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DNR aim is satisfied deer hunters, healthy deer herd

January 20, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

As a long-time Minnesota hunter and wildlife manager, Paul Telander has witnessed the ups and downs of Minnesota’s deer population.

As a hunter, he remembers when the season was closed in 1971 because deer numbers were precariously low.

As a wildlife manager in northwestern Minnesota, he helped rebuild the herd that eventually led to a record harvest in 2003 of 290,000 deer.

Now as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife section chief and at a time in Minnesota’s history when the deer population is neither particularly high nor low, Telander answers questions about Minnesota’s deer population.

What is the DNR’s deer management goal?

Our goal is to provide a healthy, sustainable and abundant deer population.

In practice, that means having a deer herd that creates satisfied hunters, provides good hunting and minimizes unwanted consequences for wildlife habitat, people and deer themselves.

Our management approach factors in habitat and the impacts deer have on it, disease, land management and the desires of all Minnesotans.

Are you meeting with deer hunters about deer population?

Yes. In fact, deer management will be discussed at length at the annual wildlife roundtable, and we’ll be having additional discussions with deer hunters at both the state and local levels. It’s a timely topic.

How would you characterize this past deer hunting season?

The 2013 deer season harvest of 171,000-plus animals is a solid number, but the lowest since 1998 and the third consecutive year of decline.

Part of the reason for the decline in harvest the past few years was the restricted harvest of antlerless deer through more lottery areas and fewer intensive and managed deer areas that we have used in an attempt to allow populations to stabilize or rebuild in many parts of the state.

What’s planned for 2014?

We have not yet made decisions on the 2014 deer season, but we have heard the concerns of hunters from many areas of the state and will make adjustments based on sound science and current conditions.

We realize last winter was unusually hard on deer in northern Minnesota, resulting in more mortality and reduction in fawn production than expected.

This winter’s weather will likely produce more negative effects on both fawn and adult mortality as well as fawn production, especially if bitter cold and deep snow conditions continue into spring.

Does that mean you expect antlerless permit numbers to decline?

Deer harvest results from 2013 and other factors will weigh into our antlerless permit and season structure decisions.

Though the harvest analysis will not be complete until spring, it’s likely that antlerless permit numbers will be decreased in certain areas and deer permit area designations designed to reduce harvest will be expanded.

This approach will help stabilize or build deer populations where needed.

How did last year’s hunting season compare to others?

Perspective-wise, the 2013 deer harvest was well above the average harvest of the 1980s, just slightly below the average harvest of the 1990s but considerably lower than the average harvest of 2000-2010.

The average harvest from 2000-2010 was about 240,000.

Those years represent the highest deer harvests in history.

The record deer populations that produced those harvests were the source of unwanted problems for people, the land, and deer themselves.

When were deer population goals set?

As you may recall, between 2005 and 2007 the DNR used a public participation process to evaluate and adjust population goals for deer permit areas across the state.

During the process, regional stakeholder teams were formed consisting mostly of hunters, but including foresters, farmers, private industry, landowners, conservation organizations, and tribal representatives.

Teams met and gave input to the DNR on deer populations and trends.

The DNR then solicited additional public input via an online presentation and questionnaire before finalizing the goals.

How were goals set; what was the outcome?

Various factors were considered in setting the goals, including habitat quality and food resources; the recreational, economic and social value of deer in Minnesota; deer vehicle collisions; agricultural damage; browsing impacts on native plant communities and other wildlife species; deer disease and health concerns; and historic deer population and harvest trends.

The 2005 process occurred at a time when deer densities in much of the state were at the highest point on record.

Most participants agreed the statewide population should be managed downward, and deer population goals were reduced in many deer permit areas.

So you are going to look at deer population goals again?

Yes. Now that goals have been in place for a number of years, we are committed to re-evaluating the goals that resulted from that process.

Meantime, we will continue to annually evaluate the impacts of various factors on deer populations and adjust management accordingly.

Depending on the effects of this winter and the analysis next spring, management changes that we could consider as early as the 2014 season would include adjustments to antlerless quotas, creating additional lottery or hunter’s choice areas, or even establishing bucks-only permit areas if needed to manage low deer populations.

Where are you in the goal-setting process?

Population goals have already been re-evaluated in southwestern and parts of northern Minnesota using a similar process to that used in 2005-2007.

Southeastern Minnesota permit area goals will be re-evaluated in the coming year using a revised process.

We anticipate the remainder of the state will be completed in 2015 and 2016.

Anything else?

As I mentioned earlier, our aim is satisfied hunters, good hunting and minimal unwanted consequences for wildlife habitat, people, and deer themselves.

That’s the target. We’ are committed to working with hunters and others to hit it.

