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Conservation deer season will lower harvest

October 27, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Hunters may not see fewer deer when firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 8, but regulations implemented to help increase Minnesota’s deer population will place more of those deer off limits, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

“By design, this year’s deer harvest will be one of the lowest we’ve seen in decades,” said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader. “In fact, our total harvest this year may end up coming in around 120,000, a level not reported since the early 1980s.”

Because hunters can only harvest bucks in some places and fewer antlerless permits were offered, the 2014 harvest will fall significantly from the 170,000 deer harvested in 2013.

A one-deer bag limit rules most of the state and opportunities to take additional antlerless deer are few and far between, with only seven of 129 deer permit areas and some special hunts allowing the use of bonus permits.

The greatest impacts will be in the northeast, the region hardest hit by severe winter weather the past two years, where most of the permit areas only allow the harvest of bucks.

In general, regulations over the past decade have been implemented to reduce the deer population to goals set through a public process and have become more conservative as goals were met.

This year’s season reflects not only the effects of winter weather but a response to public interest in growing the population.

However, with a return of more moderate winter weather, future seasons will not be similarly lean.

“This season is a bit of a pause prior to revisiting deer goals for most of the state over the next two years,” McInenly said. “Once we are through that process, we’ll have a course set for management.”

Given past experience with times when deer populations are lower, deer populations can respond fairly quickly when harvest is limited, particularly when combined with more moderate winters.

For example, after two severe winters in the mid-1990s, the 1997 deer season harvest was 144,000 deer; by 2000, the harvest had rebounded to more than 212,000 deer.

For more information on deer hunting, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

Northeast region

In the northeast region there are lower deer densities than in past years.

However, differences across the landscape mean some hunters might find good or even better deer numbers than last year, while others might find the opposite.

Regardless of how many deer are seen by hunters, regulations will limit harvest to one deer, and in some areas only bucks.

“Hunting in quality fall habitat and spending time in the woods prior to opening day is more important than ever during years of low deer densities,” said Jeff Lightfoot, northeast regional wildlife manager. “To be successful in harvesting deer, hunters will need to put in the extra time to know where deer are and where they aren’t.”

Due to a series of severe to moderately severe winters, deer densities are below established population goals in most permit areas in the northeast.

The conservative regulations eliminate or reduce the harvest of antlerless deer, allowing the deer population to rebound.

“Providing acceptable deer densities for the public is important to area wildlife managers,” Lightfoot said. “To boost deer densities we’re improving deer habitat and considering deer when planning how, when and where to harvest timber on public land, all in addition to the regulations that will limit the number of deer harvested this season.”

Northwest region

Hunters in the northwest region can expect similar to improved deer numbers over last season.

“Hunters will find deer in all areas of the region, though many areas are near or just below goal in terms of deer population,” said John Williams, northwest regional wildlife manager. “The anticipated harvest will be lower than the previous several years due to harvest strategies in place this year that will move populations up toward goal.”

Cropland harvest of corn and beans is behind normal this year and there may be a good amount of standing corn in some areas leading up to and perhaps into the firearms deer season.

All permit areas except Itasca State Park (permit area 287) and the Northwest Angle (permit area 114) will be either lottery or hunter choice, which means hunters in either permit area will only be allowed to shoot one deer. In hunter choice areas, a hunter can harvest one deer of either sex.

Southern region

In the southern region, cropland harvest is as usual a factor for hunters to consider.

“In this mostly open, agricultural part of Minnesota, row crop fields have been experiencing a delayed harvest pace and standing corn in the field may impact hunting,” said Ken Varland, southern regional wildlife manager.

However, the deer herd in the southern region is quite robust following the winter of 2013 to 2014, which was less severe than other parts of Minnesota.

Conditions are abnormally dry in a portion of south-central Minnesota despite heavy rains in June that prevented planting of crops in some areas.

“Even though some fawns didn’t make it through last winter, deer came into the spring in relatively good condition. For the most part, we are near the population goal for the region,” Varland said.

Central region

Crop harvest and weather are two factors for hunters to consider in the central region.

“Weather’s always a fairly big determinant of deer harvest,” said Cynthia Osmundson, central region wildlife manager. “And crop harvest will have some impact. We’re going to see a really late crop harvest, and some corn will probably not be harvested this year because of wet conditions.”

Deer will hide in corn not harvested, with wet conditions making it more difficult to drive deer.

A conservative season will also likely affect hunter behavior, meaning people could be waiting longer to squeeze the trigger or loose an arrow, and a longer wait means a lower probability of taking deer.

