Few changes on tap for fall deer season

St. Paul — Coming this fall: A deer season that isn’t a whole lot different from last year.

“Overall, there are not going to be huge changes from last year,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big-game program coordinator.

But there will be some expansion of opportunity. While the number of lottery areas will stay the same at 58, there are more intensive areas – eight this year, as opposed to six last year – and more managed areas – 30 this year, as opposed to 23 last year.

There will be fewer hunter choice areas – 33, as opposed to 41 – and fewer unlimited areas – one, as opposed to two.

The bag limit in intensive areas is five. It’s two in managed areas, one in hunter choice areas, and one in lottery areas, though hunters must apply and be drawn to shoot antlerless deer in these areas.
Hunters last year killed 186,634  deer, the fewest since 1999.

“We were kind of conservative last year in trying to keep the population stable, or increase it,” McInenly said. “The population is probably up a small bit.”

Among the other aspects of the season hunters can expect:

  • Permit Area 101 in the northwest, where deer numbers are diminished as a result of intense efforts to eradicate bovine tuberculosis, will be a lottery area this year, as will some of the areas that surround it. The intent is to increase the deer population, McInenly said.
  • There will be more antlerless permits available in some permit areas in the southwestern part of the state.
  • Permit Area 602, which is the chronic wasting disease management area in the southeast, will move from the unlimited to intensive harvest management designation.
  • Antler-point regulations will remain in place in the 300 series of permit areas in the southeast. And unlike during previous years, hunters in those areas will be able to register their deer via the Internet or telephone.

Early antlerless season

The DNR also is dusting off the concept of an early antlerless season, which it first tried in 2005 as a way to reduce deer populations in areas where they were too high.

The last time the agency offered an early season was in 2010.

This year’s early season is slated for Oct. 17-20 and will be held in specific portions of permit areas 345 and 346 in the southeast, where deer depredation of crops has been especially intense.

“It’s just an additional tool we’re going to be evaluating,” McInenly said. “These are areas that have had chronic population issues. But this isn’t something totally new.”

Last year, the DNR issued some property owners in that part of the state depredation permits that allowed as many as 75 deer per property to be taken during the regular hunting season. The program worked well, but because of refuge areas around those properties, deer densities in some cases remain too high, said Gino D’Angelo, deer project leader at the DNR’s farmland wildlife population and research group in Madelia.

“It’s just a subsection of the deer permit areas,” he said. “It’s broader (than specific properties) but concentrated enough that we can focus on reducing local deer densities.”

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