Hunters are reminded to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Deer registration provides information that is essential to our ability to manage deer populations,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager. “Hunters are required to register deer and it’s a fairly simple process.”
Hunters register deer with a phone call, online or in person. Before registering a deer, hunters must validate their site tag. The validated tag must be attached to the deer when the deer is placed on a motor vehicle or an ATV, a vehicle or a trailer being towed by an ATV or brought into a camp, yard or other place of habitation.
Register deer via phone by calling 888-706-6367. Directions are printed on each deer hunting license. Have a pen or permanent marker ready. A confirmation number will be given; it must be written on the license and site tag.
Register deer via internet at mndnr.gov/gameregistration. Directions will be similar to phone registration, and a confirmation number must be written on the license and site tag.
When phone or internet registration is not possible, hunters must take their deer to a big-game registration station. The person whose name appears on the license must be present at the registration station with their deer. They will receive a big-game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached. A list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.
During registration, the hunter must use the permit area number where the deer was harvested; using the wrong deer permit area for registration is illegal. Registration instructions for all methods are available at mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.
Pheasants banded in Nobles and Redwood counties
Pheasant hunters can voluntarily report roosters that were banded as part of a study being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
DNR Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group workers captured and banded roosters during a research project. The two study areas involved in the project are the Lamberton Wildlife Management Area complex in Redwood County and the Worthington Wells Project Area south of Worthington, located in Nobles County.
Although the study is focused on hen pheasants and their broods, roosters were also opportunistically captured in an attempt to collect survival information on males. A plain metal leg band with a unique identifying number was placed on the right leg of each rooster.
Hunters are asked to contact the Farmland Wildlife Research Group to report harvest information. The band number, date of harvest, and location information (WMA name or GPS coordinates preferred) are requested. If hunters want information on when and where the bird was initially captured, they may also provide their contact information so that researchers can return their call. GPS locations and personal data will not be made public.
Although Minnesota has a rooster-only hunting season, hunters who come across a dead radio-collared and/or banded hen are also asked to call with information so that researchers can refine their hen data.
To voluntarily report birds marked as part of this study, contact Lindsey Messinger, 507-642-8478, ext. 224. Alternatively, people may contact Lindsey by email at Lindsey.Messinger@state.mn.us.
This work is funded in part through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.
Additional details about pheasant hunting are available at mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Michigan and Wisconsin natural resources departments, will take questions about the Lake States Forest Bat Habitat Conservation Plan at 3 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 31. The phone conference is for anyone interested in the integration of forest practices with conservation measures to support bat populations.
Forest bat populations are rapidly declining, and one or more species may soon be reclassified as endangered. If reclassified, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the opportunity to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). An HCP helps endangered species recover by setting out habitat conservation plans during land management activities.
In preparation, Minnesota and neighboring states are developing a forest bat HCP that aims to maintain bat habitat and allow important forest management activities to continue. Input from forest land owners, forest managers, conservation groups and other stakeholders is essential to developing an effective HCP.
An introductory video describing the HCP process and how to participate is available at https://youtu.be/46IAHTaqJQE. The DNR encourages participants to watch the video prior to the Oct. 31 question and answer session.
To access the session, in the ten minutes prior to the call start time, participants should dial 855-802-6790 toll-free and, at the prompt, enter the conference ID code 93441291.
Anyone requiring an accommodation to participate in the phone conference is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-259-5919 as early as possible.
More information is available at mndnr.gov/bathcp.
A video about how to get deer tested for chronic wasting disease is available on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
“Getting a deer tested for CWD only takes a few minutes and the video takes hunters through steps that make the process go smoothly, such as positioning their deer so the head is easily accessed in the vehicle,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager.
Testing will be required in portions of north-central, central and southeast Minnesota during the opening weekend of firearms deer season. “We want to thank hunters for cooperating during this sampling process,” Cornicelli said.
Precautionary testing from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, to Sunday, Nov. 5, will determine whether chronic wasting disease may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north central Minnesota.
Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 218, 219, 229, 277, 283 and 285.
North central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 242, 246, 247, 248 and 249.
Testing in north central and central Minnesota became necessary after CWD was found in multiple captive deer on farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. Test results will determine whether CWD may have potentially been passed from these captive deer to wild deer.
Deer harvested in southeast Minnesota’s permit areas 343, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349 also are subject to mandatory testing on Nov. 4-5 because they are adjacent to permit area 603, the only area of Minnesota currently known to have CWD-infected wild deer.
All hunters in affected deer permit areas will be required to have their harvested deer tested Nov. 4-5. After field dressing their deer, hunters must take them to a sampling station. DNR staff will remove lymph nodes, which will be submitted for laboratory testing.
Hunters must register their deer by phone, internet or in person at any big game registration station. Harvest registration will not be available at CWD sampling stations.
For sampling to accurately detect whether CWD exists in wild deer, the DNR needs hunters’ help to collect 3,600 samples in the north central area, 1,800 in the central area and 1,800 in the southeast.
Proactive surveillance and precautionary testing for disease is a proven strategy that allows DNR to manage CWD by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it. These actions, which were initiated in 2005 to successfully combat bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota deer and in 2011 to eliminate a CWD infection in wild deer near Pine Island, provide the best opportunity to eliminate disease spread.
Hunters not in a mandatory testing area can collect their own lymph node sample and submit it for testing to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota for a fee. A video showing how to collect a lymph node sample and a link to the lab’s website are at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.
Complete information about mandatory CWD testing, sampling station locations and a related precautionary feeding ban, which includes salt and mineral licks in all areas and attractants such as estrus urine in southeastern Minnesota, are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
State wildlife chief addresses upcoming season and future challenges
By Paul Telander, DNR wildlife chief
When Minnesota’s deer season ends Sunday, Dec. 31, it is quite likely the harvest will be in the 200,000 range.
This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources projection is above last year’s harvest of 173,213, below the 2003 record harvest of 290,525 and similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959. Prior to 2000, deer harvests in excess of 200,000 occurred only four times.
Deer harvest totals typically relate to the size of the deer population and to a lesser degree to weather conditions immediately before and during the hunting season.
On the 2017 season
This should be a good deer season barring any unforeseen unusual weather. Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. As a result, more antlerless permits are available this year, and hunters in many parts of the state will have additional opportunities to harvest more deer because of other more liberal season framework changes. Unfavorable weather, like heavy snowfall immediately before or during the hunting season, is the main factor that would prevent a harvest increase.
On putting 2017 in context
The highest deer harvests occurred during the early to mid-1990s and from 2000-2008. During this latter period, the harvest topped 200,000 each year. The high harvests in the early 2000s occurred at a time when the over-riding harvest strategy was to reduce the deer population so it wouldn’t grow out of control, as had happened in certain eastern states, and to address certain environmental, economic and social concerns. Deer harvests in excess of 225,000 occurred only once in the 1990s. Going further back, the harvests in the 1970s never topped 100,000. The harvests in the 1980s were under 150,000. Today, there’s growing discussion in the hunting community as to what’s a reasonable harvest target, and that’s a good conversation to have.
On managing toward population goals
Our aim is to keep deer numbers at population goals identified during DNR’s periodically occurring public goal-setting processes. There are 130 different deer permit areas throughout the state, and nearly all permit areas have a numeric population goal range. Population goals range from as low as a handful of deer per square mile in intensively farmed areas to 20 to 25 deer per square mile in prime forested areas. A few permit areas are too small or have too low of a harvest to model the local population.
Deer numbers are at or have exceeded population goals over most of the state. Some northeast and southwest permit areas are slightly below goal. Parts of central Minnesota and southeastern Minnesota are above goal. From an overall, statewide perspective, we’re not far from where we believe Minnesota should be.
