2015 Ely-Tower area deer season forecast released

DNR wildlife manager Tom Rusch in Tower released the 2015 Tower Area deer season forecast:
• The 2015 16-day firearms deer season will begin Saturday Nov. 7th and end Sunday Nov. 22.
• The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Office in Tower is forecasting a deer population on the rise but still below management goals for Northern St. Louis and Northern Lake Counties. Wildlife managers report the deer herd is below population goals in 7 of 9 of the deer permit areas in our area but rebounding from recent tough winters.
• Five out of the last 8 winters have negatively impacted the deer herd and fawn production in the Tower Area.
• The 2015 deer season framework will again be very conservative. Six permit areas are designated “Bucks Only” to allow the population to continue to grow. Three permit areas are designated “lottery.” Antlerless harvest and winter severity are the most significant factors in northern forest deer management.
• The “Bucks Only” designation includes youth, archery, muzzleloader and disabled hunters hunting in these permit areas 176, 177, 178, 118, 119, and 108. There are no “Managed” or “Intensive” harvest designations, and therefore no “bonus permits” and a bag limit of 1 buck in northern St Louis and Lake Counties, for the 2nd consecutive year.
• The “Lottery” designation includes 117, 122 and 127. These permit areas are within the moose management zone so antlerless harvest is less restrictive. The lottery deadline was Thursday September 10th.
• A legal buck is a deer having at least one antler 3” long. Buck fawns, sometimes called button bucks or nubbin’ bucks, are not legal bucks.
• Buck movement should be good early in the 16-day season as it coincides with the chasing phase of the rut. Breeding activity should peak during mid-season as the annual rutting season transitions into the reproductive phase and then deer movement typically slows down.
• Hunters will find very wet field conditions in the Iron Range area but more normal field conditions north of the divide. August and September were unseasonably wet with greater than 12” of rain in some areas. Logging road and trail access is difficult in lower areas this year. Swamps, low areas and crossings are inaccessible for wheeled vehicles in many areas. Water access (lakes, rivers and streams) should be normal with average water levels for this time (late October). Scout ahead of time for local conditions in your hunting area and use appropriate discretion.
• Fawn production was above average for the 1st year since 2012. Field reports indicate many adult does with twin fawns and the remainder with singles. This is a result of the milder winter we just experienced. Does came through winter in excellent condition. The majority of winter had less than 15” of snow which led to increased deer mobility, low winter severity, and decreased predation.
• Deer populations are low across the area, but improved from 2013 and 2014. Scouting in advanced, to find deer activity, will pay dividends. Deer observations and sign have been limited again this field season. Deer are now feeding heavily in prime food sources such hay fields, recent cutovers and along mowed roadsides.
• Deer population recovery takes time in forested habitats. Local populations always vary within the larger permit areas. Deer populations are generally higher in permit areas to the west and south of Tower (176, 177 and 178) and lowest in permit areas to the east and north (108, 117, 118, 119, 122 and 127).
• PA’s 176, 177, and 178 are the most productive areas in the Tower area and account for the majority of the annual harvest. Hunters will likely see and harvest more bucks in these permit areas than they did in 2014. Decent fawn production in 2014 produced this year’s spikes, forks and 6 pointers and will improve prospects for the future.
• PA’s 108, 119, 118, 117, 122 and 127 are less productive. Hunters will harvest more deer in these permit areas, too, with the help of limited numbers of antlerless permits. Fawn production was also improved, generally more singles fawns with few twins observed. As a result, population recovery takes longer in these units.
Status of Local Deer Population by Permit Area “Bucks Only” Permit areas. Bag Limit = 1 Adult Buck, No bonus permits can be used.
Permit areas 118 along the Echo Trail are below population goal in 2015. Large blocks of contiguous forest in these permit areas with limited or no agriculture fields limit fawn production and slow population recovery. No lottery or bonus tags can be used.
PA 127 around Isabella and PA 117 East of Snowbank Lake in the Boundary Waters Wilderness have very low deer populations. These permit areas have our strongest moose populations.
Check your deer license for the phone number or internet address. Know your permit area (www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/deer) before you register.
• New…Resident hunters 84 years old and older can shoot a deer of either sex in any permit area in 2015.