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The state’s deer herd is growing

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The state’s deer herd is growing, the 2016 harvest suggests.

http://www.startribune.com/based-on-2016-harvest-state-s-deer-herd-appears-to-be-growing/410595495/

Quote

Preliminary harvest figures from last fall’s deer hunt indicate Minnesota’s whitetail population is growing.

Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers had expected the herd to rebound after back-to-back recent tough winters, combined with what many observers believe were too many antlerless permits issued to hunters by the DNR.

At the DNR Roundtable last Friday, with about 300 invited stakeholders attending, big game coordinator Adam Murkowski said the preliminary 2016 statewide deer harvest was 171,026, a 7 percent increase from the 2013-2015 harvest average of 157,972.

The past two relatively mild winters have aided the recovery.

The size of the deer harvest can vary year to year, in part because the number of antlerless permits issued by the DNR varies. But the 2016 harvest increase wasn’t because of a rise in the antlerless kill, which was 70,565, almost exactly the same as the 2013-15 average.

Instead, a substantially larger statewide buck harvest — which rose 12 percent — was recorded last year. Which is good news, because the buck harvest is a reasonably good indicator of the size of the overall herd.

The buck kill last fall was 100,461, compared to the 2013-15 average of 87,908. (The recent low was 81,036 in 2014.)

Whether the apparent increase in herd size will continue in the near term depends in large part on the weather this winter. If snow isn’t too deep, particularly up north, and the cold not too severe, it’s likely the herd will at least stabilize, and probably increase.

Here’s a look at the 2016 deer kill, broken down by region.

• In Zone 1, generally the forested north, the total harvest was up 12 percent, while bucks killed jumped 19 percent. The antlerless harvest dropped 8 percent.

• In Zone 2, the total harvest rose 6 percent, while bucks killed increased 9 percent and the antlerless kill was essentially flat, at a 2 percent increase.

• In Zone 3, in the southeast, where chronic wasting disease has been found in five deer, the harvest tracked somewhat differently. Overall kill in the southeast fell 3 percent last fall, while the buck kill was up 2 percent and the antlerless harvest down 7 percent.

• • •

In the three zones are 128 “deer permit areas.” In 40 of these areas covering generally the east-central part of the state and along the North Shore, deer population goals were set in recent years following DNR-arranged meetings with hunters and others.

In five of the areas, the groups decided to stabilize deer numbers; in 22 areas, the goal was to increase the deer count 25 percent; and in 13 areas, population hikes of 50 percent were sought.

Murkowski said Friday that according to preliminary 2016 harvest figures, 20 of the 40 deer-permit areas remained under goal; nine were at goal; and 11 were over goal.

Of course, certainties are few when counting deer, and most such “counts” are estimates determined by computer modeling. These are backed up by aerial surveys when possible.

DNR researchers have recently developed a new way of deer modeling called the “stochastic model,” replacing its former “deterministic” model.

In both, the number of deer harvested, bucks in particular, in given permit areas helps gauge a model’s general accuracy over time. DNR wildlife research director Lou Cornicelli explains:

“If, for example, hunters harvest 1,000 deer a year in an area for five years, there cannot be a sustaining population of only 2,000 deer in that area [regardless of what a model might say]. The area would simply run out of deer. The population range should be somewhere between say 4,000 and 6,000.

“Fewer than that and the observed harvest [especially antlered bucks] would decline dramatically. More than that and the observed harvest would significantly increase over time.

“The same logic applies to density estimates. Let’s say hunters harvest five deer per square mile in an area every year. You cannot have seven to 10 deer per square mile with that harvest level, there simply has to be more deer to support that level of harvest.”

Bottom line: Deer harvest numbers are an important indicator of deer populations, and the increased 2016 harvest suggests strongly that the state’s herd is on the upswing.

 

 

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I would agree with the state's assessment that the deer herd is growing in my neck of the woods in central MN.  Hopefully DNR doesn't fly off the handle now and go intensive for 10 years in a row like they did in the past.  Thanks for the link PF.  I hadn't seen this article.

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I hunt zone 1.  Very interesting to see those numbers.  From what I have seen the herd is showing signs of rebound in our neighborhood.  We're a ways off from being able to tolerate hunters choice, but we're seeing deer again finally.  I agree the herd is in better shape than 2-3 years ago when many people saw no deer and no signs of deer.  

 

So what does it all mean?  I suspect the widespread pain of the glut in major swaths of zone 1 for the dark years has woke some up to the idea of passing does.  There was certainly more opportunity with fewer bucks-only zones and larger doe tag numbers in certain DPAs. 

 

What will be interesting is how the DNR responds to more deer on the landscape up here but fewer does being shot.  We had two doe tags in our group this year and we proudly tossed them in the fire, unfilled, at the end of season.  

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Today's article in the Pioneer Press is pretty thin in terms of data you can sink your teeth into, but it does confirm the DNR considers the deer population to be up, and they expect to issue more doe permits in parts of the state this year:

http://www.twincities.com/2017/06/03/minnesotas-deer-population-recovers-and-hunters-will-be-allowed-to-shoot-more-this-fall/

 

Overall it seems there are more deer on the landscape and I've heard/read fewer complaints about the deer population the past year to two. It is pretty amazing how quickly the population can recover with a few mild winters and less does being shot. Still, I wouldn't mind at least another year of lower doe tags given out. Hopefully the earful the DNR got over the past few years means they will be conservative with any increases in doe tags being issued.

 

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It stands to figure the population will rebound considering we had a decent winter that didn't stress the population like we did in some years back. That will lead to a better birth rate this spring and better population numbers for the next few years. 

There is a buck that was hit on 169 right North of Mankato and a few that I saw up by Alex that show they are starting to push out their head gear. 

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Yes the recent mild winters helped a ton. So did the brief wolf seasons. In my neck of the woods there were a lot of wolves and the deer numbers were really dropping. During the 2 wolf season, Quite a few wolves were taken in our area. With the combination of less wolfs and easy winters the deer numbers have responded really well....

Edited by paceman

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We need a wolf season again, or they'll start pushing further S.  I think the DNR knows that, just need to get them delisted again.

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Deer numbers looking really good in both areas I hunt.  Good mix of bucks, does and twin fawns showing on camera.

 

Agree that the dnr is chomping at the bit for a Wolf season.  Come on feds....

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