This winter has been like no other. Not only have there been record-setting warm days, but an unprecedented duration of warm back-to-back days have made this one of the easiest winters ever for our deer herd to survive. That should mean a favorable number of antlerless permits next fall.
According to DNR Regional Forest Wildlife Coordinator Tim Quincer in Brainerd, deer have survived the winter in excellent shape.
"We have had very low mortality across the northern deer range this winter," he said. "This should mean that there will be a good number of antlerless permits offered to hunters this coming season."
The DNR uses a formula called the "Winter Severity Index" to determine the impact a winter has on deer. Each day of extremely cold temperatures or deep snowfall, or a combination of the two, are counted. If the combined numbers exceed a designated number, biologists believe the winter probably has damaged deer populations through starvation, exposure, malnutrition, and maybe disease. Obviously this year we have a very favorable winter index for our deer.
This will likely mean that a generous number of antlerless permits -- perhaps even more than last year -- will be allowed next deer season. But the actual number of antlerless permits will not be announced until later this year.
With the high deer populations we've enjoyed in recent years, some hunters want the state to be more liberal with special permits to harvest more deer. Management tags have been available or awarded on a lottery basis for hunters to take an extra deer.
The DNR, however, has a policy of caution when it comes to deer harvests. A high harvest followed by a severe winter could decimate the herd. So they exercise caution and allow a reasonable harvest so the herd isn't put in jeopardy if a hard winter follows.
Controlling deer populations through harvest can be an effective management tool, but natural predation, disease, and killer winters can have a much greater impact on deer numbers. A burgeoning herd can be turned into a remnant population within a season.
But now the deer herd is in excellent shape and we can look forward to a good 2002 season.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.