Deer-season proposal aimed at reducing deer-human conflicts in Duluth area
State wildlife officials are considering a rules change that would allow hunters to receive unlimited antlerless deer permits in an area that encompasses Duluth.
A public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. May 8, at the EPA building in Duluth, to discuss a proposal that would designate deer permit area 182 surrounding Duluth as a “metro deer hunt.” The designation would allow for more liberal taking of antlerless deer and would extend the firearms deer season by one week in the permit area. The designation also would apply to the Duluth city bow hunt.
The proposed change is aimed at reducing deer numbers and deer-human conflict, said Chris Balzer, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Cloquet. In addition, hunter access in the permit area is limited because most land is privately owned.
“Despite a change in 2005 that altered boundaries so deer harvest could be set higher in this area, deer populations remain high,” Balzer said in a statement.
Since 2005, permit area 182 has been designated an “intensive harvest” area by the DNR. Hunters are allowed to take up to five deer with the proper bonus permits.
Under the “metro” designation, the DNR would allow unlimited harvest of antlerless deer during any open deer season in permit area 182. The change would affect the communities of Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor, Esko and Cloquet. Local governments would determine whether hunters could use bows, firearms or both within their jurisdictions.
Firearms and muzzleloader hunters with licenses valid anywhere in Minnesota would be able to hunt permit area 182 outside of city limits at any time during their respective seasons.
Officials with the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts Duluth’s bow hunt for deer within city limits, say the metro designation would have little effect on those in the hunt.
“We can already take five deer, and only seven hunters (out of 391 total) did that,” said Phillip Lockett, ABA president.
Duluth bow hunters took 399 deer last year, about 30 percent fewer than the year before. Many hunters said they didn’t see nearly as many deer as they had in previous years.
Not all hunters are convinced the deer population in permit area 182 warrants a more liberal season.
“I think they’ve got it wrong myself,” said Scott VanValkenburg at Fisherman’s Corner in Pike Lake. “If they allow it, it’ll probably ruin the hunting for years to come in that area.”
John Chalstrom, who processes deer at Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle north of Duluth, also opposes the idea.
“I could understand this being proposed three or four years ago,” Chalstrom said, “but the last three years, the number of deer has been declining every year in 182.”
Especially after this severe winter, Chalstrom said, the proposal seems ill-timed.
“This probably couldn’t have come at a worse time, after the toughest winter we’ve seen since 1996,” he said. “I think it would be way better to wait and see what the population looks like. After they assess how much winter-kill there was, too many deer isn’t probably going to be a problem like it has been for the last 15 years.”
Balzer conceded the timing of the proposal could have been better, but said the change is needed.
“We’re looking at it as a long-term thing,” he said. “The (deer) numbers remain high. This winter came along, but there will be other mild winters.”
Those who cannot attend the May 8 meeting may submit comments by email starting May 9 to Balzer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at mndnr.gov/deer. Comments will be accepted through May 19.