As the Minnesota firearms “A” deer hunting season concluded Sunday, Nov. 24, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shared their preliminary numbers of harvested deer. Hunters still had time to register their deer as of the deadline on Monday, so numbers will likely increase somewhat.

The total harvest of deer statewide, including all permit types, is currently at 166,761 deer. This is down about 20,000 deer from the 2018 total harvest of 188,706.

The statewide total number of deer from just the regular firearm hunting season which concluded on Sunday was 139,319 deer. Last year, 146,925 deer were harvested for the same season.

In Mille Lacs County, approximately 9,800 deer have been harvested to date according to Barb Keller, a big game program leader for the DNR.

Malmo Market held their annual “Heavy Buck Contest” with 269 entries, which was a record year for the market according to store owner Lynwood Elliott. Last year, the store had 233 entries.

Contestant members pay $15 and can win up to $2,000 for first place in the “Heavy Buck Contest” along with other cash and merchandise prizes.

This year’s winner was Jon Smekofske who took home the locally hand-carved trophy and hat, not to mention the $2,000 grand prize. In second place was Mike Swanson and in third was Brian Dembouski.

Zack Simonson won the “Lightest Buck” contest.

Elliot felt the numbers of deer coming in may have been hindered by the late hunting season and possible deer herd numbers being down.

This year, the contest had five deer coming in over 190 pounds, which was a record for them. However, none of the deer were over 200 pounds, which is a record on the low end and only the second time they haven’t had at least one deer over 200 pounds. He also noted that during rutting for bucks, they typically don’t eat as much and only drink water. “They have had an extra week to run off the weight,” said Elliott.

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