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.

The comment period for citizen-recommended deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota closed Sunday, April 20. DNR wildlife staff now are analyzing the comments and will consider them as population goals are finalized. DNR will announce the new population goals for southeastern Minnesota in early May.

Materials DNR wildlife staff provided to advisory team members and the public 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.