Hunters say there aren't enough deer

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2014 - 9:21 PM

DNR hears call for bigger herd, better communication.

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How many deer should roam Minnesota? It depends on whom you ask. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association wants more input.

Photo: Brian Peterson • brian.peterson@startribune.com,

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More deer.

That, in a nutshell, is what most of the state’s deer hunters and members of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association want, says Mark Johnson, MDHA executive director.

He says the Department of Natural Resources lowered the whitetail population too much, which, combined with recent severe winters, has dropped deer numbers in many areas to unacceptable levels.

But more deer is only a start.

“We’d like more deer, more communication [from the DNR] and more input,’’ Johnson said.

He made those recommendations — and more — in a recent letter to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. Landwehr responded Friday:

“We fully understand that most hunters want more deer, and we also agree that deer numbers are currently low across much of Minnesota. We are taking steps immediately to increase deer numbers where they are below goals. Hunters in most of Minnesota will see a very conservative deer season next fall …’’

With more than a half-million whitetail hunters, deer management remains a hot topic following the lowest ­harvest in 15 years last fall.

The agency held six public “listening sessions’’ this spring around the state to get input from hunters as it re-examines statewide deer density goals set in 2005-07. The DNR announced new goals for southeastern Minnesota last week (see www.startribune.com/outdoors), completing a process that started in February. It’s the only region where deer density goals will be reviewed this year, but large swaths of central, north-central and northeastern Minnesota will be reviewed next year. The process will conclude in 2016.

Johnson, who leads the 15,000-member group — the state’s largest deer organization — attended all six listening sessions. Hunters, he said:

• Want to see more deer, and they want the DNR to start the process immediately.

• Feel current deer population goals are too low and are skeptical the current estimated deer population is correct.

• Are frustrated and confused about why many permit areas seem to be consistently managed below stated goals.

• Are willing to have less opportunity now to increase the deer herd.

• Want greater input in the deer goal-setting process.

Landwehr noted that the DNR must consider a cross-section of interests when setting deer densities.

Johnson acknowledged that satisfying everyone is difficult, because hunters, motorists, farmers and foresters often have different perspectives. But while there may have been too many deer in the early 2000s, which led the DNR to reduce numbers, Johnson said the agency has lowered the population too far.

“Our harvest went from around 250,000 to 170,000 last year,’’ he said. “That’s a huge swing.’’

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