Anderson: In some ways, deer population fix is up to hunters

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2014 - 8:45 AM

DNR’s effort to fix the deer population requires understanding and monitoring.

hide

That walk into the woods is easy. Hunters who want to see the deer population grow have other jobs, too.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Described as a “listening session,’’ a gathering in this central Minnesota town Wednesday evening attracted some 60 deer hunters. At issue was the perception among most in attendance, voiced repeatedly, that too few deer inhabit the surrounding region, a complaint shared in many areas statewide. Doing the listening, and taking notes, were Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials.

It’s no easy task, managing deer to socially acceptable population levels, which the DNR attempts to do. For starters, what constitutes such levels is not easily agreed upon. Hunters want a lot of deer. Orchard growers and others in agriculture generally want fewer. In between are homeowners with at-risk shrubbery, car drivers who fear whitetail collisions at freeway speeds, and ecology buffs who believe too many deer inhibit forest plant diversity.

Still, in many parts of the state there are too few deer, in part because weather bets DNR wildlife managers placed a few years back boomeranged. Bad as last winter was, particularly for northern whitetails, this winter is worse. In advance of these, arguably because of bad luck, the DNR allowed hunters to kill too many deer in some parts of the state.

The result, as Dave Sapletal of Brainerd put it Wednesday evening: “The deer are truly down.’’

Added Ron Carlson of Pillager, Minn.: “The deer are down so far I didn’t even hunt my home area.’’

Hearing this, and more, from the frustrated hunters was a phalanx of DNR officials, headed by wildlife section chief Paul Telander. Also present were DNR research boss (and former big game coordinator) Lou Cornicelli, as well as big game program leader Leslie McInenly and wildlife programs manager Steve Merchant, among others.

Organized by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Brainerd meeting, as well as one held Thursday evening in Cambridge and four others to be held in coming days (none in the Twin Cities), was intended to allow hunters to vent. The underlying assumption — hope — was that the DNR would take the hunters’ concerns to heart and do what’s required to rebuild the state’s whitetail herd.

“I’ve hunted 62 years,’’ said Dave Sapletal of Brainerd, “and in the last three or four years, the bucks just aren’t there. Even in Camp Ripley. I spent 17 hours in a stand there last fall and I didn’t see a single deer.’’

The DNR has begun a multi-year process to recalibrate desired whitetail population levels in various regions of the state. Aiding the undertaking are citizen panels intended to represent a cross-section of affected groups, among them hunters and farmers. The intent is to reach consensus about appropriate whitetail levels in given areas, which, subsequently, the DNR will attempt to achieve by employing various hunter harvest strategies.

Hunters believe they were underrepresented a few years back on similar advisory panels and, as a result, whitetail population goals generally were set too low. The DNR disputes this. But the DNR does not dispute that in many parts of the state, if not most, the agency doesn’t manage deer for maximum density — the land’s “carrying capacity’’ — but instead to levels it believes most everyone can live with, hunter or not.

Given that hunters pay the bills for deer management, more than a few feel gypped by a process that incorporates so completely the interests of other parties, most of whom are wildlife-conservation freeloaders.

Two points:

• If hunters want to ensure that deer in their area and/or statewide are managed at sufficiently high levels, they must do more than come to the odd meeting and complain. Instead, they need to stay engaged in the process of setting population goals to ensure their interests are satisfactorily included in the outcomes. There’s a significant difference between managing for 15 deer per square mile and 25 per square mile, for example, and if the DNR chooses the lower number, it should have to explain why.

• That said, hunters must acknowledge that deer population management includes a lot of guesswork. Harvest strategies are based on information gathered months or even a year earlier. Weather also is a big variable. As is hunter effort. And predators. So hitting a harvest mark, or even a harvest range, isn’t going to happen every year, and DNR deer managers shouldn’t be held to such an impossible standard.

Hunters instead must stay intimately engaged on the front end of the ongoing whitetail population goal-setting process, not only through the advisory panels but afterward, when population levels are announced.

It’s then that hunters should require the DNR to justify its goal numbers and, as necessary, seek their adjustment.

Editor’s note: More on upcoming listening sessions and the goal-setting process is online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/mgmt.html.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Dallas 117 FINAL
Orlando 92
New York 80 FINAL
Toronto 83
San Antonio 87 FINAL
Houston 96
Miami 104 FINAL
Memphis 98
Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Utah 100
Sacramento 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Denver 112 FINAL
Golden State 119
Portland 99 FINAL
LA Clippers 89
Dallas 3 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Colorado 7
Carolina 3 FINAL
Edmonton 6
Columbus 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 FINAL
Chicago 2
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close