Sizing up the local deer herd in the 2018 season
Deer hunters across much of the Douglas County area have had opportunities to shoot multiple deer in recent years, and those opportunities are even greater this season.
Local areas 240 and 213 were management areas in 2017. That meant hunters could take up to two deer by purchasing a bonus permit. This year, hunters in 213, along with areas 240, 214 and 215, can take three deer (just one buck) as an intensive zone.
"We have some lottery areas and hunter's choice, so that tends to represent we're below or at the target area," Glenwood Area DNR assistant wildlife manager Jason Strege said. "Some of the eastern ones, we're above (target goal deer numbers) with the intensive harvest."
Local areas 218 and 273 to the south and west of Alexandria are both hunter's choice areas, meaning a hunter can shoot just one deer but that deer can be a buck or a doe without applying through the anterless lottery. Area 218 had been a management zone in 2017 where hunters could take two deer.
Generally, the deer permit areas paint a picture of the kind of deer densities in each region of the state. But better habitat means greater deer numbers, and habitat in one area of a permit zone might be better than other areas in that same zone.
Strege said most hunters in his work area seem to be satisfied with the overall number of deer they are seeing right now, but that can vary.
"I go from Douglas County all the way to Traverse County, so as you go east, you tend to get a little better deer numbers and people who are happy with the deer numbers," Strege said. "As you go west, I'm not saying they're unhappy with them, but you tend to get hunters who would like to see more."
A recent public meeting to discuss whitetails held at the Glenwood Area DNR offices drew just seven hunters. These meetings are part of the DNR's Deer Management Plan implemented this year that puts an emphasis on greater communication between DNR staff and the hunting community.
An overall harvest of 200,000 deer and managing toward that goal was also a part of that deer management plan. The 2017 deer kill in Minnesota was 197,768. That's the highest it has been since 2010 when hunters registered 207,313 deer.
Permit Area 213 annually produces some of the highest harvested deer counts in the state. A total of 5,373 deer were registered in 213 in 2017 across all seasons and license types. That's the fourth most of any area in Minnesota - behind only 241 (8,787), 157 (6,261) and 184 (6,209).
"That's a really good zone," Strege said of area 213. "There's a really strong deer population there that can stand a lot of harvest."
Deer numbers being up in most regions of the state is generally good news for hunters, but the health of the herd as it pertains to Chronic Wasting Disease is one area of concern.
No wild deer has tested positive for CWD in areas directly around Alexandria, but that does not mean hunters do not have to pay attention to certain rules. Anyone hunting outside of Minnesota is not allowed to bring whole deer, elk, moose and caribou carcasses back into Minnesota. That includes making sure there is no brain tissue attached to the skull plates when transporting antlers.
The following parts can be imported into Minnesota:
• Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
• Meat that is boned out or that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).
• Hides and teeth.
• Antlers or clean (no brain tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached.
• Finished taxidermy mounts.
Movement of CWD-infected animals (both alive and dead) is one way the disease spreads to new areas. In order to protect Minnesota's wild populations, it is important to reduce the opportunity for the disease to become established.
Permit Area 603 in the southeastern portion of the state has mandatory CWD testing throughout the entire hunting season. All deer killed there must be presented in person at a DNR sampling station and whole carcasses and carcass remains must be kept within area 603 until it is confirmed that CWD was not detected in the animal. There were six CWD positives among the 1,185 total samples collected in that CWD Management Zone in 2017.