The special lineament of Minnesota, a Midwestern U.S. state, is that; besides offering excellent opportunities to hunt deer, wolf, bobcat and a variety of small game, the state is bordered by Lake Superior and contains 10,000 more lakes.
The ‘Bread and Butter State’ (nickname of Minnesota) possesses a diverse fauna and attracts prospective hunters from all over the world.
Licenses are required to hunt and there are certain well-defined rules and regulations, and is expected that the hunters will follow them.
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1. Hunting Season
Hunting season dates usually vary by zone and mainly depends on the primary factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.
The simple formula is that if the animal population is large, moderators will time it to give hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage.
The Department of Natural resources has classified the hunting season into two parts: Big Game Hunting Season and Small Game Hunting Season.
1.1 Big Game Hunting Season
Big game species in Minnesota mainly consists of Deer, Bear and Bobcat. The deer hunting season, based on the weapons used to shoot, is mentioned as follows.
- The archery deer hunting season in Minnesota commences from September 19 to December 31.
- The firearms deer hunting season begins from November 7 to 22.
- For muzzleloaders, the hunting season is from November 28 to December 13.
- The youth hunters can hunt deer from October 15 to 18.
The general hunting season for bear in Minnesota is from September 1 to October 18.
Minnesota bobcat hunting season is from December 19 to January 24.
1.2 Small Game Hunting Season
The small game species available in Minnesota are rabbit, turkey, prairie chicken, raccoon, badger, opossum, red fox, grey fox and squirrel. The specific dates for hunting them is enumerated below.
- Turkeys can be hunted from October 3 to November 1.
- Rabbit hunting season is from September 19 to February 28.
- Prairie chickens are allowed to be hunted from September 26 to October 4.
- For raccoon, badger, opossum, red fox and grey fox, the hunting season in north zone and south zone is October 17 to March 15 and October 24 to March 15, respectively.
- Squirrels in Minnesota can be hunted from September 19 to February 28.
2. What Species to Hunt in Minnesota?
2.1 Black Bear
Black bear is only one of the bear species that still dwells in the forested areas of Minnesota, to this day. They have a black or brown body, a large head, small eyes, erect ears, strong legs and a short tail.
During winter season, they hibernate and do not drink, eat or urinate while hibernating. They emit jaw-popping, humming or squealing sounds, whenever they get threatened.
The bag limit is one bear in quota zones and one bear in non-quota zones during any calendar year, whether by firearm or archery. However, hunting bear cubs is not allowed in Minnesota.
The white-tailed deer found in Minnesota has a reddish-brown coat that turns to grey-brown during the fall and winter. They possess the ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats. They are mainly hunted for their meat and for sport purposes.
In total, 2 deer can be hunted in the managed areas of Minnesota, irrespective of the license type. Hunters are allowed to mix and match licenses and bonus permits as long as they do not exceed 2 deer per year, no matter on how many managed areas that they hunt.
Among Minnesota’s three native wildcat species, Bobcat is the most common species. It has short ears, furry feet, with a black tip on its tail. They possess the ability to kill an adult deer!
It is a very valuable furbearer and is both trapped and hunted, usually with hounds for its fur. The overall season limit for bobcats is 3.
2.4 Wild Turkey
Wild turkeys remain active mostly during the day and roost in trees overnight. More than 70,000 turkeys are found in Minnesota. They have reddish-yellow to greyish-green legs with black body feathers.
They produce a range of vocalizations such as “gobbles”, “putts” and “purrs”. In Minnesota, the bag limit for the fall season is one turkey of either sex or any age.
Rabbits are highly valued in Minnesota for food and sporting qualities. The law of the state allows the landowners or occupants to take rabbits that are causing damage.
Only under these circumstances, rabbits can be hunted without a license and in any manner, but never by poison or artificial lights in the closed hunting season.
2.6 Prairie Chicken
Prairie Chicken is a brown, chicken-sized bird with a body fully covered by feathers and a short and round, black tail. They prefer open grounds like grasslands that have been hampered by burning, grazing or haying.
The bag limit for prairie chickens is two of either sex for the season. Hunters not having a prairie chicken license may not aid or accompany prairie chicken hunters in any way.
