Deer populations & goals

Goal setting for 2021 is complete

The second year of goal setting focused on areas of southwest and northeast Minnesota. Final goals are available below.

About the goal-setting process

The DNR sets deer population goals – how much of an increase or decrease is desired in a deer population in a particular deer permit area – as part of managing the state’s wild deer herd.

Deer population goals are updated in 15 regional goal-setting blocks that are made of multiple deer permit areas. The population goals established in this process will provide direction for long-term management over 10 years, with a formal review every five years to assess if the goals are still headed in the right direction.

These goals are referenced each year in the season-setting process. During this process, the DNR assesses where the deer population in that particular area is relative to its goal (above, under or at goal), and then sets bag limits and other regulations that will move the deer population toward that desired goal.

2020-2023 goal setting

The DNR began its statewide goal-setting process in 2020. The process will take four years, with a separate group of blocks addressed annually.

Block groups

First year of goal setting (2020)
  • Agassiz-Littlefork goal block – 101, 103, 105, 108, 110, 111, 114
  • Northwest Parkland-Prairie goal block – 201, 203, 208, 209, 256, 257, 260, 261, 263, 264, 267, 268
  • West Central Prairie goal block – 262, 265, 266, 269, 270, 271, 272, 297
  • Central Hills Prairie goal block – 213, 214, 215, 218, 239, 240, 273, 276, 277
Second year of goal setting (2021)
  • Minnesota River goal block – 274, 275, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 290
  • South Central goal block – 230, 232, 233, 253, 254, 255, 291, 292, 293, 299
  • Coteau-Plains goal block – 234, 237, 238, 250, 252, 286, 288, 289, 294, 295, 296
  • Border Uplands/St. Louis Moraines goal block – 119, 132, 171, 173, 176, 177, 178, 179, 181, 199
Third year of goal setting (2022)
  • Superior Uplands Arrowhead goal block – 117, 118, 126, 130, 131, 133
  • North Central Plains Moraines goal block – 169, 184, 197, 210, 298
  • Pine Moraines goal block – 241, 246, 251, 258, 259, 287
  • Blufflands Plateau goal block – 341, 342, 343, 344, 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649, 655 
Fourth year of goal setting (2023)
  • East Central Uplands goal block – 152, 155, 156, 157, 159, 172, 183, 221, 222, 225, 248, 249, 604
  • Sand Plain/Big Woods goal block – 219, 221, 222, 223, 224, 227, 229, 235, 236, 285, 338, 605

Map showing the DPAs that will be assessed annually during the 2020-2024 goal-setting process.

The following areas are not included in the goal-setting process: Twin Cities metro area, Duluth area, Red Lake Reservation.

The following areas are not included in the goal-setting process: Twin Cities metro area, Duluth area, Red Lake Reservation.

Prior years' results

Second year (2021)

The second year focused on the following blocks in areas of southwest and northeast Minnesota, which include the following deer permit areas:

  • Minnesota River goal block – 274, 275, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 290
  • South Central goal block – 230, 232, 233, 253, 254, 255, 291, 292, 293, 299
  • Coteau-Plains goal block – 234, 237, 238, 250, 252, 286, 288, 289, 294, 295, 296
  • Border Uplands/St. Louis Moraines goal block – 119, 132, 171, 173, 176, 177, 178, 179, 181, 199

Based on information and feedback gathered from attitude survey respondents, online comments, and conversations with area wildlife managers, the population goals for 2021 through 2031 for these blocks are:

Minnesota River goal block
DPAGoalNotes
274→ stableGood deer habitat confined to riparian areas, mostly private land, dominated by agriculture.
275→ stableMore public land available in this DPA.
278↗ increase slightly (25%)Nearly 20% of DPA is public land with excellent deer habitat.
279→ stableFair deer numbers, deer damage can be an issue here.
280↗ increase slightly (25%)Mostly private land, deer habitat limited here.
281

*boundary change pending

↘ slight decrease (25%)

Excellent deer habitat. Damage to native vegetation observed. The proposed boundary change would expand 281 by incorporating land to the west of Highway 10. Shifting land-use in the southwest corner of DPA 282 has resulted in deer habitat and populations in this area that are better matched to DPA 281.
282

*boundary change pending

(same as 283)

↗ increase slightly (25%)

Limited pockets of deer habitat. The proposed boundary change would expand the southern portion of 282 into 283. The northern portion of 283 would remain 283. The deer populations and habitats in this area better aligns with 282 so this change would allow for better management of the deer populations in these areas. 
283

*boundary change pending

(same as 282)

