Support for deer changes

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Greenbush, Minn. — Clyde Stephens, president of Quality Deer
Management, Inc., has been pushing the DNR to alter the way it
manages deer in the state, but even he was surprised by the number
of changes the agency announced last week.

Among them: An antlerless season in mid-October, special
regulations in seven state parks, and longer seasons in some
areas.

“All of these changes are good changes, and overdue, in some
respects,” Stephens said. “They are crawling out of the rut we call
tradition.”

DNR deer management for years has protected does and allowed
liberal harvest of bucks. The new seasons and regulations are aimed
at knocking back the state’s deer herd, estimated last fall at 1.2
million animals.

Reaction to the changes has been mostly positive, though Mark
Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association, and Stephens both have heard from bowhunters who say
the early season could affect them.

“I’ve heard more comments on ‘I hope this works from a
management standpoint,’ ” Johnson said. “In general, deer hunters
are looking at the big picture.”

The early antlerless season will take place in eight permit
areas — 225, 227, and 236 in the north metro, and 209, 210, 401,
405, and 406 in the northwest — Oct. 15 and 16.

That’s during the middle of the archery season, though DNR
officials say harvest data show archers take the fewest deer of
their season that weekend. The QDM group has held its youth hunt
that weekend, and it hasn’t been a big deal, Stephens said.

“When you’ve got 90-some days to hunt — nobody wants to lose
anything — but doe hunters will be shooting a lot more deer than
the archery hunters over those last two days, and we need
that.”

Representatives from a state bowhunting group, Minnesota
Bowhunters, Inc., weren’t available to comment. Bluffland
Whitetails Association, which had supported some regulation
changes, plans to discuss the changes at its next meeting.

Johnson is excited to see action on some management items that
have been discussed for years.

“It’s kind of exciting to see them able to start implementing
some different options,” he said. “Whether they will work or not is
another question, but we’re going to find out what works and what
doesn’t.”

In addition to the early season, deer hunters this fall will
notice a number of changes, including:

  • Antler-point restrictions and earn-a-buck in three and four
    state parks, respectively.
  • Permit areas 401 through 409 will be moved into Zone 2, where
    there is a continuous nine-day season.
  • Permit areas 205, 211, 214, 284, and 284 will be moved into
    Zone 1, which has a continuous 16-day season.
  • Permit areas 228 and 337, both in the north metro, will be made
    into a metro zone with a 23-day season that starts Nov. 5. Anyone
    with an unfilled permit from another part of the state can use it
    in the metro zone.

“It gives an opportunity for hunters to say ‘Hey, I’m going to
go visit my brother and we’re going to hunt in his back 40 or back
20 and knock down some of those metro deer,'” Johnson said.

  • Hunters will be able to fill both their archery tag and their
    firearms tag, though only one can be a buck. Hunters in the past
    could fill only one of the tags. “I remember talking about that
    seven years ago when I came on with MDHA,” Johnson said.

Stephens’ group had pushed a pilot project in the northwest to
test regulations like antler-point restrictions and earn-a-buck.
That specific proposal is still on the table, but he said testing
the regulations in state parks likely will result in better
information.

“It’s well thought out and it’s bigger than we were actually
hoping for,” he said. “This is a real turning point, I think, in
the philosophy of deer management in Minnesota.”

Johnson also said MDHA is discussing, internally and with the
DNR, the idea of eliminating party hunting for bucks in some areas
where the deer population is high. No changes to that rule are on
the immediate horizon, he said.

“There’s a real reserved, but lively discussion on that,”
Johnson said.

Categories: Hunting News

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