Northeast Minnesota deer permit areas predominantly bucks-only for 2023 deer hunting season
Kalli Hawkins
Outdoor News

Northeast Minnesota deer permit areas predominantly bucks-only for 2023 deer hunting season

As the final daylight hours dwindled on the 2022 deer hunting season, many hunters in the northeast region had an inkling about what DNR regulation changes lie ahead for the 2023 season. 

It’s no secret that white-tailed deer populations have declined in the northeast region of Minnesota in the past decade, and it was apparent as the low harvest numbers rolled in following the 2022 archery and firearm season. 

Nancy Hansen, the area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said the agency relies on the deer hunting season as an indicator for assessing population numbers and setting population goals for the following season. 

Following continued low deer populations due to wolf predation and severe winters in recent years, the DNR has continued to scale back antlerless lottery permits. In 2021, the DNR allowed 100 antlerless lottery permits in deer permit area (DPA) 126, encompassing a large portion of Cook County. In 2022, only 25 were allowed. 

In 2023, there will be zero. 

“We are going to be a little bit more conservative this year for our firearm season,” Hansen said. “We’ve had several severe winters, and last year was another one. And we just feel that our harvest continues to decrease each year.”

Before this regulation changed, hunters interested in hunting an antlerless deer during the firearm or muzzleloader season had to apply for an antlerless permit through this lottery process. The antlerless lottery permits did not apply to archery hunters, and they were allowed to harvest a doe during the season. 

The northeast region, commonly referred to as the Superior Uplands – Arrowhead region, which encompasses Cook and Lake counties, is broken into six DPAs: 117, 118, 126, 130, 131, and 133. 

With the 2023 DNR regulation change, DPA 126 and 131 transitioned to a one-deer limit: bucks-only. With the change, the Superior Uplands – Arrowhead region becomes a predominantly bucks-only area. 

The two remaining DPAs that allow hunters to harvest a doe are DPA 117, which sits inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and generally has low hunter participation, and DPA 133, which will allow 25 antlerless lottery permits.

“We are listening to deer hunters. We know they’re concerned,” Hansen said. 

Hansen went on to say the DNR’s northeast area wildlife managers recognize the negative impact of severe winters on the deer population and are trying to be more conservative this year as they balance the needs of the Superior Uplands – Arrowhead region. 

In addition to the antlerless lottery permit changes, the DNR has implemented numerous other regulation changes for the upcoming season, including some of the following:

  • Hunters who purchase an archery deer license may take a deer with a crossbow during the archery season. Archery hunters will be asked when registering their deer if they harvested it with a crossbow or vertical bow. 
  • All ground blinds used on public land are required to have blaze orange.
  • Hunters may only possess and use nontoxic ammunition when participating in a special hunt or disease management hunt in a Minnesota state park or Scientific and Natural Area (SNA). 
  • Members of a hunting party may not tag a legal buck or antlerless deer for any member of their party hunting with a youth license.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Nancy Hansen, the area wildlife manager for the Minnesota DNR based in Two Harbors about the 2023 regulation changes and what it means for the northeast region. Audio from the interview is below.