Minnesota hunters may not be surprised to hear that the 2014 season will be the state’s most conservative in the last 20 years. On Wednesday, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that chances to hunt anterless deer will be restricted and that bag limits have been slashed.
“Hunters should check the 2014 hunting regulations closely because only one deer can be harvested in 95 percent of the state,” said the DNR’s big game program chief Leslie McInenly, “To shoot a doe, hunters may have to apply for a permit in areas where they haven’t in the past and, in some places, no antlerless harvest will be allowed.”
Officials hope that a more restrictive hunting season will allow the deer population to recover after a series of severe winters. Minnesota was one of the many states hit hard by the 2013-2014 winter, so much so that the DNR authorized more than $200,000 in supplementary feeding for the deer. The Star Tribune reported that over 500 tons of deer feed was distributed by volunteers in an effort to save the deer, especially in the northwest regions of the state.
“Many hunters voiced concerns about current deer densities and their hunting experiences in recent years. We heard from hunters at the listening sessions we conducted, in the online comments we solicited and by contacting us directly,” McInenly said. “This past winter only added to those concerns so this year’s conservative approach will protect more antlerless deer, reduce the statewide harvest and allow the population to rebound.”
In the short term, that translates to a drastically lower harvest count. Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that hunters will not likely take anywhere close to the 173,000 deer they did last year.
“I think it’s possibly going to be below 150,000 deer and possibly as low as 120,000,” said Merchant. “That’s significantly lower than we’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Many hunters welcome the new bag limits. Some blame a liberal deer season for the decline in the population for the past several years, and many conservation groups seem to approve of the DNR’s decision. Although some hunters expressed disappointment at a lower chance of bagging a deer, many still say they will go hunting for the camaraderie.
“It will definitely impact us,” avid hunter Kristian Jankofsky told the Tribune. “We like to eat deer. There’s a big communal-social aspect of gathering this meat and sharing it with families throughout the year.”
You can read more details on the Minnesota’s 2014 season here.