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Hunters to DNR: We need more deer

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The Pioneer Press reports on a petition asking the DNR to manage for more deer.

The initiative was started by The Minnesota Bowhunters Association. Members say they are concerned because they are seeing fewer deer, and they are frustrated with a lack of information from the Department of Natural Resources.

"It started a couple of years ago," said Brooks Johnson, 46, the president of Minnesota Bowhunters Inc. "The guys were starting to talk about how they just weren't seeing deer out there."

Johnson said a survey of his members estimates the deer density has declined 70 percent in the last few years.

"That's a big deal, and we feel like the DNR hasn't been paying attention," he said.

This fall, hunters killed roughly 171,000 deer, the third straight year of decline.

DNR managers said it will change its goal-setting process in coming years, starting with a series of public meetings next month in the southeastern part of the state. But they say Johnson and the bowhunters may not understand DNR data or deer management priorities.

"We're not managing so that every hunter has 100 percent success rate," said Leslie McInenly, the state's top deer manager.

While no widespread action is planned for areas outside the southeastern part of the state until 2015, she said regulations on individual zones can be changed.

She said changes would likely involve regulations intended to grow deer numbers, either by lowering the bag limit or making it harder to kill does.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said he's concerned about what's shaping up to be a sever winter for deer. He said frustration is widespread among his members too.

The Star Tribune reported that hunting groups feel underrepresented in DNR deer management decisions.

“I don’t think there was an equitable voice for Minnesota hunters,’’ Brooks Johnson said. “No one was watching. Private industry had too many seats at the table, and there was an agenda to lower deer numbers.

“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,’’ said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manger. "High deer populations impact forest regeneration, deer-vehicle collisions and agricultural damage."

He said deer hunter success rates are usually around 30 percent.

The DNR deer management website page says Minnesota is home to about a million deer. An estimated 500,000 Minnesotans hunt them.

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