The firearms deer season that closed Sunday, Nov. 12 in most of northwest Minnesota wrapped up a busier than usual hunting season for conservation officers, a DNR enforcement official said.
Baiting, shooting from the road, tagging issues in which hunters either didn’t tag deer or properly validate the tag, shining and trespassing were among the most common violations conservation officers encountered, said Pat Znajda, District 1 enforcement supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources.
District 1 covers the far northwest corner of Minnesota.
“For District 1, I want to say enforcement was a little busier than average,” Znajda said. “Some of the areas, we just seemed to have a lot of stuff going on. It ran the gamut, but it seemed like the officers were pretty busy most of the time.”
The tagging and deer registration violations seemed to be particularly prevalent this year, Znajda said. Hunters must validate and attach the tag before removing deer from the field, and the DNR requires deer be registered within 48 hours.
“We made it pretty simple, and now you can register by calling in by phone, by going on the Internet or stopping at an ELS” electronic licensing outlet, Znajda said. “I had one place tell me they just didn’t get Internet service to register their deer, yet I drove about a mile away and had perfect Internet service on my phone. It all depends on how interested they are in registering.”
Whatever the reason for not tagging or registering a deer, the violation nearly always involves a buck, Znajda said.
“It’s never a doe or a fawn,” he said.
There were a few complaints about portable stands, which now can be left overnight from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 in wildlife management areas in parts of northwest Minnesota, Znajda said. The stands must be portable enough for a hunter to carry into a location in a single trip.
“A few issues were addressed; a few illegal stands were found,” Znajda said. “It was probably about what we kind of expected we would see.”
Baiting, which is illegal for deer hunting everywhere in Minnesota, continues to be a common violation despite several years of education and enforcement efforts among DNR conservation officers.
But now, the baiting is less conspicuous, Znajda says.
“The ones that want to bait have become sneakier in how they bait,” Znajda said. “You don’t see the big piles of beets or big piles of corn. You’ll see bait that’s scattered, put into places a little more concealable.”
Next up on the deer hunting calendar in northwest Minnesota is the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 25 and continues through Sunday, Dec. 10.
“As time has gone on, the muzzleloader season gets busier from what it was a number of years ago,” Znajda said. “It seems like there’s more interest in it every year.”
The DNR in 2016 sold 53,097 muzzleloader licenses, down from the record high of 64,673 in 2008 but more than five times higher than 2007, when hunters bought 9,867 muzzleloader licenses, according to DNR statistics.
— Brad Dokken
N.D. hunter shoots massive nontypical buck
North Dakota doesn’t require hunters to register their deer so no harvest statistics from the first two weekends of season are available, but the big news from the season to date is the “freak of nature” buck Kyle Hass of Bowbells, N.D., shot the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 10.
The nontypical whitetail—as bucks with asymmetrical antlers are called—was shot near Bowbells and has 30 points on its antlers, the Minot Daily News reported.
Few, if any, people had seen the deer, although Hass told the newspaper he had seen photos of shed antlers from the past two years that matched the buck’s rack.
“He was kind of a legend,” Hass said in the story.
Hass saw the deer while bowhunting but never got a shot at the buck until the deer gun opener, the newspaper reported. An official Boone and Crockett measurement of the buck’s rack can’t be taken until after the mandatory 60-day drying period, but the antlers are expected to score in the 225-inch range, possibly putting it among the top 5 nontypical bucks ever taken in North Dakota, the newspaper reported.
— Herald wire reports
Minnesota deer harvest on track with forecast
The deer kill after the first two weekend’s of Minnesota’s firearms deer season puts the DNR’s harvest predictions for the year on track.
Before the firearms deer season began Nov. 4, the DNR predicted hunters this fall would shoot about 200,000 deer between the archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons.
That prediction appeared as if it might fall short after the opening weekend of firearms deer season, when the statewide harvest of 70,724 deer was up only about 1 percent from the previous year. In Zone 2, which includes much of northwest Minnesota, the opening weekend take actually was down 5 percent.
Widespread snow and cold weather likely played a role in the opening weekend harvest. Standing corn in parts of the state also could have hampered hunter success the first two days of season, DNR officials speculated.
“I think we all figured that 200,000 estimate—I guess you’d call it a guesstimate—for harvest was about right, and then we got to looking around and saw all that corn standing up, and then it’s like, ‘Er, I’m not so sure about that now,’ ” said John Williams, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji. “The corn is having an effect in certain areas, but overall, the number of deer are here this year, and I think that’s been pretty good.”
Through Sunday, Nov. 12, hunters had registered 145,054 deer, up 10 percent from the harvest after the first two weekends of the 2016 firearms deer season. In Zone 2, which runs from Canada to Iowa, the harvest was up 6 percent.
The only decline was in southeast Minnesota, where deer registrations were down 12 percent from last year.
Williams, who spent the first few days of deer season collecting lymph node samples as part of required CWD testing in the Backus, Minn., area, said anecdotally, it appeared to him that the rut wasn’t quite in full swing, at least during the early part of the season.
A family member watched about a 1½-year-old buck grazing in a field with a few does near Thief River Falls and showing no interest, Williams said. A few days later, Williams said he watched a 10-point buck in the same area show only mild interest in the doe it was following.
“I’m just making a personal observation,” Williams said. “I haven’t talked to anyone else about this to see if that’s commensurate with what they’re seeing.”
— Brad Dokken
CWD news not surprising
There was discouraging news in southeast Minnesota this week, when the DNR reported that preliminary tests showed seven deer may infected with chronic wasting disease in the southeast disease management zone.
Hunters shot three of the seven suspect deer near Preston, Minn., in deer permit area 603, where 11 other deer tested positive during last year’s CWD surveillance efforts. Three others were harvested in Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park, which is still within area 603 but west of the core disease area. The remaining deer was shot east of Wykoff, Minn., and north of the park.
Test results from deer permit areas surrounding 603 aren’t yet available and must be analyzed to assess the full extent of the disease and whether it has spread outside of the disease management zone, DNR officials said.
John Williams, the DNR regional wildlife supervisor in Bemidji, said the news is disappointing but not surprising. Of more potential concern in northwest Minnesota will be the results of the CWD-testing efforts near Brainerd and St. Cloud, Minn., where deer on cervid farms tested positive for the disease earlier this year, prompting the DNR to test wild deer.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to worry in the northwest at all,” Williams said. “I know of no indications that any of the cervid farms up there have any issues at all, and I don’t know of any wild populations in the proximity to where you’d call the northwest—let’s say Thief River Falls being the center of that—that would be a problem.”
As a wildlife manager, Williams said he’ll be closely following the outcome of the wild deer tested in central Minnesota, where he spent the opening weekend collecting lymph nodes for testing.
“Certainly, if anything pops up in Brainerd, that’s going to hit the southern part of our (northwest) region pretty hard,” Williams said. “I haven’t taken the time to really catch up on some of the contingency planning that goes with something like that, but it wouldn’t be good news and it would impact things in the future badly.”
— Herald staff report
Donate deer to food shelf program
With deer season in full swing, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is reminding hunters to keep the Sportsmen Against Hunger program in mind.
While deer gun tags were in tight supply again this fall, families with more than one tag might want to consider donating a deer to this worthy cause, Game and Fish said. Hunters with an archery and muzzleloader license can help, as well.
The list of participating processors is available on the Community Action Partnership of North Dakota website at capnd.org.
Sportsmen Against Hunger is a charitable program that raises money for processing of donated goose and deer meat and coordinates distribution of donated meat to food pantries in North Dakota. The program is administered by CAPND, a nonprofit agency that serves low-income families across the state.