Deer: Decline a concern

Minnesota’s 2013 deer harvest of 172,000 was the lowest in 15 years, and many hunters say that’s evidence of a lack of deer. A second consecutive tough winter in northern Minnesota could further reduce the population, they say. And some are pressuring the DNR to boost deer numbers.

The issue was raised at the DNR’s round-table meetings in Bloomington over the weekend, where officials talked about the deer season and explained whitetail population monitoring methods and population goals.

About 50 people attended a discussion Friday, and in a survey, 40 percent were satisfied with their 2013 deer season, and about 26 percent said they were not. However, a majority weren’t satisfied with the number of deer they saw, and 63 percent said they have seen fewer deer over the past five years where they hunt.

“The population definitely is down,’’ Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said earlier.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has his own anecdotal evidence.

“I’d like to see more deer,” he said. “I haven’t seen a deer in my last four years hunting.”

He said the population in the early 2000s was deemed too high, so it was lowered by liberal hunting regulations. “Before it was too high, now it’s too low,” Landwehr said.

DNR Wildlife Chief Paul Telander said the agency has heard from dissatisfied hunters and said he expects deer regulations next fall will be more restrictive, to try to boost the population in some areas.