With the release of the online version of the 2021 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations handbook, hunters can read up on what’s new to prepare for this year’s deer hunting season. The handbook is now available on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ deer hunting webpage. Printed copies of the handbook will be delivered to hunting license vendors the first week of August.

Hunting licenses go on sale Sunday, Aug. 1, and are available at any DNR license agent, by telephone at 888-665-4236, or online. Archery deer season opens Saturday, Sept. 18, and firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 6.

“For the 2021 season, hunters may harvest more than one deer in almost half of the permit areas,” said Barbara Keller, DNR big game program leader. “Overall, bag-limit designations for this year are similar to last year, with a few changes in certain areas to move populations toward goal.”

One of the changes this year is a shift to a five-deer bag limit in areas that were previously under an unlimited antlerless bag limit. The unlimited antlerless bag limit was traditionally used to increase harvest and reduce deer densities to limit disease spread in disease management zones and manage urban deer issues in the metro deer permit area.

While few hunters take more than two deer in these areas, the unlimited designation concerned some hunters, who felt its purpose was to greatly diminish deer populations in these areas. The move to five-deer limit responds to these concerns, while not appreciably altering harvest levels and thus the DNR’s ability to meet management goals.

Hunters also should be aware that mandatory sampling of deer harvested in chronic wasting disease zones will resume this year and that those zones have expanded following detections of the disease in wild and captive deer. In the northern part of the state, deer permit areas 184, 110, 197 and a portion of deer permit area 169 have been added to the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance zone, following CWD detections in a farmed deer facility in Beltrami County this spring. Deer permit areas 233 and 342, located between the south metro area and the southeastern corner of the state, have also been added to the CWD surveillance zone due to additional detections of CWD-positive deer within the management zone.

Other deer season changes

This year, the DNR is changing the names of bag-limit designations to make the bag limits more clear. The one-deer limit categories are “bucks only,” “antlerless permit lottery” (formerly “lottery”) and “either-sex” (formerly “hunter choice”). “Managed” is now “two-deer limit,” and “intensive” is now “three-deer limit.” The bag-limit descriptions remain unchanged, except for the “unlimited antlerless” designation, which has been replaced with a “five-deer limit” designation.

Several deer permit area boundaries in southwest and northeast Minnesota have changed based input from the public, tribal communities and DNR staff. The changes are depicted on the 2021 Deer Season Area Map, and hunters should double-check the boundaries of any permit areas where they plan to hunt, as well as bag limits in those areas.

The DNR has expanded the early antlerless deer season, Oct. 21-24, to include more deer permit areas in central and southeastern Minnesota. The season increases opportunities for hunters in areas where deer populations are above population goals or where there is an increased risk of CWD spreading. Hunters can apply for an antlerless permit any time between Sunday, Aug. 1, and Thursday, Sept. 9.

Late chronic wasting disease hunts are scheduled for Dec. 17-19 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2; additional details will be posted on the DNR website closer to hunt dates.

The Camp Ripley archery hunt will be a single, three-day hunt (Oct. 29-31), instead of two, two-day hunts. Applicants must apply for the Camp Ripley lottery by Aug. 20.

Additional hunting opportunities, including the annual youth deer season from Oct. 21-24 and special hunts, are listed on the deer hunting webpage (link is external).

Return to mandatory CWD testing in disease zones. 

With COVID-19 social distancing recommendations having eased, chronic wasting disease testing will be mandatory in CWD zones on the opening weekends of both firearms A and B seasons for any deer older than 1 year. Last year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DNR used a voluntary sampling approach without staffed stations.

CWD zones consist of deer permit areas where disease management actions are in place. This year, the DNR has simplified the names into three tiers: management zone, control zone and surveillance zone. Hunters should refer to the regulations book to see if their deer permit area is within one of these zones, where special disease regulations apply.

More information on CWD and related hunting regulations is available on the CWD webpage.

About deer hunting regulations

The DNR sets regulations for each of Minnesota’s deer permit areas to manage populations toward goals established for each area.  These goals are based on information from the DNR and Minnesotans who participate in periodic public goal-setting processes. Additional regulation changes are detailed on the DNR’s deer hunting webpage.