Minnesota's 2008 deer harvest fell 15 percent.
Read 'em and weep.
Officials suspected Minnesota's 2008 deer harvest would be down. They didn't expect it to drop 15 percent.
But that's what happened. Final harvest numbers show hunters bagged 221,800 whitetails last year, compared with 260,000 in 2007.
"If you look at the cup as half empty, it was the lowest harvest since 2001,'' said Lou Cornicelli, Department of Natural Resources big game program leader. "If you look at the cup as half full, it was the eighth-best harvest ever.''
Cornicelli said the decline was caused by a combination of factors: poor weather conditions on the opener, the change of management in some permit areas and a decline of deer numbers in some regions, some prompted by DNR management decisions.
"Our populations are getting down to where we want them to be,'' he said. "We don't manage for record deer harvests.''
What does this all mean for 2009?
"I don't know,'' Cornicelli said. "It all depends. We model populations based on harvest rates and winter severity and allocate [harvest] based on where we think the population is. You may see permit areas become lottery areas.''
He said that while this winter has been more severe than recent ones, it likely has not had a big impact on winter survival of deer yet.
Another bright note: The number of deer hunters remained stable at about 500,000. Here's the breakdown of the harvest: Regular firearms hunters killed 190,000 deer, archery hunters took 22,500 and muzzleloader hunters killed 9,300.Spending dollars
About 30 conservation leaders gathered in Bloomington last week to discuss wetland priorities, the first step in developing funding recommendations to the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council. The newly formed council will recommend to the Legislature how to spend dollars raised by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment, passed last fall. The amendment raised the state sales tax by 3/8th of 1 percent.
The problem is the council is under a tight deadline, and the groups are trying to come up with "shovel-ready'' projects to offer by next month. The council is accepting proposals for wetland and prairie projects Feb. 9 and for forest and fish and wildlife habitat projects Feb. 23. Other groups are gathering to discuss those regions. The council will have to sift through all the proposals and make recommendations to the Legislature by early spring.Lead bullet fragments
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold an information hearing this week on the lead bullet issue, said Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, who chairs the committee. Members will hear reports on the DNR's lead bullet ballistics study done last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's lead-blood study in North Dakota and Minnesota's venison donation program.
"There's no bill on the agenda, and there will be no additional testimony,'' Chaudhary said. "The issue is out there, and I just want to get the facts."Selling state lands
A 2005 state law directed state departments to find more than $6 million in surplus lands and sell it to help the state's general fund. About $2 million already has been sold.
Among the remaining acres that could go are some owned by the DNR, including wildlife management areas, forests, state trail lands, parks and aquatic management areas. About $700,000 worth of DNR lands already have been sold, and the agency has been compiling a list of others that might go.
The sales must occur by June. The whole process has been controversial because some citizens and groups question the sales. Now Chaudhary says he plans to introduce a bill that would prevent further sale of state lands used for outdoor recreation, including wildlife management areas and state forests.
"It would still leave plenty of other lands to meet the goal of the law,'' he said.Did you know?
• Hunt of a Lifetime, which sends kids who have life-threatening illnesses on dream hunting or fishing trips, is holding its annual fund-raising banquet Feb. 7 at the Courtyards of Andover. Call 763-753-2895 for information.
• The walleye bite has slowed some on Upper Red lake, but several 40-inch-plus northerns were caught recently, reported conservation officer Brice Vollbrecht of Blackduck.
• Conservation officer Ed Picht of Montevideo reported that two deer were shot south of Sacred Heart on Jan. 10 or 11. One of the deer was pulled to the top of a hill and left about 200 yards off the road. It is believed that someone may have shot them to bait coyotes. Anyone with information is asked to call the Turn in Poachers hotline at 1-800-652-9093.
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org
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