Minnesota deer hunters this year have been slow to purchase licenses, a trend the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is tracking without much trepidation.

Last Friday, two weeks before the scheduled Nov. 4 opening of the firearms deer season, the DNR had sold 28 percent fewer licenses to hunters than it did over the same period last year. In 2016, more than 162,000 total licenses had been sold with two weeks remaining before the opener. This year, the number of licenses sold was 115,551.

Money from deer licenses is vital to the DNR’s core Game & Fish Fund for wildlife management. The norm in Minnesota is for annual deer license sales to near or top the 500,000 mark.

Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife populations manager, said he’s not reading too much into the data because fewer hunters this year are faced with the urgency of applying early for permits to shoot antlerless deer. The first big push for those tags is by the first week of September.

Merchant said the growing deer population has led to an increase in deer permit areas where hunters can shoot antlerless deer without special permits. If you don’t have to apply for an antlerless tag, you can wait until you are ready to hunt to purchase your license.

“I think that is what’s going on with the data, but only time will tell,” Merchant said.

Aquatic invaders

The Legislative‐Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) has selected 65 projects totaling $45.4 million to recommend for funding to the Legislature next year. Two of those projects are aimed at controlling Asian carp and zebra mussels, two major invasive threats to state waters.

One proposed grant would send $998,000 to University of Minnesota researcher Peter Sorenson to test a “promising new carp deterrent system” on the Mississippi River. The other would provide $500,000 in funding to molecular biologist Chris Merkes at the U.S. Geological Survey aquatic invasive species lab in La Crosse, Wis. Merkes would apply the money to his continuing research in search of genetic controls to prevent zebra mussels from affecting other species.

Another proposed grant of $400,000 would go to Leonard Ferrington at the U to study how to conserve state trout habitat in light of climate change by focusing on management of winter trout fishing. LCCMR projects are funded out of state lottery proceeds that go to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.