To hear more about deer management from Paul Telander, visit www.mndnr.gov.

Waverly Gun Club firearm safety registration Feb. 3

The Waverly Gun Club is proud to offer the Minnesota Firearm Safety training class.

The firearm safety class is for anyone at least 11 years old by January 1, 2014.

Students who complete all the requirements receive a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Firearm Safety Certificate.

Registration for this class is Monday Feb. 4 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Waverly Gun Club.

For minors a parent or guardian must attend registration. Proof of birth date is required.

The local fee is $7 and an additional $7.50 DNR fee will be paid directly to the DNR online.

Class begins Monday Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. and will continue for eight weeks.

For more information or questions, contact Tracey at (612) 910-2198.

Waverly Gun Club to host conceal and carry classes

The Waverly Gun Club will, once again, be hosting conceal and carry classes this winter, starting Monday, Jan. 20 through Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 6 to 10 p.m.

Classes will also be offered Monday, Feb. 17 through Tuesday, Feb. 18; along with Monday, March 17 through Tuesday, March 18.

For additional information, contact Harry Reynolds at (763) 682-1551 or go to the club’s web site at www.waverlygunclub.org.

Howard Lake Fishing Derby Feb. 8

The Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club 68th annual Fishing Derby is Saturday, Feb. 8, from 1-3 p.m., on Howard Lake.

The day’s events will include a prize for the biggest fish, ice chiseling and power auger comtests, and a raffle to win a 6-by-12 Ice Castle Fish House.

Other raffle prizes include a portable fish house, and framed prints.

Raffle tickets are available ahead of time at Joe’s Sports Shop and the Country Store in Howard Lake, and also from any member of the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club. Raffle tickets will be sold the day of the event.

A lunch wagon will be on site throughout the event.

DNR, NWTF mentored youth turkey applications due Feb. 18
From the DNR

First-time youth turkey hunters ages 12 to 17 have the chance to go afield this spring and learn from an experienced National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) volunteer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Applications, maps and general information for the wild turkey hunt are available online at www.mndnr.gov/youthturkey.

Application deadline is midnight on Monday, Feb. 18.

If there are more applications than available mentors, participants will be selected in a random lottery.

“Novice turkey hunters and their guardian will learn life-long outdoor skills and how to be a responsible hunter,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “These NWTF volunteers want to share their many years of chasing toms and help new hunters connect to the outdoors. All they ask for in return is a smile or a high five.”

This is the 12th consecutive year the DNR and the NWTF have cooperated to provide opportunities for first-time youth turkey hunters.

More than 2,200 youth have been introduced to this unique hunting experience since spring youth turkey hunts began in 2002.

Hunts will occur Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27, which is the second weekend of the regular wild turkey season.
Hunters and their mentors will be matched with a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany both the youth and parent/guardian throughout the entire hunt.

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before Saturday, April 26; have a valid firearms safety certificate; and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The program is for inexperienced turkey hunters only.

Hunters and their mentors will be assigned a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany both the youth and parent/guardian throughout the entire hunt.

Participation in the hunts is only restricted by the number volunteers and private lands that are available.

Anyone interested in providing quality turkey hunting land for the mentored youth hunts should contact a NWTF chapter online at www.nwtfmn.org/Home/ChapterListings.

Beginning this year, all youth age 17 and younger by April 16 can purchase a youth turkey license over the counter to hunt all time periods across the entire state.

Youth no longer need to select a time period or permit area.

Panel explores issues affecting state’s hunting, fishing tradition
From the DNR

Minnesota’s hunting and fishing tradition is facing unprecedented demographic challenges that will require new approaches to address declines in participation rates.

That’s the essence of a new report compiled by a panel of hunting and fishing interests convened by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA).

“Minnesota is in the enviable position of having hunting and angling participation rates double the national average,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “Yet challenges are ahead. That’s because young Minnesotans aren’t hunting and fishing at the levels of previous generations, long-time Baby Boom hunters and anglers are destined to drop out, and future population growth will be driven largely by ethnic cultures that do not have long-held Minnesota-based hunting and fishing traditions.”

Hunting and fishing are important to the state’s economy. Minnesota hunters and anglers spend $3.3 billion within and out of Minnesota, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 national survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife recreation.

Hunting and fishing support 48,000 Minnesota jobs and the additional benefits of connecting people with nature, promoting conservation, and providing healthy outdoor exercise.

About 28 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and older fish; 12 percent hunt.

Since 2000, Minnesota has experienced a 12 percent decline in hunting and fishing license rates as the population has grown from 4.9 to 5.3 million.

Actual license sales have stayed relatively stable at 1.5 million anglers and 570,000 hunters.

