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Last Updated: Dec 2012

Deer, wolf season updates

Bighead carp caught by commercial fishermen in Lake Pepin

DNR hires new big game program leader

Another top 10 deer harvest at Camp Ripley

New penalties for deer baiting

Court of Appeals rules that wolf season can continue

DNR announces new winter walleye regulations for Upper Red Lake

Leech Lake test netting results show a strong walleye population


Deer, wolf season updates

Preliminary 2012 firearm deer harvest numbers released
Minnesota hunters harvested 151,400 deer so far during the 2012 early firearm season (as of Nov. 21), according to preliminary numbers announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The late 3B season in southeastern Minnesota remains open through Sunday, Nov. 25.
Overall, antlered buck harvest increased 9 percent and antlerless deer harvest decreased 21 percent compared to 2011. In total, firearm harvest was off 7 percent, which was expected given the conservative allocation of antlerless deer permits.
“The increase in buck harvest and decrease in antlerless deer harvest is a reflection of slightly higher deer populations statewide, yet a more conservative harvest philosophy this year,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “What drives total harvest is how we manage antlerless deer.”
This year, DNR increased the number of lottery areas where hunters could only take an antlerless deer by permit.
Opening weekend weather, which drives much of the statewide deer harvest, was nearly ideal with clear skies, cool temperatures, and a near total crop harvest.
Ample hunting opportunities remain as the statewide muzzleloader season runs from Saturday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 9. The archery season closes on Monday, Dec. 31.
The deer harvest number is calculated using data provided by hunters when they register a deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available on the DNR website at the end of January.

Early wolf season concludes
Hunters registered 147 wolves during the early portion of Minnesota’s first wolf season that ended Nov. 18; 53 fewer than the statewide harvest target, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The wolf harvest trend closely mirrored the deer harvest trend.
“The harvest was highest at the beginning of the season then declined as fewer hunters returned afield,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. “It’s been a smooth start to the state’s first regulated wolf season. Interest was strong. Harvest is well within expectations.”
Wolf hunting in the east-central zone closed Nov. 5 with hunters registering eight wolves. The northeast zone closed Nov. 15, with hunters registering 61 wolves. Hunting in the northwest zone closed with the season on Nov. 18, with hunters registering 78 wolves.
Hunters registered three more wolves in the northeast zone than the target of 58. In the east-central zone, hunters registered one fewer wolf than the target harvest of nine. The agency anticipated slight overages or underages in its management planning. Stark said targets were established as guidelines not absolute quotas and that late season targets will be adjusted based on the early season harvest. He said that actual zone harvest numbers may change slightly as exact harvest location data is verified during wolf inspection.
Minnesota’s late hunting and trapping season begins Saturday, Nov. 24. It will conclude Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, provided late season harvest targets in each of Minnesota’s three wolf zones are not met.
Hunters and trappers are encouraged to monitor the DNR website daily to ensure their season is open.

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Bighead carp caught by commercial fishermen in Lake Pepin

A 47-pound bighead carp was caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen on Nov. 16, in Lake Pepin near Frontenac, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Bighead carp, members of the Asian carp family, are nonnative species that can cause serious ecological problems as they spread into new waters.

While other adult bighead carp have been found in Lake Pepin and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, this was the largest individual carp caught to date.

"This recent find is not surprising, as bighead carp were also found in Lake Pepin in 2003 and 2007," said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR's Mississippi River team at Lake City. "It adds more evidence that Asian carp continue to work their way up the Mississippi River."    

This recent catch fits the pattern of occasional adult Asian carp captures from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers over the past 15 years. Individual bighead carp were caught in the St. Croix River in 1996, 2011, and 2012, and four silver carp were caught from the Mississippi River between Winona and La Crosse since 2008.

Populations of bighead and silver carp are established in the Mississippi River and its tributaries downstream of pool 16 in Iowa. There is no indication bighead or silver carp are reproducing in Minnesota waters of the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers.