Raccoons are the commonly seen creatures inhabiting the forests of Minnesota. They are nocturnal creatures and may cause damage to sweet corn fields, to a large extent. There are no bag limits for raccoons in Minnesota.
Badger is a nocturnal animal and spends a majority of its lifetime beneath the ground. It is an omnivore and feed upon insects, snails and leaves.
Badgers have a wedge-shaped body, broad feet with long claws and rough hair that may be black, brown, gold or white. There is no such strict rule against hunting badgers.
Opossums have an elongated snout, and a large sagittal crest, scaly feet and a scaly prehensile tail. They dwell in woodlands and agricultural areas throughout the state of Minnesota. They can travel great distances, specially at night.
A fun fact about Opossums is that they may fall into a morbid state and release a foul-smelling scent called playing dead or playing ‘possum’. There is no bag limit for opossum.
2.10 Red and Gray Fox
Red foxes can be more commonly seen than the grey foxes. The red fox can be found throughout the state of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities and suburbs.
The grey fox previously existed in the woodlands and forests that stretch from the southeast to the northwest. These foxes are protected animals in Minnesota and a particular license is required to hunt them.
There are particularly two ground species of squirrel that dwell in Minnesota, that is, Franklin’s Ground Squirrel and Richardson Ground Squirrel.
Both of these species tend to go into hibernation in the winter months and are omnivores. The Franklin species prefers tall prairie-grass areas, while the Richardson species is fond of shorter grass.
One needs to adhere to the hunting norms in Minnesota, in order to have a legal and enjoyable experience.
3. Where Can You Hunt in Minnesota?
3.1 Public Lands
Minnesota has almost 1440 public wildlife areas, which are divided into over 1600 sub units- with 1.29 million acres of habitat throughout the state.
These areas offer excellent recreational opportunities to hunters, trappers and contains big game, small game and waterfowl. Certain important WMAs are enumerated below.
- Aitkin WMA: South Unit is 80 acres and is covered by lowland brush and grass. Parking facility is available only along the township road. Game species found in this area include deer, bear, small game, forest upland birds and sharp-tail grouse.
- Alice Hamm WMA of 120.76 acres of land, is located in an area of marginally drained cropland. Horse riding is not allowed anywhere on the WMA. Hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing and hiking facilities are available here. Game species in this area include deer, small game, pheasants, waterfowl and turkey.
- Barnesville WMA, of 1630.23 acres of land, is a relatively larger area with superb deer hunting opportunities, as well as upland birds and waterfowl.
- Zion WMA, of 220 acres of land, typifies prairie pothole county. Wheelchair access is limited to public roads and mowed parking lots on this unit. More isolated areas of this unit are frequented by people less and offer solitude and discovery for those willing to explore. Pheasants and waterfowl are largely available in this area.
3.2 Private Lands
Hunting is also allowed on the private lands, to a large extent. Hunters need to comprehend the landowner’s situation and point of view. Landowners may contemplate gunshots near their home, tire tracks in their field, cars with ominous appearance moving slowly, and lastly, trespassers.
A healthy and friendly relationship with a landowner can be achieved by following the rules before, during and after the hunt; looking at the situation from the landowner’s perspective and even if denied access to hunt, being courteous and polite.
You need to always ask for permission for entering private land. If you are found to be trespassing, your hunting license will be seized.
4. License Requirements
In order to obtain a hunting license, the Electronic License System (ELS) has prescribed that Minnesota residents of 21 years of age and older must furnish a driver’s license number or public safety identification number as proof of residency.
Minnesota residents who do not have any of these identification numbers must obtain one before purchasing a hunting, fishing or other license from the DNR.
4.1 Types of Minnesota Hunting Licenses
4.1.1 Minnesota Resident
A resident is a person who has lived in Minnesota for a minimum period of 6 months. Active-duty military members are also considered residents.
All the residents are required to possess the Minnesota Resident Hunting License. Those who wish to pursue big game, additional tag licenses are required.
All non-residents must have non-resident hunting license. Additional tag licenses are required for hunters pursuing big game.
