DNR on deer firearms hunt: not a bad year

St. Paul – Records won’t fall, but deer hunters are on pace for
another high harvest.

Firearms hunters so far are about 3 percent off last year’s
total (183,000 this year compared with 189,000 last year), and the
total harvest is down about 4 percent (216,000 this year compared
with 226,000 last year).

The total kill for the year likely will be about 260,000
whitetails and will represent the third, or possibly fourth,
highest kill ever, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big-game program
coordinator.

“We’re not Wisconsin, we won’t kill half a million deer,” he
said. “But it’s not a bad season.”

The firearms kill is up nearly 4 percent in Zone 1 (from 89,506
last year to 89,660 this year) and 2 percent in Zone 3 during the A
season (from 7,879 last year to 8,033 this year). It’s down nearly
9 percent in Zone 2 (from 80,480 last year to 73,447 this
year).

The kill during the 3B season – it runs Nov. 17-25 – so far is
down about 19 percent from last year.

As expected, the firearms harvest in Zone 4 was down markedly
this year. Hunters killed 8,129 deer during the 4A season (down 13
percent from last year), and 4,822 during the 4B season (down 24
percent from last year).

Deer managers limited the number of antlerless permits available
in Zone 4 this year in an effort to increase the deer population
there. As part of that, muzzleloader hunters hunting in lottery
areas under an all-season license also had to apply for an
antlerless permit.

Because of that, Cornicelli expects muzzleloader hunters in that
zone to be less successful on antlerless deer than they have been
in the past.

But there’s an item of concern in the farmland: Adult hunters
shooting deer and registering them on youth tags. Adults have to
apply for an either-sex tag, but there’s no such restriction for
youths, who can take a deer of either sex.

“It’s time we started talking about it,” Cornicelli said. “There
are a couple of pieces of information that lead me to strongly
believe that parents are shooting deer for their kids.”

Among them: In managed areas, the youth success rate for
antlerless deer is about 7 percent. In lottery areas – where party
members cannot kill an antlerless deer for a member of the party
who is a resident under the age of 18 – the youth success rate is
more than twice that.

“If there are fewer deer in lottery areas, youths should not be
twice as successful,” Cornicelli said.

He said DNR officials won’t make any decisions until all data
have been collected, but it’s possible the result could be a
bucks-only season, or that youth hunters also will have to apply
for either-sex permits.

“We don’t want to do that to kids,” Cornicelli said. “Everything
we have done has been kid-friendly.”

Deer registration

When the DNR’s Electronic Licensing System contract expires late
next year, “one of the things we’ll be looking at is how we
register deer,” Cornicelli said.

There have been some question as to why the DNR makes hunters
drive to registration stations to register their deer.

The agency will look at alternatives, including web-based and
phone registration, he said. Some states use an interactive voice
response system – such technology is relatively new – but it’s
unlikely walk-in registrations will cease to exist.

Cornicelli said the agency has made an effort to ensure that
check stations are located in such a way that hunters don’t have to
drive very far to register their deer. The DNR uses check stations
for disease surveillance, as well as to get information like deer
age and sex for various projects.

“My main concern is compromising our data, the integrity of our
data,” he said. “I think we collect as good of data, or better
data, than anyone in the nation.”

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