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Changes coming for Duluth city bowhunt

Organizers of Duluth's city bowhunt for deer have proposed a couple of changes in the hunt that, if approved, could take effect this fall. One proposal has to do with the requirement for hunters to shoot an antlerless deer before taking a buck. A...

A white-tailed buck pauses in the woods on a fall morning. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, with the public's help, is developing a deer management plan. DNR officials held a meeting in Duluth on Wednesday night to get input on deer management issues. Forum News Service file photo
A white-tailed buck pauses in the woods on a fall morning. News Tribune file photo

Organizers of Duluth's city bowhunt for deer have proposed a couple of changes in the hunt that, if approved, could take effect this fall.

One proposal has to do with the requirement for hunters to shoot an antlerless deer before taking a buck. A second proposal would allow hunters to place stands closer to some city trails.

The first proposed change would remove the requirement for hunters to shoot an antlerless deer before taking a buck, but only from Dec. 1 to 31. The hunt runs from mid-September to Dec. 31 each year. Because the purpose of the hunt is to reduce the city's deer herd, hunters have always been required to shoot at least one antlerless deer before taking a buck. Few hunters go afield during December, organizers say. This rule change likely would allow hunters to take a few more deer during that month.

In past years, about 12 percent of the harvest has occurred in December, said Brian Borkholder of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the hunt for the city.

The second proposed change would reduce the distance that hunters must place their stands from some city trails. Currently, hunters' stands must be at least 200 feet away from all trails in the city. Under the proposal, hunters would be required to place their stands a minimum of 100 feet from multi-use, natural-surface trails that allow mountain bikes (such as the Duluth Traverse).

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While public safety is the reason for the setback rule, bowhunters rarely take shots longer than 30 yards, organizers say, and are not allowed to shoot across trails.

"We like the bike trails. We have to coexist with the bike trails," said Phillip Lockett, president of the ABA. "But we're getting pushed into smaller and smaller spaces."

No public safety issues have arisen in the years that the hunt has been conducted, city officials say.

"I'm always impressed with how well-managed this hunt has been," said Dave Montgomery, the city's chief administrative officer. "From the standpoint of hunter behavior, hunter safety, the safety of the public with their pets, I've never had an incident come to mind."

About 26 miles of the Duluth Traverse, a bike-optimized multi-use trail, have been constructed across Duluth, according to Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS), and about 58 miles of other multi-use trails that allow mountain bikes have been completed in Duluth. Trail clusters are located at Mission Creek, Brewer Park, Piedmont, Hartley and Lester Park.

Hunter setbacks near other city trails, such as the Superior Hiking Trail, would remain at 200 feet, hunt organizers said.

Montgomery said city officials will make a decision on the proposals this month or next. If the proposals are adopted, they would be on a trial basis for one year, he said.

The Duluth city bowhunt is conducted under city ordinance and is approved by the City Council. Both of the proposed changes pertain to the hunt's rules and are not matters that would require City Council action.

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The rule changes were proposed on Tuesday at a hunt review meeting among ABA officers, city of Duluth representatives and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources representatives.

ABA representatives also said they would be allowing fewer hunters in the hunt, simply to reduce administrative overload. They did not specify what the number of hunters would be.

Last fall, a total of 352 hunters took part in the city hunt, registering a total of 281 deer, 84 percent of them antlerless. In the 11 years of the hunt, a total of 5,853 deer have been taken. Success has decreased in recent years, and hunt organizers say the deer population has been reduced significantly in the city.

Related Topics: HUNTING
Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at cooksam48@gmail.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.
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