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DNR anticipates good deer hunting season for 2013

November 11, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Deer hunting should have beeen good when Minnesota’s firearms hunting season opened Saturday, Nov. 9.

That’s the word from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), whose biologists report deer populations are stable across much of the state.

“Minnesota’s deer population is largely stable in the southern half of the state because of mild winters and generally conservative deer management,” said Leslie McInenly, the DNR’s big game program leader. “Mild winters result in more survival of adults, more fawns being born, and more deer in the state’s fields and forests the following hunting season.”

Winter, which is a significant source of mortality in Minnesota deer, ranged from moderate to severe in northern Minnesota.

As a result, permit area designations across most of northern Minnesota are either lottery or hunter choice.

Hunters may find farmland conditions more challenging due to this year’s later corn harvest, which results in a substantial amount of standing corn.

Last year, Minnesota’s nearly 500,000 deer hunters harvested 186,000 deer. A similar harvest is expected this year.

McInenly said deer permit management designations that limit hunters to one, two or five deer largely are the same as last year.

The limits reflect the department’s interest in rebuilding or maintaining the deer herd in certain portions of the state by managing the harvest.

Based on 2013 population estimates, almost 80 percent of permit areas are at population goal.

Antlerless and bonus deer permit availability decreases as overly abundant populations are brought into line with department goals.

Minnesota’s deer harvest has varied widely over the past half century.

In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s, forcing the closure of the deer season in 1971 and a rebuilding of the deer herd from the 1970s through the 1990s.

The highest deer harvest occurred in 2003, when 290,000 deer were taken as part of an effort to reduce the deer herd.

Today, the DNR manages the deer population based on goals established with public input.

“As the state’s deer population has been reduced to meet goals, more consistent and moderate harvests are anticipated,” McInenly said. “That said, population goals in some places were established nearly 10 years ago and the DNR is initiating a public process to revisit goals for permit areas statewide during the next few years.”

The DNR will be working with hunters and other stakeholders this winter to evaluate deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota.

The firearms deer season concludes Sunday, Nov. 24, in Series 100 permit areas, which cover much of northeastern Minnesota.

In Series 300 permit areas, which cover the southeastern corner of the state, the first season ends Sunday, Nov.17, but a late season opens Saturday, Nov. 23, and concludes Sunday, Dec. 1.

Firearms season ends Sunday, Nov. 17, in Series 200 permit areas, which cover the remainder of the state.

Give to the Max Day

Thursday, Nov. 14. is www.giveMN.org day, which means any person, company, or organization can contribute to their non-profit registered in the United States.

Fishing Klinic For Kids would greatly appreciate your support in this effort.

Fishing Klinics for Kids started 18 years ago.

More than 21,000 kids, plus their parents, have been involved with a FKFK event over the years, with over 3,000 in 2013 alone.

Some events they participated in were National Pheasants Forever, Buffalo Days, Mpls. and St. Paul klinics, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Cabela’s fishing, and ice fishing events.

FKFK was founded to help kids and parents come together to learn about the great outdoors.

To participate, go to the giveMN.org website, and then enter their legal name: Fishing Klinics for Kids, Guide Service & Seminars.

Quick actions rescue three waterfowl hunters
From the DNR

Quick actions by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer and a lakeshore owner may have saved the lives of three duck hunters recently.

Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo was on routine patrol checking waterfowl hunters on Swartout Lake in Wright County, Sunday, Nov. 3.

“I observed with my binoculars three duck hunters picking up their decoys getting ready to leave the small island on Swartout Lake they were hunting,” Reller said. “I decided to wait on shore to do a license and game check when they came ashore.”

Reller went to check what was taking the three men so long in getting across the lake.

“Once again I used my binoculars to look out on to the lake and observed the three hunters now in the water and out of their swamped Jon boat holding onto three filled decoy bags,” he said. “The wind was blowing at over 20 miles per hour and with the cold water temps I knew they were in life threatening situation.”

Reller rushed to the residence of Barry Faber, a lakeshore owner who he knew would have a boat on shore.

With Faber’s assistance, Reller was able to aid the three hunters in the cold water.

“We were able to pull all three of the hunters on to the boat,” Reller said. “They were very cold and they couldn’t help themselves in to the boat at all. Two of them had chest waders on that were full of water and none of them had a life jacket on. I contacted state patrol dispatch to have an ambulance meet us back on shore.”

The three men went to Faber’s heated garage, had their wet clothes removed, and were given warm blankets.

