As autumn arrives in Minnesota, it brings with it the start of deer hunting season, which can impact hikers’ ability to access trails and parks throughout the state.
The 2023 firearms deer hunting season opens on Saturday, November 5 in the state’s central and southern areas. For northeastern Minnesota, the opener is a week later on November 12.
The opening weekend of firearm deer hunting is one of the busiest times of year for hunting in Minnesota. During this period, hikers need to take extra precautions if they plan to be on trails in areas open to hunting.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), state parks and recreation areas in central and southern Minnesota will be closed to hikers on November 5 for the firearms deer hunting opener.
Before planning your hike, make sure to check with the MN State Parks website to confirm when hiking will be available.
According to the DNR, “Some parks may have additional hunts, or hold hunts for animals other than deer. To be absolutely certain, please call the park office before you head out!”
In addition to state park closures, some hiking trails managed by counties and municipalities may also be off-limits during the firearm deer hunting openers.
Hikers should check with the managing agency before heading out to the trails on those weekends.
The DNR offers some tips for hikers who want to access trails during other portions of deer hunting season:
- Wear blaze orange – Blaze orange hats and vests are required by law for all users of state trails during the deer season. Wearing blaze orange ensures you are visible to hunters.
- Know hunting seasons – Be aware of when deer seasons are open in the area you’ll be hiking. Season dates vary across the state.
- Identify hunting zones – State parks and trails identify whether they are in deer permit area designations 200, 300, or 600 to help recreators know if an area is open to hunting.
- Avoid dawn and dusk – Limit hiking during peak deer movement times.
- Make noise – Alert hunters to your presence by talking, singing, or putting bells on your pack.
- Follow the rules – Obey all posted signage and trail restrictions.
While the gun deer hunting openers mark the busiest hunting days, season lengths vary across the state. Archery, firearms, muzzleloader, and youth seasons continue in many areas into December.
Checking the DNR’s website for specific season dates and closing notices can help hikers plan trips and stay safe throughout the fall.
With preparation and awareness, hikers and hunters can both enjoy Minnesota’s beautiful autumn season.