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Minnesota hunters harvest fewer deer in 2008

February 2, 2009

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Minnesota deer hunters harvested nearly 222,000 deer in 2008. This is a decline of 38,000, or about 19 percent, from 2007, but the ninth consecutive year the harvest has exceeded 200,000.

“Bad weather opening weekend, lower deer populations in many permit areas and more lottery areas all had a role in the lower harvest,” said Dennis Simon, wildlife section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Still, hunters found success and we were able to lower deer populations in some areas.”

Overall, the statewide firearm harvest was down 15 percent from last year.

The archery harvest was down 7 percent and the muzzleloader harvest down 25 percent.

Firearms hunters harvested 190,100 deer, archery hunters 22,550, and muzzleloader hunters 9,300.

Hunters who participated in the early antlerless season, which was expanded to 30 areas in 2008, tagged 5,250 deer.

Despite the decrease from 2007’s harvest total of 260,604 and the lowest total harvest level in five years, 2008 ranked as the eighth-highest Minnesota deer harvest ever recorded.

“The majority of our deer harvest comes during the first weekend of firearms season,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “When the weather is bad like it was, we never fully make up the difference the next weekend.”

Deer populations in many permit areas also were lower than previous years, which is a direct result of aggressive antlerless deer management.

“In many deer areas, we’ve allowed hunters to take up to five deer each, which by design has likely lowered populations toward our established goals,” Cornicelli said.

Final population estimates will be completed after the winter ends and the DNR will re-evaluate populations relative to established goals.

Additional significant winter weather in some parts of Minnesota this year could reduce deer populations in some areas.

“Many hunters will see lower bag limits and, in some cases, placement of their hunting area into lottery designation,” Cornicelli said. “It’s important that hunters pay close attention to the hunting synopsis when it comes out in late July.”

Looking ahead to the 2009 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 3.

Archery deer hunting will begin Sept. 19 and the early antlerless deer season will be the weekend of Oct. 10.

The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Saturday, Nov. 7 and the muzzleloader season will open Saturday, Nov. 28.

Waverly firearm safety class registration

The Waverly Gun Club will offer firearm safety class for students ages 11 and older. Registration night is Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Cost is $10 per student. For more information, call Mike at (320) 543-3515 or Jim at (763) 658-4272.

W-M boys scout fishing contest Feb. 7

The Watertown-Mayer Boy Scout Troop 209 will host its 29th annual ice fishing contest Saturday, Feb. 7 at Lake Whaletail in Minnestrista.

The event is sponsored by the Watertown Lions, and will take place from 1 to 3 p.m.

The alternate date for the tournament is Saturday, Feb. 14.

Tickets for the event are $3 in advance at $4 at the lake.

For additional information, call (612) 743-3674.

63rd annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby

The 63rd annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby will take place Saturday, Feb. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. on Howard Lake.

Prior to the derby stop by The Country Store in Howard Lake for a University of Minnesota Raptor Center presentation from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by a Minnesota cultivated wild rice recipe tasting from 11 a.m. to noon.

There will also be store door prize drawings at 11:30 a.m. at The Country Store (must be present to win).

For additional information on the derby, contact Denny Decker at (320) 543-2992.

Minnesota Deer Hunter banquet

The Minnesota River Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will be hosting their annual banquet Saturday, Feb. 7 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Shakopee.

Social hour begins at 5 p.m., and tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children 16 and under.

To purchase tickets, call Barb Breeggemann at (952) 445-4396.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Proceeds from this event are used for youth hunter education, deer habitat improvement, and maintaining the Shakopee Archery Range.

Watertown Rod & Gun Club to host annual sportsman banquet

The Watertown Rod & Gun Club will be hosting its 13th annual Family Sportsman Banquet Saturday, March 7.

Look for additional information in the weeks to come.

Osprey nest in southern MN one highlight of nongame program success
From the DNR

After 150 years or more, ospreys may successfully nest south of the Twin Cities.

Last spring, an osprey pair attempted to nest in Le Sueur County on a power pole adjacent to fish rearing ponds at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries facility at Waterville.

This is the first documented case of an active osprey nest in southern Minnesota in modern times, although there have been several unsubstantiated reports.

“Even though this pair was not able to hatch any chicks, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll return next spring and bring off a hatch,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Southern Region DNR Nongame Wildlife specialist at New Ulm. “We think there is a reasonable chance that could happen, which would be great news.”

Ospreys are making a comeback in the state. A 2004 DNR flight survey found 577 Minnesota osprey territories, with an estimated population of 1,200 birds.

While the DNR has not done an osprey flight survey since then, it is estimated that the statewide population may be more than 2,000 birds by the end of the 2009 season.

For a bird that had nearly disappeared as a breeding species in Minnesota by the mid-20th century, the osprey has been an impressive comeback story.

