Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Hunters who venture into field and forest for Minnesota's firearms deer season can expect a good deer season and ample hunting opportunities, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
"We can't guarantee harvest success," said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's Big Game Program coordinator. "But we can assure hunters that good deer hunting opportunities exist throughout Minnesota."
Nearly 500,000 people are expected to participate in the firearms deer season, which opens Saturday, Nov. 6, throughout Minnesota. Last year, 32 percent of Minnesota's firearms deer hunters were successful.
Minnesota's whitetail deer population is about 1 million. In a historical context, too many deer were taken during the 1960s. Rebuilding the deer herd began in 1970s and concluded in the 1990s. Now DNR is managing the herd toward population goals established with public input.
"We are at or nearing those goals throughout most of the state," Cornicelli said. "As those population goals are met, particularly in areas that were overpopulated, hunting regulations move from liberal to conservative and are adjusted based on deer-management needs."
During a time of liberal hunting regulations, Minnesota's deer harvest peaked in 2003 at 290,000. DNR continues to issue fewer either-sex permits than it did seven years ago and Cornicelli expects the harvest should be similar to the 194,000 deer harvested in 2009.
The one big difference this year compared to last is the majority of standing corn will be cut by the time the deer season opens, Cornicelli said. Last year, 80 percent of the state's corn crop was still in the fields on the deer opener. Corn provides ample standing cover and can significantly impact deer harvest.
The firearms deer season concludes in northern Minnesota Sunday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 14, in all other parts of the state. A late season in southeastern Minnesota that stretches from Watertown in the north to Caledonia in the south opens Saturday, Nov. 20, and closes Sunday, Nov. 28.
Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early
With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any system issues associated with the high sales volume. The 2010 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 6.
Deer licenses can be purchased for $27 at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-MN-LICENSE (665-4236), or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. There are additional fees for telephone and Internet transactions, which individuals should check prior to buying their license. Hunters who purchase licenses by phone and Internet will receive their deer tags by mail, which can take three to five business days to arrive.
The Information Center and License Center at DNR headquarters in St. Paul will work extended hours on opening weekend to handle additional phone calls from deer hunters. Phone lines will be open Friday, Nov. 5, until 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to noon.
License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157, or toll-free at (888) 646-6367.
Harvested deer can be donated for distribution to food shelves
Deer donated to food shelves can be processed at no or very reduced cost to hunters, thanks to a program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of natural resources and agriculture.
The program is aimed at providing a sought-after food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to harvest additional animals to help manage the deer herd. Prior to 2007, hunters could donate deer to food shelves, but had to pay processing costs.
"We recognize that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they can consume," said Lou Cornicelli, Big Game Program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs."
More details on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors, are available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/donation. Processors who accept deer are paid $70 to process each animal for food shelf distribution.
"There are a few processors who are charging an additional fee to cover expenses so hunters should check with the processor prior to donating a deer," Cornicelli said.
Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and nonresident hunting licenses. Individuals have an opportunity to donate to the program when they buy their deer license or simply by informing a DNR license agent that they would like to donate to the program. In 2009, $35,000 was collected through voluntary donations.
To donate a deer, hunters will need to adhere to the following guidelines:
* Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated; processors will not accept cut and wrapped meat or portions of carcasses.
* Information such as permit area of harvest and the DNR number will be collected for tracking purposes.
* Processors can only accept carcasses for donation that are free from signs of illness, free of visible decomposition or contamination, and properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.
* Processors will reject deer for the donation program that appear to have been mishandled in any way.
Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor prior to donating the deer. The list of processors accepting deer will be regularly updated as more processors register.