Where have all the deer gone?
In recent firearms seasons, area deer hunters have grumbled about seeing fewer deer. There were rumblings in 2008, when the total area harvest dropped to 12,374 from 17,898 the previous year. And last year, when 11,025 deer were taken, there may have been some legitimacy to the complaints.
But while this year's harvest is nowhere near that of the good old days of 2001-2007, when the harvest ranged from 17,000-plus to over 24,300, numbers indicate that the deer harvest is, at the very least, healthy.
Through the firearms season in the five greater Brainerd permit areas, 12,461 deer were harvested, a 14.8 increase over last year, according to Gary Drotts, Brainerd wildlife manager for the DNR. That's considerably more than the 10 percent average increase seen statewide.
Four of the five greater Brainerd permit areas saw increases over last year, including 56.3 percent in Permit Area 249. P.A. 246 was up 27.8 percent and P.A. 242 was up 20.9 percent. P.A. 247 saw only a .9 percent increase over last year and P.A. 172 was down 21.7 percent. But even in 172, 523 more bucks were taken this year over last. Overall, more than 1,500 more bucks were taken in the Brainerd area over last year and 52.8 percent of deer harvested in the area in 2010 were bucks.
"Almost all of this increase came about through the increase in buck harvest," Drotts said of the area totals. "Bucks were really active the last few days ahead of the firearms opener, so we're not surprised at this higher buck harvest.
"Archery harvest was up some and early muzzleloader harvest was good, so I expect total harvest across all methods will come in around 13,500 this year, compared to 11,025 last year."
DNR finalizes Leech Lake management plan
Fishing Leech Lake several falls ago, I was encouraged to see that the walleye bite was back on the big lake. And, it appears, that's not going to change anytime soon.
The DNR has finalized a five-year management plan - 2011 through 2015 - that aims to sustain Leech Lake as one of the state's top fishing destinations. Management strategies detailed in the plan include habitat protection, stocking and continued support for cormorant control.
A 17-member Leech Lake Advisory Committee representing local and statewide interests provided input and guidance while the plan was developed. Committee recommendations were then incorporated into a draft management plan and public comments were collated and the draft plan was revised to reflect some of the common themes that emerged.
The final plan is available online at mndnr.gov/leech lake.
BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson.