Cold and snowy, Minnesota’s northern landscape is a challenging part of the country to hunt. However, it’s precisely this challenge as well as the unique animals found there that make it one of the most popular places to hunt. With some 1.1 million acres of wildlife management areas to enjoy, an impressive 10 percent of the state’s population hunt. Want to join them? Then you need to know the dates of the Minnesota deer hunting season and other important regulations.
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Minnesota 2023 Deer Hunting Season Dates
Minnesota deer hunting seasons are pretty straightforward and divided by method of take with a special youth season like most other states. The only unique feature to be aware of is that the modern firearm seasons differ based on location, determined by permit areas.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources divides the state into dozens of these permit areas, some of which have their own specific regulations you need to check. Luckily, to make things easier, the permit areas are given a three-digit code, and general regulations like the season dates apply to “series” that all start with the same number. For instance, the 600 series is the Chronic Wasting Disease management zone.
As you can see, the firearm seasons are limited to the 100, 200 and 300 series, though this is admittedly most of the state.
|Sept. 16-Dec. 31
|Firearm (Season A)
|100 Series Permit Areas
|Firearm (Season A)
|200 and 300 Series Permit Areas
|Firearm (Season B)
|300 Series Permit Areas
|Nov. 25-Dec. 10
Additionally, there is an early antlerless season available in certain permit areas in the southeast part of the state that lasts Oct. 19-22.
Minnesota Bag Limits
Although Minnesota’s season dates are simple, the state’s bag limits… are not. There is a statewide bag limit of five deer, one of which may be an antlered buck. An antlered buck is defined as a deer with one antler at least three inches long. All others are considered antlerless deer, including button bucks.
However, on top of this statewide bag limit, each permit area has its own bag limit that falls into one of six designations described below. What’s confusing is that you can hunt in various areas to reach your statewide bag limit, assuming you have the proper permits and licenses, but not one-deer areas. In other words, if you take a legal deer in a permit area that only allows one deer, you cannot move to another one-deer permit area to take a second deer. You would have to hunt additional deer in a two-, three- or five-deer permit area.
|Permit Area Designation
|One antlered buck
|Antlerless permit lottery
|One deer (must be antlered buck unless selected in the lottery for an antlerless permit)
|Two deer total, one antlered buck
|Three deer total, one antlered buck
|Five deer total, one antlered buck
Minnesota Deer Hunting License Requirements and Costs
The Minnesota deer hunting license scheme is a breeze… for the most part. For deer, you need a separate license for each method of take (archery, modern firearm and muzzleloader). For a firearm license, you will have to specify season A or B. All of these cost $34 for residents and $185 for non-residents and may include a $1.00 agent fee depending on how you purchase.
Youth must still obtain licenses to hunt big game like whitetail deer, and the licenses are differentiated by method of take like the adult licenses. They are free for ages 10-12 and $5 for ages 13-17.
Where it gets complicated is the special hunts. Minnesota has a ton of special hunts, most of which are specific to certain permit areas. These hunts usually have a limited number of participants chosen by lottery.
The application fee varies depending on the hunt. Some are free, but most are $10-$15. The application for the largest special hunt, the early antlerless hunt from October 19-22 in certain permit areas in the southeast of the state, is $8.50 for residents and $45 for non-residents.
Minnesota residents have the option to purchase a lifetime license, which is usually a better value if you plan to hunt every year. The lifetime deer hunting license includes licenses for archery, muzzleloader and firearm seasons.
|3 and under
|51 and over
To qualify for lifetime licenses and residency rates, you must have maintained a legal residence in Minnesota for at least 60 consecutive days prior to purchasing the license. To prove this, you must show a Minnesota driver’s license or ID card or show proof having applied for one at least 60 days beforehand.
Hunter Education Requirements
Anyone born after December 31, 1979, must show a hunter education certificate to obtain a Minnesota hunting license. If you don’t have this certificate, you can purchase an “apprentice validation” for $3.50 along with the other licenses you need. This allows you to hunt under the supervision of a licensed hunter. You may only purchase an apprentice validation for two seasons in a lifetime.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Minnesota?
During archery season, you may use a vertical bow such as a longbow, recurve bow or compound bow as long as they have a draw weight of at least 30 pounds. Additionally, your arrowheads must have at least two cutting edges with a cutting diameter of at least ⅞ inches. Mechanical broadheads may not have a cutting diameter wider than two inches either, and all broadheads must be barbless.
You may not use a crossbow during archery season unless you have a special permit due to disability or are at least 60 years old. You may, however, use a crossbow during the firearm season with the appropriate firearm license as long as it has a working safety, has bolts at least 10 inches long and delivers at least 42 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.
Muzzleloaders cannot be loaded at the breech, which excludes black-powder revolvers. Smooth-bore muzzleloaders must shoot at least .45-caliber ammunition, and rifled muzzleloaders must shoot at least .40-caliber ammunition.
To hunt deer in Minnesota during firearm season using a firearm license, you must use a gun meeting the following requirements:
- Shooting centerfire ammunition of at least .220-caliber ammunition
- Loaded only with single projectile ammunition
- The gun’s projectile has a soft point or is an expanding bullet
- Shotgun shells must be single slugs
Additionally, Minnesota has a “rifle/shotgun” line that runs through the center of the state. South of this line, you may not use rifles and can only hunt with shotguns, handguns and muzzleloaders.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 in Minnesota
You can hunt with an AR-15 in Minnesota if you are above the rifle/shotgun dividing line. The original Colt AR-15 shoots .223 Remington ammunition which meets the state’s requirements for ammunition. You just have to make sure the .223 Remington you’re using is either soft point or expanding, both of which are available.
Also be aware that the term “AR-15” is often used loosely to refer to a number of rifle and carbine models built in the style of the Colt original. In this case, your particular weapon may not be chambered or the appropriate ammunition, so double check.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Minnesota?
Whitetail deer are the most popular species of deer to hunt in Minnesota. In fact, deer hunting is the most popular type of hunting in the state. This isn’t surprising since whitetail deer represent the most popular game animal across the United States in general.
However, unlike many other states in the East and South, Minnesota has other big game species closely related to whitetail deer: moose and elk. While their populations are much smaller, you can hunt them in heavily regulated seasons.
Elk Hunting in Minnesota
Elk hunting in Minnesota is restricted to a small area in the northwest part of the state, divided into two zones, 20 and 30. There are eight seasons, A-G, each around a week long and specifying antlerless or either sex.
For each season, two or three licenses are available by lottery. The lottery application fee is $5, and if you are selected, the license is $288.
Moose Hunting in Minnesota
Minnesota has a small and declining moose population of just about 3,300 animals. As a result, hunting them is extremely restricted, and the amount of permits given varies by year. Some years it is simply not permitted or restricted to local Native American tribes.
If you’re interested in hunting moose in Minnesota, it’s best to keep up to date with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ moose management plan and current policies on hunting.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Minnesota?
Deer may be the most popular game animal in the sense that more people try to hunt them. But the most harvested game animal in Minnesota is actually the pheasant. Around 160,000 deer were harvested last year versus 360,000 pheasants. Plus, all waterfowl harvests added up to 1.3 million animals.
In other words, there’s a lot that’s popular to hunt in Minnesota. In fact, the state has 110 game species, including bear, wild turkey and fox. Other than whitetail deer, the most commonly harvested animals include:
- Ruffed grouse
- Grey squirrel
- Eastern cottontail rabbit