Deer Management

Whitetail buck standing in fieldThe 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.

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2014 Goal Setting

Resources & Links

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 23 permit areas. The current round focuses on the nine deer permit areas that comprise southeastern Minnesota. Those permit areas are 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.

Comments on southeastern Minnesota deer population goals recommended by a citizen advisory team will be accepted Tuesday, April 8, through Sunday, April 20. Comments may be made online by reading the introductory summary and reviewing information about the recommended goal for each area.

Links at the bottom of each document will lead you through the online comment process

You will need Adobe Acrobat to make comments online. The program is free and, in many cases, may already be installed on your computer.

Written comments may be mailed to Leslie McInenly, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. Please review the supporting information in the online documents before submitting comments.

People serving on the 21-member advisory committee that recommended these goals represented a cross-section of interests including archery, firearm and muzzleloader hunters; area residents and landowners; farmers, orchard owners and operators; land managers, local government staff and appointed officials; local business owners; and members of hunting, conservation and agricultural organizations.

Specific population goal recommendations for each of the nine deer hunting areas that comprise the goal-setting area of southeastern Minnesota are available as well as the factors advisory team members cited when making recommendations. A link to information and the recommendation for each deer permit area can be found at the end of the introductory document.

The DNR will evaluate advisory team recommendations and public comments on those recommendations before determining the final deer population goal for each hunting area. Once goals are established, the DNR will announce those goals and wildlife managers will implement harvest strategies to meet and maintain them.

Online comments

Review the goal-setting process summary

Review the information packet

Links colored in red at the bottom of each document listed below will lead you through the online comment process
Permit Area 341
 Desired density:
  • Increase to 11-14 deer/square mile
Permit Area 342
 Desired density:
  • Increase to 14-18 deer/square mile
Permit Area 343
 Desired density:
  • Keep at 9-11 deer/square mile
Permit Area 344
 Desired density:
  • Keep yearly buck harvest at 406-496
Permit Area 345
 Desired density:
  • Increase to 10-13 deer/square mile
Permit Area 346
 Desired density:
  • Keep at 14-18 deer/square mile
Permit Area 347
 Desired density:
  • Increase to 11-14 deer/square mile
Permit Area 348
 Desired density:
  • Increase to 15-19 deer/square mile
Permit Area 349
 Desired density:
  • Keep at 15-19 deer/square mile
Background materials DNR wildlife staff provided to advisory team members during the goal-setting process are available for public review. Contact Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader, at 651-259-5198 or send an email to to receive these materials.

Deer hunting – DNR's most-recent information on deer hunting seasons. Information for upcoming fall seasons isnot available until July.

Harvest reports

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.