and killed earlier
this year in Connecticut. The cat was killed18 months after it was detected in Minnesota.

The cougar recently shot in Jackson County was a 125-pound male, estimated to be one to three years old. The DNR will send DNA samples from the cat to a lab in Montana so more can be learned about it

Stark said there have been no wild females cougars documented in Minnesota, and that annual  carnivore tracking surveys by the DNR, which includes scent-post and winter tracking surveys, have recorded no evidence to suggest the possibility of a resident population of cougars in the state.  Although verifications have increased, evidence of cougars remains extremely rare.  In contrast, in Florida, where an estimated cougar population of only 100-150 animals reside, an average of 23 cougar deaths (14 car-kills) are documented each year.

Although some cougar sightings in Minnesota are accurately identified, many observations from trail cameras and tracks turn out to be cases of mistaken identity. Bobcats, house cats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and light colored dogs have all been mistaken as cougars.

A cougar will range in length from four to six feet, with a head that appears small in relation to the body. The body is tan except for dark face markings and tail tip. The tail will be nearly as long as the body.

Human encounters with cougars are extremely rare. Even in California, which has a population of more than 5,000 of the big cats, a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a cougar.  If an encounter does take place, stay calm, face the animal, make yourself appear large by opening your coat or putting your hands above your head, and speak in a loud voice.  Most cougars will avoid confrontation.

Cougars are protected animals in Minnesota. State statute makes it illegal for a citizen to kill a cougar in most circumstances. Public safety officials are authorized to kill a cougar to protect public safety.  If a cougar poses an immediate threat to public safety, contact a DNR conservation office or local law enforcement person as soon as possible.

The DNR has recently updated its cougar information on its website. Visit

Cougar shooting in southwestern Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed that a male cougar (also known as a mountain lion) was shot and killed Nov. 27, 2011, in a rural area of Jackson County in southwestern Minnesota. The cougar did not pose an imminent threat to people at the time.

The incident is under investigation by DNR enforcement. The cougar is being examined by DNR wildlife specialists in Grand Rapids.

It is illegal to kill a cougar in Minnesota because it is a protected species, as listed in state statutes.

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DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warns ice anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts to use caution when going onto any lake covered or partially covered with ice, especially those that feature aeration systems.

”Open water areas created by aeration systems can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions," said Marilyn Danks, DNR aquatic biologist. "Leaks may develop in air lines creating other areas of weak ice or open water."

Aeration systems are generally operated from the time lakes freeze until ice break-up in the spring. They help prevent winterkill of fish, but they also create areas of open water and thin ice, which are significant hazards.  

Two types of signs are used to post aerated lakes: “Thin Ice” and Warning” signs. The person who applies for the permit (permittee) is to maintain “Warning” signs at all commonly used access points to the lake. This sign warns people approaching the lake that an aeration system is in operation and to use extreme caution.

The permittee must also put up “Thin Ice” signs to mark the area’s perimeter. Some municipalities may have ordinances that prohibit entering into the thin ice area and/or prohibit the night use of motorized vehicles on lakes with aeration systems in operation. These local regulations are often posted at accesses where they apply.

Aeration systems are inspected for safety and compliance with regulations by permittees and DNR personnel. For more information, call a regional fisheries office or the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

The following is a list of the approximately 280 lakes that will likely have aeration systems in operation this winter.

 When there are lakes in the county with the same name as the aerated lake, the nearest town is shown in brackets. Names in parentheses are alternate lake names. Those names followed by an asterisk are newly aerated lakes.



BECKER: Big Cormorant, Bijou, Ellison, Eunice, Fifteen, Island, Little Cormorant, Melissa, Sallie, Wolf.

BELTRAMI: Ewert’s Pond.

CLAY: Blue Eagle, Lake Fifteen.


DOUGLAS: Aldrich.

HUBBARD: Petite, Wolf.

MARSHALL: Unnamed [Florian Reservoir].

OTTER TAIL: Adley, Big McDonald, Fish (Parkers Prairie), Fish (Pelican Rapids), Lida, Little MacDonald, Lizzie, Marion, Paul, Pelican, Perch, Tamarac, West McDonald.

POLK: Badger, Cable, Maple.

POPE: Johanna, Signalness.

STEVENS: Hattie, North and South Baker.

WADENA: Stocking.


AITKIN: Cedar (McGrath).

CASS: Eagle, George, Loon, Meadow.

CROW WING: Nisswa.

LAKE: Superior (Marinas).