A crew from Maple Lake Fire and Ambulance monitored the men until they were released.

The men’s boat and hunting gear were later recovered from the lake.

The actions by Reller and Faber saved three lives.

“It’s very apparent that this event would have turned tragic if Officer Reller and Mr. Faber had not been there,” said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement central region manager.
“I can guarantee you that there are three waterfowl hunters who have not stopped talking or thinking about their actions since this happened.”

The DNR recommends these safety tips for late season boaters:

• Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket; even good swimmers need to wear one.

• Don’t go boating alone; boating safety increases with numbers.

• Keep an eye on the weather and go to shore if the wind picks up.

• If a boat becomes swamped or capsizes, try to re-board and stay with the craft if possible and await rescue.

Donating deer hides helps habitat and educates kids

Since 1985, Minnesota’s deer hunters have unselfishly participated in one of the nation’s most unique recycling projects; Hides For Habitat, a project of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA).

Thanks to Minnesota’s deer hunters over 780,000 deer hides have been donated since 1985.

From the sale of those hides, MDHA chapters have generated nearly $4.67 million that has been used primarily for critical wildlife habitat enhancement and acquisition of new Wildlife Management Areas (all open to public hunting).

Additionally, Hides for Habitat funds have been used in support of Whitetail Deer research and, most recently, to support MDHA’s Forkhorn Youth Summer Camp program.

According to MDHA Executive Director Mark Johnson, “The $8.50 that MDHA receives for each grade-one deer hide is not the key. The key comes as we are able to multiply hide dollars through leveraging federal, state, and other conservation dollars. Generally, by the time Hides for Habitat dollars hit the ground as habitat they have multiplied from 3 to 10 times by the leveraging of other funds. On top of that, Wildlife Research Center, the Ramsey based scent company, is again sponsoring Hides For Habitat billboards across the state, and thereby reducing advertising cost.”

That is only half of the story, as Johnson explains. “No matter how good our habitat and how large our populations of huntable game, it won’t matter if we do not lead our children to learn about our heritage of hunting and natural resources.
“Consequently, MDHA’s chapters also utilize Hides for Habitat funds to help provide money for camp scholarships and camp equipment for MDHA’s Forkhorn Youth Summer Camps.

“In 2013, a total of 864 kids attended Forkhorn camps, most of whom would not have been able to attend had it not been for the scholarships provided through MDHA Chapters with revenue from the donated deer hides. It all starts with deer hunters, like you and me, unselfishly donating their deer hide.”

To donate your deer hide this season, simply look for the MDHA Hides for Habitat orange signs located at Hides Drop Point Stations.

To locate an official MDHA Hides Drop Station nearest you, log onto www.mndeerhunters.com or call MDHA’s State Office at 800-450-3337, ext 12.

However, Johnson cautions hunters. “Each year across the state, more imposter Hide Boxes are popping up. These are boxes that are not Hides for Habitat boxes but look like them and are sometimes positioned next to our Hides for Habitat boxes. Don’t be tricked! Be sure to only place your hide into boxes with “Hides for Habitat” or ‘MDHA’ signs prominently displayed on them. Also, please thank the local business owner for donating the space for the Hides for Habitat Drop Boxes.”

Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is a 501C(3) non-profit conservation group dedicated to “working for tomorrow’s wildlife and hunters, today.”

DNR revisting deer population goals; offers online sign-up
From the DNR

People interested in providing input as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) begins its efforts to set deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota can sign up for regular information updates at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

From 2005-07, the DNR used an extensive public input process to establish deer population goals for all of the state’s deer permit areas.

Beginning in 2012, the DNR initiated a public process to re-evaluate population goals.

So far, new goals have been established for 23 deer permit areas.

“In some places, population goals were established nearly ten years ago,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “It is appropriate at this point to evaluate our progress, review new information and check in with citizens to decide whether adjustments should be made.”

McInenly said the DNR will focus on permit areas in southeastern Minnesota during 2014 to test out additional communication tools and input opportunities.

Deer permit areas to be evaluated include areas 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349.

The DNR hopes to complete goal setting for the rest of the state by 2017.

Similar to past deer goal setting processes, a citizen advisory team will be convened to develop permit area recommendations.

In addition to recent hunter and landowner surveys conducted in the southeast, members of the public will be asked for input through online and in-person comments prior to the advisory team meetings.

A timeline, with opportunities for public input, is available on the deer management page at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

Nominations for advisory team members will be collected through Dec. 31.