A desire to sustain the state’s hunting and fishing tradition prompted Landwehr and MOHA to convene the Commissioner’s Council on Hunting and Angling Recruitment and Retention.

This stakeholder council, comprised of hunting, angling and recreation interests, met several times during 2013 and issued a report of its findings.

Among council conclusions were:

• It’s in the best interest of Minnesota to sustain hunters and anglers as they support land, water and species conservation through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and are advocates for major environmental initiatives, including the 2008 Legacy Amendment.

• Government and stakeholders must adapt to an unprecedented generational challenge as Baby Boomers, who have high participation rates, become less active.

• The hunting and angling community must adapt to an emerging race/ethnicity challenge that may make recruiting hunters and anglers more difficult.

• The social processes necessary to recruit and retain hunters and anglers needs to be better understood by those who seek to create the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. Barriers to development of hunters and anglers needs to be better understood and addressed.

• More rigor needs to be applied to recruitment and retention program evaluation so that outcomes can be measured more accurately.
C.B. Bylander, outreach chief for DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division, said the council’s work was valuable.
“The outdoors community recognizes the need to design and deliver more effective public and private sector recruitment and retention programs,” said Bylander. “By reviewing research and collectively applying this knowledge we can improve.” Council members included representatives from Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and other outdoor interests.

The council recommended seven actions. Recruitment recommendations included:

1) developing and supporting after school clubs for youth;

2) an “I am a hunter/angler” marketing campaign aimed at young adults;

3) learn to hunt and fish workshops for young adults; and

4) family-oriented hunting and fishing awareness and skill workshop events.

Retention recommendations included:

1) creating a web-based clearing house for hunting and fishing information targeted at young adults;

2) a reverse mentoring campaign that encourages younger hunters and anglers to hunt and fish with older hunters and angler who otherwise may drop out; and

3) enacting a new family license that incorporates hunting, fishing, state park and other privileges.

The DNR will develop a recommendation implementation plan in the months ahead in cooperation with an on-going recruitment and retention stakeholder committee.

DNR new mobile website is a boom to outdoor recreationalists
From the DNR

A new, one-of-a-kind website that employs extensive mapping resources to help users locate hunting lands, state parks and forests and a wide range of other recreational areas is now available on mobile devices such as phones and tablets, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced.

The mobile “Recreation Compass” is available at www.mndnr.gov/mobile/compass.

After accessing the website, users can bookmark it among other favorites on their mobile device.

“The website helps you find opportunities for recreation when you’re away from your computer,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “It not only provides you with the location of recreation lands, but you can also find information such as types of vegetation and availability of trails and other resources.”

The mobile Recreation Compass features more than 5.5 million acres of public lands administered as state forest, wildlife management areas, state parks and recreation areas, waterfowl production areas, aquatic management areas, and scientific and natural areas, state trails, including water trails, Walk-In access areas, hunter walking trails and nearly 3,000 public water access sites.

The mobile website has lake, river and stream names, as well as federal, state and local highways and roads.

Users can choose from a variety of backgrounds, such as the 2011 color aerial photography and color infrared photography of the state.

The infrared imagery allows users to discern what kind of vegetation covers the landscape, such as whether a particular area is covered in pine trees, prairie, oaks or other types of vegetation.

The agency opted to create the service as a mobile website instead of an app because a mobile website is device independent and can be easily updated and maintained.

The mobile website runs on just about anything using a modern web browser.

The Recreation Compass has been available on desktop and laptop computers since 1998, but the mobile version was developed in 2013 and has been tested extensively since last August.

The mobile Recreation Compass also links to other DNR mobile websites such as LakeFinder and Fall Colors.

Users, however, should not use mobile Recreation Compass as their sole navigation aid.

While the mapping system shows boundaries of recreation areas, they are a general reference only.

Users should still consult on-the-ground signage to confirm boundaries to avoid trespassing on private property.

As always, people should ask permission before entering private land.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers all week on area lakes having very good success.
Fish houses were checked for proper identification, reflectors and litter.
Snowmobile trails were patrolled but with the cold weather very few were out.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked anglers and ATV riders during the week.
The cold weather slowed anglers for a couple of days but there were still some that braved the polar vortex.
She assisted another officer with a spearing case involving two northerns speared that were over 30 inches.
Also, several icehouses were broke into during the week in the Hutchinson area.
CO Mueller spoke at two Snowmobile Safety classes during the week.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports fishing has picked up some in the area.
Not surprising walleye rearing ponds seem to be the best bet for walleye.
Some panfish activity is also starting to pick up in the area.
Snowmobile enforcement was also worked and a wetland complaint was followed up on.