The white-tailed deer is one of Minnesota's most recognizable mammals and is a popular big game animal. It is found in every Minnesota county and adapts well to most surroundings.
At the time of European settlement, white-tailed deer in Minnesota existed throughout the wooded river valleys and woodlands of central and southern Minnesota. In northern Minnesota where the forest habitat was much different than it is today, deer were absent or rare. Moose and woodland caribou were the most abundant members of the deer family.
As European settlement cleared forests for lumber and agriculture, deer habitat quality improved through the creation of new openings. Increased agricultural land conversion eventually reduced habitat quality in many areas and, along with market and subsistence hunting, resulted in deer population declines. By the 1880s, deer were rare in many parts of Minnesota.
Natural resource management and regulated hunting has enabled the population to grow. Today, Minnesota is home to about 1 million white-tailed deer.
Minnesota's deer program has been a success story. Once rare in much of the state, deer populations, along with hunter numbers and deer harvests, have grown tremendously during the past 90 years. Today, deer management is focused on balancing social and ecological factors.
Deer managers set deer density goals based on the broad range of public interest in deer. Deer are capable of achieving high densities so generally are managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that habitat can support. This approach involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer and may favor lower deer densities.
So far, new deer population goals have been set in 32 permit areas. The round completed in May 2014 focused on the nine deer permit areas that comprise southeastern Minnesota. Those permit areas were 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349.
To learn more, just click on the 2104 Goal Setting tab. If you'd like to receive more information and regular updates on deer management and the goal-setting process, you can sign up for email updates.
More deer in much of southeastern Minnesota is the anticipated outcome of a citizen-led deer population goal-setting process that increases deer numbers in five of the nine permit areas under review. DNR increased goal densities in deer permit areas 341, 342, 345, 347 and 348. Permit areas 343, 346 and 349 will maintain existing goal densities. Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, permit area 344, will maintain current densities.
Deer hunting – DNR's most-recent information on deer hunting seasons. Information for upcoming fall seasons isnot available until July.
Annual compilation of the deer harvest
Southeastern Minnesota landowner survey – This study was conducted to understand private landowners' perspectives on crop damage, deer hunting and deer management, and land use patterns in southeastern Minnesota.
Southeastern Minnesota deer hunter survey – This study sought to gather information from hunters about deer hunting in southeastern Minnesota. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to better understand deer hunting participation and deer management in that part of the state.