A harsh winter and an abundance of hunter concerns have led Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reduce the number of deer that will be taken this year. In some areas (like the one I hunt in) the option to buy a second tag (or bonus permit) is no longer on the table; other zones have changed from “hunter choice” (one deer of either gender) to “lottery” (random selection of doe tags for those who apply between August 1st and September 4th). The most notable change however, is the conversion of the entire northeastern part of the state to antler only (with no option, even for archers, to take antler-less).
Parts of northeastern Minnesota saw intensive deer feeding this winter to help fragile populations in certain zones. Such efforts are not always a welcome option for the DNR because of their proclivity to unnaturally congregate deer at feeding sites (thus spreading disease); but organizations like the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association are more prone to favor winter nutrition assistance because it reduces the “winter-kill” (which in turn causes conservative harvest years like 2014).
The reduced deer harvest is more of a precautionary measure than a symptom of any underlying issue for the relatively healthy state-wide herd. The DNR expects to return to normal levels quite soon.
Some hunters are contending (through Facebook and other means) that the growing wolf population is a culprit for deer density issues in northeastern Minnesota (which is where most of the wolves are), while others cite competition from the moose herd (moose in many ways are more suited to the cooler and more heavily forested habitat).
Less Minnesota venison for the holidays is the likely reality this year; but, then again, there’s always next year!
Pictures via: MN DNR — Erik Bergs