A small herd of deer watch traffic from the edge of the woods near the Grand Ely Lodge in Ely last March.

TOWER – While the overall state-wide deer harvest for the first weekend of the 2018 firearms season was down 14.6 percent from 2017 numbers, in the Tower wildlife area, the overall harvest was basically unchanged (down 0.8 percent).

And, according to Tower Area Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch, the buck harvest for Permit Areas 117, 118, 119, 130, 131, 132, 176, 177 and 178, was actually up 9.5 percent compared to opening weekend last year.

Rusch said there was limited rutting behavior opening weekend, which was something he anticipated.

“With an early opener, I did not expect to see bucks on their feet heavily engaged in searching and chasing does. And, that was the consensus of many hunters observations,” he said.

That should change as the week moves on and into this weekend.

“Bucks will continue to ramp up their movement in the next week as they transition into the chasing and searching phase of the rut,” Rusch said. “Unless weather becomes a negative factor, I think the second weekend is going to be good for those still in the woods.”

The weather in northern St. Louis County was ideal for hunting Saturday and Sunday, Rusch said, with cool nights in the low 20s and days in the 30s.

Across many parts of the state, however, the story wasn’t the same.

Bad weather put a damper on some hunting activities which no doubt contributed to the lower than expected numbers. Statewide the DNR reported only 62,957 deer were registered over the first weekend compared to 73,759 last year.

Zone 100, which is basically the entire Arrowhead Region including all of the Tower Area Permit Areas, was down the most at 21.5 percent (18,829 deer through Sunday compared to 23,978 last year).

Zone 300 was down 15.6 percent. And Zone 200 was down by 11 percent.

Many hunters and most DNR wildlife managers were predicting a higher harvest in 2018, with seemingly more deer in the woods than in recent years.

The 16-day season ends on Sunday, Nov. 18.


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