→ stable

Vastly different habitat in north vs. south. The proposed boundary change would expand the southern portion of 282 into 283. The northern portion of 283 would remain 283. The deer populations and habitats in this area better aligns with 282 so this change would allow for better management of the deer populations in these areas. 
284→ stableLimited pockets of deer habitat.
290↘ slight decrease (25%)Excellent deer habitat. Damage to native vegetation observed.
South Central goal block
DPAGoalNotes
230→ stableMostly private land dominated by agriculture. Habitat a mix of grasslands, marshes, brushy area, groves.
232→ stableMostly private land dominated by agriculture. Habitat a mix of grasslands, marshes, brushy area, groves.
233→ stableMostly private land dominated by agriculture. Habitat a mix of grasslands, marshes, brushy area, groves.
253→ stableMostly private agricultural land, Walnut Lake WMA provides excellent habitat.
254→ stableMostly private land dominated by agriculture. Habitat a mix of grasslands, marshes, brushy area, groves.
255→ stableMostly private land dominated by agriculture. Habitat a mix of grasslands, marshes, brushy area, groves.
291→ stableExcellent deer habitat, higher deer numbers here. Mostly private land.
292→ stableGood deer habitat. Borders DPA 605.
293→ stableGood deer habitat. Borders DPA 605.
299→ stableGood deer habitat.
Coteau-Plains goal block
DPAGoalNotes
234→ stableDeer habitat very limited.
237→ stableDeer habitat very limited.
238→ stableTalcot Lake WMA
250→ stableSome pockets of good deer habitat and public hunting areas.
252→ stableSome pockets of good deer habitat which have been increasing.
286→ stableSome pockets of good deer habitat and public hunting areas.
288→ stableSome pockets of good deer habitat and public hunting areas.
289↘ decrease slightly (25%)Habitat heavily concentrated along riparian areas. Damage to crops and stored forage can be an issue.
294→ stable 
295

*boundary change pending

→ stable

Some pockets of good deer habitat and public hunting areas. The proposed boundary change would expand the southern portion of DPA 295 into DPA 237. Deer densities and habitat in the northern portion of 237 are more similar to 295, and this change would allow for the desire to harvest additional deer in this area.
296→ stableSome pockets of good deer habitat and public hunting areas. The proposed boundary change would expand the southern portion of DPA 295 into DPA 237. Deer densities and habitat in the northern portion of 237 are more similar to 295, and this change would allow for the desire to harvest additional deer in this area.
Border Uplands/St. Louis Moraines goal block 
DPAGoalNotes
119↑ increase significantly (75%)Winter, wolf predation in certain years significantly impact population. Borders moose range. Mostly public land.
132↑ increase significantly (75%)Winter, wolf predation in certain years significantly impact population. Borders moose range. Mostly public land (USFS).
171↗ increase slightly (25%)Good habitat, a lot of public land. Adjacent to DPA 604.
173

*boundary change pending

↗ increase slightly (25%)

Proposed boundary change to increase consistency of habitat types. A good amount of public land, habitat is mixed across area.
176↑ increase significantly (50%)Winter, wolf predation in certain years significantly impact population. Borders moose range. A mix of public and private land.
177↗ increase slightly (25%)Winter, wolf predation in certain years significantly impact population. Borders moose range. A mix of public and private land.
178↗ increase slightly (25%)Winter, wolf predation in certain years significantly impact population. Borders moose range. A mix of public and private land.
179

*boundary change pending

↗ increase slightly (25%)

Mostly private and industrial forest land. Good habitat. The proposed boundary change would expand the northern border of 179 into 169. The southern portion of 169 has densities more in line with 179, and would include clearer boundaries using different roads.
181↗ increase slightly (25%)Mix of public and private.
199↗ increase slightly (25%)Permit area 199 is the Fond du Lac reservation. DNR staff worked with FDL Tribal staff to determine the recommendation

2021 public participation summary

In addition to getting feedback through attitude surveys, the DNR collected information on deer populations and goals using an online input tool in February 2021, and a subsequent comment questionnaire in March 2021. During the public input period, 341 people participated, and during the public comment period, 78 people participated. 

Public input

During public input the number of responses per deer permit area ranged from 1 to 75, with an average of 10 responses per DPA. Overall, public input indicated a desire for an increase in the deer population. Key issues expressed during an online discussion forum included: 

  • Wolf predation in northern Minnesota
  • Potential opportunities to adjust season dates and concerns for having the deer season during the rut
  • Enforcement issues including baiting, recreational deer feeding, filling other people’s tags and trespassing
  • Trophy buck management
  • Increasing antlerless deer harvest in some permit areas
  • Lower deer numbers than experienced in previous years
  • Potential strategies to increase hunter recruitment

Public comment

The DNR provided proposed goals for public comment. The number of responses per deer permit area ranged from 1 to 13, with an average of 4 responses per deer permit area. The overall number of responses was very low, and a few people disagreed with the proposed goals. Concerns with the proposed goals included too many deer or a desire for more deer, improving the sex/age ratio of deer and managing for overall habitat and biodiversity on the landscape. 