ST. LOUIS: Colby.


ANOKA: Centerville, Coon, Crooked, Golden, Ham, Martin, Moore (East), Peltier, Shack Eddy, Spring.

CARVER: Eagle, Oak, Rice Marsh, Susan.

CROW WING: Platte.

DAKOTA: Alimagnet, Bald, Birch Pond, Blackhawk, Bur Oaks, Carlson, Cliff, East Thomas, Farquar, Fish, Gun Club, Hay, Heine, Holland, LeMay, Manor, Marion, Pickerel, Rebecca [Hastings], Roger's, Schwanz, Thomas (Eagan), Thompson.
GOODHUE: Pottery Pond [Red Wing], Frontenac Pond.
HENNEPIN: Arrowhead, Bass, Crystal, Gleason, Hadley, Hyland, Indianhead, Mitchell, Penn (Lower Penn), Powderhorn, Rebecca [Maple Plain], Red Rock, Round, Snelling, Sweeney-Twin, Thomas*, Wirth, Wolfe.


MORRISON: Alexander, Shamineau.

RAMSEY: Beaver, Bennett, Como, Gilfillan, Island, Loeb, Otter, Owasso, Pleasant, Silver (East Silver), Silver (Columbia Heights), Shoreview Community Center Pond, Vadnais, Willow.

SCOTT: Cedar (New Prague), Cleary, Crystal, Lakefront Park Pond, Legends, McColl, McMahon (Carls), Murphy, O’Dowd, Thole.

SHERBURNE: Ann [Becker], Birch, Fremont, Masford, Unnamed (Fawn).

STEARNS: Black Oak, Marie (Maria) [Kimball].

TODD: Jacobs.

WASHINGTON: Battle Creek (Mud) [Woodbury], Cloverdale, Goose, McDonald, Pine Tree, Sand, Shields, St. Croix River (Marina).

WINONA: Winona.

WRIGHT: Augusta, Crawford, Dean, Little Waverly, Louisa, Mink, Somers.


BIG STONE: Artichoke, East Toqua, Long Tom.

BLUE EARTH: Crystal, Ida, Loon [Lake Crystal], Lura, Mills.

BROWN: Clear, Hanska, Sleepy Eye.

COTTONWOOD: Bean, Bingham, Cottonwood, Double (North and South basins), Mountain [Mountain Lake].



FREEBORN: Albert Lea, Fountain, Morin.

JACKSON: Clear [Jackson], Independence, Little Spirit, Loon [Jackson], Pearl, Round.

KANDIYOHI: East Solomon, Elizabeth, Foot, Long, Mud (Monongalia) [New London], Nest, Ringo [Spicer], Swenson [Pennock], Unnamed (Tadd), Unnamed (Upper), Wakanda, Willmar.

LESUEUR: Clear [Lexington], Gorman, Greenleaf, Mabel [Kilkenny], Scotch, Silver [Elysian].

LINCOLN: Benton, Dead Coon, Hendricks, Shaokatan, Stay (East Stay).

LYON: Clear, Cottonwood, East Goose, East Twin, Lady Slipper, Rock, School Grove, West Twin, Yankton.

MARTIN: Big Twin, Budd, Buffalo, Cedar, Fish [Trimont], George, Sisseton.

MCLEOD: Marion, Swan [Silver Lake], Winsted.

MEEKER: Star, Thompson.

MURRAY: Bloody, Buffalo [Currie], Corabelle, Currant, First (South) Fulda, Fox*, Lime, Louisa, Sarah, Second Fulda, Shetek, Wilson (North and South basins).

NOBLES: East Graham, Indian, Kinbrae, Okabena, Ocheda, West Graham.

PIPESTONE: Split Rock.

RICE: Circle, Cody.

SIBLEY: Silver [Henderson].

STEELE: Kohlmeier.

WASECA: Elysian, Loon [Waseca].
WATONWAN: Fedji, Kansas, St. James.


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DNR offers tips for safer snowmobiling

With another snowmobile season fast approaching, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging snowmobilers to get the season off to a smooth, safe start.

“I want people to take advantage of the snowmobiling opportunities that exist in Minnesota, so now is the time to prepare sleds and learn how to avoid the possible dangers that are present when snowmobiling,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator.

Last season there were 13 snowmobile related fatalities and numerous injuries in Minnesota. Hammer believes all these incidents were preventable.

Hammer said riding snowmobiles can be a safe and enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when people follow some basic safety rules:

To legally ride a snowmobile, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate in their possession, or a snowmobile safety certificate indicator on their driver’s license or on their Minnesota ID card.

