He said other characterizations of the process as tainted are “incorrect, misleading or just flat wrong.’’
Said Cornicelli: “We set the goals through a very public process. There’s nothing wrong with people not liking the results and wanting to revisit it. But it has to be open and honest and fair, which was done before.’’
New goals being set
The DNR began reexamining deer density goals in 2012, and new goals have been established in 23 deer permit areas. This winter, the DNR is reexamining permit areas in much of southeastern Minnesota, and will soon select a stakeholder group from about 100 nominees.
“There’s definitely a lot of interest,’’ said Leslie McInenly, current DNR big game program leader. Both public meetings, and meetings with the stakeholder group, will be held. Online comments also will be accepted, as they were last time.
Similar groups will be formed in other areas of the state, so deer densities statewide should be revised by the fall of 2016, McInenly said.
“The goal isn’t to maximize the number of deer in front of a gun, but to determine how many deer should be on the landscape,’’ Cornicelli said. High deer populations impact forest regeneration, deer-vehicle collisions and agricultural damage, he said.
All of those factors, as well as hunter satisfaction, must be considered when determining optimum deer populations, he said.
There never will be enough deer to satisfy all hunters. Even during years of record harvest, hunter success rates rarely exceeded 40 percent, and usually are around 30 percent — meaning most deer hunters don’t get one.
Johnson says he understands that, but said many areas can support much higher deer densities, without causing other problems. His petition calls for changes to be made in time for the 2014 deer season, and he’s hoping he and his supporters can collect at least 100 signatures per county.
He dismisses other potential reasons for the low deer harvest in 2013, including high winds and standing corn when the season opened.
“It’s not wind, it’s not corn — there just aren’t as many deer in the woods,’’ Johnson said.
Doug Smith • Doug.Smith@startribune.com