But despite a conservative season in which harvest is expected to be significantly lower for that reason alone, there are still deer to be found in the DNR’s central region, especially in the far southeastern portion of the state.

Another finer point: In the metro deer management area (deer permit area 601), the harvest regulation has stayed the same as last year, which means hunters can take an unlimited number of antlerless deer.

In response to the more liberal harvest regulations in the metro deer management area, Osmundson has been contacted by numerous hunters interested in hunting in the metro area for the first time.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner Sat., November 1

Prairie Archers will have a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, Nov. 1 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Reservations need to be called in before 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 to either Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721 or the Dodge House (320) 395-2877.

The steak and shrimp combo costs $13; steak only is $11; pork chop is $10; six shrimp is $9; or a ribeye is $15.

Each meal includes baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, and coffee or milk.

Mille Lacs Lake fall fish survey shows promise
From the DNR

For the first time since 2008, Mille Lacs Lake walleye surviving into their second year remain abundant and the following year’s hatch appears to be doing well, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re far from out of the woods on Mille Lacs Lake,” said Rick Bruesewitz, Aitkin area fisheries supervisor for the DNR. “But younger walleye are showing more positive signs of survival than they have in past years.”

That’s good news for the lake’s walleye population, which has been declining because the vast majority of walleye that hatch in Mille Lacs have not grown into yearlings by surviving to their second autumn.

When not enough smaller fish grow into larger ones, the population eventually drops.

As expected, the walleye catch in all types of nets during this fall’s population assessment was down slightly from last year but there were strong numbers of walleye hatched the previous year in all surveys.

Catch rates of these walleye were among the highest observed since 1991 for electrofishing and 2006 for fine-mesh gill nets.

“This year class survived its first year much better than any of the year classes from the previous four years,” Bruesewitz said. “They look pretty strong going into 2015.”

Electrofishing for walleye hatched this year produced average numbers when compared with catches from previous years, indicating that reproduction in 2014 was again successful.

Walleye hatched this year were a little below average in size.

This may be related to a lack of food caused by low numbers of newly hatched perch, which serve as the primary food source for newly hatched walleye.

High numbers of newly hatched and yearling tullibee, which range from 3-8 inches long, were too large for newly hatched walleye to eat but their availability will provide more food for larger walleye.

“Both of these tullibee age classes were caught at the highest levels we’ve seen in the forage nets,” Bruesewitz said. “With that much food for larger predators, smaller walleye may have had a better chance of survival from predation. This food resource also appears to have improved the overall condition of larger walleye, which was better than we’ve seen for several years.”

More perch ranging from 6- to 7.9-inches were caught in near-shore and offshore nets but the number of perch longer than 9 inches remained at about the same relatively low level.

Results of assessment netting also showed high numbers of northern pike, many of which range from 22- to 28-inches although fish as long as 39.7 inches were observed in the survey.

Smallmouth bass numbers decreased slightly close to shore but increased in off-shore nets.

Tullibee numbers increased throughout the lake.

DNR staff continue to compile catch information from fall assessment surveys, including age analysis.

Once complete, the data will be added into the stock assessment modeling carried out by both state and tribal biologists.

Annual Mille Lacs Lake safe harvest levels are based on fish population assessments in combination with other sources of information, including past harvest statistics.

The DNR and eight Indian bands will evaluate technical data and modeling results related to Mille Lacs Lake and use that information to reach agreement on final safe harvest levels in January.

The DNR uses these levels as the basis for walleye management.

Mille Lacs Lake covers 132,000 acres.

State anglers are expected to harvest close to 30,000 pounds of walleye this fishing season from an allocation of 42,900 pounds.

Indian bands with rights under the 1837 Treaty harvested about 13,000 pounds of walleye last spring.

Their total allocation was 17,100 pounds.

For more information on Mille Lacs Lake, visit www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

Hunters can register deer through phone, Internet, or in person
From the DNR

Hunters can register deer they harvest by making a telephone call, using the Internet, or bringing deer to a big-game registration station, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Registration instructions for all methods are available at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.

“Our system gives hunters the ability to choose the registration option that works best for their situation. Electronic or phone registration is convenient for many hunters,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. A number of hunters still choose to go in person to registration stations.

However, hunters in the southeastern Minnesota deer permit areas of 348 and 349 must register deer in person during the opening weekend of firearms season because the DNR is conducting voluntary surveillance for chronic wasting disease in these areas.

Phone and Internet registration will be available for these areas once enough samples have been collected.

In all areas, deer must be registered within 48 hours after the deer was taken, and before being processed and before antlers are removed.

Deer can be transported out of the area where they were taken before being registered.

