Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Would dedicated funding lead to better deer management?

I must admit to being somewhat mystified by Editor Rob Drieslein‘s column last
week about using real-time monitors to locate deer. Although I’m a
techno-dinosaur (and just fine, thank you), it wasn’t the
technology of trail cameras or similar gadgets that tripped me up.
If you want to be a wildlife voyeur, that’s fine by me.

But I can’t understand why anyone wants to set up a monitor so
they don’t have to spend time hunting. OK, so the monitor beeps,
buzzes, vibrates, or does something to let you know that Bambi is
strolling down the path. You grab a gun, sneak out the door, and
blast Bambi. Big deal. Isn’t it easier to go to the grocery
store?

It was interesting that DNR officials had to mull over the
real-time scenario Drieslein presented to them before determining
that it was techno-poaching. Interesting, because I’ve heard
through the grapevine that real-time monitoring is already
occurring out there. Of course, this isn’t a very far step from
using trail cameras, cell phones, walkie talkies, and who knows
what else to make killing a deer easier.

The problem here is not the DNR, but a segment of the hunting
community that lost its ethical compass in a technological swamp.
Sure, you can use a camera to “pattern” the exact time that Bambi
ambles down the trail or set up a spinner decoy to suck in gullible
mallards without breaking the law. But really, can you take any
pride in your hunting abilities?

I’m not suggesting that we return to loin clothes and sharpened
sticks. But I do think it is high time that the hunting community
placed a higher priority on the skill and experience of the
individual hunter. Lots of things in this world are easier with
battery power, but that doesn’t make them better.

gggg

In the same issue, a letter writer struck to the heart of the
Minnesota DNR’s maybe-not-so-well-advised ventures into nouveau
deer management. The letter writer pointed out (and rightly so)
that sending hunters with rifles into the October woods is just
plain scary.

I first learned this a few years ago while trout fishing on
Wisconsin’s Bois Brule River. All day, we listened to rifle fire –
both far away and very near – as deer hunters participated in some
special October hunt. We were walking on heavily forested paths
across public land to reach the river and all of the places we
fished were open to hunting. Since wearing blaze orange to go trout
fishing makes about as much sense as wearing it while duck hunting,
we were dressed in drab colors. I can’t say that I felt safe that
day.

The letter writer provided a long list of other activities –
both hunting and nonhunting – that occur in the woods during
October. In fact, October is arguably the busiest month of an
outdoor year. Whether or not the DNR cares to admit it, all of
those other outdoor users have to be looking over their shoulders
for rifle hunters if a special deer hunt is going on. And, even if
the leaves have fallen, you can’t see very far in the forest. So
let’s call October rifle hunting what it is: dumb, dumb, and
dangerous.

Somehow, I find it difficult to believe that the value to deer
management exceeds the safety risk or outweighs the interruption of
all of those other outdoor activities. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but it
seems to me deer management in this state is becoming more about
generating more license revenues than anything else. We are even
waiving hunting safety standards to allow “mentoring” by adults who
may or may not have any more common sense than God gave a
goose.

Come to think of it, we’re lucky if all of those mentors have
the common sense and intelligence of the average goose.

gggg

I’m also surprised that no one questions why, if a hunter wants
to tag more than one deer, they are required to purchase the extra
tags. After all, one small game license entitles you to shoot more
than one limit. But more to the point, the multiple-purchase deer
tag scenario virtually assures we’ll have a perpetually inflated
deer population.

How’s that, you say?

Well, can you imagine a governor-appointed DNR commissioner
stepping up and pledging to reduce deer numbers so the annual
statewide kill drops by, say, 50,000 to 100,000 animals? In other
words, the harvest would go from the current level of 250,000-plus
down to between 150,000 to 200,000. Such a measure, if it could
happen, would go a long way toward reducing the state’s human-deer
conflicts.

However, it can’t happen under our present licensing structure,
because the DNR is dependent upon the revenue coming from selling
multiple tags and licenses to individual hunters. If that revenue
falls because the DNR is selling fewer licenses and tags, then the
DNR commissioner will have to explain why to the governor and
Legislature. Both parties are likely to be more interested in
bringing money into state coffers than maintaining a reasonable
deer herd.

The solution? Dedicated funding and a DNR leader appointed by a
conservation commission. First, dedicated funding allows the DNR to
be less dependent on license revenues to pay for wildlife
management. And second, a DNR leader who answers to a commission,
rather than elected politicians, has more freedom to make decision
based on what is good for the resource, rather than what is good
for politics.

gggg

As someone who owns a dog and enjoys Minnesota’s extraordinarily
varied bird hunting, the increasing emphasis placed by the state on
hunting deer worries me for another reason: I don’t want Minnesota
to become yet another deer and turkey state. Most of the states to
our east and south already have lost their bird and small game
hunting traditions as habitat (for a variety of reasons) was
converted and hunters adjusted to a game species monoculture of
deer and turkeys. Do hunters want that to happen here?

Share on Social

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Hand-Picked For You

Related Articles