The DNR and other partners are aggressively implementing an action plan that was developed in 2011. This plan includes an active monitoring program involving fisheries surveys, commercial fishing, and eDNA testing.  

The plan also addresses construction of fish barriers at several sites including Lock and dam 1 and locations in southwestern Minnesota that are threatened by Asian carp coming up the Missouri River basin.   
The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $7.5 million in 2012 to design, construct and evaluate Asian carp barriers. The Legislature also approved funding for the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River to improve its effectiveness as a fish barrier.

Other options being discussed include closing the lock at Upper St. Anthony Falls to prevent passage of Asian carp. This would require congressional action.

The Legislature also appropriated funding in 2012 to establish an Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota. The center will focus on research to develop tools to monitor and control populations of Asian carp should they become established.

Bighead carp can weigh up to 110 pounds and silver carp up to 60 pounds. They are voracious eaters, capable of consuming 5 to 20 percent of their body weight each day. They feed on algae and other microscopic organisms, often outcompeting native fish for food. Scientists believe Asian carp could severely disrupt the aquatic ecosystems of Minnesota waters.

More information about Asian carp is available on the DNR's website at

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DNR hires new big game program leader

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has hired Leslie McInenly as big game program leader. She will have the lead responsibility for managing deer, elk and moose seasons and populations.

For the past six years, McInenly has been on the staff of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, a state board charged with providing forest resource policy advice to the governor and Legislature, coordinating cross-ownership landscape-level forest management planning, and developing best management practices for forest management. Prior to that, she spent four years in Alberta working as a collaborator on the Central East Slopes Elk Study, a project established to evaluate elk translocation efforts and habitat use. As part of the study, McInenly also worked with provincial biologists to improve elk population estimates in Alberta.

“We are excited to have Leslie join our wildlife management team,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife population and regulation program manager. “Her knowledge of Minnesota’s forests and forest management is particularly relevant, as maintaining and strengthening the link between population management and habitat management is a real focus of the section of wildlife.”

The primary responsibilities of the big game program leader are to manage deer, moose, and elk seasons, and work with stakeholders to modify and improve seasons and regulations to address the expectations of a diverse public.

McInenly earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, majoring in wildlife management and biology. Her master’s degree thesis focused on the influence of changing elk migratory patterns on native prairie biodiversity and nutrient cycling.  She also worked on range of game and nongame species projects in several states before working in Alberta.

Through her experience working in private, public, and nonprofit sectors, McInenly has demonstrated the ability to work and communicate with a diversity of stakeholders, colleagues and clients, Merchant said.  

McInenly assumes her new duties on Nov. 15. She grew up in the St. Croix River Valley and resides with her family in Stillwater.  

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Another top 10 deer harvest at Camp Ripley

Variable weather and a nearly full moon greeted hunters at Camp Ripley on Oct. 27-28 for the second two-day archery deer hunt, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The archers harvested 223 deer, which is the fourth highest harvest for the second hunt. Those deer, coupled with the 208 taken during the Oct. 18-19 hunt, represent the eighth best harvest ever at Camp Ripley.

Although wet weather impacted hunter participation during each hunt, the four-day total of 431 deer is 35 percent above the long-term average harvest of 320 deer for the two-hunts combined, and represents a 2 percent increase above last year’s total harvest of 422 deer.
“Despite some wet weather during each event, hunters achieved another strong harvest at camp and helped 11 lucky hunters take large bucks that weighed more than 200 pounds,” said Beau Liddell, DNR Little Falls area wildlife manager. “The overall harvest is well above average, and administration of the hunt went well.”

A total of 5,003 permits were issued for both two-day hunts, with 4,205 hunters participating. Hunter success during both hunts was 10 percent, which is just above the long-term average of 9 percent.

For the ninth year running, hunters at Camp Ripley were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer.