Registration is important because it provides data on harvest that’s used for management of deer populations.

Phone registration

Register deer via phone by calling 888-706-6367. Directions are printed on the back of each deer hunting license.

Have a pen ready. A confirmation number will be given; it must be written on the license and site tag.

Internet registration

Register deer via Internet at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistration.

Directions will be similar to phone registration, and a confirmation number must be written on the license and site tag.

Walk-in registration

When phone or Internet registration is not possible, hunters must take their deer to a big-game registration station.

The person whose name appears on the license must be present at the registration station with their deer.

They will receive a big-game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached.

A list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

Other species

In addition to registering a deer online, hunters can also go online to register a bear, wolf or turkey.

If an animal can be registered via phone, instructions will be printed on the back of the license.

More hunting information is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting.

Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early
From the DNR

With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any potential system issues associated with the high sales volume.

The 2014 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 8.

“Buying now beats buying later as last year we sold more than 150,000 licenses on the Thursday and Friday before the firearms season,” said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director. “A lot of those folks end up standing in lines who didn’t need to be.”

Deer licenses can be purchased by Minnesota resident adults for $30 at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

There are additional fees for telephone and Internet transactions.

Hunters who purchase licenses by phone and Internet will receive their deer license and tags by mail, which can take three to five business days to arrive.

Hunters must have a valid deer license and tag in their possession when hunting deer.

The information center and license center at DNR headquarters in St. Paul will extend their hours on opening weekend to accommodate additional phone calls from deer hunters.

Phone lines will be open on Friday, Nov. 7, until 8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 8, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Hunters need to be familiar with deer hunting regulations, which are available at any DNR license agent or online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.

License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

US Capitol Christmas tree to make first stop at Itasca State Park
From the DNR

The 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree will make its first public appearance on its journey to Washington, D.C. on Sunday, Nov. 2, at Itasca State Park, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

The 60- to 80-foot-tall white spruce is coming from the Chippewa National Forest in north-central Minnesota, in partnership with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

The 1992 Capitol Christmas tree also came from the same forest in partnership with the band.

The tree will stop at the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers Show Grounds at the north entrance to the park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To kick off the event, the tree will receive a drink of water via a horse-drawn wagon courtesy of the Go and Whoa Harness Club of Bemidji.

The water will be transported from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park to the Pioneer Farmers Show Grounds where visitors can view the tree, photograph it and sign a banner.

The drink from the headwaters will help send the tree on its long journey of nearly 2,000 miles, which includes nearly 30 stops before it arrives in Washington.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the show grounds, a variety of activities will be offered, including horse-drawn wagon rides, tours of the Pioneer Farmers village buildings, a free-will offering lunch, music, ornament making, face painting, two-man log sawing and a visit by “Lars the Logger” from 1:15 to 2 p.m.

The search for the Capitol Christmas Tree began earlier this year.

Search criteria for the Chippewa National Forest staff included a tree 60- to 80-feet tall, a full pyramid-like shape without gaps, healthy branches, a straight trunk, and a species hardy enough to withstand the trip to Washington, D.C.

The tree had to be found among millions of other trees that make up the national forest.

The tree will be cut during a public ceremony (www.tinyurl.com/m5f5jyn) on Wednesday, Oct. 29, and will be moved to Bemidji State University, where it will be prepared for the cross-country expedition that includes a caravan of caretakers.

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964, when then speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn.

This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage.

In 1970, the capitol architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree.

Since then, a different national forest has been selected each year to provide “The People’s Tree.”

The Minnesota Tree Growers Association will provide 70 companion trees to decorate the inside of the U.S. Capitol building and other sites throughout Washington, along with 10,000 ornaments created by children and others in Minnesota as a gift from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

The Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the preservation and display of historic, rural/logging related Americana, for cultural, educational, entertainment, and heritage-related public benefits.

For more information on the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree and to track its journey, visit www.capitolchristmastree.com.

For more information on Itasca State Park, visit www.mndnr.gov/itasca.

Minnesota deer facts
From the DNR

• Deer: The animal
Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 lbs., males 170 lbs.
The biggest white-tailed deer ever recorded in Minnesota was a 500-pound buck.
A whitetail’s home range is about one square mile.

• Deer: Hunting
Last year, 30 percent of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer. About 53 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 about 170,000.
Because of a conservative 2014 season designed to boost the statewide population, total deer harvest in 2014 is anticipated to be considerably lower and could reach levels not experienced in decades.
Hunters can register their deer via Internet, phone or at walk-in big-game registration stations.
The largest typical whitetail buck ever taken in Minnesota had a Boone & Crockett score of 202; shot by John Breen in 1918 near Funkley.
Minnesota’s No. 1 non-typical whitetail buck had 43 points; shot by 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch in 1974.

