Last Sunday on these pages I interviewed Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, whose responses to my questions drew many reader comments. In particular, Landwehr’s statements regarding deer management struck a nerve with readers. A sample of their comments follows. As space allows in coming weeks, reader comments on DNR waterfowl and pheasant management also will be published.
A little common sense, please
I appreciate the difficulty of Commissioner Landwehr’s job. But his answer regarding deer density is laughable. There is a huge difference in our state between deer of the south and deer of the north. I fail to understand why the DNR doesn’t get conservative with antlerless permits after just one hard winter.
Instead, the agency waits to see what the next winter brings. A little common sense is all I ask. And please quit telling us there are 1 million deer in the state.
Every time you say it you ruin your credibility.
DNR is out of touch
Commissioner Landwehr’s management of our deer herd has been irresponsible, at best. The statements, policies, and strategies have repeatedly shown DNR decisionmakers are out of touch with what hunters want and the actual (unacceptably low) deer population.
Joe Ellig, Fergus Falls
DNR policies, not winter, to blame
It would be nice to hear sometime the DNR admit it screwed up and cut the herd too much. Instead the commissioner says the herd is in bad shape because of rough winters. Maybe you should plan for rough winters; they happen all the time in Minnesota. Here’s another idea: If you are going to make mistakes, make them in favor of deer and deer hunters.
Finally, Commissioner, winter has no effect on deer where I hunt in Isanti County. The cause of the worst deer hunting in Isanti County since the ’80s are the foolish DNR policies that allowed hunters to kill too many deer.
How’d the harvest target move?
I had to scratch my head when reading Commissioner Landwehr’s answers. Where did he come up with a “middle ground” harvest of 180,000 deer? In 2011, then-big game manager Lou Cornicelli said the harvest “sweet spot” was about 205,000. Now the sweet spot is 180,000? How’d that happen? Deer management is going unchecked in Minnesota and there is no DNR accountability.
Is buying a license worth the price?
In Minnesota if we had a DNR that knew what it was doing we should be in the 260,000 harvest range most years. The question now is whether it’s worth buying a deer license anymore. Audit the DNR.
Dale Hagen, Dayton
Goal should be raising quality of the hunt
You can kill 180,000 deer from a population of 2 million, 1 million, 500,000, or even less if you have enough seasons and the seasons are long enough. I care very little about total harvest and very much about enjoying my time afield. To do that, I actually need to see some deer. If I hunt for two days and kill the 10th buck I see or I hunt for 10 days and kill the only buck I see I’ve still killed one buck, but the quality of my hunt is much diminished in the latter scenario, and that scenario is the one that’s played out for the majority of deer hunters in this state the last several years.
Audit deer decisions
The DNR has chosen to reduce the deer herd way beyond any agreed-upon number, knowing many hunters will continue to buy licenses even when not successful. Manipulating data and then blaming the wind or standing crops to cover up what has happened seems to be business as usual in St. Paul. I strongly support a deer management audit because the system is broken and tradition is not enough to keep deer hunters in the woods.
Time to manage conservatively
Something is wrong with the DNR’s deer modeling method, which has caused the overestimation of our herd, and therefore our overharvest. In my opinion, deer numbers we had during the mid-’90s were close to optimal for landowners and hunters. I find it amusing (and contradictory) that today’s deer managers refer to the “million plus” deer estimates of that period as “too high.’’ Yet, the same “million plus” herd today is deemed below goal and needs to be rebuilt. It can’t be both. Minnesota has lots of good to excellent habitat that can easily handle deer densities of 20-30 deer per square mile, and perhaps a bit more. The DNR is supposed to manage and conserve our natural resources. Instead they’ve overharvested deer. We need to return to managing our deer herd conservatively. Hunters, who pay the majority of deer management costs, have every right to expect a conservative management approach for our highly valued whitetail resource, and should accept nothing less.
Don’t blame advisory teams for herd issues
It was not advisory teams that destroyed our deer herd, it was the DNR and its outdated management that has consistently driven our number of deer per square mile downward. It concerns me how out of touch our commissioner is with the most popular hunting activity in Minnesota. I doubt any hunter in the state would consider a harvest of 200,000 too high. Yet the commissioner wants 180,000. His comments reinforce the belief that we need an audit of deer management in this state.
Public trust betrayed by decisionmakers
Commissioner Landwehr and the rest of the DNR are either incompetent or purposefully manipulating the herd to very low levels. The last round of stakeholder meetings (2005-07) called for a 9 percent reduction of our herd. At the time, hunters were killing around 260,000 deer. A 9 percent cut would put our harvest in the 230,000 range. Our harvest this year will be around 140,000. That would be a reduction approaching 50 percent. Even if we were to aim for the 180,000 harvest Landwehr suggests, we’d be experiencing a 30 percent reduction from 2005-07. Something needs to change at the DNR. I’m sick of hearing we have no deer because of two bad winters and a bogus public stakeholder process.
The DNR has betrayed the public trust.