Under some of the biggest deer management changes in decades, hunters in southeast Minnesota this fall won't be able to shoot bucks with less than four antler points on one side.
They also won't be able to shoot and tag bucks for other hunters -- called "party hunting" -- long a tradition in Minnesota.
The moves, which likely will be controversial and have been discussed for five years, are intended to increase the numbers of trophy-sized bucks in the southeast. That's a goal supported by many hunters there, but not all.
"There's an interest in more mature bucks in the deer population throughout the state, but principally in the southeast," said Lou Cornicelli, Department of Natural Resources big game manager. "This will protect yearling deer and put more harvest pressure on female [deer]." That in turn will both help manage the deer population and eventually give hunters a crack at bigger bucks, Cornicelli said.
"This is a significant change in the way we manage deer in Minnesota," Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife section chief, said in a letter to his staff.
Cornicelli said he knows the change won't be greeted warmly by everyone. "We know a percentage will be real unhappy," he said. But he added, "I think hunters will come to enjoy it."
A survey of southeast deer hunters last year showed them about evenly split over the issue: 53 percent supported regulations to protect a majority of yearling bucks and 50 percent supported requiring hunters to shoot and tag their own bucks.
The DNR also will extend the 3A deer season in the southeast, now seven days, to nine days. And it will establish a four-day youth hunt for hunters ages 10 to 15 Oct. 21-24 in the southeast and some parts of the northwest. Southeast hunters supported that idea by a 54 percent margin in the survey.