• Deer: Licenses
In total, about 812,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2013.
95 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.

• Top 10 big game hunting violations
1) Hunt over bait
2) Transport uncased/loaded firearm
3) Fail to validate
4) Fail to register
5) License not in possession
6) Untagged
7) No valid license
8) Lending, borrowing, transferring or altering a license
9) Unmarked/unregistered bear bait station
10) Shooting from the road at big game

Mild conditions greet hunters during first Camp Ripley hunt
From the DNR

Archers took a two-day total of 75 deer during the first two-day bow hunt at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls on Oct. 15-16, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

There were 1,805 permits issued for the first hunt, with 1,282 hunters participating.

Hunter success was 6 percent (down 2 percent from last year for the first hunt).

“This was one of two large archery hunts this year at Camp Ripley,” said Beau Liddell, Little Falls area wildlife supervisor for the DNR. “Hunters apply in advance for these hunts, which have become an annual tradition.”

Greg Meinert of Rice, and Juan Valencia of Elk River, each took bucks tipping the scales at 207 pounds.

Of adult does registered, the largest weighed in at 128 pounds, taken by Daniel Myrum of Pierz.

The second two-day hunt was scheduled for Oct. 25-26.

The DNR coordinates the hunts with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: I’ve heard that fall is a good time to remove buckthorn on my land. What’s the best way to control buckthorn?

A: There are two types of invasive buckthorn in Minnesota.

Common buckthorn is easily found in late fall when many native shrubs and trees have lost their leaves.

Common buckthorn will often have green leaves through November.

Glossy buckthorn does not stay green as late as common buckthorn.

Use caution as many native trees look similar to buckthorn, and some native trees hold their leaves into the winter.

Buckthorn plants 2 inches in diameter or larger can be controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and treating the stump with herbicide or covering the stump to prevent re-sprouting.

Cutting can be done effectively with hand tools, chain saws or brush cutters.

Stumps should be treated immediately after cutting (within two hours) with an herbicide containing triclopyr (found in many brush killers, Garlon 3A or 4) or glyphosate (Roundup and others) to prevent re-sprouting.

An alternative if only cutting a few stumps is to cover them with a tin can or black plastic to prevent re-sprouting.

For smaller plants, pulling or herbicide application are methods for control.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies also checked waterfowl hunters.
CO Mies also spent time checking turkey and deer hunters, along with working tip calls.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked waterfowl hunters on area rivers and lakes.
He followed up on a number of deer baiting issues. He answered question on waterfowl hunting on the Mississippi River.
He took a number of nuisance animal calls.
He followed up on a trespassing violation charges pending.
He assisted South Dakota Conservation Officer.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) continued field of a COC.
Areas worked included ATV, angling, waterfowl, small game and archery deer.
CO Reller and his COC responded to two TIP calls, one in reference to possible illegal baiting of waterfowl and another in regards to a possible over limit/illegal length fish taken.
WMAs were patrolled and stands left illegally were seized.
Enforcement action was taken for failure to display valid registration on an ATV, allow illegal operation of an ATV by a juvenile, ATV operator under the age of 18 w/o a helmet, operate an ATV w/o safety certificate and operate an ATV on a WMA.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked waterfowl hunters for AIS violations.
A landowner was assisted with beaver damage issues. Pheasant, waterfowl and archery deer hunters were checked during the week.
Telephone calls on hunting questions were returned daily.
Enforcement action was taken for no federal duck stamps in possession, hunting waterfowl without first procuring a federal duck stamp and shooting non game migratory bird (grebe).

• CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week monitoring waterfowl hunting activity and following up with complaints.
CO Grewe responded to a TIP complaint where a sandhill crane had been shot and after investigation; enforcement action was taken.
Other violations this week included trespassing, licenses not in possession, no HIP certification and unsigned federal duck stamp.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) assisted with the McLeod County youth pheasant hunt.
It was great to see some first time hunters get the chance to shoot some birds.
She followed up on a TIP complaint of an ATV driving on WIA land to retrieve a deer.
Mueller also spoke at a youth ATV safety class.
Multiple nuisance beaver reports were taken as well.
A good walleye bite was watched throughout the week on a local lake.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports plenty of ducks and duck hunters in the area.
Divers are really starting to show up in good numbers.
Oberg would like to remind hunters to not leave decoys out overnight on public waters.
Oberg assisted DNR wildlife with a shallow lake project.
An instructor level firearms class was also attended.