Every fall, hundreds of thousands of hunters clad in blaze orange spread out from the agricultural fields of southern Minnesota to the deep forests of northern Minnesota—and everywhere in between—in search of white-tailed deer. For many people, hunting deer during the firearms season is just as much about renewing friendships and a connection with nature as it is about pulling the trigger. But whatever the reason people choose to hunt deer, opportunities to target whitetails abound in Minnesota.
Many hunters opt to search for deer on the millions of acres of county, federal and state lands that are spread throughout Minnesota and available for anyone to use. Whether they’re in places such as Montevideo or Worthington in the south, Brainerd or Alexandria in the central part of the state, or Bemidji or Grand Rapids in the north—or even in points farther north than that—hunters are never far from having a place they can start hunting. The Minnesota DNR alone offers nearly 1.3 million acres of wildlife management areas throughout the state, many of which offer high-quality deer hunting.
Every year, hunters harvest about 150,000 to 200,000 deer, and hunters take them from all parts of the state. One of the best parts about hunting deer in Minnesota is the opportunity to hunt on widely varying terrain. The bluff country of southeast Minnesota offers some of the most stunning scenery around, with deep valleys and meandering streams being key natural features. Hunters can stay in big cities such as Rochester or small towns such as Lanesboro and have easy access to thousands of acres of huntable land.
Hunters who prefer the more open terrain of grasslands and prairies can headquarter from cities such as Marshall or Fairmont in the southwest, while those who prefer a mix of prairie and forest may choose Fergus Falls in central Minnesota or Hinckley in the northeast as home base. Hunters who enjoy heading into the thick woods have options in northeastern towns such as Hibbing and Grand Marais. And those who really want to get away from it all can go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There may be fewer deer there than in other parts of the state, but there are far fewer hunters, too.
Hunting on public land
The beauty of public land is everyone enjoys the same access to it. But that also can be its downfall, because hunters may find someone else set up in their spot, or just a few too many other hunters for their liking. Fortunately, there are ways to increase the odds of success. One of them is to simply walk as far away from the road as possible, since most hunters stay within several hundred yards of their vehicles. Another method is to find the heaviest cover available on a piece of land and sit near it. Deer may live in such areas, or they may be pushed into those areas as they attempt to escape hunting pressure.
Be sure to use a temporary deer stand and remove it at the end of the day went hunting on public land.
Hunt and fish
During years when the fall is relatively warm, it’s possible for sportsmen to hunt deer in the morning and evening and go fishing during the middle of the day. Muskie and walleye fishing is especially good late in the fall, and some of the best lakes for fall fishing—Lake Mille Lacs, Leech Lake near Walker, Lake Vermilion near Tower, Lake Miltona near Alexandria, and Big Detroit Lake in Detroit Lakes—also are near good hunting land.
2017 Deer Seasons
- Archery: Sept. 16 – Dec. 31
- Firearms: Nov. 4-19 (100 series of permit areas); Nov. 4-12 (200 series of permit areas and 300 series A-season); Nov. 18-26 (300 series of permit areas B-season).
- Muzzleloader: Nov. 25-Dec. 10
- Special hunts: See Minnesota DNR deer hunting web page
While hunters in some areas of the state—and for some special hunts—must apply in advance to hunt or target antlerless deer, the state welcomes residents and nonresidents to take part in what is Minnesota’s most popular hunting season.