Public input will be collected online and through meetings during January and February.

“Our public participation process has been designed to include input from anyone who has an interest in deer management,” McInenly said. “Citizen-team members will also be selected to represent the range of public interests, including hunting, wildlife viewing, natural resource management and local business interests.”

McInenly encouraged stakeholders to start thinking about deer management and factors that should be considered during the upcoming process.

Minnesota’s deer population has swung significantly during the past 50 years.

In 1971, for example, the state closed the deer hunting season because the population was too low.

The DNR rebuilt the deer herd through tighter hunting regulations during the following decades.

The deer harvest peaked at 290,000 in 2003 as the agency began to reduce deer numbers.

Last year’s harvest was about 185,000, down 4 percent from the previous year and 22,000 fewer than the 2010 harvest.

Deer managers set deer density goals based on the broad range of public interest in deer.

Deer are capable of achieving high densities so generally are managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that habitat can support.

This approach involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer who may favor lower deer densities.

White-tailed deer are an important resource to the state of Minnesota.

Nearly 500,000 individuals hunt deer and countless other people enjoy viewing deer in the state.

McInenly said anyone interested in learning more about deer management and public input opportunities can sign up at www.mndnr.gov/deer to receive deer announcements and information via email.

Illegal deer baiting on the rise; penalties stressed
From the DNR

As the number of citations issued for deer baiting has reached an all-time high, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds Minnesota deer hunters to review regulations before heading to the field this fall.

Changes in the regulations last year affect penalties for deer baiting, which continues to plague the sport.

“We’re seeing increased numbers of convictions for deer baiting while at the same time the penalties have increased,” said Col. Ken Soring, DNR enforcement director.

Deer baiting is placing food near deer stands or clearings with the intent of luring a deer into close shooting range. It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991.

DNR conservation officers issued 166 citations and 49 warnings while confiscating 135 firearms and bows during the 2012 bow, firearms and muzzleloader big game seasons.

It’s the highest number of baiting citations and confiscations issued during the deer hunting seasons since the DNR began tracking these violations in 1991.

“It was apparent that a fine and forfeiture of a firearm or bow was not enough to curtail the activity,” Soring said. “In order to show the seriousness of the offense, hunters are also subject to license revocation when convicted of baiting deer.”

The penalties for baiting include:

• A person may not obtain any deer license or take deer under a lifetime license 1 year after the person is convicted of hunting deer with the aid or use of bait. The DNR’s Electronic Licensing System (ELS) will also block a person’s ability to buy a license. A second conviction within 3 years would result in a 3-year revocation.

• The revocation period doubles if the conviction is for a deer that is a trophy deer scoring higher than 170 inches.
Soring reminds hunters it is illegal to take deer with the aid or use of bait and encourages hunters to direct their efforts towards traditional and ethical hunting techniques like scouting for the best hunting locations.
Enjoy a safe hunt that includes fair chase as a part of a proud hunting heritage in Minnesota.

Bait includes grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay, or other food capable of attracting or enticing deer and has been placed by an individual.

Liquid scents (example: doe in heat), sprays, salts, and mineral are not bait if they do not contain liquid or solid food products.

“Read the ingredient label on all products prior to use since many products contain food or attractants such as grains, fruits, and sugar derivatives,” Soring said.

He added if a salt or mineral product has anything other than salt or mineral in it, it is illegal to use for hunting.

“There are still people who think that just because they can buy an attractant off the shelf, then it must be legal in the state. It is not. Read the label carefully before making your purchase,” Soring said.

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

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

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

“The venison donation program has multiple benefits,” said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “In portions of the state, hunters are encouraged to harvest multiple deer, the program provides hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs.

Demand for food assistance also has been increasing in recent years across Minnesota, and this is a great opportunity to provide locally-sourced meat to families in need.”

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.

Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and non-resident hunting licenses.

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

• Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated because 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.

A list of processors who accept deer for the program is available online at http://go.usa.gov/WDk3.

MN 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 3.5 million deer

Deer: hunting
• Last year, 31 percent of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer. About 52 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 186,000.

• License options allow hunters to buy individual licenses for all the seasons and give hunters choices in where and when they can hunt deer.

• Hunters can take two-to-five deer in many parts of the state where populations allow.

• Minnesota has averaged deer harvested 200,500 deer during the last five years. The Midwestern state with the largest deer harvest is Michigan at 425,000.

• 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 non-typical whitetail buck had 43 points and a Boone & Crockett score of 268 5/8; shot by 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch in 1974.

