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First time in the woods

November 1, 2010

by Chris Schultz

Lou Cornicelli, Big Game Program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, noted we can expect a good deer season this year and that nearly 500,000 people will be in the fields, forests, and wood lots of Minnesota in pursuit of whitetailed deer when the season opens Saturday, Nov. 6.

For the first time ever, my seventh grade and oldest, daughter Abbi will be one of them.

Abbi completed her firearms safety training in the spring and with a little prodding on my part, is ready to tackle her first deer hunting adventure.

I’ve informed her that safety always comes first, the closer and the more connected you get to the outdoors, the more amazing it is; and that deer hunting in the forest with a rifle takes a lot of patience, and success is often determined by simply being in the right place at the right time.

I also let her know that if she can take one hair off the balding head of her cousin and Herald Journal Sport Editor Aaron Schulz, she will probably have enough deer hunting luck in her pocket to harvest a nice buck every year of her potentially long Minnesota deer hunting career.

Luck or not, which Aaron has most of in our deer hunting party, I’m probably more excited that Abbi is going than she is.

I hope her fingers and toes get cold, that a chipmunk crawls on a tree branch right next to her, that a raven circles over her, calling out her location in the woods; and that her heart and mind race when she sees her first deer in the woods during her first hunt.

Deer hunting will this year be again what it is supposed to be, time spent in the woods getting connected to the outdoors and to family, friends, daughters and fathers.

Wright County/West Metro Whitetails announce Hides-for-Habitat drop sites

With the archery deer hunting season underway and the firearms deer hunting season quickly approaching, once again this year, the Wright County/West Metro Whitetails Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will be collecting deer hides around the area to raise money to purchase and upgrade public hunting land in Minnesota, as well as for Youth Hunter Education.

You can find the chapter’s official Hides-for-Habitat boxes at the locations listed below.

For more information, call Al Weller at (763) 370-1206.

• Buffalo: Wal-Mart, Hwy 25 North
• Cokato: Cenex Station, Hwy 12
• Corcoran: AK Corners, Cty Rd 10 & 115
• Delano: Delano Sportsmen’s Club and All-Seasons Sports
• Hamel: Hamel Lumber & Supply
• Howard Lake: Joe’s Sports Shop
• Maple Lake: H&H Sports
• Montrose: Marketon Body Shop
• Rockford: Ace Hardware

DNR expects good season for MN deer hunters
From the DNR

Hunters who venture into field and forest for Minnesota’s firearms deer season can expect a good deer season and ample hunting opportunities, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“We can’t guarantee harvest success,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s Big Game Program coordinator. “But we can assure hunters that good deer hunting opportunities exist throughout Minnesota.”

Nearly 500,000 people are expected to participate in the firearms deer season, which opens Saturday, Nov. 6, throughout Minnesota.

Last year, 32 percent of Minnesota’s firearms deer hunters were successful.

Minnesota’s whitetail deer population is about 1 million. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s.

Rebuilding the deer herd began in 1970s and concluded in the 1990s.

Now DNR is managing the herd toward population goals established with public input.

“We are at or nearing those goals throughout most of the state,” Cornicelli said. “As those population goals are met, particularly in areas that were overpopulated, hunting regulations move from liberal to conservative and are adjusted based on deer management needs.”

During a time of liberal hunting regulations, Minnesota’s deer harvest peaked in 2003 at 290,000.

DNR continues to issue fewer either-sex permits than it did seven years ago and Cornicelli expects the harvest should be similar to the 194,000 deer harvested in 2009.

The one big difference this year compared to last is the majority of standing corn will be cut by the time the deer season opens, Cornicelli said.

Last year, 80 percent of the state’s corn crop was still in the fields on the deer opener.

Corn provides ample standing cover and can significantly impact deer harvest.

The firearms deer season concludes in the northern Minnesota Sunday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 14, in all other parts of the state.

A late season in southeastern Minnesota that stretches from Watertown in the north to Caledonia in the south opens Saturday, Nov. 20, and closes Sunday, Nov. 28.

Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early
From the DNR

With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any system issues associated with the high sales volume.

The 2010 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 6.

Deer licenses can be purchased for $27 at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-MN-LICENSE (665-4236) or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

There are additional fees for telephone and Internet transactions, which individuals should check prior to buying their license.

Hunters who purchase licenses by phone and Internet will receive their deer tags by mail, which can take three to five business days to arrive.

The Information Center and License Center at DNR headquarters in St. Paul will work extended hours on opening weekend to handle additional phone calls from deer hunters.

Phone lines will be open on Friday, Nov. 5, until 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to noon.

License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367.

Deer hunters get convenience with phone, Internet game registration
From the DNR

Hunters now can register their deer via telephone or Internet once they’ve harvested an animal, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Driving into town and taking your harvested deer to a big game registration no longer is necessary,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s Big Game Program coordinator. “Our new telephone and Internet options make registration much more convenient.”

By calling 888-706-6367 or visiting mndnr.gov/gameregistration on the Internet and providing the nine-digit harvest registration number printed on a hunter’s license, a person will be prompted for the information needed to complete registration.

People who use electronic registration need to have a pen and paper to write down the confirmation number generated by the registration system.

This number must be written on a hunter’s license in the appropriate area once electronic registration is complete.