On DNR transparency
Many hunters are curious as to how we make our decisions on antlerless permit numbers and season structure, and that’s something we are trying to more effectively communicate. The process starts immediately after the deer season closes. That’s when area wildlife supervisors and staff monitor deer harvest results in their local areas and collect informal feedback from hunters, conservation officers, foresters and others.
In spring, after winter severity has been monitored and deer mortality losses have been estimated, research staff run population models for each permit area based on the last year’s harvest, winter mortality, anticipated fawn births, predation and other data. These calculations are the basis of research staff recommendations for season permit area designations (lottery, managed, intensive harvest, etc.) and the number of antlerless permits that should be made available to hunters in each lottery permit area in order to achieve population goals.
Research staff recommendations are sent to all area wildlife supervisors, who then have the option of agreeing with them or modifying them based on their own local observations and informal input. Often, these recommendations agree with each other, but not always. When this happens, differences get resolved at the regional or St. Paul office level.
Ultimately, the agreed upon season structures and number of permits to be issued for each area are communicated to hunters through the multi-colored deer map that is part of the hunting regulations booklet and a new, more informative interactive deer map on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deermap.
On managing expectations
That’s perhaps the hardest part of deer management, and it’s often a function of scope and scale. Our agency’s focus is on the big picture and a half million hunters. Conversely, the individual hunter is most interested in what’s happening within their immediate hunting area, which is often as little as 40 acres.
It’s not well-known but among 13 Midwestern states, only Missouri manages deer populations at a finer spatial scale than Minnesota. We are serious about managing expectations and deer numbers in small geographic areas. Still, it is common to have a wide variety of opinions in each area on whether there should be more, fewer or different sized deer. To that point, we recently conducted a hunter satisfaction survey and one of the findings is that today’s hunters have higher expectations than those who hunted just 10 years ago.
On communicating with hunters
When I began my career it was common to interact with hunters at deer registration stations and local field offices. Today with the ease, convenience and popularity of phone and internet game registration, the DNR no longer has staff at deer registration stations. And people don’t visit DNR offices like they once did because so much information is available on the DNR website.
Our challenge is finding new and efficient ways to have two-way conversations with hunters. This past winter we received more than 1,400 comments during a three-month long deer management plan public input effort. We were pleased with the response yet those 1,400 comments from an engaged and important audience represent only a minute fraction of the hunting public.
There’s an irony in the fact that even though it is easier to be connected to one another these days because of smartphones and other technology, many people feel less connected than they once did. Figuring out how to maintain strong relations with hunters and other stakeholders is something on which we need to keep working.
Minnesota’s first-ever deer plan will outline key concepts and crucial, ongoing work needed to manage deer, one of the state’s most popular and economically vibrant natural resources. An important aspect of the plan is how DNR will reach out and communicate deer management needs, necessary actions and reasons for those actions.
A draft plan will be available in early 2018. I encourage everyone to read the draft plan, consider DNR’s suggested approach and give us your feedback and ideas through the public input opportunities we’ll make available.
Hunters looking forward to higher deer numbers this season
Hunters will have additional opportunities to harvest deer this season thanks to a series of mild winters and conservative hunting regulations, which have resulted in rebounding deer populations across Minnesota.
Firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, and there are 130 permit areas in 2017. Information about each permit area can be found on the DNR’s interactive deer map at mndnr.gov/deermap, and includes wildlife manager reports, regulations, and statistics about deer harvest and populations on a local scale.
Northwest deer report
John Williams, northwest region wildlife manager
More deer on the landscape in the northwest region should help hunters better enjoy the season and have good prospects for a successful hunt.
Another mild winter on top of the previous two mild winters has largely enabled deer populations to be at or near goal levels in most permit areas. Fawn production was also good this year; another indication of does coming through the winter in good health.
Recent rains have filled basins that were previously dry due to drought-like conditions in late summer, and water levels are up on many of the marshes and lakes in the region. Hunters should be prepared to deal with wetter than average conditions if they are hunting in or need to cross lowland areas.