Deer: licenses
• More than 725,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2012.

• 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
• Nearly 500,000 deer hunters in Minnesota.

• Direct retail sales - $234 million.

• Salaries, wages, business owner income - $127 million.

• State and local tax revenue - $28 million.

• Number of directly supported jobs – 3,760.

• Economic impact is greatest in Greater Minnesota.

Cold water is a danger to late season boaters
From the DNR

As Minnesotans enjoy their last bit of time on water before the ice, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning boaters, paddlers and waterfowl hunters not to let their guard down.

Right now, water temperatures on Lake Minnetonka and the Saint Croix River are hovering around 40 degrees.

“Forty degrees is cold,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “Cold water can prove dangerous, or even deadly, especially if people don’t consider the consequences of falling into frigid water this time of year.”

So far this year, 12 people have died in boating accidents in Minnesota, compared to 14 deaths this time last year.

One person has died during the late boating season (October to November), compared to four deaths this time last year.

“It’s more important than ever that every boater wears a life jacket every time they step on a boat,” said Owens.

She added, a life jacket will not only keep you afloat, but always keep you warm if you fall into cold water.

The DNR recommends these safety tips for late season boaters:

• Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket; even good swimmers need to wear one.

• Don’t go boating alone; boating safety increases with numbers.

• Keep an eye on the weather and go to shore if the wind picks up.

• If boat becomes swamped or capsizes, try to re-board and stay with the craft if possible and await rescue.

Newly designed ringnecked pheasant critical habitat license plate now available
From the DNR

Minnesota’s newest critical habitat license plate featuring a ring-necked pheasant in grassland, is available for purchase beginning Friday, Nov. 1, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

The DNR chose the pheasant image from a previous pheasant-stamp winner submitted by Minnesota artist Joe Hautman who said he is honored to have the plate feature his artwork.

The plate was graphically designed by DNR artist Collin Grant.

Other critical habitat license plate options are: a showy ladyslipper, a northern Minnesota fishing scene, a majestic white-tailed buck, a black-capped chickadee, and of course, Minnesota’s favorite, the loon.

“We are giving motorists more ways to show their conservation colors and individual identity,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner.

Minnesota motorists can purchase the new, autumn-colored plate at any licensed registrar or department of motor vehicle office.

It’s not necessary to wait until tabs are expired on the vehicle to purchase new plates and the tabs for the vehicle will expire at the same time.

The critical habitat license plate program was created in 1995 to provide additional opportunity for Minnesotans to contribute to conservation.

Motorists who purchase a critical habitat plate make a minimum annual contribution of $30 to the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) Program.

Every dollar generated through the sale of the license plate is matched with private donations of cash or land.

The plates have generated more than $25 million toward the purchase of 7,700 acres of critical habitat and have helped fund nongame research and surveys, habitat enhancement and educational programs

The loon plate was released in 2002.

The original deer plate was issued in 1996.

More than 100,000 motorists have habitat plates on their vehicles but plate sales have leveled off in recent years.

The critical habitat license plate program is cooperative effort of the DNR, the Department of Public Safety, which administers license plates sales, and the Department of Corrections, whose prison industry produces the plates at its Rush City facility.

For more on the how plate sales fund conservation efforts, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/plates/index.html.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) worked on TIP calls and checked trappers.
CO Mies checked waterfowl hunters along with anglers.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) responded to several TIP complaints relating to deer hunting and waterfowl hunting.
Three waterfowl hunters were assisted after swamping their boat.
Thanks to the help of a local lakeshore owner and his boat these hunters will be enjoying more hunts in their future.
Waterfowl hunters need to be careful in not overloading your watercraft with decoys and equipment and to wear your lifejackets.
Calm waters in the morning can change quickly to dangerous winds as you attempt to return from your hunt.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) handled two calls of dead trumpeter swans, both flew into power lines, one near Watertown and one near Norwood.
Trappers were out in larger numbers than in the past with high fur prices.
Waterfowl hunters were out all week but finding very few ducks, most hunters never shot their guns.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked waterfowl and pheasant hunters along with trappers during the week.
A cease and desist order was issued for work in a wetland without a permit.
A case involving an illegally taken bear was investigated.
Trespass violations continue to be an issue in the area.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) concentrated on trapping enforcement in the area.
Oberg also spent time helping out with the hiring process for the next two academies at Camp Ripley.
Prep work for the upcoming firearms deer season was also done.