After two years of August openers, bear season returns to its traditional Sept. 1 opener this year.
The change was made because the August opener didn't substantially increase the bear kill, the DNR said. Yet some bear hunters, including Brian Bachman, president of the North American Bear Foundation, liked the early openers.
"It helped two things," Bachman said. "First, even though it might not have increased the harvest it did help cut down on nuisance bear problems. If somebody had a nuisance bear around they could get a hunter after it. The hunter didn't always get the bear, but baiting the bear drew it away from the problem area. Nuisance complaints were way down the last two years. If they go up this year it could be a sign that the earlier opener helped.
"Second, more kids were able to hunt because the season opened before school. By Sept. 1 some schools are already open, making it more difficult."
A bill that if enacted into law would have moved the bear opener to after Labor Day died in the legislature this past week. Introduced by Sen. Leonard Price (D-Woodbury), the bill had no support from the DNR or the Senate's natural resources committee, Bachman said.
Bachman is not a fan of the procedure that gives two tags to a hunter who buys a bear license for the no-quota area.
"They're de-valuing the bear by automatically issuing two tags," Bachman said. "The DNR has done a lot to raise the status of the bear, which used to be looked at as varmints. They at least should charge a fee for the extra tag, like they do for deer management tags. We have a lot more deer than bear."
The quota area for bear, extending roughly from Roseau south to St. Cloud, east to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, north along the North Shore to Canada and west to Roseau, will remain the same in 2002. Last year 20,710 permits were issued for this area, and Bachman said he's been told by the DNR that this year's number of permits will be about the same.
Hunters will be allowed to bait bear beginning Aug. 16. Bear season closes Oct. 15.
The local NABF banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 4 at the Moose Lodge in Brainerd. Tickets can be bought in advance at the Corner Store on Highway 210 west of Brainerd, or by calling Joe Marshall at 828-1438.
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