Hunters in Duluth's city bowhunt for deer will see two rule changes in the hunt next fall.
In one change, the hunt will no longer carry a "metro" designation, which, under Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rules, allowed a hunter to shoot an unlimited number of antlerless deer. Beginning with this fall's hunt, city hunters will be permitted to take up to three antlerless deer, the same limit as in the state's deer permit area 182, which borders the city hunt.
The second change will lift the hunt's "earn-a-buck" requirement effective on Thanksgiving Day each year rather than on Dec. 1, as it was last year. Under the "earn-a-buck" requirement, city hunters are required to shoot an antlerless deer before taking a buck in the hunt.
The changes were announced Wednesday by Dave Montgomery, chief administrative officer for the city of Duluth. Both changes were made by Montgomery after a year-end review of the hunt with the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the hunt for the city.
Montgomery said the metro designation, which has been in effect the past four seasons, was helpful in reducing deer numbers in the city.
"The need for a large number of deer to be harvested are in the past now," Montgomery said. "Our herd is much more in the maintenance phase now. We don't see the need for unlimited harvest anymore. That gives some people the impression we're trying to completely eradicate or decimate the herd."
Chris Balzer, DNR area wildlife manager at Cloquet, agrees with the city's decision.
"It's clear the Duluth archery hunt has reduced the deer population in the city," Balzer said. "We're not getting complaints like we used to. ... It also helps redistribute the harvest more equally between the hunters."
Few hunters took advantage of shooting several deer in the past four years, said Phillip Lockett, president of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance. Last fall, for the third year in a row, hunters in the city hunt shot an average of just under one deer per hunter, according to hunt records. A total of 296 hunters were registered for last fall's hunt, and they took a total of 290 deer.
That's on par with recent years but far below the roughly 600 per year taken in the early years of the hunt. Last fall was the 13th year of the Duluth bowhunt.
Removing the "earn-a-buck" requirement earlier in the hunt will give hunters more opportunity late in the season.
"It will give some people, who haven't had the opportunity at that point, the chance to shoot a deer," Lockett said. "If they haven't come across an antlerless deer, but if they have a spike or six-pointer walking by every day, we want to allow people to harvest that deer."
The Duluth bowhunt was started 13 years ago as a way to reduce an overpopulation of deer in the city. Through those years, city hunters have taken a total of 6,143 deer, according to the ABA.
"Overall, I'm very happy with the way these guys run this hunt," Montgomery said. "I hear very few complaints, and I hear a lot about hunters gaining access to non-public land. I think the public is broadly supportive."