Deer Hunting in Minnesota

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  • C
  • 750,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 550,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $34

    Archery and firearms tags are $34.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $185

    Archery and firearms tags are $185.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 202"

    Taken by John A. Breen in Beltrami County in 1918 and ranks No. 10 overall.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 746

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 268 5/8"

    Taken by Mitchell A. Vakoch in Norman County in 1974 and ranks 40th all-time.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 488

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Scott Kreidermacher shot this giant Minnesota buck. Image courtesy of Scott Kreidermacher

Season Dates (2021):

Archery season opens September 18 to December 31. Rifle season opens November 6 to November 14 or 21, unit depending. For some areas, a second season runs November 20-28. Muzzleloader season is November 27 to December 12. Please check the Minnesota DNR website to confirm season dates.

The Grade: C

From the plains of southwestern Minnesota, to the big woods in northern counties, this state offers plenty of diversity. Terrain varies greatly from one region to the next. Too bad we can’t grade it better than a C. This place was much better decades ago, and by our analysis, the quality of hunting continues to decline. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), chronic wasting disease (CWD), harsh winters, and predation have a history here. Deer numbers have bounced back some but not like we hoped.

In light of CWD, major changes have been enacted the past few seasons in response to this invasive disease, especially in north-central and southeastern counties. Carcass movement restrictions, increased bag limits, mandatory surveillance, and other new policies have followed. Sources recently confirmed that hunters should also expect additional changes after the discovery of CWD in free-ranging deer in Dakota County, as well as in captive facilities elsewhere.

This state isn’t cranking out the big deer it once did, either. Statewide deer densities aren’t much better. While hunters in southeast Minnesota enjoy seeing upward of 30 deer per square mile, those in northern counties may see only two to three per square mile.

On the bright side, young hunters now enjoy a statewide, four-day youth season in October; previously it was confined to northwestern and southeastern areas. So, that’s good.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Generally, the best deer hunting is located in eastern and central counties. Anoka, Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Hennepin, Houston, Morrison, Olmsted, Otter Tail, St. Louis, Washington, and Winona are all great destinations for top-end deer and good deer densities. However, southern Minnesota is plagued with CWD, so if you’d rather avoid that, western and northernmost counties might be better. In terms of big deer, northwestern counties hold their own.

Minnesota is mostly private land, but open hunting access is plentiful in the North Star State. Wildlife management areas, state forests, scientific and natural areas (SNAs), forest legacy conservation areas (FLCAs), and walk-in access (WIA) all provide excellent opportunities. Federal ground also has solid access, such as certain national forests and national wildlife refuges. While this isn’t solely unique to Minnesota, the state is known for an abundance of county land that’s tax-forfeited, as well as industrial forest land. These parcels are often open to hunting and are most common in northern counties. Hunters also benefit from the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base. The organization connects bowhunters with special urban hunts in cities and townships.

Minnesota Harvests

  • matt braaten

    Olmsted , Minnesota

  • Tyler Theis

    Meeker County, Litchfield, Minnesota

From the Realtree Trophy Den