Deer kill No. 3 in state history

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul — Minnesota hunters killed more than a quarter of a
million deer in 2005, making the season the third most successful
ever.

Hunters killed about 255,500 deer last year, down about 2
percent from 2004, according to Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game
program coordinator. The high-water mark was a harvest of 290,500
deer in 2003.

“We ended up with the third (highest harvest) of all-time,” he
said. “It didn’t look like that was going to be the case after the
first weekend of the firearms season.

“We kind of made it up on the back end. But if we have that
opening day decline, we never catch up.”

The kill was bolstered by record archery (22,500) and
muzzleloader (14,000) harvests. Bowhunters in 2004 killed about
17,000 deer; muzzleloader hunters killed about 9,000.

The state is seeing “pretty dramatic gains” in the number of
muzzleloader hunters, Cornicelli said. Part of the reason for that
is the availability of all-season licenses, which, at a cost of
$79, allow hunters to hunt with a bow, muzzleloader, or regular
firearm, he said.

Additionally, the weather has been fairly warm during the 16-day
season, Cornicelli said.

“Folks are taking advantage of that,” he said. “The opportunity
is there.”

Of the 255,500 deer killed, about 42 percent, or 107,000, were
antlered males. The remaining 58 percent were antlerless, though
Cornicelli noted that includes female deer as well as button
bucks.

Button bucks made up about 12 percent of the total harvest, so
about 46 percent of the total kill was female deer.

As part of its management strategy, the DNR is trying to
increase the kill of antlerless deer. But because they can be
difficult to tell apart, hunters who think they’re shooting a doe
actually may kill a button buck.

“I’m not saying don’t shoot it because it’s going to grow up to
be a 140-class whitetail,” Cornicelli said. “But if we are trying
to harvest antlerless deer, we want to put that pressure on
females.”

The total kill of antlered deer is about 2 percent lower than
last year.

“Even though the (total) harvest was down, we shot more
antlerless deer (than last year),” Cornicelli said. “It’s where we
are going with deer management in a lot of the state.”

That the antlerless kill is nearly 60 percent of the entire kill
means deer populations are coming down in some parts of the state.
Hunters should expect to start seeing fewer deer in coming years in
some areas, Cornicelli said.

That’s especially true in some of the intensively managed areas
in the central part of the state, he said.

“We’re not managing deer for maximum harvest,” Cornicelli said.
“We’re trying to manage for a multitude of interests.”

Legislative update

Though bonding is the DNR’s main priority for the upcoming
session, the agency will seek a few policy changes, said Bob Meier,
DNR legislative affairs director.

A couple of changes regarding deer licenses are highlights, he
said. The DNR will seek to:

  • Allow kids hunting with a youth firearms license to hunt
    anywhere in the state. That would allow youths to hunt with a
    grandparent one weekend in one part of the state, and with a parent
    on another weekend in another part of the state.

“It’s removing the barriers to youth hunting in a safe way,”
Meier said.

  • In parts of the state where officials want hunters to kill more
    deer allow hunters who buy an all-season license to shoot two
    antlerless deer. Currently, hunters with all-season tags may shoot
    one buck and one antlerless deer.

“(It would allow) more flexibility, given the times,” Cornicelli
said.

Categories: Hunting News

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