The DNR is proposing changes to Minnesota's firearms deer season after completing a statewide survey of deer hunters.
The proposals aim to improve deer population management, streamline deer management regulations, increase the efficiency of deer population management, reduce harvest pressure on bucks in some areas and reduce the length of hunting seasons in southeastern Minnesota.
The first recommendation is to streamline provisions for taking deer of either sex and to simplify the allocation of permits for taking multiple deer. The second recommendation is to modify the season structure in Zone 3, which includes parts of the Twin Cities area and much of southeastern Minnesota.
"Comments from hunters and landowners are going to be key to this process," said Steve Merchant, DNR forest wildlife program leader and former chair of the DNR's deer committee. "We realize these proposals represent a significant change for some hunters, particularly those in Zone 3, so public involvement is critical."
Under the statewide proposal, the DNR would allow firearms hunters to purchase either-sex licenses over the counter in some permit areas. Currently, every firearms hunter who wants an antlerless permit must go through the lottery system. Permit areas would be designated as unrestricted, management or lottery. Over-the-counter sales of either-sex licenses would be allowed in permit areas designated as unrestricted or management.
Unrestricted areas would be those where intensive harvest permits are available under the current system. Hunters would still be allowed to purchase additional intensive harvest licenses at a lower cost.
Management areas would be those where only management permits are available under the current system. Hunters would be allowed to purchase one additional management license at a lower cost. No additional intensive harvest licenses would be available in these areas.
Lottery areas would be those where hunters would receive antlerless permits through a lottery system similar to the one currently in place. Management permits or additional intensive harvest licenses would not be available in these areas.
Muzzleloader and archery hunters would be allowed to use one intensive harvest license in a management permit area and the remainder in unrestricted areas. Multi-zone buck and all-season deer license holders would be allowed to purchase management licenses to harvest antlerless deer in some permit areas.
Comments on statewide proposals will be accepted through Jan. 25 at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments should be mailed to: DNR, Box 7, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.
Proposals to change the Zone 3 season structure are aimed at encouraging hunters to harvest adult does. "The deer population in southeastern Minnesota is a concern," Merchant said. "This proposal should help manage the deer population in general and we hope it will reduce pressure on older bucks in that area."
The Zone 3A hunt would be shortened from nine days to five days (Saturday through Wednesday). The season would open on the statewide firearms deer season opener. A limited number of either-sex permits would be available. The Zone 3B season would be lengthened from seven days to nine days and would begin the Saturday after 3A season closes. Multi-zone buck and all-season license holders could participate in the 3B season because it would run concurrent with other firearms seasons.
"Providing some either-sex permits in 3A would encourage the harvest of adult does," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game season specialist. "It would also reduce the time that 3A hunters would have to harvest bucks."
Starting the 3B season earlier would allow a five-day break between the 3B and muzzleloader seasons, which might increase the muzzleloader harvest. Muzzleloader hunters mostly harvest does.
Three public input meetings will be scheduled in January to discuss the proposed Zone 3 season changes. Locally, hunters should direct their comments to Gary Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager in Brainerd, at 828-2314.
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