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DNR announces 2007 deer season changes

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is changing the all-season deer license to reduce the harvest of antlerless deer in certain areas of the state.

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Other changes for the upcoming season include simplification of deer bag limits, expanded early antlerless deer hunting, a bovine tuberculosis (TB) disease management area in the northwest, some permit area boundary changes, an opportunity to purchase leftover lottery permits, and expanded archery and muzzleloader seasons in the Arrowhead region.

For the first time, all-season license holders hunting in lottery areas during the late muzzleloader season will need antlerless permits to take antlerless deer.

In 2006, more than 75,000 Minnesota deer hunters purchased an all-season deer license, which allows hunters to take up to three deer during the archery, regular firearms, and muzzleloader seasons.

Officials say the rapid increase in popularity of the all-season license and its use during the muzzleloader season has led to tremendous increases in unregulated antlerless deer harvest. In lottery areas where antlerless deer harvest must be closely managed, this additional unregulated antlerless harvest is pushing populations below goal levels.

"While deer populations throughout much of Minnesota are at historic highs, we are seeing declines in some farmland areas despite the lottery system and reductions in firearm either-sex permits," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "As an agency, we've promoted the all-season license and fully support the flexibility it gives our hunters. However, in some areas of the state we are seeing harvest rates on antlerless deer that just can't be sustained."

Consequently, the DNR will adopt regulations that limit the number and type of deer all-season license holders can take. Cornicelli added,

"The alternative in lottery areas would have been bucks only for all hunters and given our emphasis on youth recruitment, we are trying to avoid that situation." A bucks-only regulation would curtail all antlerless harvest for everyone hunting in the area, including youth. Bringing the bulk of the antlerless deer harvest back under the control of a lottery permitting system is also a less restrictive way to accomplish management goals than bucks-only hunting.

This year, all-season license holders who hunt in lottery areas during either the regular firearms or the muzzleloader season must apply for an either-sex permit by Sept. 6 if they wish to harvest an antlerless deer in either season.

Successful applicants can use the permit to take an antlerless deer during any of the open seasons. Unsuccessful all-season license holder applicants and those who purchase their all-season license after the application deadline will be restricted to bucks only during the firearm and muzzleloader seasons within lottery areas.

Hunters who purchase the regular muzzleloader season license (license code 212-ML) can still take a deer of either-sex without participating in the lottery. Cornicelli added, "regular muzzleloader hunters account for a very small percentage of overall antlerless harvest and at this time do not need to be included in the lottery. However, we will be closely monitoring all antlerless harvest and may need to impose further restrictions in lottery areas in the future if these measures are unsuccessful."

The regulation should result in improved management of antlerless deer taken in lottery areas and lead to increases in the deer population in those areas. All-season hunters can still take an antlerless deer during the archery season without applying; however, the total bag limit is one deer per year in lottery areas.

A full list of changes can be seen on the DNR's Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us

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