Local hunters share concern of low deer numbers

Hunters and landowners from the block 3 area, known as the Pine Moraines, shared a message in Brainerd Wednesday night that has been heard throughout the state - deer numbers are too low.

Hunters and landowners from the block 3 area, known as the Pine Moraines, shared a message in Brainerd Wednesday night that has been heard throughout the state - deer numbers are too low.

"There's hardly anything left out there," said Les Vroman, a local deer hunter.

Bob Glatt of Brainerd agreed, stating that he made a dozen trips up north covering 200 miles a day and only saw about three deer a day along the way.

"The deer counts are so low in some areas I would consider closing the season in those areas," he said.

Those sentiments were part of a public comment opportunity at the Franklin Arts Center hosted by the MInnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This meeting was used to allow members from permit areas west to Detroit Lakes, east to Brainerd, south to Little Falls and north to Itasca State Park to go on record with their comments. Members from these areas also had the opportunity to send in written comments by mail or email - and still can.


Similar opportunities like these took place in 2014, the first year of the latest deer goal setting period.

This year, the comments are being sought from the central and northwest portions of the state. So far, DNR officials are mostly hearing from hunters that deer numbers should increase in this region. The vast majority of hunters that wanted more deer, noted social or recreational purposes. John McElfresh, who hunts deer permit area 249, was one of those hunters.

"I've never seen a state with such low deer numbers," McElfresh said, noting that he has hunted deer in about five different states.

He noted that current regulation seems to be reactive instead of proactive to changing populations.

"My boys pretty much gave up on hunting," McElfresh said.

After hunting for days without seeing deer on their hunting area west of Mille Lacs Lake, he said the family tradition of hunting is slipping away.

McElfresh said the DNR could take some tips from other states in using tighter regulations on shooting does and bucks.

Worry over wolves


While much blame was aimed toward the DNR for allowing too much harvest since the last goal setting period 10 years ago, other hunters put blame on wolves for cutting back the herds.

"Twenty years ago we had no wolves," said Tom Patrick of permit area 256.

"How are you going to bring the deer numbers back up without addressing the wolf population?" Patrick asked DNR staff on hand.

The DNR did not directly respond to comments shared during the comment period, but they were willing to talk with the nearly 50 men and women that attended the meeting following the comment period.

John Williams, northwest region regional wildlife manager for the DNR, spoke briefly about the wolf concerns, stating that wolf regulations are in the hands of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the moment.

"It's out of our hands," Williams said.

He said that when the DNR had the ability to regulate the public hunting and trapping season, the population was coming under control.

"Our management efforts appeared to be right on track," Williams said.


Other regions

While the Brainerd majority asked for more deer, some areas like Park Rapids say they have enough deer. In fact, some in that area said there were too many, DNR officials said.

Katie Clower, policy and planning coordinator for the DNR, said that comments throughout the goal-setting areas have included a desire for more deer and control of wolves. Those that did not want to see an increase more often chose the written comment over the verbal comment, Clower said.

Williams showed the crowd illustrations of deer populations and harvest rates. Year's 2010 through 2014 showed an average harvest of about 179,000 deer per year.

"We're still above any of the harvests that preceded the 1990s," Williams said.

Among 2,600 landowners in a written survey conducted by the DNR, 52 percent indicated the population was about right and 34 percent indicated it was too low. Another 2,600 hunters in the region were surveyed. Among them, 54 percent said the population was too low, and a majority of those said the numbers should increase by 25 percent.

Williams said that an important part of determining the population includes the aerial survey. But that survey will not take place unless at least 8 inches of snow are on the ground, Williams said. That is needed to turn the plot areas white enough to see the brown deer below.

Comment period extended

The comment period continues in our region. As part of the goal setting period, advisory teams have been formed by volunteers from the area. Those groups meet to act as speakers for area hunters and landowners.

Peter Lodermeier, one of the advisory team members, said it is important for concerned people to contact advisory members or DNR staff.

"You've got to let us know or we don't know," Lodermeier said.

The opportunity to email or mail comments on deer populations in large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota has been extended until Friday, Feb. 20.

"We are giving people more time to mail or email comments on deer populations during the 2015 deer goal-setting process," said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The opportunity to fill out an online questionnaire ended Feb. 12.

Deer population goals will be set for 40 of Minnesota's 128 deer permit areas in 2015. View a map of the goal-setting areas and take the questionnaire at .


Submit comments

Email written comments to . Make sure you identify block 3 as the goal-setting block on which you are commenting.

Mail your written comments to Deer Goals, Minnesota DNR, 500 Lafayette Rd, St. Paul, MN, 55155. Make sure you identify block 3 as the goal-setting block on which you are commenting.

Related Topics: HUNTING
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