September 24, 2023

Minnesota’s Deer Harvest Down 12%

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*Editor’s Note* – The following are comments/questions compiled by Jim Beers, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, in response to an article found in the Star Tribune. Mr. Beers took certain excerpts from the article (numbered below) and responds to them.

By James Beers

(I.)Excluding the late season, hunters killed about 144,000 deer during the main season, down 6 percent from 153,000 in 2012. Overall, Minnesota’s firearms, muzzleloader and archery hunters have registered 164,500 deer as of last Wednesday. Before the season, the DNR had expected hunter success would be similar to 2012, when they killed about 185,000 deer.

Question – How many deer did Minnesota hunters kill in 2012? Was it 153,000 or 185,000? If it is 185,000 and if the most recent count of deer taken is 164,500, the kill is down 12% and not 6%. Since the “general public” doesn’t catch this stuff, the radicals are happy hunting is “on the way out” and the hunters shrug that maybe it really was only bad weather responsible for the decrease. Like moose hunters, deer hunters are headed to the museum thinking it is a field trip and not their final resting place.

(II.)Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife population and regulations manager, said a lower deer population is likely the main reason hunters haven’t fared so well, though the weather was a factor, too.

The season opener was windy, while it was rainy and windy the next weekend. Bad weather can limit deer movement, as well as discourage hunters from spending as much time in their stands. And the deer population was already down because of the harsh winter of 2012-13, which led the agency to reduce the number of does hunters could kill in northern Minnesota.

Question – The DNR “expert” tells us only “a lower deer population is likely the main reason hunters haven’t fared so well”. Not a peep about predation. How does he “know” it wasn’t increasing predation since the DNR “had expected hunter success would be similar to 2012, when they killed about 185,000 deer”? If it was only the tired and worn excuses (minus global warming and ticks) spewed out by the DNR as moose disappeared, ask yourself why the DNR expected “hunter success similar to 2012” even after reducing “the number of does hunters could kill in northern Minnesota.”? This smoke and mirrors gives White House “transparency” a run for its money.

(III,)Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, concurred that the lower deer population is the main factor in the lower harvest. He said success also had a lot to do with the particular area of the state. There have been fewer signs of deer in areas where harvest limits had been set high to bring local populations down, he said. And he said he believes the wolf population is also a factor in northeastern Minnesota.

NOTE: This is an example of a hunter organization (there are many, many more such examples every year) running interference for DNR buddies. Notice that the DNR never mentions wolf predation but this “executive director” does so hunters relax, they have been heard. The DNR stays solid with the radicals and the “director” is buddies with both his deer hunters and his DNR pals. But what does it mean to say he believes “the wolf population is also a factor in northeastern Minnesota.”? What must be done? Who will do it? What does this mean for deer?

(IV.)Johnson said he’s hearing from hunters that they want the state to produce more deer. He said the DNR is likely to respond to that by reducing the antlerless harvest.

NOTE: Wow, his hunters want “more deer” and “the DNR is likely to respond to that by reducing the antlerless harvest”. Why didn’t they try that with moose? I think I will write a thank you letter to Governor Dayton for such responsive government. Future deer success can be expected to mirror recent moose success if wolves are not figured into the equation and dealt with forthrightly – if we are to really have “more deer”.

(V.)This is Minnesota’s second wolf season since the animals came off the endangered list. The DNR lowered the overall target to 220 wolves this time for the two-part season. Hunters killed 88 in the early season. Last year’s overall target was 400, and the final count of wolves killed was 413.

NOTE: Minnesota’s most recent wolf count is 2, 211 (I just love those odd numbers as if the all-but-impossible-to-count wolves were sandhill cranes roosting as a flock on a Platte River sandbar when an aerial photograph is taken and some apprentice biologist sat down with a pin and counted every last one of them in the photo right down to the 211th one!)

For a long list of political reasons, MN, WI, MI, MT, ID, OR, WA et al undercount wolves. This has been true ever since they got into the sack with federal bureaucrats as allies in the wolf wars.

Truth be told, Minnesota has at least 3,000 or more wolves. Last year, Minnesota killed 413 or 13% of their wolves. This year they will kill only 220 or 7 % of their wolves. You can kill 20- 25% of your furbearers, small game or big game every year (as many states do) and you merely stimulate the population by guaranteeing more survive the winter and more reproduction takes place because of less competition and more available food. If you wanted to have “more” deer or moose and you admitted the obvious impact of wolves on deer and moose; you would kill 50-75% of your wolves for 4-6 years and then maintain a harvest of 35-45% of your wolves annually ever after – or you would exterminate the wolves as was done throughout history in Europe and North America.

That is the real reason deer hunting success is down but nobody is going to look into it, much less try to do anything about it. Why don’t we try a government hunter-recruitment program in addition to “reducing the antlerless harvest”? Maybe the reason there isn’t any moose hunting anymore is that the government didn’t recruit moose hunters. I think I’ll put that suggestion in my thank-you letter to the Governor. It is as sensible as the rest of this stuff.

Jim Beers
11 December 2013

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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

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