In general, hunters will be able to harvest more deer. In several permit areas the designations changed to allow more overall harvest. Some permit areas moved from a designation of lottery, which requires hunters to apply in advance to shoot an antlerless deer, to a hunters choice designation that allows a hunter to use one license to shoot either a buck or antlerless deer.
Other permit areas changed designations from hunters choice to managed. In permit areas designated as managed, hunters can harvest two deer through use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Permit areas that did stay in the lottery designation this year may have more permits available than in previous years.
Northeast deer report
Dave Olfelt, northeast region wildlife manager
Three consecutive, relatively mild winters have contributed to good fawn production and high numbers of twin births. Snow depth was moderate throughout much of the region and a relatively early green-up of forage has supported deer that appear to be in excellent physical condition.
Where good habitat exists, deer populations are approaching or are at established population goals. While deer are not evenly distributed within permit areas because of habitat differences and varying levels of hunting pressure, harvest regulations have relaxed in many northern Minnesota permit areas to allow more deer harvest. Duluth, several Iron Range cities and some state parks continue to hold special hunts to reduce deer numbers.
Rain and wet conditions have persisted throughout much of the fall season. Hunters may find water in areas that are typically dry this time of year and forest road access may be difficult or impassable in some locations.
Hunters in far northeastern Minnesota’s primary moose range should review the new deer permit area maps for boundary and numbering changes.
Central deer report
Jami Markle, assistant central region wildlife manager
“Deer are everywhere” is a common refrain across the central region this fall. Deer populations seem to have bounced back from a decline following the severe winter of 2013-2014.
In fact, many deer permit areas in the region have met or are above population goals, meaning more permits will be available this fall. With rebounding deer populations and ample hunter opportunities, wildlife managers are anticipating a strong harvest in 2017.
Deer look healthy as they shed their reddish summer coats for the more muted gray-brown tones that will carry them through the winter. Summer habitat conditions were ideal with an excellent growing season and plentiful native forage and cover. Does with twin fawns seem to be the norm rather than the exception this year.
Wildlife managers and landowners have noted an abundant acorn crop in the central and southeast portion of the region this fall which will keep deer feeding and browsing in the oak woods.
Wet conditions in late September and early October have postponed agricultural harvest so hunters may see standing crops well into the firearms season. Fall leaf drop is reported to be later than normal in the southern part of the state, but by early November sightlines should be opened up and the forest floor will have a new layer of fallen leaves. Buck scrapes and rubs are starting to appear and hunters can expect to see deer movement and patterns change as the rut approaches.
Many permit areas in the central region are designated as managed this year, allowing harvest of two deer through the use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Five permit areas are designated as intensive, which allows for harvest of three deer using additional bonus permits. There are additional harvest opportunities in the 601 metro deer management area and the 603 chronic wasting disease management zone, both of which offer harvest of an unlimited number of antlerless deer.
Southwest deer report
David Trauba, southwest region wildlife manager
Two consecutive mild winters coupled with past conservative harvest strategies have allowed deer numbers to increase throughout southwestern Minnesota. In addition, wildlife managers reported good fawn production. As a result, more antlerless permits were provided for this fall’s hunting season. However, permits numbers continue to be low in select permit areas, mostly in extreme southwest, due to the loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres. Managers in these permit areas are having a difficult time increasing deer numbers due to limited habitat availability.
Conversely, hunters need to be aware that permit areas 281 and 290 moved to a hunters choice designation for the first time due to an abundance of deer along the Minnesota River corridor.
Two wild cards for hunters will be the amount of standing crops and river flooding. Historically the amount of standing crops drives opening weekend hunter harvest along with weather conditions. Large rainfall amounts in mid-October have resulted in flooded fields and river flooding. Crop harvest is behind schedule but this can change very quickly so it is too early to predict what amount of crops will be in the field, if any, before opening day. However, hunters should prepare for high water in select river corridors; the high water can influence deer use of these habitats. Many deer have been forced out of the river valleys into the surrounding uplands. As always, hunters need to scout and adapt to conditions.