First year (2020)

The first year focused on the following blocks in the northwestern and western parts of the state, which include the following deer permit areas:

  • Agassiz-Littlefork goal block – 101, 103, 105, 108, 110, 111, 114
  • Northwest Parkland-Prairie goal block – 201, 203, 208, 209, 256, 257, 260, 261, 263, 264, 267, 268
  • West Central Prairie goal block – 262, 265, 266, 269, 270, 271, 272, 297
  • Central Hills Prairie goal block – 213, 214, 215, 218, 239, 240, 273, 276, 277

Final population goals

Based on information and feedback gathered from survey respondents, online comments, in-person meetings, workshops and conversations with area wildlife managers, the population goals for 2020 through 2030 for these blocks are:

Agassiz-Littlefork goal block 
 
Deer permit areaGoalNotes
101↗ increase slightly (25%)Former management zone for bovine tuberculosis, past management aimed to keep deer populations low. This management response is now concluded and slight increases are desired. 
103

*boundary change

↑ increase significantly (100%)

A boundary change is proposed to accommodate vastly different deer populations in the northern vs. southern portions of former DPA 103. Very low deer densities exist here and are well below socially acceptable levels.
105→ stabilizeThis area is dominated by agricultural habitat and can support higher deer populations than other DPAs in this block. Crop damage can be an issue, so maintaining current numbers without increasing population is goal. 
108

*boundary change 

→ stabilize in new DPA 107

↑ increase significantly (100%) in new DPA 109

A boundary change is proposed to accommodate vastly different deer populations in the northern and southern portions of former DPA 108. Higher deer populations exist in the northern portion and can result in localized damage issues, management will aim to stabilize this population. Management will be aimed to grow the much lower deer population in the southern portion, which is well below public desires. 
110↗ increase slightly (25%)Moderate deer habitat and deer numbers in this permit area, light hunting pressure, management will aim to slightly increase numbers.
111↑ increase significantly (100%)Very low deer numbers well below social acceptance. 
114↑ increase significantly (50%)The Northwest Angle, very low hunter numbers and harvest in this isolated DPA. 
Northwest Parkland-Prairie goal block
 
Deer permit areaGoalNotes
201→ stabilizeThis is a small permit area with limited access to public land. Goal will be to maintain current deer numbers.
203↗ increase slightly (25%) This permit area is almost entirely public land. Population was reduced during the bovine tuberculosis response, which is now concluded. 
208→ stabilizeThis permit area is dominated by agricultural land, and thus crop damage is a consideration. Current numbers seem to be about right, and management will aim to stabilize population. 
209→ stabilizeHunter success rates are high in this permit area, goal will be to maintain current numbers. 
256

→ stabilize

Deer habitat in this permit area has decreased in recent years. 
257→ stabilizeCrop damage can be an issue in this permit area. 
260

*boundary change 

→ stabilize

A boundary change is recommended to address issues along the northeast border with DPA 263 and will allow for more targeted management. This area is dominated by agriculture with little public hunting land.
261↘ slight decrease (25%)This permit area is dominated by agricultural land. Hunter numbers are very low but success rates are high, indicating a growing deer population.
263

*boundary change 

↗ increase slightly (25%)

A boundary change is recommended to address issues along southwest border with DPA 260. This permit area provides abundant deer habitat and public hunting ground. 
264→ stabilizeAbundant habitat in this deer permit area with moderate amount of public hunting access. 
267→ stabilizeLower deer densities in this permit area reflect limited habitat. 
268→ stabilizeThis permit area supports good amounts of public land and deer habitat. 
West Central Prairie goal block
 