Complete phone registration instructions are printed on licenses that allow electronic registration.

Full instructions for all methods are available online at mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.

In situations where phone or Internet registration is not possible or available, hunters must take their deer to a big game registration station.

This process, which remains unchanged from previous years, requires the person whose name appears on the license to personally present their deer.

Once registration is complete, they will receive a big game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached.

A complete list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

Electronic registration is not available for deer taken in some permit areas.

Registration at a big game registration station is required in the following permit areas:

• 101, 105, 111, 203, 208, 267, and 268 – this is the bovine TB management zone and significant effort is being undertaken to conduct hunter-harvested surveillance.

• 287 – antler-point restrictions.

• 338-349 in southeastern Minnesota –antler-point restrictions.

Harvested deer can be donated for distribution to food shelves
From the DNR

Deer donated to food shelves can be processed at no or very reduced cost to hunters, thanks to a program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of natural resources and agriculture.

The program is aimed at providing a sought-after food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to harvest additional animals to help manage the deer herd.

Prior to 2007, hunters could donate deer to food shelves, but had to pay processing costs.

“We recognize that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they can consume,” said Lou Cornicelli, Big Game Program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs.”

More details on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors, are available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/donation.

Processors who accept deer are paid $70 to process each animal for food shelf distribution.

“There are a few processors who are charging an additional fee to cover expenses so hunters should check with the processor prior to donating a deer,” Cornicelli said.

Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and nonresident hunting licenses.

Individuals have an opportunity to donate to the program when they buy their deer license or simply by informing a DNR license agent they would like to donate to the program.

In 2009, $35,000 was collected through voluntary donations.

To donate a deer, hunters will need to adhere to the following guidelines:

• Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated; processors will not accept cut and wrapped meat or portions of carcasses.

• Information such as permit area of harvest and the DNR number will be collected for tracking purposes.

• Processors can only accept carcasses for donation that are free from signs of illness, free of visible decomposition or contamination, and properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.

• Processors will reject deer for the donation program that appear to have been mishandled in any way.

Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor prior to donating the deer.

The list of processors accepting deer will be regularly updated as more processors register.

Minnesota deer facts
From the DNR

Deer: The Animal
• Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 lbs., males 170 lbs. – the average weight of female and male humans.
• The biggest white-tailed deer ever recorded was a 500-pound Minnesota buck.
• A whitetail’s home range is about one square mile.
• Minnesota’s deer population is about 1 million deer. Texas is No. 1 with 4.7 million deer
Deer: Hunting
• Last year, 32 percent of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer. About 49 percent were antlered bucks.
• 70 percent of Minnesota’s firearms deer harvest typically occurs during the first three or four days of the season.
• The average hunter spends five days afield during Minnesota’s firearms deer season.
• Last year’s total deer harvest was 195,000.
• License options allow hunters to buy individual licenses for all the seasons now give hunters more choices in where and when they can hunt deer, and hunters can take as many as five deer in many parts of the state.
• Minnesota has averaged 241,000 deer harvested over the last five years. Wisconsin is No. 1 with an average harvest of almost 450,000.
• The largest typical whitetail buck ever taken in Minnesota had a Boone & Crockett score of 202; shot by John Breen in 1918 near Funkley, Minn.
• Minnesota’s No. 1 nontypical whitetail buck had 43 points; shot by 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch in 1974. A deer recently taken on the Camp Ripley archery hunt may exceed the record.

Deer: Licenses
• In total, more than 800,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2009.
• 98 percent of deer licenses are sold to Minnesota residents.
• The DNR Information Center remained open two hours later on the day before last year’s deer opener to answer more than 2,000 telephone inquiries, most of them related to the firearms opener.

Deer: Economics
• 475,000 deer hunters in Minnesota.
• Retail sales – $260 million.
• Overall economic impact – $458 million.
• Salaries, wages, business owner income – $151 million.
• State and local tax revenue – $33 million.
• Number of directly supported jobs – 5,300.
• Economic impact is greatest in Greater Minnesota.

Deer: Top 10 Hunter Violations
1) License not in possession
2) Transport uncased/loaded firearm
3) No license
4) Hunt over bait
5) Unplugged shotgun
6) No red, use blaze orange for deer season
7) Untagged
8) Fail to have HIP certification on license
9) Fail to validate
10) Trespass

Outdoor notes

• With almost all the crops off the fields, local deer hunters can expect a better opening-day hunt than they have in the past few years.

• Local pheasant and duck hunters have been reporting modest success and good hunting, especially for ducks in our area this fall.

So far the pheasant numbers are about what the DNR and hunters expected, and duck hunting has been better than most expected.

• In next week’s column, I’ll have more information on youth hunts and youth hunting opportunities in our area, and we should all give some credit to people like Mark Reinert, Derek Lewin, Chip Hentges, and Bob Stalberger for organizing and volunteering many hours of their time to provide youth hunting opportunities.

• Make sure your firearms and ammunition are safely stored and locked when not in use.

• Give your hunting dog a check-over, paying special attention to the eyes, ears, belly and paws for abrasions and cuts.

• Remember to wear blaze orange when you’re in the outdoors during the firearms deer hunting season.

• Fall fishing on our area lakes has been great this fall. Plan to hit the water during the November full moon phase.

• Take a kid hunting or fishing; he or she will have fun and so will you.