ESPN Outdoors 2005-2006 Whitetail Forecast

Season dates:

  • Archery: Sept. 17 to Dec. 31.

  • Muzzleloader: Nov. 26 to Dec. 11.

  • Youth/disabled: Northwest five-county area: Oct. 22-23.

  • Firearm: Zone 1: Nov. 5-20; Zone 2: Nov. 5-13; Zone 3A: Nov. 5-11; Zone 3B: Nov. 19-27; Zone 4A: Nov. 5-6; Zone 4B: Nov. 12-15; Metro Deer Zone: Nov. 5-27.

  • Special antlerless: Oct. 15-16.

Resident license fees: $26.

Nonresident license fees: $135.

Bag limit: Maximum of eight (8) deer, although it depends on the hunting area and season options selected.

Hunter education/bowhunter education required? Hunter safety education is required if a hunter is born on or after Jan. 1, 1980. No bowhunter safety education is required

Population for 2005: Estimated at 1.2 million deer.

Season forecast: North Star State hunters should be able to smile as they look to the heavens this fall around a deer camp campfire on a cool, crisp autumn night.

That's because of the prediction of yet another good whitetail deer hunting campaign in the state according to Lou Cornicelli, the big game program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The biologist's prognostication for another good year of whitetail hunting in Minnesota is due in part to the run of mild winters the state has been having in recent years. In fact, Old Man Winter has given the state a break - at least by Minnesota standards - for the last 9 years and that has certainly benefited the state's deer population.

As a result, Cornicelli indicates that there has been some additional liberalization of hunting opportunity in Minnesota, something that should facilitate additional antlerless harvest.

All in all, it appears as if the year 2005 will be yet another year to smile if you find yourself in the big woods of the North Star State with a deer tag in your back pocket.

2004 harvest: 260,600 deer.

Bow harvest: 20,000 deer.

Muzzleloader harvest: 9,000 deer.

Firearm harvest: 231,000 deer.

Number of licensed deer hunters: 525,000.

Deer hunter success rates: Varies from 33 to 50 percent depending on the weapon type chosen. Overall, success rate is about 41 percent.

Number of bowhunters: 70,000.

Bowhunter success rates: 33 percent.

Number of muzzleloader hunters: 25,000.

Muzzleloader success rates: 39 percent.

Number of firearm hunters: 500,000.

Firearm success rates: Approximately 50 percent, depending on the area and the season being hunted.

Top counties/regions: The highest deer harvest in the North Star State occurs in central Minnesota. Previous ESPNOutdoors.com Deer Forecasts have also identified the east-central and north-central portions of Minnesota as top areas as well.

Top public-hunting spots: No answer given this year, but previous ESPNOutdoors.com Deer Forecasts have identified that the majority of public hunting opportunity in Minnesota is found in the northern third of the state on state and National Forest lands.

Testing conducted for chronic wasting disease?: No. Cornicelli indicates that Minnesota's statewide testing has been completed. In total, he reports that 28,000 deer have been tested for CWD with no positives detected. Testing in the future will focus on suspect animals and animals associated with increased risk factors

Units/areas that tested positive for chronic wasting disease: No answer. (Editor's note: While Minnesota's wild deer herd has not produced any reported positive test results for CWD, the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance Web site (www.cwd-info.org) lists Minnesota among the states that have had a captive herd of cervid animals test positive for CWD.)

State record typical: 202 0/8 inches, taken by John A. Breen in Beltrami County in 1918. This buck currently ranks number seven all-time in the Boone & Crockett Club record book for typical whitetail deer.

State record non-typical: 268 5/8 inches, taken by Mitchell A. Vakoch in Norman County in 1974.

State record archery typical: 197 6/8 inches, taken by Curt Van Lith in Wright County in 1986. This buck currently ranks number two all-time in the Pope & Young Club record book for typical whitetail deer.

State record archery non-typical: 222 5/8 inches, taken by Gary Martin in Todd County in 1992.

More information: Log onto the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web site or call (888) 646-6367. To report a poacher, call (800) 652-9093.

Did you know? Best county for a trophy whitetail in the North Star State? It just might be Morrison County in the central part of Minnesota where more than 100 Pope & Young entries have come from … Anoka, Washington, and Winona would also be good bets for a big trophy buck, having produced between 75 and 100 P&Y entries each … The heaviest whitetail ever taken was a 500-pound deer from Minnesota … Minnesota has more than five million acres of land to choose from, so picking a top public hunting spot isn't easy. Hunters might consider the Chippewa and Superior National Forest lands, along with the Richard J. Dorer Memorial State Forest … Three autumns ago, Minnesota bowhunter Mark Peterson arrowed a whopper typical buck that had a Pope & Young net score of 185 4/8 inches … The Minnesota state record archery typical buck, a 197 6/8 inch monster whitetail taken by Curt Van Lith in 1986 in Wright County, is the number three all time Pope & Young typical buck … In Minnesota, the antler size of whitetail bucks is primarily dependent upon the age of the animal, not the nutrition it received during its life. Due to easier winters, plenty of groceries and large amounts of private land, the southeast corner of the state offers the best chance for a hunter to bag a truly giant whitetail buck … Deer are amazing creatures. According to the Minnesota DNR Web site, they can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and leap over an eight-foot-tall fence.