4.1.3 Youth Hunting License
Minnesota residents and non-residents under the age of 18 who hunt mammals or birds must have the Junior Hunting License. For hunters of age 12 or older pursuing big game, additional tag licenses are needed.
4.1.4 Senior Hunting License
Minnesota does not offer a hunting license specifically for senior citizens.
4.1.5 Disability License
Mobility impaired hunters are eligible for the free Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License.
Visually impaired hunters may apply for the free Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit. Disabled hunters may apply for the Disabled Archer Permit.
4.1.6 Military and Veteran License
Active-duty military members may buy a resident hunting license. A Recovering Service Member Hunting License is available is available to any recovering service member who is undergoing medical treatment for a serious injury or illness.
Disabled veterans who have 50% or greater disability and who were honorably discharged may apply for the Disabled Veteran Reduced Fee Hunting License.
4.2 License Expiration
Hunting licenses are valid from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. Minnesota residents are able to purchase a lifetime hunting license.
5. Hunter Education
Depending on a person’s age, he/she is required to have the Hunter Education Certificate in order to legally buy a license or permit to hunt.
You need to complete the Minnesota Hunter Education Certification requirements, then choose the correct license type and lastly, purchase the license through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website or a Minnesota-approved agent.
5.1 Offline Classroom Hunters Education Course
Students of all ages may take the course offline, where they are imparted skills of archery and firearm hunting, hunting ethics, wildlife management, first aid and safety.
5.2 Online Hunters Education Course
Students of all ages may take their classroom training online.
Students of age 14 or older may also complete a virtual field day instead of the traditional in-person field day by signing up for and completing the online hunter safety course.
Students of ages 12 and 13 who wish to hunt but are unable to finish their in-person field day are encouraged to use the apprentice hunter validation.
6. Rules and Regulations
6.1 Distance Regulations
In Minnesota, you are not allowed to hunt in metropolitan or suburban areas closed to the discharge of firearms.
Hunting within city limits or shooting within 500 feet of any buildings occupied by humans or livestock without written permission of the owner is disallowed.
6.2 Legal Hunting Hours
Legal shooting hours relate to specific times of day based on sunrise and sunset. The usual norm is from 30 minutes before the sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
6.3 Hunter Orange Requirements
Blaze orange includes a camouflage pattern of at least 50 percent blaze orange within each foot square.
A person may not hunt small game other than turkey, migratory birds, raccoons and predators, except when hunting with nontoxic shot or while trapping, unless a visible portion of at least one article of the person’s clothing above the waist is blaze orange.
Minnesota requires 50% of a Camouflage Hunter Orange garment be open Hunter Orange.
6.4 Bag Limits
The bag limits or tag permits in Minnesota vary, depending on the size of the game animal. The trick is that if the animal is a small game, the bag limit is more and vice-versa.
6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?
Hunters are prohibited from hunting at night or with the aid of lights, in case of deer or other game species. Only if you are using light to dispatch or track an already wounded animal, you are permitted to use light in Minnesota.
Bowhunting to shoot deer is a great way to enjoy the season. Archery seasons open more than a month before the state-wide firearms season and continues long after the firearms season has closed, thus offering plenty of time to hunt.
7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements
- The bow must have a pull no less than 30 pounds at or before full draw.
- Arrowheads must have a minimum of two metal cutting edges, be barbless and have a diameter of at least 7/8 inch. Expandable arrows may be used if they meet the above criteria and their width is not more than 2 inches after impact.
- Hunting with a bow drawn, held or released by a mechanical device is not allowed, unless you possess a hunting disability permit.
- Crossbows must have a stock of at least 30 inches long, deliver at least 42 pounds of energy at 10 feet and have a safety.
- Arrows must be at least 10 inches long.
8. Game Calls
Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two types of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are cost-friendly.
In Minnesota, no electronic device such as walkie-talkie, cellphone, drone or other devices must not be used to hunt deer.
Recorded or amplified sounds can be used to hunt coyotes, raccoons or opossums.
The mesmerizing beauty of Minnesota and its rich variety of flora and fauna lure individuals having a penchant for hunting from every nook and corner of the world.
In order to have a unique and beautiful hunting experience, you need to strictly follow the hunting norms.
For further information, please visit the Minnesota Department of Natural resources website: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/.
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