DNR, groups continue push for metro hunts

By Tim Spielmant

Associate Editor

St. Paul – Despite the encouragement of state wildlife officials
and the involvement of groups attempting to involve more youths and
women, hunting continues to be underutilized by suburban
municipalities, hunt supporters say.

Wendell Diller said he’s tried, without much success, to offer
hunting opportunities in the metro to a segment of the hunting
community that could use a hand in securing places to hunt. He
focuses on geese – they’re plentiful and can be hunted safely in
the metro area, he said.

But roadblocks abound, and nearly all municipalities have gun
discharge prohibitions; a variance usually is required to allow any
form of hunting.

“It takes one person to say ‘no,’ but it takes a lot of people
to say

‘yes,’ ” Diller said.

Diller said a recent effort to allow supervised hunting in
Woodbury, likely for the benefit of youths and women, was vetoed by
city officials. He said use of a special, modified gun would
increase safety and reduce noise.

“We need to the opportunity to demonstrate the viability of
supervised youth and women goose hunts,” Diller wrote in a letter
to Woodbury Police Chief William Hering.

“Getting the mayor, police chief, city council, and landowners
all to agree makes it difficult,” Diller wrote. “Yet, we have an
abundance of wildlife in the suburban areas and now have a safe way
to hunt. All we need is the opportunity in one city to prove we can
do it and we think others will follow. The anti-gun and
anti-hunting sentiment in the public makes it easier to just say
no, but we ask for your serious consideration.”

No matter the municipality, the police chief or head public
safety official must be on board with any hunting plan, Diller
said.

“What we’ve found is the police chief has to sell it,” he said.
“He (she) has to make the call, convince the mayor and city council
that it’s safe.”

Support from the state

Diller said the DNR is supportive of supervised hunting in safe
locations in the metro, an assertion wildlife officials
confirm.

“We encourage cities to use hunting for control of all nuisance
wildlife species,” said Bryan Lueth, DNR urban area wildlife
manager. Should city officials choose to pursue a hunt – for
burgeoning populations of geese and deer in particular – the DNR
won’t stand in the way, he said. For an in-city deer hunt during an
open deer season, “They need nothing from us,” he said.

Further, there are areas within many cities where hunting could
effectively control wildlife populations without endangering the
general public, he said.

While city ordinances can’t prohibit hunting, they can prohibit
firearm discharge, effectively eliminating hunting – unless
authorized by city officials.

Lueth said some city officials often play the “safety” card, to
head off hunting efforts.

“Often, city officials use the safety issue for unfounded
reasons,” he said. “We’re trying to educate them that hunting can
be done safely (in some locations). We’re trying to nip at the
edges.”

Lueth also stresses that some cities bypass hunters – when it
comes to control of abundant species like geese and deer – and
spend more money on other control methods.

“For cities, goose hunters are cheap,” he said.

In 17 years of promoting supervised metro-area hunts, Diller
said he’s had very limited success. There are a few exceptions to
cities’ general prohibitions on hunting; some goose hunts have been
held on metro golf courses to curb Canada goose numbers.

While suburban areas have become havens – and in most cases,
refuges for geese and deer – a new, more aggressive potential
“nuisance” is making its way onto the scene. Turkeys are beginning
to thrive in some locations, Lueth said.

“They’re becoming a problem,” he said. They’re aggressive at
times and some roost on the decks of homes.

“It’s something we’re trying to get our arms around before it
becomes a problem,” Lueth said.

For himself and those with whom he works, Diller said the real
issue is promoting the hunting tradition, maintaining the
connection of people to the land, and preparing the next generation
for its role in conservation. Teaching conservation begins with
hunting opportunities, and youth need a boost in securing such
opportunities, he said.

“Young people are the future of conservation,” he said. “More
young people in the outdoors means more people will be connected
with the land.”

A city’s take

Maple Grove Police Sgt. Kyle Larsen said he’s talked recently
about a special hunt for youths and/or women in that city. So far,
that hasn’t come to fruition.

Larsen, who handles hunting plans and issues for the northwest
metro suburb, said goose hunting is allowed in portions of the
city, as is archery deer hunting. While Maple Grove has an
ordinance in place that prohibits firearms discharge, hunters who
complete a city-sponsored orientation class and who purchase a $10
permit (in addition to required licenses and stamps) are allowed to
hunt geese in certain areas, as long as they receive permission
from the landowner.

Like other outlying suburbs, the land available to hunt is
shrinking, Larsen said. “It’s getting smaller,” he said, “smaller
all the time.”

Still, Maple Grove goose hunters have been taking an average of
400 to 500 geese annually in recent years. The city also allows
archery deer hunting in certain areas. Similar to goose hunters,
deer hunters must complete an orientation class and pay a fee.

The archery deer program has been beneficial, Larsen said.

“It’s helped us a lot,” he said. “We keep track of the number of
deer hunters take (which is usually about 40-some deer), and use
this as a management tool.”

It’s also a cost-saving measure. While nearby Minnetonka budgets
$50,000 for whitetail control, without a hunt, Maple Grove spends
about $2,000 per year, Larsen said.

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