By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn. November 24, 1997
Firearms deer hunt report
A Saturday afternoon pheasant hunt and Sunday afternoon drive last weekend during the Zone 4B firearms deer hunt affirmed my opening weekend suspicion that the number of deer hunters in our area and in other parts of the state was down this year.
I covered quite a bit of territory (back roads from Dassel to Norwood) in my truck that weekend and didn't count more than 15 to 20 hunters total.
Blaze orange is pretty visible, especially against a white background. However, there wasn't much of it to be seen in the fields, wood lots, or in vehicles on the road.
Hunting pressure, I'm sure, was considerably higher on the first weekend of the Zone 4 hunt and very cold temperatures on the second hunt may have kept some hunters at home. But, the definite lack of hunters was surprising.
Typically, large groups of hunters, and trucks lined with blaze orange, are common sights during both seasons, 4A and 4B.
A few hunters who I did manage to speak with during the 4B hunt were also surprised and a little disappointed by the lack of hunters. In their opinion, it was hard to say if fewer people bought licenses or if many hunters just switched to different areas.
In my opinion, the cold weather, ability to get on private land, and lack of hunting areas set the tone.
Our area is still considered rural, but we are very close to suburban. There's been a ton of houses built in the country surrounding our small towns and there just aren't the places to hunt there were a few years ago.
Add up or juggle all those factors and you get fewer places to hunt and fewer hunters - duck, pheasant and deer - in our chunk of the state.
Although there seemed to be fewer hunters, the number of deer registered at Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake was up from a year ago.
In 1996, Joe's registered 60 deer in the Zone 4B season. This year, 65 deer were registered.
The 65 deer registered also included several good-sized and heavy antlered bucks.
Considering both hunts, the number of deer harvested in our area may be up a bit from last year, and very close to the DNR's expected harvest, but not close to the record harvest of 1992.
This year, a total of 170 deer were registered at Joe's, in 1992 three seasons were held and 237 deer were registered at Joe's.
In east-central Minnesota, more specifically the Brainerd area, with limited information, the DNR is saying the deer harvest is down about 6 percent from a year ago. Although hunting conditions were excellent in that area on the opening weekend of the season the DNR was not surprised by the lower harvest.
"We anticipated a lower harvest this year based on the size of the deer population and reductions in the number of of antlerless permits that were available to hunters," said Henry Wulf, DNR regional wildlife supervisor in east-central Minnesota.
Statewide, Wulf noted, deer registrations are down about 11 percent from last year with the biggest decrease coming in the extreme northwest.
Wulf added this year's deer harvest will likely be similar to those of the mid-to late 1980s and the DNR's goal is to maintain a sustainable deer population that is compatible with carrying capacity.
On a final note of this report and in special reference to the glory years of deer hunting in Minnesota, the past six deer hunting seasons have been the six highest deer harvests in state history.
The DNR will be releasing final harvest numbers for the 1997 firearms deer hunt in approximately two to three weeks.
The lakes are covered with another season of ice, boats are long in storage, many hunting traditions and firearms are back on the rack, game is in the freezer, and above all, another season of outdoor experiences and friendships have been realized.
The experiences and friendships, all those memories created and lessons learned while out on the lake, in the deer stand, Conservation Reserve field, or out on a back country road are what make our outdoors, wildlife, and natural resources so wonderful.
Along with the wonders of the outdoors there is the eternal message of conservation and keeping the outdoors as wonderful, beautiful, and large as they are.
At this time of year, Thanksgiving, the change of seasons, the harvest complete, there is no better time to think of conservation of our land, wildlife, and natural resources.
As we remember the joys of our recently passed outdoor adventures we must also remember that with those joys and adventures comes a great deal of responsibility.
A responsibility to provide the generations that come after us with the same quality and amount of resources that we have so thoroughly enjoyed. A responsibility to be ethical, obey the laws, pick up the garbage, be knowledgeable about our resources, and especially be active in conservation efforts.
Concerned people being active and involved with our natural resources is the one factor that will make the difference in ensuring the continued health and sound future of those resources.
Many are concerned, however many more should be active. It's simple, and a flock of opportunities are there - the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, a local sportsmen's club.
Joining and becoming active in any one of these groups or others will provide you with knowledge and a clear direction in helping to conserve our resources.
When thanks are given for the bounties of the past season, think of the seasons and adventures that are still to come. Just like the experiences and friendships of the past season were realized, the overwhelming responsibility of ensuring future seasons will be realized.
That responsibility is far less overwhelming when handled by many active people than by just a few.