For a copy of the DNR’s 2011-2012 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, and for safety training information, contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or email

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DNR reminds hunters to not throw away unused either-sex deer permit

Hunters who did not tag a deer or use the either-sex permit during the firearms season may still have a chance to put some venison in the freezer, according to Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“A change this year allows an unused either-sex permit from the firearms season to remain valid for the muzzleloader season, if you have the appropriate license,” Cornicelli said. “The either-sex permit is valid for either season, in the same area, provided you have a license for that season.”

This change applies only to the lottery zone.

Cornicelli reminds hunters in the lottery zone that they are only allowed to tag one deer during the 2011 hunting season. They may not use bonus tags in the lottery zone. They may be able to harvest additional deer in managed, intensive or special hunt areas.

Hunters who wish to take advantage of this change must purchase a license for the muzzleloader season. Licenses can be purchased at any of the 1,500 license agent locations in the state, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at A convenience fee is added to telephone and Internet license purchases.

The muzzleloader season in Minnesota runs from Saturday, Nov. 26, until Sunday, Dec. 11.

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DNR warns parents of ice danger to children

In the light of a near tragedy in Anoka County this weekend, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding parents to caution their children to stay off ponds, streams and other water bodies that now have a thin coating of ice.

Sunday afternoon, an eight-year-old Oak Grove boy fell through a thin coating of ice on a small neighborhood pond. He was rescued after about 15 minutes in the icy water and treated at the hospital.

“Kids are attracted to ice like a magnet,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “They just don’t know how much ice it takes to support a person, nor what is or isn’t safe.”

As of Nov. 21, no ice in Minnesota has been reported by DNR conservation officers as consistently four inches thick, the recommended minimum thickness for walking and small group activities. Ice safety guidelines also recommend a minimum of five inches of new, clear ice for snowmobiles and ATVs, and eight to 12 inches for automobiles.

Children often go outside to play during the holidays - while meals are prepared - and they can stray onto unsafe ice.

“Some years we receive reports of children falling through ice and drowning around the holidays, it’s just so incredibly tragic,” Smalley said. “Since records have been kept, a quarter of those who die by falling through the ice are nine years old or younger.”

Smalley said children should not go out on the ice without adult supervision, even when conditions improve.

Last winter, four adults died falling through the ice.

The DNR recommends contacting a local bait shop or resort at the destination lake to find out if ice is safe for the planned activities.

Winter sports enthusiasts can obtain a free packet of ice safety information by calling DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 in the Twin Cities area, toll-free 888-646-6367 or email

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Mille Lacs Lake walleye regulation to change Dec. 1

Walleye anglers who fish Mille Lacs Lake are reminded that effective Thursday, Dec. 1, four walleye up to 18 inches may be kept. All walleye between 18 and 28 inches must be immediately released. One walleye over 28 inches is allowed in possession.

All fishing regulations for species other than walleye and all other fishing restrictions will remain unchanged on Mille Lacs.

The mid-season change that allows possession of walleye up to 20 inches in size expires at midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 30. 

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Better weather, Friday holiday increase second weekend deer harvest

Better weather conditions for hunting and a Friday holiday for some were the likely reasons deer registrations climbed to within 7 percent of the 2010 season-to-date level after the second weekend of the 2011 firearms deer season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Final numbers from the second weekend show that hunters have harvested 143,000 deer so far in 2011, down only 7 percent from the 2010 to-date harvest of 153,000. During the second weekend, hunters registered approximately 27,000 deer compared with about 22,000 last year.

“Veterans Day usually falls during the week, meaning many hunters have only Saturday and Sunday to hunt,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “With the holiday on Friday this year, hunters had an additional day to spend in the field, and the wind was more favorable.”

High winds, which tend to limit deer movement because they adversely affect a deer’s hearing and scenting ability, resulted in a 19 percent decline during the first weekend of the season.

Cornicelli said he expects the final season harvest to be comparable to last year’s total of 207,000 provided weather cooperates in the northern rifle zone, where the season ends Sunday, Nov. 20.

Additional deer will be harvested during the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 27, and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 26, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 11.

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Hunters Donate 11 Million Venison Meals

NSSF Study Download PDF

Food banks and individuals are thankful for such generosity

When you're passing the turkey and stuffing around the Thanksgiving dinner table, here's a story to tell--one that would not be possible without the thoughtfulness and generosity of hunters.

