UNDATED -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says deer hunters should have ample chances to bag a whitetail when the firearms season opens Saturday.

Officials say deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations and three years of relatively mild winters.

Hunters in many parts of the state will have access to additional permits based on a more liberal harvest plan.

In central Minnesota, officials indicate deer populations have bounced back from the severe winter of 2013-2014. Summer habitat conditions were ideal with an excellent growing season and plentiful forage and cover.

Wildlife managers are expecting a strong harvest barring any unforeseen unusual weather.

The statewide harvest projection is in the 200,000 range, which is significantly higher than last year of just over 173,000 deer taken.

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