Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Roundtable deer boosters: more bigger bucks wanted

Brooklyn Center, Minn. – Just a year ago, much of the
conversation regarding the state of deer management in Minnesota
centered on simplification, so much so that some of a task force’s
recommendations became part of the deer-hunting regulations in
2008.

But some of those attending the DNR’s Wildlife Roundtable, held
in Brooklyn Center last Friday and Saturday, indicated that the
state’s deer herd – and its hunters – might be better served by
regulations specific to some areas. Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s
big-game specialist, said he and other game managers soon will
discuss further tweaking of deer regulations.

On Monday, Cornicelli said he believes the rules implemented
this year – among them, the consolidation of six license types to
two, and elimination of Zone 4 – worked well, and were
well-accepted last fall.

“We truly haven’t heard much negative feedback from the changes
… generally people have been happy with how the regulations turned
out this year,” he said.

But the state’s deer-hunting groups have ideas, and they shared
them last weekend. At least two have the DNR’s ear: cross-tagging
(group bagging of) bucks, and delaying the season to avoid the peak
of the rut.

The goal is twofold: “The public, hunting organizations, and
even legislators, are becoming interested in increasing the
buck-to-doe ratio in our deer herds, and also … in changing the
age-class distribution (older bucks),” Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife
programs manager, told the group.

Four groups – the Quality Deer Management Association, the
Bluffland Whitetails Association, the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association, and Minnesota Bowhunters, Inc. – offered their takes
on deer management at the roundtable.

Both the BWA and QDMA advocate for a more “balanced” deer herd,
according to Phil Costigan of BWA and Kip Adams, of QDMA.

Adams said there are several means to reaching that goal, but
the end result is a mix of bucks of several ages, and a better
ratio of bucks to does. Costigan, meanwhile, said the BWA would
like to see a later start to the season, to protect bucks that are
vulnerable during the rut period.

Joe Cannella, of the MDHA, said his statewide organization hears
different things from member chapters, depending upon where in the
state that chapter is located.

“If we’re gonna do it right, it’s going to be regional,”
Cannella said of state deer management. “It’s going to have to be
complex; the southwest is not the northwest.”

Some things that might make for a better deer herd and a better
hunt in the south, might not work in the northwoods, Cannella said
– things like moving the deer season from the peak rut, and
possible antler-point restrictions.

Changing tagging requirements and moving the deer-hunting season
would be easy things for the department to do, Cornicelli said. But
he wonders if it’s something most hunters want.

“I’ve been harping ever since I started (at the DNR) about
cross-tagging for bucks,” he said. “All you’d have to do is tell
people they have to shoot their own buck; it would be fine-tuning
(the regs).”

Delaying the start of the hunting season would be “easy to
implement,” he said. “But we can debate if it would make a
difference.”

The groups offered a few other suggestions for improving the
management of whitetails in the state. Here are a few examples (the
MDHA recommendations are pending approval of chapter reps at a
February meeting):

€ The MDHA would like the DNR to establish a 14-day October
firearms season in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (units
115 and 116, excluding the Fernberg Road area).

MDHA officials say the early season would allow for more hunting
in the area, because hunters tend to avoid it during the November
hunt, when weather can become a hazard for those hunting in remote
areas.

€ Both the MDHA and the BWA would like to see new restrictions
on deer shining, at least in the southeast areas of the state where
most complaints are registered.

€ The MDHA would like to see changes to baiting laws,
specifically “a complete ban on wild animal feeding and baiting
from the month of September through the end of all deer-hunting
seasons.”

Exclusions would be places that prohibit the taking of big game,
and any legal hunting season as defined by the DNR that would allow
for the placement of bait (such as bear hunting).

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