A new study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and conducted by Mile Creek Communications reveals that last year 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate through donations of venison by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.

"Given our challenging economic times, hunters' donations of venison have never been more important to so many people," said Stephen L. Sanetti, president and CEO of NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. "These contributions are just one way hunting and hunters are important to our way of life in America. Learning about these impressive figures makes me proud to be a hunter. I have donated game meat during the past year, and I urge my fellow hunters to strongly consider sharing their harvest."

The study revealed that donations were largest in the Midwest and the South. The Midwest provided 1.3 million pounds of game meat, amounting to 46.1 percent of total donations, with the South close behind at 1.25 million pounds and 45.7 percent. The Northeast contributed 7.2 percent of total donations and the West 1 percent. Though lower than other regions, the West's contribution still accounted for 108,520 meals.

"Certainly the Midwest, South and Northeast benefit from having large populations of white-tailed deer," said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF's director of statistics and research. "These figures are from confirmed sources, but annual donations could easily be double this amount if 'direct' donations from hunters to friends and family are included."

Curcuruto added that NSSF commissioned the study to better understand the size and scope of these venison donations.

Groups often cooperate to ensure a successful donation program. In Georgia, according to the Athens Banner Herald, the Georgia Wildlife Federation pays for the meat to be butchered and packaged at state-licensed processors, the state Department of Natural Resources oversees the program and the Georgia Food Bank Association coordinates distributions. Additionally, the game meat satisfies shelters' need for nutritious food items. Dave Williams, who manages food resources for a northeast Georgia food bank, said in the Banner Herald that he is focused on acquiring more nutritious items and noted, "Deer venison is such a low-fat, high-protein item, agencies greatly appreciate getting it."

Another recent news report out of the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois area pointed out that one deer can feed up to 200 people. Ground venison is a versatile food, with cooks using it in pasta sauces, chili, tacos, meatloaf, burgers and other dishes.

Individual hunters donate game meat and even pay for processing, though many hunters choose to work with organizations dedicated to the cause of helping the hungry. Many of these groups were sources for the NSSF study and include Hunters for the Hungry, Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Hunt to Feed and Buckmasters, among others. Visit this website for more information about groups active in various states.

And don't forget to tell this heartwarming story 'round your Thanksgiving table.

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to

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Melby artist wins walleye stamp contest

Photo in Dec issue

A painting of a walleye about to strike a minnow has been selected as the image for the 2012 Minnesota walleye stamp.

The painting, by John House of Melby, was selected from six designs submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This is the fifth win for House in DNR-sponsored stamp contests. He has now won all of the stamp contests. He placed first in the waterfowl stamp contest in 1999, the pheasant stamp contest in 2004, the trout stamp contest in 2006 and the turkey stamp contest in 2008.

Four entries made it to the final stage of judging, from which two finalists were selected. Contest judges were Ron Anderson, Outdoor News; Lynn Maderich, Lynn Maderich – Oil Paintings; John Hiebert, DNR; Mike Kurre, DNR; and Ron Kullman, DNR.

Funds generated from the $5 voluntary stamp purchase contribution are dedicated for walleye stocking activities. For $2 more, the DNR will mail the actual stamp to purchasers as a collector’s item. A walleye stamp is not necessary to catch or keep walleye. The 2011 walleye stamp is still available for purchase at all license vendors. 

An artist whose work is selected for a Minnesota fish or wildlife stamp receives no compensation from the DNR, but does retain reproduction and marketing rights.

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Opening weekend deer harvest off slightly from last year

High winds. Low harvest.

That’s that story at the start of this year’s firearms deer hunting season, which opened Saturday, Nov. 5.

Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said hunters registered approximately 73,000 deer after three full days of hunting. That compares with about 91,000 last year, or a 19 percent decline.

“When the wind is up deer activity greatly declines,” said Cornicelli, who noted deer move less and are less predictable when their hearing and scenting ability is adversely affected by strong winds. “The lower than expected harvest is linked to tough hunting conditions due to the high winds across much of the state on opening weekend.”

Cornicelli said other factors – hunter numbers, percentage of crop harvest and antlerless permit availability – are all similar to last year. The archery harvest, he said, is comparable to last year.

“High winds are the most plausible explanation,” said Cornicelli. “It’s likely that the harvest will bounce back a bit in the days ahead, but we won’t make up the 19 percent difference between now and the end of the season.”

Closing dates for the firearms season vary depending on the area. During the entire 2010 deer season, hunters harvested 207,000 deer.

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