Deer hunting goal is to shoot more does

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

As a conservation officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Stuart Bensen spends most of the firearms deer season checking other hunters. That keeps him out of the deer stand until muzzleloader season begins in late November. But growing up hunting in the mid-1970s, Bensen says he remembers a different limitation on his deer season: The critters just weren’t as plentiful as they are now.

&8220;If you saw four or five deer in nine days, you were considered lucky,&8221; said Bensen, of Erskine. &8220;Now, if you don’t see four or five in a day, it’s a slow day.&8221;

In terms of sheer numbers, at least, these are good days for deer hunting in Minnesota. According to the DNR, the statewide deer herd numbers about 1.2 million, similar to last year when hunters shot more than 260,000 deer, the second-highest total ever.

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Coupled with regulation changes that give hunters even more opportunities to shoot deer, this season should offer similar success. Minnesota’s firearms deer season opens Saturday.

In an effort to get a handle on high deer numbers, the DNR this year is offering intensive harvest tags in 57 permit areas &045; roughly two-thirds of the state &045; encouraging hunters to shoot more antlerless deer. Hunters in these areas may use the bonus tags to legally shoot up to five deer, only one of which can be a buck.

Meanwhile, the DNR also designated 42 &8220;managed&8221; permit areas, where hunters may use a bonus tag to shoot up to two deer, only one a buck. Unlike the old days, when hunters statewide needed to apply for doe permits, the requirement this year applied to only 40 lottery permit areas &045; none in the northwest part of the state.

&8220;As an agency, we’re putting a real emphasis on harvesting does,&8221; Lou Cornicelli, big game program manager for the DNR in St. Paul, said in a news release. &8220;Taking a buck out of the population does little to lower overall numbers because one male can breed several females.

&8220;If you want to control deer numbers, you need to reduce the number of females available for breeding.&8221;

The big challenge, of course, is convincing hunters it’s OK to shoot a doe in a hunting culture where bucks are revered as the ultimate success.