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conference in rochester

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Alot of people here have an interest in what was discussed here in this article.....

"Top deer herd managers pose tough questions

3/28/2009 12:20:02 AM

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By Eric Atherton and John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Are traditions made to be broken? An all-star lineup of some of the top deer managers in the nation met in Rochester on Friday, and that question dominated much of the conversation.

The answer went something like this: Hunters changed their habits in Missouri, and they changed in Pennsylvania. They didn't like it one bit, but they changed -- and just a few years later, most say they'd never go back.

After Friday's meeting, a new question is officially on the table: Is Minnesota ready to follow that path, to begin setting aside traditions that have been 30 years in the making?

Back then, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began a system that was designed to increase the deer herd. That worked very well and the herd is now as big as the DNR wants, or in some parts of the region, too large. To lower the number, the DNR is trying to get hunters to harvest more does.

The discussion about hunting is now changing to bucks, specifically to their age and quality. Hunters have been shooting many yearling bucks, so chances of seeing a larger buck are reduced.

Now, some groups, especially Bluffland Whitetails Association, which sponsored the conference, are calling for changes. They want to see regulations that give younger bucks a chance to grow older and restore a more natural age ratio to the overall herd. The most common suggestion was antler point restrictions.

Missouri, a leader in deer management changes, tried that in 29 counties, said Lonnie Hansen of the Missouri DNR. At first, change was hard -- hunters didn't want to lose their traditions. But after a few years, as the number of larger bucks increased, hunter acceptance also grew, he said.

After a few years, the number of yearling bucks shot fell 66 percent but the number of larger ones increased 20 to 200 percent. "We are seeing hunter attitudes changing," he said.

Dave Schad, DNR director of fish and wildlife, said Southeast Minnesota could be the first place to see the regulations tried on a larger scale. "There's a lot at stake here for hunters," he said.

For years, the DNR has been trying to find exactly what hunters want but there has been no strong agreement on what to do. Now, the DNR is willing to try something, he said. It won't know how hunters react until something is tried, he said."

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