Loss of habitat, shooting and pesticides were major factors attributing to the population nosedive.

The osprey recovery, Gelvin-Innvaer said, is due in part to the citizens, businesses, wildlife, and fisheries professionals, and various organizations that have been eager to lend a helping hand to these majestic birds of prey.

Perhaps most notably, Three Rivers Park District (formerly Hennepin Parks) began an osprey reintroduction program in 1984.

Since then, more than 90 nest platforms have been erected in the Twin Cities metro area and nearly 700 chicks have fledged.

Platforms have been constructed on power poles and other tall structures, such as business buildings

The osprey joins the trumpeter swan, peregrine falcon, eagle and others on an impressive list of nongame wildlife species that have enjoyed similar recent success stories in Minnesota, supported in part by Minnesota taxpayers who donate to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program.

Minnesota citizens are critical to the Nongame Program.

Not only are they a vital funding source – 80 percent of the program is funded by donations – but they also volunteer to help.

Citizens play an important role in activities such as wildlife field surveys and observation reports.

Citizens interested in donating should advise their tax preparer to include the tax-deductible amount in the loon donation box.

Interested donors can also visit the Nongame Program link on the DNR Web site to make an online donation at any time.

DNR, NWTF expand youth turkey hunting opportunities in 2009
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the National Wild Turkey Federation will again team up to offer special hunts for youth who are first-time turkey hunters.

And thanks to NWTF volunteers, about 130 more young people – up from 407 last year – will get a shot at one of the 39 mentored events.

But hurry – the application deadline is 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23.

All but one of the special hunts will occur April 18-19, the first weekend of the regular wild turkey season.

Nearly all of the youth will hunt on private land thanks to the generosity of private landowners.

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before April 18, have a valid Firearms Safety Certificate, and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Any youth who has ever purchased or been selected by lottery for a Minnesota turkey license of any type is ineligible.
Hunters and their mentors will be assigned a NWTF volunteer guide, who must accompany both the youth and parent/guardian throughout the entire hunt.

“Mentored hunts are an opportunity for youth to learn from experience,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “They provide an opportunity for mentors to pass their turkey hunting knowledge onto the next generation.”

Applications for the wild turkey hunt are available online at the DNR Web site: http://mndnr.gov/youthturkey.

Participants will be selected through a random lottery. A map of areas open to special youth hunts and a listing of hunts can be viewed and printed online.

To participate as a mentor or volunteer your land for the youth mentored hunts, contact your local NWTF chapter at www.nwtfchapter.org/minnesotastatechapter/index.html.

Click “In Your State,” on the left hand side of the page, for the nearest chapter.

DNR urges snowmobile, ATV riders to use extra caustion in road rights of way and ditches
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders to use extra caution this winter when operating their machines in ditches and other areas within road right-of-ways.

Vehicle operators should reduce speed in construction areas (particularly at night) and be aware of such hidden dangers as equipment, silt fences, wood survey stakes, steel right-of-way-markers, brush piles, sedimentation ponds, and boulders.

Some of this material may remain months after construction activity ceases.

State snowmobile regulations allow riders to operate on outside ditch slopes and ditch bottoms but prohibit operation on roadways, shoulders and the inner slopes of a state or county road.

Regulations also prohibit operation on the medians of four-lane highways and within the rights of way of any interstate highway.

Regulations also prohibit riders from operating against traffic at night within highway right of ways.

ATV operators must possess a valid driver’s license where it’s legal to drive on highway right-of-ways such as slopes and ditches, and when crossing roads.

Minnesota residents born after December 31, 1976 must have a snowmobile safety certificate in their possession, or a snowmobile safety certificate indicator on their driver’s license or on their Minnesota ID card, to operate a snowmobile in Minnesota.

Question of the Week
From the DNR

Q: Winter is tough on everyone, but can be especially difficult for wildlife.

How does the cold and snow affect deer, and how do they survive Minnesota’s winter weather?

A: Deer begin preparing for winter by shedding their summer coat and replacing it with a heavier winter coat.

During a cold snap, they can make the hairs of their fur coat stand erect, which traps air near the skin and increases the insulation value of their winter coat.

This is similar to birds fluffing their feathers.

Deer store most of their fat reserves during the summer months because the twigs they eat in the winter lack the nutritional value of green vegetation.

They tend to migrate to areas with conifer trees such as white cedar, balsam, fir, white spruce or jack pine.

Conifers are warmer than trees that shed their leaves because they absorb energy from the sun.

And, like most of us, deer also try to limit the amount of time spent out in the elements.

As far as how our current winter will affect Minnesota’s deer population, it’s too early to tell.

That impact depends on snow depth coupled with how long the snow stays on the ground.