DNR signals ‘conservative’ deer seasonPublished 10:16am Thursday, July 24, 2014
ST. PAUL — Minnesota wildlife managers announced rules Wednesday for a “conservative” deer season to rebuild the whitetail population across much of the state.
Hunters will be allowed to shoot only one deer across 95 percent of the state, the Department of Natural Resources said, and the harvest of does will be further restricted. Most of northeastern Minnesota will be bucks only.
“To shoot a doe, hunters may have to apply for a permit in areas where they haven’t in the past and, in some places, no antlerless harvest will be allowed,” Leslie McInenly, the DNR’s big game program leader, said.
McInenly said the DNR is responding to concerns from hunters about current deer populations. Hunters have been complaining that they’re seeing fewer deer in recent years.
“This past winter only added to those concerns, so this year’s conservative approach will protect more antlerless deer, reduce the statewide harvest and allow the population to rebound,” she said.
Boosting populations generally requires restricted harvests of antlerless deer, one-deer limits and issuing few permits in selected zones.
“I think it’s definitely a good step in the right direction,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “It shows the DNR listened to what hunters’ concerns were.”
Johnson said he expects most hunters will put up with the tight rules in hopes of better hunting in the future, though he expects some others will complain.
Only bucks can be shot in 14 of the state’s 128 deer permit areas this year. Hunters must enter a lottery to shoot an antlerless deer in 69 other permit areas. Hunters will have the choice of shooting a doe or a buck in 38 areas. The restrictions work out to some of the toughest since the 1990s.
“They’re not fooling around on this one,” Johnson said.
Hunters can enter the lottery for antlerless permits beginning Aug. 1. The application deadline is Sept. 4. The main firearms deer season opens Nov. 8.
Setting population goals is a balancing act between the wishes of hunters and others who favor larger deer populations against the interests of farmers, foresters, gardeners, motorists and others who experience conflicts with deer.
The DNR says hunters killed over 171,000 deer statewide last year. It was the lowest total since 1998 and the third straight year of decline, mostly due to harvest restrictions aimed at allowing local deer populations to stabilize or rebuild.