Firearms deer harvest down 6 percent from 2012
Minnesota hunters harvested 128,814 deer through the second weekend of the 2013 firearms season, according to preliminary numbers announced Nov. 20 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The season ended Sunday, Nov. 17, for all but 100-series permit areas in the northeastern part of the state, where the season concludes on Sunday, Nov. 24. A late 3B firearm season in southeastern Minnesota begins Saturday, Nov. 23, and concludes Sunday, Dec. 1.
Firearm harvest to date is down 6 percent from last year at this time. Overall, antlered buck harvest is down 7 percent and antlerless harvest is down 5 percent.
“Based on our population estimates, the decrease in buck harvest was not anticipated and may reflect hunting conditions more than population,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “Based on the preliminary numbers, our opening and second weekend harvests from Saturday to Monday were down 4 and 13 percent, respectively, and we experienced windy conditions the first weekend and both wind and rain the second weekend.”
Weekend harvests, particularly opening weekend, drive the total harvest numbers. McInenly stressed that these numbers are preliminary.
Much of the change in statewide antlerless harvest can be attributed to decreased harvest in the northeastern portion of the state, where antlerless harvest is currently down 25 percent.
Much of northern Minnesota experienced an extended, moderate-to-severe 2012-2013 winter, likely impacting overwinter survival and fawn numbers this summer. In response, the DNR reduced bag limits and the number of either-sex permits available in many northern permit areas. Also, antlerless harvest continues to be reduced around the former bovine tuberculosis management zone in far northwestern Minnesota to allow the deer population in that area to rebuild.
Ample hunting opportunities remain. In addition to the continuing firearms season in northeastern Minnesota and the late firearms season in southeastern Minnesota, the statewide muzzleloader season runs from Saturday, Nov. 30, through Sunday, Dec. 15. The archery season closes on Tuesday, Dec. 31.
Hunters are reminded that deer must be registered online, via telephone or through an in-person visit to a big game registration station within 48 hours of harvest.
For more information on the firearms deer season, visit www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer
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Final weekend of Camp Ripley hunt produces harvest of 127 deer
Hunters at the second two-day Camp Ripley archery hunt Nov. 2-3 were greeted with excellent weather Saturday and breezy to moderate gale-force winds on Sunday, with archers harvesting 127 deer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The Nov. 2-3 harvest, coupled with the 181 taken during the Oct. 26-27 hunt, ranks 16th best at Camp Ripley. Windy weather resulted in more than half of the participants leaving Camp by mid-day of the second day of each hunt this year. The four-day total of 308 deer is about 5 percent below the long-term average harvest of 323 deer for the two hunts combined, and represents a 28 percent decline from last year’s harvest of 431 deer.
“Although the take is lower than we’ve come to expect in recent years, hunters achieved a harvest at camp that is just below the long-term average, and deer registered this year were in exceptionally good condition,” said Beau Liddell, DNR Little Falls area wildlife manager. “Administration of the hunt went well with no major injuries or mishaps during this year’s event.”
A combined total of 5,002 permits were issued for both two-day hunts, with 4,488 hunters participating -- the highest participation rate since the hunt began in 1954. Success across both hunts was 7 percent, which is 2 percent below the long-term average of 9 percent, and similar to the success experienced during other hunts at Camp Ripley earlier this fall.
For the 10th year, hunters at Camp Ripley were allowed to use bonus permits to increase harvest of antlerless deer.
“We’re very pleased with the results the past 10 years,” Liddell said. “While Ripley bow hunters are known to be selective for bucks, we have seen increasing proportions of does and fawns taken in recent years to help keep the population in check.”
The proportion of antlerless deer taken at Camp Ripley during both hunts was 4 percent higher than last year, and 7 percent higher than the long-term average (56 percent), with 63 percent of this year’s harvest comprised of does and fawns.
The largest buck taken on the second hunt weighed 220 pounds and was taken by Tony Sutherland of Stanchfield.
Other hunters who harvested large bucks during second hunt include:
- Lonny Hutchins, Swanville, 219 pounds.
- John Ampe, Maple Grove, 202 pounds.
- Nathan Ruch, North Mankato, 197 pounds.
Many large does were taken, with 16 topping the 120-pound mark. The largest doe taken weighed 147 pounds and was taken by Jacob Zeis of Burtrum.
The archery hunt at Camp Ripley is an annual event. The DNR coordinates the hunt with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000 acre reservation.
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Quick actions rescue 3 waterfowl hunters
Quick actions by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer and a lakeshore owner may have saved the lives of three duck hunters recently.
Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo was on routine patrol checking waterfowl hunters on Swartout Lake in Wright County, Sunday, Nov. 3.
“I observed with my binoculars three duck hunters picking up their decoys getting ready to leave the small island on Swartout Lake they were hunting,” Reller said. “I decided to wait on shore to do a license and game check when they came ashore.”
Reller went to check what was taking the three men so long in getting across the lake.
“Once again I used my binoculars to look out on to the lake and observed the three hunters now in the water and out of their swamped Jon boat holding onto three filled decoy bags,” he said.
“The wind was blowing at over 20 miles per hour and with the cold water temps I knew they were in life threatening situation.”
Reller rushed to the residence of Barry Faber, a lakeshore owner who he knew would have a boat on shore. With Faber’s assistance, Reller was able to aid the three hunters in the cold water.
“We were able to pull all three of the hunters on to the boat,” Reller said. “They were very cold and they couldn’t help themselves in to the boat at all. Two of them had chest waders on that were full of water and none of them had a life jacket on. I contacted state patrol dispatch to have an ambulance meet us back on shore.”
The three men went to Faber’s heated garage, had their wet clothes removed, and were given warm blankets. A crew from Maple Lake Fire and Ambulance monitored the men until they were released. The men’s boat and hunting gear were later recovered from the lake.
The actions by Reller and Faber saved three lives.
“It’s very apparent that this event would have turned tragic if Officer Reller and Mr. Faber had not been there,” said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement central region manager.
“I can guarantee you that there are three waterfowl hunters who have not stopped talking or thinking about their actions since this happened.”
The DNR recommends these safety tips for late season boaters:
- Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket; even good swimmers need to wear one.
- Don’t go boating alone; boating safety increases with numbers.
- Keep an eye on the weather and go to shore if the wind picks up.
- If a boat becomes swamped or capsizes, try to re-board and stay with the craft if possible and await rescue.
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DNR anticipates good deer hunting season
Deer hunting should be good when Minnesota’s firearms hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 9.
That’s the word from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), whose biologists report deer populations are stable across much of the state.
“Minnesota’s deer population is largely stable in the southern half of the state because of mild winters and generally conservative deer management,” said Leslie McInenly, the DNR’s big game program leader. “Mild winters result in more survival of adults, more fawns being born, and more deer in the state’s fields and forests the following hunting season.”
Winter, which is a significant source of mortality in Minnesota deer, ranged from moderate to severe in northern Minnesota. As a result, permit area designations across most of northern Minnesota are either lottery or hunter choice.
Hunters may find farmland conditions more challenging due to this year’s later corn harvest, which results in a substantial amount of standing corn.
Last year, Minnesota’s nearly 500,000 deer hunters harvested 186,000 deer. A similar harvest is expected this year.
McInenly said deer permit management designations that limit hunters to one, two or five deer largely are the same as last year. The limits reflect the department’s interest in rebuilding or maintaining the deer herd in certain portions of the state by managing the harvest.
Based on 2013 population estimates, almost 80 percent of permit areas are at population goal. Antlerless and bonus deer permit availability decreases as overly abundant populations are brought into line with department goals.
Minnesota’s deer harvest has varied widely over the past half century. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s, forcing the closure of the deer season in 1971 and a rebuilding of the deer herd from the 1970s through the 1990s. The highest deer harvest occurred in 2003, when 290,000 deer were taken as part of an effort to reduce the deer herd. Today, the DNR manages the deer population based on goals established with public input.
“As the state’s deer population has been reduced to meet goals, more consistent and moderate harvests are anticipated,” McInenly said. “That said, population goals in some places were established nearly 10 years ago and the DNR is initiating a public process to revisit goals for permit areas statewide during the next few years.”
The DNR will be working with hunters and other stakeholders this winter to evaluate deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota.
The firearms deer season concludes Sunday, Nov. 24, in Series 100 permit areas, which cover much of northeastern Minnesota. In Series 300 permit areas, which cover the southeastern corner of the state, the first season ends Sunday, Nov.17, but a late season opens Saturday, Nov. 23, and concludes Sunday, Dec. 1. Firearms season ends Sunday, Nov. 17, in Series 200 permit areas, which cover the remainder of the state.
Harvested deer can be donated for distribution to food shelves
Deer donated to food shelves can be processed at no cost to hunters thanks to a program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of natural resources and agriculture. Prior to 2007, hunters could donate deer to food shelves but had to pay processing costs.
