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Deer diary: Minnesota, Wisconsin want reports from hunters

Wisconsin will contact hunters to be involved; any Minnesota hunter can participate.

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A deer looks up from eating along the road near Gordon, Wisconsin. (2020 file / Superior Telegram)

Minnesota and Wisconsin wildlife managers want deer hunters to share their wildlife observations this season by keeping fairly detailed records of what they see in the woods.

Wisconsin is picking hunters to contact at random while the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has an online questionnaire for Minnesota deer hunters to report wildlife they see during their hunts this year.

“This is a simple, direct way for hunters to share their observations of deer and also broaden our knowledge about other Minnesota species,” Eric Michel, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research scientist, said. “We’re really encouraging hunters to participate in the online questionnaire. The results will help us compare what hunters see to population estimates that are a baseline for managing wildlife.”

All Minnesota hunters can record their observations at dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/management/deer-hunter-field-log.html . Using a mobile device or desktop computer, hunters can enter information about wildlife they see each day of hunting, including deer, turkeys, bears, fishers and other species. They’ll also be able to report specific information about any deer they harvest, including antler size.

Hunters are encouraged to fill out a report after each hunt even if they don’t see any deer that day. The questionnaire will be available when archery deer season begins Saturday, Sept. 19, and remain open through the end of the year. Data from the observation survey will provide a helpful comparison to the DNR’s population estimates for various species.


“Deer hunters tend to be out in the woods sitting still when animals are most active at dusk and dawn. That makes them likely to see undisturbed wildlife,” Michel said.

This new questionnaire expands on a survey the DNR has made available to bow hunters for the past three years. In that survey, 1,412 bow hunters responded in 2017, 1,691 responded in 2018 and 2,180 responded in 2019. Now, the DNR is aiming to increase participation by allowing all deer hunters to participate.


The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources this fall is launching its largest ever survey of deer hunters to better understand which harvest opportunities hunters decide to take. But instead of hunters contacting them, the DNR is randomly contacting hunters to get reports.

Participating hunters will use an online diary to record the number of hours they spend hunting, deer sightings and observations related to buck age and harvest selectivity. The aim of this study is to gain more information about statewide hunter success and selectivity when deer hunting.

The deer hunter diary started with the beginning of the bow season Sept. 12 and will run until the end of the nine-day gun season Nov. 29. The department plans to contact more than 130,000 licensed hunters by email asking them to participate in the diary survey.

The DNR will randomly select hunters to participate in three days of online diary entries to record their experiences deer hunting. Examples of the types of questions asked within the diary include: "How many hours were spent hunting?" "How many deer were seen?" "How many deer did the hunter had an opportunity to harvest?" and "How many deer were harvested?"

“This study allows for a unique opportunity for hunters to have direct involvement in citizen science and deer management in Wisconsin,” Robert Holsman, DNR resource sociologist, said. “This is the first time we are conducting the deer hunter diary at the statewide level, and we are looking forward to hearing directly from deer hunters about their observations of deer and experiences while hunting.”

The effort was test piloted in Bayfield and Iowa counties last year “and we are hoping to build off of our findings to figure out how often hunters are passing bucks they consider to be too small,” Meghan Pluemer, DNR resource sociologist, said.


Hunters participating in the ongoing bow season should keep an eye on their email as they may be selected to respond to the deer hunter diary. Groups of deer hunters will be sampled continually throughout the deer seasons this fall, so hunters may be selected to participate at any time throughout the bow and nine-day firearm season.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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