MOUNTAIN IRON— About 45 northeastern Minnesota residents turned out in Mt. Iron last Thursday to have their say on the future of whitetail deer management in the state. The meeting, one of nearly a …
MOUNTAIN IRON— About 45 northeastern Minnesota residents turned out in Mt. Iron last Thursday to have their say on the future of whitetail deer management in the state. The meeting, one of nearly a dozen being held around the state, was sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources to provide input into the creation of the agency’s first-ever statewide deer management plan.
The DNR has long maintained management plans specific to individual deer permit areas, but has never developed a statewide set of goals and objectives for the species. In March 2016, the state’s legislative auditor dinged the agency for failing to do so, and that input prompted the agency to undertake the new planning effort.
The DNR has formed an advisory committee, with representatives from different stakeholder interests and the public meetings are a way for other Minnesotans to weigh in on what they want to see in the plan.
Deer hunters dominated the attendance at the meeting in Mt. Iron, which has been the case in other meetings as well, and the discussion focused largely on hunting-related issues. DNR staff formed participants into small groups to list their concerns before presenting their issues to the entire audience. Participants shared many of the same concerns, particularly an interest in control of chronic wasting disease. While the disease has been limited, to date, mostly to southeastern Minnesota, a deer farm near Brainerd recently had a positive test for the disease. Some of the participants in last Thursday’s meeting advocated stricter regulation, or even an outright ban, on deer farms, as a means of preventing the spread of the disease.
Several of the small groups also had concerns about the feeding of wild deer, with some urging more education to discourage the practice, while at least one group wanted better coordination of feeding efforts during severe winters.
The participants had mixed perspectives on logging. One group urged more logging to provide better browse, while a few other groups said the DNR needs to do more to ensure the maintenance of conifer stands in the forest, like balsam, cedar, and spruce, which provide critical winter cover for deer.
Many of the groups mentioned wolves and urged delisting of the species, as a means to help both deer and moose in the region.
The groups were unanimous in opposing proposals to limit the harvest of younger bucks by requiring hunters to count the number of points. Most felt that would prove too difficult in the thick forests of northeastern Minnesota. The participants also urged the DNR to do more to encourage youth hunting, including allowing young hunters to take a deer of either sex. One group urged the DNR to lower the price of a resident deer tag, as a means of encouraging more young hunters. To make up the revenue, the group suggested higher non-resident license fees, noting that Minnesota’s non-resident tag is significantly cheaper than in some neighboring states.
The DNR got high marks from most of the groups for its communications efforts, and participants urged the agency to continue issuing press releases and getting the word out on seasons, events, and issues through media like local newspapers.
All of the input from the public meetings will now go back to the DNR’s deer advisory committee for review and recommendations, before a draft plan is issued later this year. While deer hunters have tended to dominate the turnout at meetings to date, the advisory committee includes other interests, including farmers and foresters, who have different concerns about deer in the state. The DNR plans to issue a final management plan by the spring of 2018.
If you weren’t able to attend last week’s meeting, but still want to voice your thoughts on the plan, you can find more information on the planning effort and a link to an online questionnaire at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/management/planning/index.html.