Deer harvest down, but will be top three or four
By Joe Albert Staff Writer
St. Paul – When it’s all said and done, the state’s deer harvest
this fall will be in the top three or four of all time.
Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator, predicted the
final kill would be between about 235,000 and 240,000. Firearms
seasons have ended, but muzzleloader hunters can be afield through
Dec. 11, archery hunters through Dec. 31.
‘It’s going to fall in that 10 percent or so down from last
year,’ Cornicelli said. ‘It’s a little lower than I expected, but
it’s still a lot of deer.’
Hunters last year killed about 260,000 deer, and about 290,000
in 2003. Harvest had been below about 222,000 between 1993 and
In general, the northwest was down from last year, the central
part of the state was similar to last year, the southeast was up
from last year, and the southwest and northeast were down.
Cornicelli wasn’t sure the reasons for the decline in harvest
this fall, as the deer herd across the state was around 1.2 million
heading into the fall. Possibilities include population declines in
local areas; people may have had plenty of venison from last year;
and the weather wasn’t ideal opening weekend of the firearms
One thing is certain – hunters purchased about 8,000 fewer bonus
tags this year than they did in 2004, Cornicelli said.
Bonus tags allow hunters to kill up to five deer in some areas
of the state, and have been the DNR’s strategy for thinning the
deer herd. But populations remain too high in some areas, and
officials are looking for other ways to encourage or make hunters
shoot more deer.
They tried experimental antler-point restrictions and
earn-a-buck regulations this fall in seven state parks, and
Cornicelli said a simple and cheap way for hunters to donate
venison would help.
‘Long-term, we need to figure out how to get a venison donation
program off the ground,’ he said. ‘It’s not necessarily the answer,
but it’s certainly a tool we can use.’
Such a program likely would cost around $200,000 per year to
run, Cornicelli said. There is a program in place now, but it costs
hunters $50 or more to donate a deer.
Preliminary indications are that the state park experiments were
successful. Cornicelli didn’t have results from the antler-point
restrictions, but said earn-a-buck resulted in people shooting more
antlerless deer than they had in the past.
For now, the state parks regs will remain in place, as will the
use of bonus tags.
‘You’re going to see a lot of the same stuff on the state parks,
unless we identify some crippling issue in the next couple of
months,’ Cornicelli said.
The DNR will discuss possible tweaks related to deer hunting at
January’s roundtable. Officials may look at changing zones again –
possibly moving some of the Zone 4 permit areas south of Highway 10
into Zone 2 – but ‘I don’t think it’s going to be a dramatic year
for changes,’ Cornicelli said.