Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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DNR pitches revised Zone 3 deer proposal

Editor

St. Paul Following a lengthy comment period and public meetings
on Zone 3 white-tailed deer management, the Minnesota DNR pitched a
revised proposal on Tuesday.

The new plan would maintain the 3A and 3B seasons at roughly
their current times, while shortening 3A by two days and extending
3B by two days. It also would allow limited antlerless harvest
during 3A. The agency said it will be taking comments on the new
proposal through the end of March.

Many hunters opposed the DNR’s original proposal. More than 800
hunters attended four meetings that the agency held in Winona,
Rochester, Red Wing and Shakopee in January to comment on the first
plan. In addition, the agency received 400 written comments and
e-mails on the topic.

“While there wasn’t a lot of support for our original plan,
there was strong interest in looking at changes for the Zone 3 deer
season,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR Big Game Program coordinator.
“The public comments were very thoughtfully and respectfully
presented.

“As a result, we’ve gone back to the drawing board and made some
changes that we’re seeking additional feedback on,” he said.

Key elements of the new proposal and how they differ from the
original are:

Shorten the 3A hunt from nine days to seven days (Saturday
through Friday). (The original proposal called for shortening this
season to five days.) The season would still open on the regular
statewide firearms deer season opener (Nov. 8, 2003).

Shortening the 3A hunt should allow some increased buck survival
during the rut a point that groups like the Bluffland Whitetails
Association and other citizens have advocated for in the southeast.
Shortening the 3A season to seven days eliminates the second
weekend of that season. In the past, about 15 percent of the buck
harvest has occurred during those two days, according to the
DNR.

Allow youth hunters to harvest a deer of either sex during the
3A season. (The original proposal did not address special youth
hunting provisions in this season.)

Offer a limited number of either-sex permits during the 3A
season. (This represents no change from the original proposal.)

Lengthen the 3B season from seven days to nine days, but leave
the season timing the same so that the season will be open over
Thanksgiving as it has traditionally been. The two additional days
will run this season through the weekend after Thanksgiving and
overlap the first two days of the muzzleloader season. (The
original proposal also would have been nine days, but moved this
season earlier to begin the Saturday immediately following the
close of the 3A season.)

Continue to prohibit multi-zone buck and all-season deer license
holders from hunting in 3B season. The original proposal would have
allowed this because all Zone 3 seasons would have been concurrent
with seasons in some other zones of the state.

During the comment period, many hunters said they feared that
allowing the use of multi-zone licenses in 3B would result in
landowners hunting both seasons and thus cutting off access to
property in Zone 3.

The DNR has maintained since unveiling its first proposal in
late November that its main priority was to allow better management
of deer in the southeast. Cornicelli said the meetings provided
insight into the social aspects of deer management and deer hunting
traditions.

“We heard from the public that shortening the 3A season to five
days was too great a change, that hunting over Thanksgiving was
important to 3B hunters, and that there was a lot of opposition to
allowing all-season and multi-zone hunters to hunt in the Zone 3B
season,” Cornicelli said.

Based on recent conversations with Cornicelli about the revised
proposal, the board of Bluffland Whitetails Association voted on
Feb. 20 to support the new plan, according to Chris Kolbert, BWA
president. Kolbert said BWA considers the changes a “positive
development and step in the right direction.”

“As soon as I saw this, I thought this looks like a really good
situation for everyone,” Kolbert said. “We’d probably make some
minor changes, but we recognize that change is difficult.”

A portion of the official statement from the BWA board reads as
follows: “Our organization supports these minor changes now, with
the intent that in the near future, additional modifications can be
made when they are determined to be appropriate.”

Kolbert said the revised proposal resembles a plan that BWA
pitched to the agency last year. Part of that plan, however which
the DNR did not include in either of its proposals recommended
moving the 3A season up one week to remove some of the pressure on
rutting bucks.

As a next step, BWA intends to advocate for additional research
into whether moving 3A back would indeed affect buck harvest,
Kolbert said.

“Some say it will, some say it won’t,” he said. “We’d like to
see some scientific study to compile more reliable evidence.”

Cornicelli confirmed that he and the DNR remain open to
investigating the effects of the current timing of the 3A season
through research and via consulting with other states.

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