Deer permit areaGoalNotes
262→ stabilizeThis permit area is dominated by agricultural land with limited deer habitat. Localized deer damage issues exist, but deer densities are low.
265↘ slight decrease (25%)Deer numbers here are higher than surrounding area and are increasing. Some damage issues exist, so a slight decrease is warranted.
266→ stabilizeDeer habitat has decreased in recent years with loss of CRP land. Deer numbers are moderate and increasing, stabilization preferred.
269↗ increase slightly (25%)This permit area is dominated by agricultural land with limited deer habitat. Localized deer damage issues exist, but deer densities, hunter numbers, and success rates are low.
270↗ increase slightly (25%)This permit area is dominated by agricultural land with limited deer habitat. Localized deer damage issues exist, but deer densities, hunter numbers, and success rates are low.
271↘ slight decrease (25%)High deer numbers at wintering areas create damage issues. 
272↗ increase slightly (25%)This permit area is dominated by agricultural land with limited deer habitat. Hunter numbers and success rates are low, management will aim at slightly increasing the population. 
297↑ increase significantly (50%)Heavy hunting pressure in this permit area, but habitat can support higher deer numbers.
Central Hills Prairie goal block
Deer permit areaGoalNotes
213↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints.  Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
214↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints.  Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
215↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints.  Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
218↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints. Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
239→ stabilizeGood habitat in this permit area exists to accommodate deer populations, fewer crop damage complaints compared to surrounding areas, so goal will be to maintain current numbers. 
240↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints. Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
273↗ increase slightly (25%)Lower deer densities here compared to surrounding areas, good habitat exists, so goal will be to slightly increase population. 
276↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints. Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.
277↘ decrease slightly (25%)Deer numbers are high in this permit area and increasing, resulting in increasing crop damage complaints. Hunters prefer to maintain high deer numbers while agricultural landowners prefer significant decreases.

2020 workshops summary

Summary: Key issues of interest and priorities to guide deer population management that were discussed during the deer goal-setting workshops listed above. During workshop 1, members of the public had an opportunity to discuss the following topics in small groups, with DNR staff present to answer questions and take notes.

2020 online public input summary

Feedback on deer population goals was gathered through the online deer populations and goals form during February 2020.

Table 1: Respondents' average desired change in the deer population 

The table shows public input results of the mean desired change in the deer population by goal-setting block by all respondents. It also indicates the mean desired changes broken down by non-landowner and landowner status.

BLOCK NAMENO. OF RESPONDENTSMIN. DESIRED CHANGEMAX. DESIRED CHANGENON-LANDOWNERSLANDOWNERSALL RESPONDENTS
Agassiz-Littlefork 162-50%+500% +52.9%+40.6% +44.9%
Northwest Parkland-Prairie136-75%+100%+17.3%+12.0%+14.1%
West Central Prairie 48-50%+175%+19.7%+13.3%+16.9%
Central Hills Prairie 316-75%+1000%+20.4%+4.2%+8.9%

Historical goal-setting information

2015 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 after the goal listings.

Goal-Setting Block 1

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

Goal-Setting Block 2

AreaGoal
169↑ 50%
172↑ 25%
184↑ 50%
197↑ 50%
210↑ 50%
298↑ 50%

 

Goal-Setting Block 3

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

 

Goal-Setting Block 4

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

Goal-Setting Block 5

AreaGoal
219↑ 25%
223↑ 25%
224↑ 50% *
227Stabilize
229↑ 25%
235↑ 25%
236↑ 25%
285↑ 25%
338↑ 25%
339↑ 25%
2014 goals

2014 goal setting

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.

Goal-setting resources

Attitude survey reports

Minnesota map showing outline of deer goal-setting blocks

 •G3 survey conducted summer 2014
 •G1, G2, G4, G5 surveys conducted fall-winter 2014-2015
 •G7, G8, G9 surveys conducted fall-winter 2015-2016

Hunter and landowner survey results

Reports include information about hunter satisfaction

 •Full report (includes all blocks from all years)

2015-2016

 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 7
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 8
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 9

2014-2015

 •Superior Uplands Arrowhead - Block 1
 •North Central Plains Moraines - Block 2
 •East Central Uplands - Block 4
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 5

2014

 •Pine Moraines - Block 3

2013

 •Southeastern Minnesota landowner survey
 •Southeastern Minnesota deer hunter survey

Background information

 •Superior Uplands Arrowhead - Block 1
 •North Central Plains Moraines - Block 2
 •Pine Moraines - Block 3
 •East Central Uplands - Block 4
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 5

 

Advisory team recommendation

 •Superior Uplands Arrowhead - Block 1
 •North Central Plains Moraines - Block 2
 •Pine Moraines - Block 3
 •East Central Uplands - Block 4
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 5

 

Final 2015 deer goal setting reports

 •Superior Uplands Arrowhead - Block 1
 •North Central Plains Moraines - Block 2
 •Pine Moraines - Block 3
 •East Central Uplands - Block 4
 •Sand Plain-Big Woods - Block 5

2014 deer harvest report

Public comments & response

A complete summary of DNR response to public comments.

Materials DNR wildlife staff provided to advisory team members and the public during the goal-setting process are available for public review. Contact Barbara Keller, DNR big game program leader, at 651-259-5198 or send an email to [email protected] to receive these materials.