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.


  • 2015 Goal Setting
  • 2014 Goal Setting
  • Resources & Links

New deer population goals have been approved for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota, covering 40 of 128 deer permit areas in the state.

The new goals will result in management to increase deer numbers in relation to last year?s levels in most of the 40 permit areas. The new goals largely reflect the desires shared by stakeholders who participated in the deer goal setting process and generally reflect the public feedback heard during the past few years.

As a result of this process, 85 percent of the 40 areas will be managed for populations higher than those experienced in 2014; the remaining will see no change.

Of the 40 deer permit areas with new goals, 26 will be managed for deer densities higher than those established by the previous goals; eight will be managed at similar densities to former goals; and six will be managed for densities below former goals.

Goals are intended to be in place for three to five years. The DNR shortened the goal timeframe to allow more frequent opportunities to revisit and adjust goals with input from stakeholders.

DNR will postpone goal setting in the remaining 54 deer permit areas scheduled for consideration in 2016 until the current legislative audit of Minnesota?s deer population management program is complete.

2015 Deer Population Goals

Goals listed below reflect the desired change in deer population from 2014 levels. Click the block heading or permit area for more information. Additional resources related to goal setting are listed on the bottom of this page after the goals.

Goal-Setting Block 1

Area Goal
117 Stabilize
122 ↑ 25%
126 ↑ 25%
127 Stabilize
180 ↑ 25%
2015 deer goal map
Click to expand map

Goal-Setting Block 2

Area Goal
169 ↑ 50%
172 ↑ 25%
184 ↑ 50%
197 ↑ 50%
210 ↑ 50%
298 ↑ 50%

Goal-Setting Block 3

Area Goal
241 Stabilize
242 ↑ 25%
246 ↑ 25%
248 ↑ 25%
251 ↑ 25% *
258 ↑ 25%
259 ↑ 25%
287 Stabilize
* Communicate desired goal to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge managers

Goal-Setting Block 4

Area Goal
152 ↑ 50%
155 ↑ 25%
156 ↑ 50%
157 ↑ 25%
159 ↑ 50%
183 ↑ 50%
221 ↑ 50%
222 ↑ 50%
225 ↑ 25%
247 Stabilize
249 ↑ 50%
* Communicate desired goal to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge managers

Goal-Setting Block 5

Area Goal
219 ↑ 25%
223 ↑ 25%
224 ↑ 50% *
227 Stabilize
229 ↑ 25%
235 ↑ 25%
236 ↑ 25%
285 ↑ 25%
338 ↑ 25%
339 ↑ 25%

Additional Resources

Hunter and landowner survey results summary

 •Block 1
 •Block 2
 •Block 3
 •Block 4
 •Block 5

Background information

 •Block 1
 •Block 2
 •Block 3
 •Block 4
 •Block 5

Advisory team recommendation

 •Block 1
 •Block 2
 •Block 3
 •Block 4
 •Block 5

2014 deer harvest report

Public comments & response

A summary of DNR response to public comments is being compiled and will be posted when complete.

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.

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.

Current Landowner & Hunter Survey Results

Deer hunting – DNR's most-recent information on deer hunting seasons.

Harvest reports

Annual compilation of the deer harvest

Population modeling

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.