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Conservative deer season aims at building herd

As reported in Wednesday's News Tribune, deer hunters across much of Northeastern Minnesota again will see bucks-only hunting this fall. Wildlife officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced deer hunting regulations Tues...

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(News Tribune graphics)

As reported in Wednesday’s News Tribune, deer hunters across much of Northeastern Minnesota again will see bucks-only hunting this fall. Wildlife officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced deer hunting regulations Tuesday aimed at allowing the deer population to rebound after recent moderate to severe winters.
Minnesota’s statewide deer harvest last fall was just under 140,000, the lowest since the early 1980s. This year’s deer season framework should allow for a harvest of 140,000 to 155,000, said Leslie McInenly, DNR big-game program leader.
“The good news is, we’re on our way. Last year’s conservative harvest and a mild winter have helped,” McInenly said.
John Chalstrom of Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle north of Duluth thinks most hunters will understand the DNR’s conservative approach to deer season.
“I think they’re going to be just fine with it,” Chalstrom said. “Anyone that’s been hunting these last few years knows these last two seasons have been tough. But this last winter was fairly mild. It’s good to see a lot of fawns out there. This should be a better year (for hunting), and, with all the young, by next year we should be back in business as long as this next winter is a mild winter.”
In northern Minnesota, state wildlife officials say, winter weather is a major factor in determining the deer herd size.
“For all the limits and everything else, nature has way more to do with our deer population than us hunters do,” Chalstrom said.
A few deer permit areas near the North Shore in Northeastern Minnesota are classified as “lottery” units for this fall’s hunting, meaning hunters in those areas may apply in a lottery for antlerless deer permits. Lottery deadline is Sept. 10.
The only area classified as “intensive harvest” in Northeastern Minnesota will be in deer permit area 182 surrounding Duluth, where hunters may take up to five deer each. Bucks-only deer areas are permit areas 103, 108, 111, 118, 119, 152, 169, 176, 177, 178, 181, 183, 199 and 203.
Units classified as “lottery” areas in the northeast are 117, 122, 126, 127 and 180. Part of the reason those areas allow a more liberal harvest is to keep deer populations lower in areas where moose are more prevalent, said Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower. Deer carry a parasite that causes moose to suffer from brainworm and ultimately die.
“We want to be less restrictive in terms of harvest in those areas,” Rusch said.
Minnesota’s deer herd has recovered from tough winters before. Severe winters in the late 1990s dropped the deer harvest to about 143,000, McInenly said, and with a series of mild winters, the deer population rebounded within a few years.
“It shouldn’t take too many more years before people consider that we’re back to normal populations,” McInenly said.
Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said the group supports the DNR’s deer season framework.
“I’m glad it appears they’re taking a conservative approach,” Engwall said, “which is what MDHA has been calling for. It’s great we had a mild winter in Northeastern Minnesota, but the herd has been going down for years, and it will take some time to rebuild the herd to a more normal level.”
The DNR reminds hunters that in bucks-only areas, no antlerless deer may be harvested by any hunter, including those with archery or youth licenses. However, as a result of 2015 legislation, new this year is an exception allowing either-sex harvest by any hunter age 84 and up or by hunters who are residents of veterans’ homes.

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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