“The venison donation program has multiple benefits,” said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “In portions of the state, hunters are encouraged to harvest multiple deer, the program provides hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs. Demand for food assistance also has been increasing in recent years across Minnesota, and this is a great opportunity to provide locally-sourced meat to families in need.”
More details on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors, are available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/donation. Processors who accept deer are paid $70 to process each animal for food shelf distribution.
Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and non-resident hunting licenses.
To donate a deer, hunters will need to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated because processors will not accept cut and wrapped meat or portions of carcasses.
- Information such as permit area of harvest and the DNR number will be collected for tracking purposes.
- Processors can only accept carcasses for donation that are free from signs of illness, free of visible decomposition or contamination and properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.
- Processors will reject deer for the donation program that appear to have been mishandled in any way.
Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor prior to donating the deer. A list of processors who accept deer for the program is available online at http://go.usa.gov/WDk3.
Cold and wind greet hunters during first Camp Ripley hunt
Archers took a two-day total of 181 deer during the first two-day bow hunt Oct. 26-27 at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls.
“Breezy and colder than normal conditions greeted hunters and made it challenging for hunters to maximize their time in the field, with most of the hunters leaving by early-afternoon on Sunday. Nevertheless, hunters still did pretty well,” said Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Little Falls area wildlife manager.
“For the tenth year in a row hunters were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer,” he said. “Harvest is down about 13% from last year, but was similar to the harvest of 2009 when archers took 172 deer during the first hunt, and we are pleased that does and fawns comprised 68 percent of this year’s harvest.”
The total harvest thus far is similar to the long-term average harvest of 182 deer for the first hunt. “Unless we get poor weather, we’re on pace to register another above average harvest for both hunts combined,” Liddell said.
There were 2,500 permits issued for the first hunt, with 2,193 hunters participating, for a participation rate of 88 percent (up from 82 percent last year). Hunter success was 8 percent (slightly below the long-term average of 10 percent for the first hunt), and four hunters took their bag limit of two deer.
“With fifteen consecutive mild winters in this part of the state and strong harvests since 2000, Camp Ripley’s deer herd is in good condition. The weights of most fawns and yearling deer that were registered this weekend were heavier than they have been in recent years,” Liddell said.
The largest buck registered weighed 223 pounds, taken by Nicholas Witte of St. Peter, MN. Of adult does registered, the largest weighed in at 138 pounds, taken by Michael Haubenschild of Austin, Minn.
The second two-day hunt is scheduled for this coming weekend, Nov. 2-3. The DNR coordinates the hunts with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.
Baudette man faces numerous charges, fines, and restitution
A Baudette man faces more than a dozen charges and heavy fines and restitution for illegal bear and deer activities, ending an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
During Minnesota’s fall bear hunting season, state conservation officer Robert Gorecki of Baudette located an active bear bait station belonging to alleged bear guide Keith R. Slick, 32, of Baudette.
Conflicting statements led to a search of Slick’s home where numerous bear capes and skulls, as well as deer antler sets were seized.
“There were no possession or registration tags found with any of the bears. The bears did not have any cuts in their ears that would indicate that a site tag was attached at any time in the past,” Gorecki said.
A check of DNR records indicated that Slick had never registered an adult male deer or bear in the past 10 years. DNR records only go back 10 years.
A cell phone seized in the investigation contained pictures of Slick with a dead bear. Numerous text messages were also found with Slick telling people about the bear he had shot. Other text messages from Slick stated that he had shot seven bears in his life.
Only two of the six antler sets recovered had site tags on them, but from individuals other than Slick.
“Mr. Slick had multiple unexplainable deer racks,” Gorecki said. “A third set of antlers were from an unregistered road-killed deer, and he was unsure where the remaining sets of antlers came from.”
Slick was charged Nov. 1 in Lake of the Woods County Court with two counts of possessing an over limit of bear, three instances of unlawful possession of deer, two gross misdemeanor charges of unlawfully transporting a bear (mandatory court appearance), failure to register a second bear, failure to tag a second bear, illegal possession of a car-killed deer, untagged big game animal (bear), no bear outfitter/guides license, unlawful transfer/lend or borrow of license, failure to register bear bait stations, hunting within 100 yards of an unregistered bear bait station, and placing bait for bear without a license. There were other violations, but the statute of limitations had expired on them.
Slick faces nearly $4,500 in fines and restitution. A firearm and bow were also seized during the investigation. If convicted Slick’s hunting privileges could be revoked for three years.
Slick is scheduled to appear in Lake of the Woods County Court in December.
Anyone witnessing a fish or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the 24-hour, toll-free Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.