“We’re very pleased with the results the past nine 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 was 5 percent lower than last year, but 4 percent higher than the long-term average (55 percent), with just under 60 percent of this year’s harvest comprised of does and fawns.

The largest buck harvested on the second hunt, taken by Ryan Brenny of Rice, weighed 215 pounds.

Other hunters who harvested large bucks during Oct-27-28 hunt:  

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.

Wet weather challenges hunters during first Camp Ripley hunt

Archers took a two-day total of 208 deer during the first bow hunt Oct. 18-19 at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The second two-day hunt is scheduled for Oct. 27-28.  

“Wet weather greeted hunters and made it challenging for them to maximize their time in the field, with most of the hunters leaving by midday on Friday,” said Beau Liddell, DNR Little Falls area wildlife manager. ”Nevertheless, hunters still did well, resulting in the ninth highest harvest for the first hunt.

“For the ninth year in a row hunters were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer,” Liddell said. “Harvest was above average. We are pleased that fawns and does comprised 61 percent of the harvest.”

The total harvest of 208 deer thus far is 14 percent above the long-term average harvest of 182 deer for the first hunt. “Unless we get poor weather, we’re on pace to register another top 10 harvest for both hunts combined,” Liddell said.

There were 2,502 permits issued for the first hunt, with 2,059 hunters participating, for a participation rate of 82 percent (down from 84 percent last year). Hunter success was 10 percent (identical to the long-term average for the first hunt). Seven hunters took their bag limit of two deer.

“With 14 consecutive mild winters in this part of the state and strong harvests since 2000, Camp Ripley’s deer herd is in good condition,” Liddell said. “Many hunters who provided comments indicated they saw numerous deer.”
Five adult bucks tipped the scales at or above 200 pounds. The largest buck registered weighed 215 pounds, taken by James Higgins of South Haven, Minn. Of adult does registered, the largest weighed in at 142 pounds, taken by Gerald Hartung of Clear Lake.

The DNR coordinates the hunts with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

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New penalties for deer baiting

Participants in Minnesota’s firearm deer season will be greeted with new penalties for baiting violations when they go afield Nov. 3.

“It seems that every year our officers are spending more and more time responding to complaints about baiting or discovering it while on patrol,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division assistant director. “We hope these new penalties curb what has become an all too common violation.”

Deer baiting is placing food near deer stands or clearings with the intent of luring a deer into close shooting range. It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991.

DNR conservation officers issued 144 citations, gave 24 warnings and seized 134 firearms/bows in baiting related investigations during the 2011 bow, firearms and muzzleloader seasons. It’s the highest number of baiting citations issued during the deer hunting seasons since the DNR began tracking these violations in 1991.

The Minnesota Legislature recognized the negative impact of baiting deer and recently passed legislation to increase the penalties for those convicted of baiting deer.

“It was apparent that a fine and forfeiture of a firearm or bow was not enough to curtail the activity,” said Smith. “In order to show the seriousness of the offense hunters will be subject to license revocation when convicted of baiting deer.”

The new penalties for baiting:

The fine for illegal baiting is $300, plus $80 or so in court costs. Another $500 can be tagged on for restitution if a deer is seized. Guns may be confiscated as well.

Smith said he is hopeful the new penalties, in addition to fines, restitution and confiscation of guns sends a message that Minnesota values it natural resources and there is a price for engaging in this illegal activity.

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Court of Appeals rules that wolf season can continue

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today rejected a request for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the state’s inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season.

That means the planned wolf hunting and trapping seasons will go as planned this fall and winter.

Consistent with state law, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will issue 6,000 licenses, and the first season will start with the beginning of firearms deer hunting on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The late hunting and trapping season will begin on Nov. 24.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the petitioners, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Howling for Wolves, did not meet their burden of proving irreparable harm for an injunction to be issued.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “It resolves any uncertainty that hunters and trappers might have had about the upcoming season.”

The petitioner’s lawsuit to challenge the way the season was established is still before the Court of

Appeals and will proceed on its merits. A decision is not expected until next year.

The DNR has taken a conservative approach to the state’s first wolf season by establishing a total target harvest of 400 wolves and a mechanism to close seasons when target harvests are reached.

Minnesota has a robust population of about 3,000 wolves, and the season will not have any significant impact on the population.

Consistent with the state’s wolf plan, the DNR is committed to the long-term survival of wolves in the state and resolving conflicts between humans and wolves.

To learn more, go to

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DNR announces new winter walleye regulations for Upper Red Lake

Anglers who fish Upper Red Lake this winter will be able to keep walleye from a wider slot limit than in previous years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR is in the process of changing regulations so a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit will remain throughout the 2012-2013 winter walleye season. The daily bag and possession limit also would remain at four fish with only one fish allowed longer than 26 inches.

“This is a significant change from previous winter seasons when the protected slot limit would revert back to 17-26 inches on Dec. 1,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor.

This regulation change was prompted by annual harvest estimates below the target harvest range during the past two years. DNR discussions with the Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee last March, and again in September, confirmed that current open water regulations have been popular and effective.

For the past four years, the protected slot limit on Upper Red Lake has been 17- to 26-inches from the May walleye opener through June 14, when catch rates are high and spawning stock most vulnerable. Since 2009, there has been a mid-season slot limit adjustment to 20-26 from June 15 through Nov. 30. At its September meeting, the Advisory Committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the open water regulations remain the same and to focus on winter regulation changes to encourage additional harvest.

The proposed regulation change is expected to increase harvest to within the yearly target harvest range of 84,000-168,000 pounds. Increased harvest projections are based on several factors including the probability that more fish will be vulnerable to harvest, an increase in the average size of fish harvested, and the likelihood of additional angling pressure.

Walleye abundance on Upper Red Lake remains high, with new record gill net catch rates experienced in the 2012 assessment. Spawning stock also remains high, indicating excellent production of young walleye in recent years. Additional harvest of walleye from 17 to 20 inches may be beneficial to maintaining good growth rates and improving the proportion of larger fish in the population.

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Leech Lake test netting results show a strong walleye population

The results of recent fall test netting on Leech Lake conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show the walleye population remains strong and anglers who visit the lake should continue to expect quality fishing. According to the results, the walleye catch rates remain above the long-term average for the sixth consecutive year.  

“September gill nets showed good numbers of both juvenile and adult walleye,” said Matt Ward, large lake specialist in Walker. “It is encouraging to have a balanced walleye population within and outside the protected slot limit of 18 and 26 inches.”

Strong 2010 and 2011 year-classes are present and the DNR expects these year-classes will start providing harvest opportunities this coming winter. Additionally, 35 percent of walleye sampled were within the slot limit, which will provide anglers the opportunity to catch a large fish.  

The number of young-of-the-year walleye (those hatched during the spring of 2012) sampled with both trawling and electrofishing were above the long-term average for each gear type. The average size for this year-class was good, at 6.1 inches during the mid-September electrofishing assessment. Larger sizes in the fall usually translate to higher winter survival.  

Other game fish species targeted with test nets include yellow perch and northern pike. Yellow perch abundance declined for the fifth consecutive year, while northern pike abundance continues to remain stable. The primary species of nongame fish assessed with the test nets is cisco. Despite a minor cisco summer kill caused by warm temperatures in 2012, fall test netting indicated adequate numbers of cisco continue to be present.

Lake-wide, walleye counts in DNR test nets averaged 9.42 walleye per net lift, which was similar to results from the past four years and was above the long-term average of 7.7 walleye per net lift. Walleye numbers indicate that management actions implemented under the 2011-2015 Management Plan are succeeding. Key elements of the plan include special fishing regulations, walleye fry stocking, cormorant management and an increased emphasis on aquatic habitat protection.

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